Those Friday Afternoon Transit Blues

September 21, 2012

On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d rate This Week In Transit News at about a 4. The grade’s only that high because I’m trying to put my best foot forward. Smile on the outside when I’m really crying on the inside as I sift through and evaluate all the pertinent information.

It started with our federal government voting down a national transit strategy put forward in the House of Commons by the NDP. National Transit Strategy? Strategy? National? Sounds a little interventionist. The outcome was hardly a surprise.

That element was saved for a day or so later when Queen’s Park announced through their agency, Metrolinx, that the design, construction, building and operation of the Eglinton LRT was going to be outsourced as part of a public-private partnership. Take that, TTC! Who’s yer momma? Huh? Who’s yer momma, TTC? Say it. Say it! Metrolinx, baby! Metrolinx.

Now, I’ve been battling hard for the past couple days to suppress my gut reaction to the news. I don’t want to disappoint my friend Matt Elliott and be one of those on the left giving over to immediate, unthinking nayism. Maybe a viable case can be made for the move. Perhaps it is the first step toward a fully integrated regional transit system and, hopefully, that would be a good thing. Metrolinx’s track record to date in dealing with local concerns gives me pause however.

But for now, I’ll attempt to see the upside. The general consensus seems to be success or failure of the Eglinton LRT P3 will come down to the details of the agreement, how the ‘i’s are dotted and ‘t’s crossed. If the private sector can actually deliver the necessary transit at a lower cost, and if that’s the only element we’re looking for, I’ll hop aboard and go along for the ride.

I’d probably have more confidence in the whole thing if the McGuinty Liberals had any robust credibility on transit. I have long since concluded that Mayor Rob Ford has been nothing but manna from heaven for them, providing cover for a rather lacklustre, wishy-washy approach since they came to power in 2003. Announce big, deliver significantly less. What is now $8.4 billion for 4 LRT lines was once supposed to be 7 lines with an additional $4 billion in funding. Delay has followed delay and we’re now talking decades hence not years.

And remember that initial election promise of restoring provincial funding for half the TTC’s annual operating budget? Nine years on. Tick tock, tick tock.

As if to add insult to injury, Transportation Minister Bob Chiarelli seems to be suggesting that once the Eglinton LRT is up and going and the TTC no longer runs buses along the street, the money it saves should be handed over to the private company running the LRT. Yeah, really. Of course, our mayor is otherwise occupied and hasn’t weighed in on the matter to defend the city’s interests, leaving that – along with almost all matters dealing with transit — up to the TTC Chair, Karen Stintz.

Defenders of the province will, with much justification certainly, point to our electing of Rob Ford as mayor and the subsequent subway-versus-LRT battle as a prime example of the city not being a serious player in this transit debate. They wouldn’t be wrong. Toronto took a big step backward on many fronts when Rob Ford became mayor.

But I’d argue, at least on the transit file, the city righted itself. The TTC chair took control, sidelined the mayor and his most ardent supporters and got everything back on track. (Yeah. I just wrote that). All of it done without any assistance from the province who, when it mattered most, indulged Mayor Ford’s subways, subways, subways fantasy and further exploited the situation by delaying the start of the Sheppard LRT construction yet again, making it vulnerable to any changes in power at either City Hall or Queen’s Park.

It’s all part of a familiar pattern for the McGuinty Liberals of appearing to be just slightly less worse than the other guy. Think they’re bad on public transit? Look at Toronto and Mayor Ford. We may be outsourcing control of the Eglinton LRT but remember Mike Harris buried the subway there.

I am trying to keep an open mind but the province inspires little confidence. Rather than see the move to a P3 as a cost containment measure, it just smacks of outsourcing responsibility and governance. I’m willing, though, to be convinced otherwise.

forced smiledly submitted by Cityslikr


Queen’s Park Strangers

July 3, 2012

“Too much time has been wasted,” intoned Ontario’s Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation Bob Chiarelli last week, “and we need shovels in the ground and improvements to public transit starting now. There is no time left to waste.”

All reports suggest he said this with a straight face.

If it wasn’t obvious before, it couldn’t be any clearer now: the election of Rob Ford as mayor of Toronto has been nothing less than manna from heaven for the Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty. In the havoc Mayor Ford’s wreaked on this city’s transit file (havoc the provincial government could’ve stemmed if it so chose but more on that later), Queen’s Park has been able to cover its tracks, hiding nearly a decade of neglect and indecisive mishandling of such a vital portfolio. So much so, that after TTC Chair Karen Stintz launched what was nothing more than an embryonic idea about further transit expansion in Toronto with One City, Minister Chiarelli was able to condescendingly brush it aside as a ‘future-looking concept’ with ‘a lot of merit’ but – and hold your stitches together with this — “We must not and cannot allow further council debate and delay,” the minister said. “Transit in a city like Toronto isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.”

The stones on these guys. Really.

For the past 17 years, transit in this city has been little more than a political football to successive provincial governments of both red and blue stripes. Kicked and punted this way and that, depending on the direction the winds were blowing, there hasn’t been anything really resembling an overall strategy as much as there’s been basic calculated ad hockery.  While the current transportation minister mouths the word ‘necessity’ in terms of transit, it’s really only been about expediency from Queen’s Park for some time now.

1995.

The newly elected Progressive Conservative government of Mike Harris decides to bury the already in progress Eglinton subway line. Unaffordable. So we’ll wait a decade and a half when the costs of building transit inevitably come down and we can have this debate all over again in its entirety.

Later on as a sop to then Mayor Mel Lastman, the Tories OK a Sheppard subway line. This little stub of a thing contributes little to alleviating congestion much. In fact, it only seems to be helping load up the Yonge subway line to past capacity. It also serves as a flashpoint to the great subway debate of 2010-12, a key element to the delays the transportation minister bemoans.

And then there was the decision to stop funding the provincial half of the TTC’s annual operating budget, a decision that candidate for premier McGuinty promised to reverse if elected but has yet to get around to nearly 9 years on in his mandate. Taking a very conservative estimate, say $150 million a year, for 17 years now, that adds up to some $2.5 billion that the TTC and taxpayers of Toronto have had to shoulder or simply dispense with for the better part of a generation now. That’s a lot of expansion of services deferred and new technologies ignored.

What Mike Harris taketh away, Dalton McGuinty hath kept tucked away.

And like his predecessor, Premier McGuinty also bestowed upon the city a subway that had more to do with politics than with practicality. The Yonge-University subway line extension up to Vaughan was hardly where a new subway was needed most. Transit? Sure. But a subway? If there, why not Scarborough was a legitimate question asked during this spring’s transit debate. Until you elect a high ranking member of the provincial government, Scarborough, might’ve been the actual answer.

Then there’s Transit City.

Until we elected Mayor Ford in 2010, the main culprit in the delays in implementation of Transit City has been at the provincial level. Originally planned to build 7 new LRT lines and upgrading the Scarborough RT, along with new rapid bus lanes, Queen’s Park blanched in the face of the economic meltdown in 2008 and pulled funding that reduced the plan to 3 new LRT lines and the work on the Scarborough RT. (What’s that again about transit in Toronto being a necessity, Minister Chiarelli?) This reversal signalled that Transit City was subject to change and opened the door for Mayor Ford to crayon in a few alterations of his own.

As our friend David Hains pointed out last week, the Liberal government seems to have a selective memory when it comes to what, who and when modifications to a plan can occur. While brushing aside One City with a pithy ‘the train has already left the station’ bon mot from Minister Chiarelli, they weren’t as decisive when Mayor Ford unilaterally declared Transit City dead in December of 2010. Fearing for their own political future in the face of the supposed might of Ford Nation, Queen’s Park played along with the charade, allowing the debate to drag on until city council itself sorted things out. Now, it’s like, time’s up, folks. The clock is ticking. Time is money.

This is not to absolve Toronto city council of all responsibility for the transit woes it now faces. We elected an obvious anti-public transit mayor in Rob Ford. We demanded our councillors repeal the VRT and put further pressure on our own ability to pay our share of things. The subway-versus-LRT debate revealed a continued parochialism running deep throughout the city.

But, as they say, a fish rots from the head down. (I don’t know if that’s true but the saying comes in handy at the moment). This city and this region have suffered from a provincial leadership vacuum on transit for nearly two decades now. At least. $6 billion in lost productivity due to traffic congestion per year in the GTA and Metrolinx’s report on funding ideas for its Big Move isn’t expected until June of 2013. If still in office then that will be almost 10 years after the McGuinty government took over power. It hardly screams urgent or not a luxury but a necessity for transit from them.

So you’ll have to excuse me, my dismissal of the provincial government as honest or serious brokers on this issue. It reminds me of my favourite line from The Sopranos. “They shit on our heads and want us to thank them for the hat.”

snittily submitted by Cityslikr


Our Harmful Politics Of Transit

February 3, 2012

So, a few days of bashing Mayor Rob Ford’s flailing, rearguard action to save some semblance of his ad hoc transportation city plan, it’s time to pause and not forget the other contributor to the sad, sad state of transit affairs in these parts: our negligent overlords at Queen’s Park.

You got to hand it to them for possessing the sized stones they obviously possess, chiming in now, telling us to get our ducks all in a row so we could push ahead with building us some transit. Didn’t we already have that up until March of last year when the premier caved in and signed the Memorandum of Understanding that allowed the mayor to unilaterally rip up a plan that was in place at the time, that thing called Transit City? Where was the province’s demand for council approval back then?

I know, I know. It’s all political. The wobbly provincial government facing a fall election was unsure of the power of this thing called Ford Nation that the mayor touted. Better safe than sorry. Live to fight the fight another day. Besides, if Premier McGuinty forced Mayor Ford’s hand then, the mayor might’ve won the day and we’d already be on the wrong track of transit expansion.

But the equivocation, the serious case of constant cold feet toward public transit have been the rule rather than the exception for provincial governments, if not forever, than for the past 27 years or so. (And lest you think I’m letting Ottawa off the hook on this, I consider them largely an absent parent who shows up occasionally with a gift of electoral bribery.) What if the Mike Harris government never filled in that hole along Eglinton Avenue in 1995 and killed the subway plans? Or, had the same government not ceased paying its portion of the TTC’s annual operating budget? While there is much to criticize about the TTC, it would’ve been a different organization had it and the city not been forced to pick up the provinces half of the tab.

A situation Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals promised to rectify in 2003 when it was elected. And has continued to promise for the past 9 years. It seems the timing just hasn’t been optimum, money-wise. Ever.

Even their grand gesture to finally solve the city’s transit woes with their backing and funding of Transit City, quickly became a little less grand. When the economy went south with the global financial crisis in 2008, they began to blanche and waffle to the tune of some $4 billion, and a scaled back version established a certain easy come, easy go tone to the government’s attachment to the project. A tone the mayor quickly exploited in his bid to kill it last year.

Unfortunately this m’eh attitude toward public transit shown by Queen’s Park is ingrained. Hell, one might even call it endemic. Yeah, yeah. We know there’s a problem but, hey, we already got a lot of balls in the air. When the time’s right, the money’s flowing, when pigs fly, we’ll get right on it. Until then, here’s a biscuit. Don’t count on getting one regularly but be ready to jump when we say jump.

There was that favourite line of mine from The Sopranos, back in season one I believe it was. They shit on our heads and want us to thank them for the hat?! If you’re going to go around acting all mature like you’re the only responsible grown-ups in the room, might I suggest accepting some of the responsibility that goes along with that? Including, but not exclusive, to making deals and then backing out of them on a fairly regular basis.

As the senior level of government in this relationship, shouldn’t they be instilling a certain degree of stability into the dynamic? Isn’t that what good parents do for their children? Bring a sense of consistency.

Whatever you thought about the government of Mike Harris, they couldn’t be knocked for a lack of consistency. They hated Toronto and couldn’t give a fuck about public transit. Unfortunate but you were never dealing with surprises.

This Liberal government? All over the map. And there’s not even a pattern to its inconsistency. We’ll call it, willy-nilly.

Champions of Transit City, then not so much. Do whatever you want kids. Come on! Make up your mind already!

There’s no rhyme. There’s no reason. No vision. No leadership.

So why are we answerable to them? A historical glitch. This once rural country gave provinces sole domain over what were, at the time, insignificant cities. An after thought. A, yeah whatever.

Sadly, an attitude that remains in place nearly 150 years later, long after the country has become predominantly urbanized. A haphazard, outdated approach that puts the province’s interests first, ignoring the glaring obviousness of the new reality that as go the cities, so goes the provinces, the country. So a bad decision (or worse, an ill-informed, solely political one) on transit at this juncture as we already lag so far behind other cities throughout the world, will not only adversely affect Toronto but Ontario and Canada.

And the galling thing about it for us (perhaps not the politicians involved) is that we have a built in structure of plausible deniability. No one has to take the blame. We gave them money. They wanted to build subways. Kids, eh? What are you going to do?

chidingly submitted by Cityslikr


The Politics Of Transit

January 26, 2012

If you’ve ever played one of those 3-D board games, like say, chess or Battleship, you can get a sense of what’s going on currently with public transit planning here in Toronto. Layers upon layers of intrigue and political jockeying where one seemingly unrelated move has serious ramifications on the machinations happening below. It sets the head a-spinning, and not necessarily in a good way.

Not to drive a wedge in the opposition now coalescing against Mayor Ford’s harebrained ‘Subways Only’ Transit – I mean, Transportation – Plan, and, oh yes, opposition is clearly coalescing. Last week, TTC Chair and Team Ford stalwart Karen Stintz openly mused about bringing the eastern portion of the Eglinton LRT back up from underground where the mayor had single-handedly banished it last year. She wasn’t the first one of the mayor’s gang to question the wisdom of burying it. Councillor John Parker had called the idea ‘goofy’ a few weeks back. But certainly Councillor Stintz as head of the TTC, her words carried significant weight. Enough certainly to draw Scarborough councillor Michael Thompson out of the woodwork as he expressed no particular drive to keep the Eglinton LRT buried.

Now the Chair was political enough to offer Mayor Ford a compromise of sorts, a facing saving out. She proposed that any money saved by keeping some of the Eglinton LRT at street level would be ploughed into building the mayor’s cherished Sheppard subway extension. But… but here’s where it gets murky, possibly operating on a second level. If the mayor were to take the money to build the subway, wouldn’t he be breaking one promise to keep another? He said there’d be no public money needed for Sheppard, and here he’d be taking public money.

A moot point perhaps, as the mayor seems categorically incapable of accepting compromise as was on display last week during the budget debate. Instead, the loyal members of his entourage went on the offensive. Mark Towhey, the mayor’s Policy Director proclaimed, “Residents don’t want trains running down the middle of the street.” Then Councillor Doug, the mayor’s brother, went full on bluster with the Toronto Sun. Forcing taxpayers onto streetcars or LRTs (Stalin style) relegated them to “second-class” citizenship. And apparently, according to the councillor, all that money that was diverted from other Transit City projects in order to bury the Eglinton LRT would somehow not be there if that decision was reversed. “There is no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow for $2 billion to fund something else.”

And where the mayor and his brother go, so goes the likes of Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, right?

Not so fast. This morning in the National Post Councillor Mammoliti is on record gently disputing Mayor Ford’s claim that everybody loves subways but not nearly as much as they hate streetcars. Read this last paragraph and tell me there isn’t an open revolt brewing within Team Ford’s ranks.

Councillor Mammoliti, who has pushed for a subway on Finch Avenue, says that if a forthcoming report on how to build the Sheppard line determines that private-sector funding will be hard to come by, then “we should be looking at improving what is there to begin with” on Finch. He favours a swift surface light rail line over a dedicated bus lane. As for what should happen on Eglinton, Mr. Mammoliti said that “during the election I didn’t hear anybody on the eastern side say they had some concerns with [surface light rail].”

If you’re counting at home, folks, that’s the TTC Chair, 2 members of the all-powerful Executive Committee and one staunch supporter of Mayor Ford openly and frankly challenging his Transportation City vision. It’s the kind of internal disarray proponents of a more sensible and feasible transit plan couldn’t be happier about. Alas, it’s also the kind of discord our ultimate political overlords at Queen’s Park can use to give them the appearance of having sound judgement and being above the fray.

“The city still doesn’t have its act together,” said Bob Chiarelli, the Minister of Transportation. “We have the chair of the TTC speculating about changes. We have some city councillors, we have the Mayor really not commenting on it. So, we need some clarity from the city.”

AAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGHH!

It’s this kind of multi-levelled, political gamesmanship that has stunted transit planning in this city for three decades now. If the province had remained resolute and kept to the already agreed upon Transit City plan last year, we wouldn’t have lost another 12 months or so chasing the mayor’s phantom transit vision. If the premier had called for a “formal proposal” from city council then to change course as he is right now to change back to the original plans (????), we might’ve had this discussion last year not now.

Instead, he capitulated in the face of the mayor’s self-proclaimed Ford Nation, signed on to the Memorandum of Understanding with the mayor, end-running city council, to use all the province’s money to bury the Eglinton LRT in what could only be seen for personal political reasons. Facing an election with, at the time, very dismal prospects, and a mayor of Toronto in his ascendancy, he chose to sacrifice the city’s transit future for his own political one. Unfortunately for the city, it wasn’t the first time such a thing has happened.

But… but… again, this is where it gets murky. I don’t credit Premier McGuinty with many things but his political acumen isn’t one that I question. Perhaps, he knew that if he forced the transit issue to a vote at city council last year, Mayor Ford may well have won the day. Transit City would truly have been buried for good along with the Eglinton LRT. By making nice and surviving last October’s election while exposing the ethereal foundations of Ford Nation while at it, he kept Transit City alive. The honeymoon now over, Mayor Ford faces a rejuvenated city council and very vocal, well-organized opposition to his transit plans.

Wheels within wheels. What should be a fairly straight-forward how to build a better transit system for the city situation is anything but. Perhaps the most aggravating aspect of it is that those who rely on public transit here the most aren’t the ones contributing to the decisions. It’s left in the hands of those who view it in terms of little more than their personal and political gain.

head spinningly submitted by Cityslikr


Mayor Menace

November 25, 2011

There was a time back last fall, either right before the municipal election when the possibility of Rob Ford becoming our mayor solidified into reality or just after the fact when he indeed did just that, a collective exhalation of breath among those who hadn’t voted for him could be heard. Maybe it won’t be that bad. Maybe the office of the mayor will soften him, draw out his inner statesman. Surely there won’t be 22 councillors willing to risk their political future pandering and aiding his worst instincts.

Well, mark your calendars, folks. November 24th, 2011. If it wasn’t obvious to everyone before then, it has become crystal clear now. Mayor Rob Ford is as bad as our worst fears. He is truly a destructive force, laying waste to Toronto either because he doesn’t understand what makes a 21st-century big city work or he just doesn’t give a fuck. At this point, it doesn’t matter the reason. He has simply become Mayor Menace.

How else to explain yesterday’s announced cuts to 56 TTC routes? And yes, they were cuts. Call them ‘efficiencies’, reductions or whatever euphemism you need to rationalize your continued support for the mayor’s War on the City… actually, it’s more than that…War on Modernity, the simple fact of the matter is, once more, Mayor Ford has broken his campaign promise of ‘No cuts to services. Guaranteed.

You want to shrug it off with a ‘m’eh, all politicians do it’ or ‘we all knew he couldn’t keep that promise and anyone who did was just playing dumb’ and any other intellectually lazy and morally bankrupt games you want to play, ask yourself this. If then candidate for mayor Rob Ford had said out loud that he would be instituting a 10% reduction to the TTC budget and possibly raising fares if elected, would he be mayor right now? I hate hypothesizing but given his precipitous drop in favourable poll numbers even before this frontal assault on public transit, can you honestly respond ‘yes’ to that question? Yeah well, who’s playing dumb now?

Even by the mayor’s own bird-brained rubric of government being run like a business, this move makes zero sense. What business, seeing demand for their services at an all time high, would cut back on those services? Charge higher prices, maybe, but cut back? Only if you’re looking to put your business out of business.

Of course, for a city of 2.5 million people or so, in 2011 public transit should not be regarded as some sort of for-profit enterprise. Mayor Ford spearheaded the drive to have the TTC declared an essential service earlier this year but is treating it as anything but. In an already congested city, diminishing TTC service will inevitably put more cars on the road, only making a bad situation worse, socially and economically.

It comes as no surprise that this idea is lost on the mayor and a handful of his more ardent, antediluvian council supporters. But what’s up with TTC chair Karen Stintz? If she has any thoughts about running for higher office, how is overseeing rollbacks in TTC service going to help her cause? “Hi. I’m Karen Stintz. I’m running for mayor. You might remember me as the TTC chair who helped kneecap public transit in Toronto. Can I count on your support?”

Aside from Councillor Maria Augimeri, none of the other councillors sitting on the TTC board have spoken out against the cuts as far as I know. Perhaps we should ask them to clarify their positions.

Peter Milczyn, TTC vice-chair, Ward 5.

Vincent Crisanti, Ward 1.

Frank Di Giorgio, Ward 12.

Norm Kelly, Ward 40.

Denzil Minnan-Wong, Ward 34.

Cesar Palacio, Ward 17.

John Parker, Ward 26.

When tossing around blame for these TTC cuts, it would be unfair not to mention the role of our provincial legislature in all of this. After 8 years in office, the Dalton McGuinty government has not made good on its promise to re-assume its obligation to pay half of the TTC’s annual operating budget. It never seemed like the right time, as they continued to deflect criticism by (rightly) pointing out big investment in other parts of transit, both in Toronto and the wider region. But it stood back and allowed the public transit system in its largest city to severely struggle and indulged the mayor in his phantasmagorical scheme to kill Transit City and try to build an ill-thought out subway in its place. Now hunkered down in austerity mode, there appears to be little help coming from our provincial overlords. So here’s a couple other names you might want to have a chat with.

Premier Dalton McGuinty.

Bob Chiarelli, Minster of Transport

Kathleen Wynne, Minister of Municipal Affairs.

Courtesy of Laurence Lui

But the ultimate responsibility falls on Mayor Ford and the council that continues to allow him to rampage over this city. We can sit and talk ourselves blue about partisanship, petty grievances, the urban-suburban divide and tit-fot-tat politics. These cuts to the TTC, however, should transcend all that. This is a serious setback to public transit in this city. Combined with all the other measures the mayor and council has pursued like tearing up bike lanes, burying the Eglinton LRT, they are making a grave situation much, much worse. A situation that’s not only going to affect citizens dependant on the TTC. Roads will fill up. Everyone’s commute times will increase. Toronto’s competitiveness will continue to come under threat from other jurisdictions that place a higher premium on public transit and liveability.

Cutting and slashing your way to prosperity is an illusion like all of the mayor’s other views on governance. We knew it last year but too many of us closed our eyes, crossed our fingers and hoped it wasn’t true. Time to wake up to the reality, admit our mistake and go about defending Toronto from anymore of Mayor Ford’s deluded impulses.

exhortingly submitted by Cityslikr


Finding The Better Way

November 10, 2011

A political case could probably be made for Premier Dalton McGuinty, his Minister of Municipal Affairs, Kathleen Wynne, and Transportation, Bob Chiarelli, to seize the moment and reframe the transit debate in Toronto. Our mayor has been staggered by a series of largely self-induced setbacks. He no longer commands a vaunted political force (if he ever did) under the banner of Ford Nation. His Transportation City plan is fraying around its already fuzzy edges. While not needing to shore up support in Toronto or the GTA, the Liberal government could lock it down for the foreseeable future by being seen to elevate the transit issue in importance here.

But really, should a political case have to be made stepping up for transit? Look around, listen. It’s not just car-hating, bike riding, downtown pinko elites demanding action. Carol Wilding and the Toronto Board of Trade have been beating the drum for a while now. Transit planning and funding have not kept up pace with the growth of this city and region. It is a situation now past the point of deleteriousness. Not just for Toronto or the GTA but for the province and the country. (Uh oh. Is that an example of the self-importance the rest of Canada hates us for? Ah, fuck `em. Oops. Too smug?)

If a politician wants to leave a positive mark, a legacy if you will, at some point of time they have to step forward and do the right thing and not just the expedient or most popular. Take a stand on an issue that may not curry them favour with a wider swath of the electorate but says, this needs to be done. Fifty years ago, for no discernible reason aside from Cold War fuelled hyper patriotism, President Kennedy exhorted his country to send a man to the moon. Less than a decade later, mission accomplished. Surely to christ we’re capable of building a viable transit system or, at least, a working portion of one in that kind of time.

It’s hard to see how, however, as our functionaries continue to play footsie instead of getting down to serious business. Witness yesterday’s ceremonial breaking of ground for the Eglinton crosstown LRT and the insipid press release it inspired. Jobs! Secure future! Jobs! New global economy! Jobs! Did we mention Jobs!

Unwritten went the fact that under the rejigged plan for the Eglinton LRT that now sees it buried underground for most of its 25 kilometres or so, sinking funds for the previously planned LRTs along Finch and Sheppard along with it, there’s uncertainty about how exactly to cross the Don Valley. Can you say cost overruns and delays? The $650 million in ‘leftover funds’ from building the Eglinton LRT has already dwindled to about $200 million before construction has barely begun, none of which is being fronted by the province to the mayor in order for him to help jump start development of an extension for the Sheppard subway which he promised could be built entirely with private funding. It has now been downgraded to a station by station concept, pay as you go kind of thing that will only succeed in keeping Toronto further and further behind the necessary transit curve.

A brewing monumental clusterfuck is what we’re facing and it’s time for the province to forcefully step in and get this thing back on track. It should be clear by now that Mayor Ford and his team is not up to the task. In fact, a convincing argument could be made the he is now nothing more than an obstacle to transit planning in this city.

At least make the case that before we proceed much further this has to go back to city council for a more serious debate and vote. We’re no longer talking about a simple rearranging of funds that had already been allocated to build transit. There’s going to have to be additional money provided by someone. It’s hard to see how another environmental assessment can be avoided whatever way they come up with as a plan to cross the Don Valley along Eglinton. This is now beyond the scope of simply the mayor and the TTC. The entire city council, and the city itself needs to have a say in how we go forward.

Now I thought that was the case right from the beginning when the mayor declared Transit City dead. I didn’t see how he could do that single-handedly and most of those who sprang to his defence did so with greyish technicalities. I was surprised the Premier played along. In hindsight, I’m glad he did. Mayor Ford’s popularity was higher than it is now, his clout more substantial. He just might’ve been able to bury Transit City for good and we’d be right back to scratch as we seem to find ourselves regularly on the transit portfolio.

Forced to sell his plan to council now, the outcome is nowhere near as foregone. With the bad news keep on a-coming, what councillor in their right mind would stand up to be counted as backing the mayor’s Transportation City plan? It’s going to cost more and deliver less transit to the city. Yes, if we go with Transit City, there’ll be ‘streetcars’ back on the street but that’s his millstone to bear. How many councillors went out on the hustings touting that to voters?

No, Transit City is not perfect. The province made it a little less so when it blinked in the face of a darkening economy a couple years ago and pulled some funding back off the table. But it still delivers reliable transit to parts of the city that will continue to be woefully underserved without it. Let’s call it a reasonable start to an increasingly daunting problem facing us.

An argument could be made to let the mayor dangle further, bluster ahead with his plan and watch it disintegrate further with each successive misstep. That will only squander valuable time and money both of which are at a premium presently with very little prospect of any increased rosiness in the near future. It’s time to stop playing political football with this, push aside the mayor and get on with building proper transit with the serious intent he’s shown no inclination in having.

adultly submitted by Cityslikr