A Worse Wreck

November 22, 2013

Here’s what happens when we take our eyes off the ball, distracted by loud, braying, bullying baubles.

distraction

The [TTC} commission’s board of directors had to call a special meeting just to approve next year’s TTC and Wheel-Trans operating budgets plus a $9.7 billion, 10-year capital commitment, after failing to hold the vote as planned during Monday’s board meeting at city hall so seven city councillors sitting on the board could leave to attend the special council session on Ford’s mayoral future.

When the TTC board finally got to debating the matter Wednesday afternoon – inside a cramped boardroom at the TTC’s Davisville offices – it was also going to have to approve a fare hike to address a shortfall in the 2014 operating budget coming in at $1.6 billion.

Rahul Gupta, InsideToronto.com

Another year, another operating budget shortfall for the TTC. Increased, record ridership further crammed into vehicles as service levels continue to flat line. packedsubwayThis should be front page news especially since our mayor continues to claim how he’s turned everything around in this city. However…

Let’s be honest with ourselves here.

We’re not really that concerned about fixing the public transit system in Toronto with this kind of continued approach to funding it. More and more reliance on the farebox to support its operations, per rider subsidy not only falling woefully behind other places more intent on providing better transit alternatives to its residents but even behind its own already woeful standards.

78 cents per rider next year with the proposed fare increases. Compare that to Boston, $1.93. New York City, $1.03. Montreal, $1.16. Philadelphia, $1.95. Chicago, $1.68.

I’m really trying to figure out how Karen Stintz is going to spin this out in a way to help her mayoral bid in 2014. miserlyAs Mayor Ford’s chair of the TTC, she has overseen changes in service standards that resulted in cuts to actual service, especially along routes with lower ridership levels. No more WheelTrans for dialysis patients. In late 2010 when she took over as chair, the city funded the TTC to the tune of $430 million. This year the TTC is asking for $434 million (the city’s offering $428 million). At best, under her leadership the city’s funding for the TTC will have increased by a measly $4 million over 4 years. At worst? She will have presided over an actual cut in funding from the city. (A serious shout-out to Steve Munro for walking me ever so slowly through the facts and figures.)

And all the while, the fare increases. Oh, the fare increases.

Hey. At least during my time as TTC chair, no crazy person took a bus hostage and threatened to blow it up if it drove less than 80 kilometres an hour! speedStintz4Mayor2014. Hard to fit on a t-shirt.

For all her talk about the transit building boom we’re currently experiencing – the Yonge-University-Spadina subway extension, the Eglinton Crosstown – if we can’t figure out how to fund the operational side of them properly, it’s just going to be more lines in a system packed with unhappy riders.

Of course, TTC Chair Stintz can hardly be singled out for blame on the deplorable state of the transit file.

The provincial government probably could’ve gone a lot further in garnering votes from the city if, instead of helping to push along the idiocy of a Scarborough subway extension of the Bloor-Danforth line, givingwithonehandit simply announced that it was back in the game of contributing 50% to the annual operating costs of the TTC. Like it used to be, pre-1995. Imagine the ease on the city’s coffers to only have to come up with some $200 million or so this year for the TTC while the province chipped in the other half. And imagine it the year before that. And the one before that. And so on and so on for nearly the past 2 decades.

Somehow the province manages to find $84 million to give to GO Transit but the cupboard remains bare for the TTC. Until Queen’s Park sees fit to address that situation, it really can’t be considered serious about transit or the congestion that is plaguing this region. You simply cannot expect people to get out of their cars and into transit if the transit is expensive and not particularly pleasant or efficient to take.

As for the participation of our federal government in encouraging and funding public transit? trainwreck*sigh*

There’s plenty of blame to go around, obviously, but we can’t lose sight of one important fact. Despite the enormity of all the scandals swirling around him, Mayor Ford has proven to be an even bigger disaster when it comes to public transit in Toronto. Less money, reduced service and higher fares. That’s a veritable trifecta of mismanagement and something we shouldn’t lose sight of amid the mangled wreckage of his time in office.

remindingly submitted by Cityslikr


Thoughts On P.D. Smith’s City

March 18, 2013

“ … the most courageous act of prediction in Western civilization,” Rem Koolhaas wrote in citypdsmithDelirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan, talking about the early 19th-century Commissioners’ Plan to develop Manhattan, “the land it divides, unoccupied; the population it describes, conjectural; the buildings it locates, phantoms; the activities it frames, nonexistent.”

I want to focus on the word ‘courageous’.

We haven’t seen a whole lot of that around these parts lately.

It’s been all about limitations. What we can’t afford. Who we can’t help. Why we can’t have nice things.

Aspiration’s in short supply. Expectations lowered. Let’s just aim to get by.

That’s no way to build a city, at least not a city many people actually want to live in.

We need to start seeing the possibilities and ignoring the restraints, most of which are arbitrarily self-imposed in the first place. aimlowToronto is not broke. Torontonians are not over-taxed. What we are is lacking in a little civic nerve. We’ve got challenges but not the constitution to face up to them.

Transit is the big file in the cabinet, obviously. Hardly the only one but the one most concrete, tangible, doable. All it’s going to take is money and a boat load of moxie. We have plenty of the former despite what all the naysayers tell you. The latter? Well, that’s the question, isn’t it.

And while we tangle and tussle over the details, what taxes and tolls and charges to implement, there’s plenty of little things we could be doing. For years we’ve fussed and farted half-heartedly over possible innovations in parking and car flow along the heaviest used parts of King Street. We know there are simple solutions we could try. putourheadstogetherWe’ve just balked at trying them.

One of an infinite number of ideas we could employ in order to get the city moving more smoothly.

In his keynote talk at a transit forum a couple weeks ago, former city planner Larry Beasley laid out the new approach cities need to adopt in order to increase both mobility and liveability in terms of transit planning. A hierarchy of priority that is pretty much diametrically opposed to how we do things currently. 1) Pedestrian. 2) Cycling. 3) Public transit. 4) Movement of goods. 5) Private vehicles.

That’s a sea change in urban thought, folks. Our urban thought, any rate. Doing things drastically different than we’ve done before. It’s not easy. It goes against our inclination to sink deeply into the status quo. notgoodenoughIt’s outside our comfort zone.

But that’s where brave people go to do great things. ‘Courageous acts of prediction’.

This is what we must start demanding of our elected officials. Demanding and encouraging. When we ask what we’re going to get in return for our vote, and the answer goes something like: Lower taxes and Efficiencies, it is not a bold or dynamic politician we are talking to. They are fearful, backward looking and not up to the task of representing us.

They embrace casinos as a solution to our fiscal situation.

They thrive on division and resentment.

They sloganeer instead of lead.

manhattanmap

In 1811, then Mayor of New York, De Witt Clinton, looked up at the largely uninhabited northern 75% of Manhattan and imagined what it might become one day. He decided they needed a plan. A plan he would not share in except as part of history.

Let’s start asking our politicians what their plan is for our future. Insist on being inspired not mollified.

inspirationally submitted by Cityslikr