So if things fall into place, we’ll be witnessing another transit debate during this week’s council meeting. This time it’ll be over possible revenue tools to help fund the region’s Big Move. The conversation Mayor Ford tried to bury at Executive Committee last month. The one that’ll stay buried if 30 councillors don’t vote to add it to the meeting’s agenda.
In all likelihood, 30 votes would’ve been an easy-peasy, no-brainer. The mayor barely managed to keep his own Executive Committee from ignoring him. But a bunch of Scarborough councillors led by Michelle Berardinetti, and given some heft by Michael Thompson, want to put a stipulation on their support for talking about new revenue tools: re-opening the can of worms that is the Scarborough subway. Extend the Bloor-Danforth line with a subway instead of the long ago agreed upon LRT or the revenue tools get it.
For the umpteenth fucking time, I am not intrinsically opposed to a Scarborough subway. If there’s a good reason for one, and the case is based on sound principles, have at it I say. We’re trying to build an awesome transit system here not spackle a crack in the stuccoed plaster. Let’s get it right.
But… but… and watch me adopt my best Jeff Foxworthy persona right now.
You Might Be a Transit Redneck if you think all public transit should be built underground. Actually, that’s just flat out idiocy that moves far beyond being a redneck. It’s pure car-ccentricity and really has no place whatsoever in this debate. The Russian judge will give you a negative score for that kind of reasoning.
You Might Be a Transit Redneck if you think Scarborough deserves a subway simply because there are other places in the city that have subways. Could you be any more of a child? They have one. I want one too. What kind of adult thinks like that?
Our one subway that should never have been built up along the Sheppard stub is still woefully under-performing, adding stress to the Yonge line more than anything else. Sure, new development has sprung up along the route but not nearly enough to pay the bills or, ultimately, to warrant the subway in the first place. It was a simple case of politics over proper transit planning.
Ditto the University line extension up to Vaughan. Politics trumping solid transit building. It is not something councillors should be seeking to emulate in their neck of the woods.
If Scarborough is to get a subway extension, it should happen because it warrants one not deserves or wants one.
You Might Be a Transit Redneck if you think subways are better than LRTs because they go faster. There are many components that factor into the element of speed with transit, the capacity to do so only one of them. Yes, a subway travelling underground does so unimpeded by other forms of traffic but to maintain high speeds, subways also have to have fewer stops, spaced farther apart. This lowers the number of people who can easily access it by foot, putting additional strain on the service by requiring feeder routes to it, bumping up operating costs.
Things like frequency also affect speed and vice versa. You can only run so many trains travelling at 400 km/h down one tunnel. Ease of passenger flow on and off trains also matters.
Speed is not just speed when it comes to public transit. If you think it is, you’re thinking purely as a car driver. You’re thinking like a Transit Redneck.
And You Might Be a Transit Redneck if you’re demanding a subway in Scarborough in order to avoid having to make a transfer at Kennedy station. Yes, the current SRT is a rickety, noisy, less than welcoming bit of unpleasant business. But it doesn’t mean all transfers and connections are inherently bad or that a smooth, uninterrupted ride from point A to point F is all that’s needed to induce commuters to hop aboard public transit.
Connections can be made in a seamless manner, across a platform, up an escalator, down a set a stairs. Wait times are what largely determines whether or not a connection works. So frequency matters at least as much as having to change trains.
It’s not all about the technology, folks. Subways, subways, subways won’t solve our current transit woes. Certainly putting one where it’s not warranted simply because of crass political pandering can hardly be seen to contribute in a positive way to the overall system.
You want more subways in Scarborough? Stop being a transit redneck and lay out the reasons why without resorting to simple-minded transit views, whiny regional resentment or cheap sloganeering. It’s getting old, overly obstructionist and once more threatens to overwhelm the larger transit discussion we’ve ignored having for a generation now.
If Scarborough is not going to get any benefits from enhanced revenue tools, why would we support it? We’ll put our money where our mouth is as long as we get to benefit. If we are not going to benefit, then we see no reason to support either the downtown relief line or any other expansion of transit in the city of Toronto.Councillor Michael Thompson.
It’s times like this when, if asked about the notion of de-amalgamation, I just throw up my hands and say, yeah, fuck it. Let’s do it. Such noxious self-serving toadying will be the death of any good transit planning anyway. So if a majority of Scarborough councillors want to stamp their feet and hold the entire process hostage by stirring up sub-regional resentment, good riddance to them.
(Although the transit file was dealt with on a 416 wide level long before amalgamation. But since we’re swimming in a spite pool, allow me to dip my toe in.)
It’s not that I even believe a further Scarborough subway extension of the Bloor-Danforth line is necessarily a bad idea. As Tess Kalinowski and David Rider point out in their Star article, there are compelling arguments for doing so. But councillors Michelle Berardinetti, Glenn De Baeremaeker and Thompson don’t bother putting them forward, choosing instead to wallow in the cheap, petulant politics of misinformation that’s usually the speciality of Mayor Ford.
Only in the minds of those more interested in grandstanding than in reason and fact based governing would getting an LRT be seen as some sort of slap in the face. By dismissing LRT technology as of no benefit and somehow getting less than other parts of the city, the Scarborough 7 have internalized the Ford Administration’s baseless and entirely uniformed transit views. It’s legitimizing them and foisting them back into the debate.
So what if there’s a subway going up into Vaughan? (And I’ve only been out of town for a couple days. When did I miss Markham getting a subway?) Why compound one mistake – if the University line subway extension up past York and into Vaughan was a mistake – by making another? Mississauga seems content to build an LRT. Why does Scarborough think it’s better than Mississauga?
You see where this discussion might go, right?
It’s the destabilizing effect in opening up this debate once again that could be the most damaging. As the only rational seeming Scarborough representative, Councillor Paul Ainslie points out it simply signals the city’s unpredictable and impulsive attitude toward transit building. Why should the rest of the city and the entire GTA region bother being serious if a group of Scarborough councillors are willing to scupper a deal to score cheap political points?
The increasingly Machiavellian (and I say that in the most non-complimentary way possible) Councillor Josh Colle believes that even if it throws the transit debate wide open to a pie in the sky wish list of options, it’ll be worth it to finally air out the Scarborough LRT-versus-subway for good. Uh huh. Maybe if we were actually going to have an honest debate about the issue, I could fully get behind that sentiment. But it doesn’t appear as if that’s going to happen, given the re-opening salvo from the Berardinetti-De Baeremaeker-Thompson triumvirate. Instead, we’re going to get full on crass pandering and pitting one region against another rather than region wide transit building.
Nobody “deserves” a particular form of transit especially based purely on what a nearby neighbourhood or area of the city has. You should get the transit that best fits the built environment within the budget you’re willing to spend. So let’s have the debate based on that premise, if we haven’t already, and not the politics of petty parochialism.
It’s that that’ll kill any chances we have of getting a GTHA-wide agreement on the proper funding tools needed to get started on the Big(ger) Move. And if we fail to do so, we’ll know where to point the finger of blame. I hope all the Scarborough councillors who are now beating their collective chests demanding their subway will be prepared for that kind of exposure.