Leadership Starts From The Ground Up

July 25, 2014

4 out of 4 transit experts agree. Toronto needs to start building the [fill in your preferred first name here] Relief Line now yesterday! expertsagreeWhile we can, should talk about other transit modes i.e. GO electrification, the only one that is going to take pressure off our already too tightly squeezed subway system is another subway line moving people to and from the downtown core, “… the fastest growing part of the entire GTA.”

There’s a reason we’ve been talking about a relief line for 30 years now. The necessity for it has been known for that long. It’s not new or news.

The problem is, it will be a messy, disruptive, expensive undertaking. Building a “new subway through the core — underground and with truly urban station frequency” can’t be anything but. subwayconstructionEven if crews started digging today, many of us wouldn’t be around to see the fruits of the labour and money. And, of course, it will be a project assailed on all fronts by parochial interests, convinced that downtowners, once more, are getting more than their fair share of public money and attention.

Despite all that, a Relief Line remains, in the words of our subway loving mayor, a Need to Have rather than a Nice to Have. Unlike say, the Scarborough subway extension?

A couple weeks ago in CityLab, this article headline appeared: “NYC Can’t Afford to Build the Second Avenue Subway, and It Can’t Afford Not To”. Read through the article and replace 2nd Avenue subway with DRL and Toronto and New York are pretty much having the same conversation right except for the fact, New York has at least started building their vital subway.

And yet, the Second Avenue line DRL has become a beacon for New York Toronto’s future and a symbol of the numerous challenges facing a global city that must, in light of massive costs and slow build-outs, expand its transit network to stay competitive. Ask anyone who has to ride the 4, 5, or 6 trains into Manhattan south of 60th Street Yonge Street line during a morning rush hour, and the need for a Second Avenue line DRL becomes clear. These trains aren’t just crowded, they’re packed to the gills. Very often, riders standing on a subway platform…have to let multiple trains go by before they can squeeze on board.

Even the cowering reaction by New York politicians to the enormity of building a needed subway has familiar echoes of leaders here in Toronto and at Queen’s Park.

As a knee-jerk reaction to the issues, leaders have begun to think small. They propose ferries, with ridership that tops a few hundred per day, as opposed to a few hundred thousand per day for a full-length Second Avenue subway. They urge bus rapid transit as a lower-cost option, without discussing how lower costs inevitably lead to lower capacity. Only subway lines can sustain New York’s projected growth, but New York can’t sustain multi-billion-dollar subway lines.

Ringing any bells? Ferries? Where did I hear about ferries recently?

“Thinking big — building more than 750 miles of track in five boroughs,” the CityLab article concludes, 2ndavenuesubway“made this city great, and to keep it great, New Yorkers will have to remember how to think big.”

And in Toronto’s case, ‘thinking big’ doesn’t just mean big projects like a subway. It means planning beyond simply local asks or demands, and looking at the proverbial bigger picture. The city in its entirety. The GTA region as a whole.

Unfortunately, we’re not seeing much of that from our elected officials. The non-political make-up of the regional transit planning body, Metrolinx, has been hijacked for political purposes by the Liberal government. The only major mayoral candidate really talking serious nuts-and-bolts about transit so far in this campaign is David Soknacki, and he remains stuck in single digit numbers of voter preference.fullfinchbus

So we remain crammed onto subway and streetcars, buses and on the roads while the best possible solutions are picked clean to the bones by opportunistic and do-nothing politicians, driven by their own agendas and the tax-and-spend aversion that has gripped residents.

The end result is not at all surprising.

Allow me a metaphor to point how this all winds up, if indeed it is a metaphor. I’ll have to confirm it with Doug Ford and get back to you.

“Faulty towers: The hidden dangers of low condo maintenance fees” is the headline for a Globe and Mail real estate article back from 2011.

The lack of interest [in a condo unit up for sale] has nothing to do with market conditions, and everything to do with a 30-year history of indifference by the residents who were content to keep condo fees low at the expense of necessary maintenance.

Hmmm. Do go on, Mr. Ladurantaye.

“This is a coming crisis that nobody is talking about”, said Chris Jaglowitz, a lawyer who specializes in condo law for Gardiner Miller Arnold LLP and a member of the Condominium Managers of Ontario. “You have all of these older buildings, and someone needs to pay for long-neglected repairs. And many people won’t be able to cover their share.”

That’s because condo buildings are owned collectively by the residents, and all repair bills are shared equally. Condo boards are able to levy special assessments in addition to condo fees to pay for projects. But the boards are made up of residents, who are sometimes motivated to keep fees low. And they serve short terms, which means long-term planning is often difficult.

Not just condos, is my point here.

thinkbigInfrastructure, transit, the city as a whole, all left in a serious state of disrepair and neglect because we residents, to paraphrase the article, have been content to keep our taxes low at the expense of necessary maintenance and needed expansion to keep up with the continued growth of the population. We’ve come to expect easy (and cheap) solutions to complex (and expensive) problems, succeeding only in making the solutions more complex, more expensive.

But hey. Not on us. Not on our dime.

That’s how you get an infrastructure deficit. That’s how, years, decades later, we find ourselves precipitously and willfully under-served by even the most basic of the necessary amenities. Housing, roads, public transit, all inadequate in dealing with the ever increasing numbers of people choosing to live here.headinsand

That’s the legacy we’ve already passed on to our kids with little expectation it won’t be even worse for our grandchildren. Unless we choose to step up right now and say, enough is enough. It’s time to start accepting a little responsibility and stop clutching our pocket books and narrow self-interest and leaving future generations to make even tougher decisions.

buck stoppingly submitted by Cityslikr


One Step Forward…

April 15, 2014

Listening to veteran transportation planner Ed Levy on Metro Morning today talk about the province’s latest foray sighinto the choppy political waters of transit building in the GTA, I felt for the guy. He and the likes of Steve Munro, and all the others who’ve been following this sorry tale for much longer than I have. How else do you respond to the question, Well, what do you think? A shrug. A sigh. A sad, slow shake of the head.

The equation is remarkably easy.

This region is in desperate need of transit and transportation infrastructure upgrades. It has been woefully neglected for at least 3 decades. We are now paying the economic and social costs for this lack of investment.

Pretty much everyone is in agreement on this. Time to get busy. The clock is ticking. We must roll up our sleeves and get down to transit building business.

That’s where the consensus all goes to shit. agreetodisagreeThe perpetual sticking point. How do we pay for it?

Nothing about this is going to come cheap. If it did, public transit would be everywhere. We wouldn’t be having this ongoing conversation. Parse it any way you want, it is an expensive proposition, a pricey necessity for the proper functioning of any sizeable city.

It’s going to cost us. All worthwhile investments do. So, pony up, shut up and let’s get on with it.

On the other hand…

Yesterday’s Liberal government announcement of $29 billion in money directed toward transit and transportation building throughout the province, $15 billion of that in the GTA, over the next 10 years is not nothing. It only seems like that because there’s been a long, deliberate build up to this point. There’s something anti-climactic to the announcement. holdonaminuteI’m sorry, what? That’s it?

Part of the problem is that the money’s not new. What did the Minister of Transportation call it? Repurposed revenue. If these guys spent half as much time coming up with smart ways to convince the public to buy into the need to pay for transit as they did polishing up weasel words and phrases to mask their continued ambivalence in confronting this issue head on, we’d already have the Yonge Street relief line built and paid for.

This is $29 billion already coming into the province through gas taxes and the HST paid on gas. The government is simply dedicating that amount in this particular direction. Which is fine and good, a start at least. Where it’s being pulled from is anybody’s guess at this point. We’ll cross that bridge (after it’s been retrofitted) when we get to it.

The other glitch in the announcement is that the $1.5 billion coming the GTA’s way annually over the next 10 years is still below the goal of $2 billion a year Metrolinx has said would be needed to fund the capital side of its Big Move build. All in good time, we were assured by the premier and minister of transportation. willywonka1More will be revealed with the upcoming budget.

This is where the politics comes in to play. Unfortunately, politics always comes in to play. The $29 billion was the opening gambit (after what? A 6 year overture?) by the government. How would the opposition parties react? Were they going to sign on or in any other way show their hand on this?

The trouble for the Liberals right now is two-fold. One, they have no spending credibility, lost amidst the scandals plaguing them. Ehealth. Ornge. Gas plants. Trust us to get it right this time, folks.

It’s a scenario that could be easily dealt with if there was a serious alternative being put up on offer. But this is the second problem. Out there on the extreme is the official opposition pretending like building transit is free and easy. You want subways? We’ll give you subways. And it won’t cost you a thing. Just a nip and tuck there. Bob’s your uncle. Remember the last time the Progressive Conservatives were in power and all those subways they buil—No, wait. Strike that.

We have proof negative of exactly higotnothingow this approach to building transit works here in Toronto. It doesn’t. Remember when our current mayor was running for office back in 2010 and he guaranteed us he could deliver subways here, there and everywhere without any additional revenues? Uh huh. That’s the exact bill of goods Tim Hudak’s trying to sell us again.

Unfortunately, the third party at Queen’s Park, the NDP, are tilting heavily toward similar populist pandering. Corporate taxes is their mantra. Rolling back a decade’s worth of corporate tax cuts will pay for everything we want while eliminating the deficit apparently. A different angle on the too good to be true pitch.

And then we all flip the table and walk away from the discussion. Politicians, we bellow! Where have the true leaders gone, we ask? If only Bill Davis. If only… If only.

Until we start punishing those elected representatives who believe that in concocting fairy tales of no money down, whome1no interest until forever as the surest way to secure office, this song will play on repeat. We will still be bitching about the state of our public transit 10 years, 20 years from now. We will still be reading posts like this. We will be explaining to our grandchildren how it was our politicians let us down, how they failed to tackle the most pressing issues of our time.

We will still be absolving ourselves of any responsibility for the gridlock that has continued to worsen and the deplorable state of ill-repair our trains and streetcars and buses operate in. Like the generation before us, we will wipe our hands clean and successfully pass the buck to the next to deal with.

repeatedly submitted by Cityslikr


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


Are We Finished With The Nonsense Yet?

September 12, 2013

There’s this from Steve Munro over at Torontoist. And Ben Spurr here at NOW. stackofpapersBoth based on Metrolinx’s Feasibility Study Subway in Scarborough RT Corridor, comparing and contrasting Toronto city council’s Scarborough subway proposal with one announced by the Ontario government’s Ministry of Transportation last week.

Essentially, the province’s 2 stop subway addition to the eastern terminus of the Bloor-Danforth line will not clock in at the price the transportation minister is claiming, and the ridership numbers very, very suspect without the line running past the Scarborough Town Centre up to Sheppard Avenue. Moreover, the conversion of the planned LRT extension running along the current SRT route into a subway will necessitate station design changes that threaten the timing of the Eglinton LRT crosstown, one of the transit projects in this city actually being built.

So, shorter, serving fewer people with fewer stations, more expensive and quite possibly throwing a spanner into the works into another project already underway.

Whatever. It’s full steam ahead according to Transportation Minister Glen Murray.

“People are fed up with the debate,” Murray declared. whiteelephant“We’re building now. We’re past debate.”

It’s a terrible plan, in some ways worse than the terrible subway plan council and the TTC chair, Karen Stintz, championed in the summer. If you didn’t know any better, it’s almost as if the provincial government is attempting to run a subway along where an LRT more logically fits only for the opportunity to claim having built a subway in Scarborough. That’s hardly leadership. It’s politically pandering of the worst kind.

The odd thing is, because of the province’s expediency on this file, jettisoning sound policy decision making for crass political gain, our city council has been given yet another chance to emerge from this wreckage as the less dysfunctional governing body. A low bar to clear, for sure, given the transit debates we’ve seen over the last few years decades generations decades. Nonetheless, council can reassert control over the Scarborough transit debate and appear almost like the adults in the room.

The subway it asked for and the funding for it is not what the province now has on offer. therightstuffMany of the councillors’ support for that subway was contingent on those two things. Having not received it, they can now walk away, saying they tried delivering this Scarborough subway unicorn but were rebuffed by the senior levels of government. Embrace the Master Agreement that’s still in place that will return to the more sensible LRT plan that never should’ve been set aside in the first place.

More importantly, perhaps this discussion can now move beyond the platitudinous banner-speak that has polluted it since 2010. Let’s now start talking transit planning based on logistics and practicalities not grievances. What’s been revealed about both proposed Scarborough subway plans is there’s not enough money available to build one that would actually utilize the technology to the fullest. Even if there were money, a subway running either of the possible routes doesn’t make particular sense. reasonablediscussionMuch of it would be running at grade or elevated just like an LRT or it would be underground through established residential neighbourhoods where the necessary development to feed the ridership numbers might not be possible.

And any sort of Scarborough subway would be at least a decade away. We could start building the LRT tomorrow.

Despite Minister Murray’s chest-thumping claims, this debate isn’t over. But maybe, just maybe, if a majority of council so chooses, it can take a turn for the sensible and rational. There may be no precedent for such a thing but all the alternatives have led us down blind alleys, on foot, still waiting for transit.

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


Try And Try Again

July 16, 2013

It may come as something of a surprise to many of you but this week’s city council meeting – surprisedthe last one of the summer – is not a hastily convened, special transit session, called specifically on the eternal question of a Scarborough subway. No. It is a regularly scheduled meeting, in place to deal with the entirety of the city’s business. An agenda that, according to Councillor Janet Davis, is the biggest she’s seen in her 10 years at City Hall.

But you’ll be forgiven if you thought otherwise. The talk’s been almost exclusively about the brewing Scarborough LRT-versus-subway brouhaha leading up to today’s start of council meeting. It’s as if there’s nothing else really going on.

I’m not going to contribute to this transit talk overload. My views are well documented. You’re probably as sick and tired reading about them as I am writing about them.

If you’re a glutton for punishment on this issue, however, and you really want to get down to the nub of this never-ending debate, sotiredI highly suggest reading John Lorinc’s take on it yesterday and Steve Munro’s over the weekend. I’d happily link to any persuasive pro-subway articles but the problem seems to be THERE AREN’T ANY! To see the sorry state of the subway proponents’ case, take a leisurely scroll through the Twitter timelines of councillors Michelle Berardinetti and James Pasternak.

I will say a couple things on the topic though.

Any councillor ultimately voting in favour of re-opening the Master Agreement between the city and Metrolinx in the hopes of building a subway extension rather than an LRT at the current eastern terminus of the Bloor-Danforth line loses any claim to being fiscally prudent or conservative. There is no viable economic argument to make the switch. None. moneybagsIt is nothing less than tossing out an already funded plan (by another level of government, no less) and replacing it with a much riskier, numbers still on a cocktail napkin pipe dream. In no way do any possible benefits outweigh the very considerable costs to the city and city’s taxpayers, both current and future.

Secondly, absolute credit has to go to Mayor Rob Ford for keeping the dream of MOAR SCARBOROUGH SUBWAYS alive through his dogged, single-minded determination (Forditude? Did someone already coined that word? If not, dibs. See? I am getting punchy.) to pander to a bloc of voters he absolutely needs if he has any hope of being re-elected next year. Failing spectacularly earlier this term to get a Sheppard subway extension up and going, he’s hopped aboard the Bloor-Danforth version, looking for sellable talking points to take to the voters taxpayers and his devoted radio listeners. He promised you subways, Scarborough, and he’s delivering you subways. screamingYears late and for billions more but the mayor’s never really been about the fine print.

That’s doing him some disservice. The fact that he’s got a seeming majority of council ready to take this senseless leap, along with a handful of Scarborough Liberal MPPs and two successive Liberal governments at Queen’s Park, is a testimony to the power of his retail politicking. Any sort of subway extension for Scarborough is nothing more than politics for him. So much so that he’s abandoned his core political principle, revenue tools are just taxes and he’s against taxes, for it. In order to build his Scarborough subway, Mayor Rob Ford has had to go on record saying that taxes used to build a subway should be seen as an investment. An investment. Not some onerous reach around into the taxpayers’ pocket.

Yeah, that Rob Ford.

Such naked, hypocritical pandering, rather than being toxic as you might think, seems to be infectious. Everybody’s in on it now, willing to bend over backwards to feed the apparent sense of entitlement felt by Scarborough commuters, generated by the mayor’s constant divisive drum beating. imwithstupid1Once more, transit planning has become a game of chicken, intended only to assist political aspirations at both the provincial and municipal levels of government.

All the key players have descended to the mayor’s level, catering to his ill-thought out and ill-advised transit views instead of challenging them on their merit and feasibility. Despite losing control of the transit file over a year ago now, he’s still dictating the terms of the conversation. Regardless of what happens this week, Mayor Ford’s already won.

tiredly submitted by Cityslikr


Transit Defiled

April 25, 2013

“If 30 members of council want to sign a petition to call a special meeting to raise taxes on the backs of citizens who can’t afford them, that will be the first campaign poster for the mayor’s 2014 campaign.” Mark Towhey, Chief of Staff, Mayor Ford.

snidelywhiplash

For a bunch of reasons, the 2014 municipal campaign can’t come soon enough for me. But mostly I’m just eager for this angle to play out. Mayor Ford, steadfast in his respect for taxpayers, refuses to so much as even discuss options for transit expansion.

“I promised taxpayers I’d keep their taxes low. I kept their taxes low.”emptypromise

“You also promised taxpayers subways,” counters a hypothetical opponent. “Subways, subways, subways.”

“City Council refused to let me build a subway. It’s their fault.”

“But you had 3 years [four years by the time the campaign rolls around] to come up with a plan to build subways. Where is it?”

“The private sector. P3s. P3s. The private sector. The private sector. Did I say, ‘P3s’? P3s. The private sector. The people want subways. Subways, subways, subways.”

Maybe Mark Towhey and the rest of the Team Ford brain trust are really, truly salivating at the prospect of running a re-election campaign on the mayor’s bread-and-butter issue of low taxes but the ground has shifted considerably since 2010. This time he won’t just be running against some easily smearable, downtown tax-and-spender. In his determined digging in of his heels and holding his breath until the transit conversation loses steam or Tim Hudak is elected premier, Mayor Ford is painting himself into a sad, lonely political corner with only the Toronto Sun holdmybreath(and maybe not even the Sun based on today’s transit talk with columnist Sue-Ann Levy) to keep him warm.

His continued transit funding intransigence (as a matter of fact, yes, I did have to go there) has left Mayor Ford running against not just a majority of his city council but the Toronto Board of Trade. John Tory and the CivicAction Alliance. Hazel McCallion and almost every other elected official in the 905 region. Hardly a left-leaner among them.

There is a significant difference between a lone wolf howling at the moon and a crazy person shouting the same thing over and over again on a street corner.

In the hopes of riding an anti-tax wave back into office next year, the mayor will have to cross his fingers that voters and his opponents will forget some of the other stuff he promised and claimed in 2010, and not just subways. The city didn’t have a revenue problem, remember? It had a spending problem. Yet, he’s spent considerable political capital pushing for a downtown casino because all of the revenue it would generate for the city.

Oh, I see. The city doesn’t have a tax revenue problem. It’s the other type of revenue we’re a little short on.fingerscrossed

Expect a boatload of that kind of semantic hair-splitting going forward.

Mayor Ford’s also revived his 2010 campaign idea of cutting our way to a better city by joining the empty chorus of finding efficiencies experts who insist a little belt tightening will pop out the loose change we need to build whatever it is we want. Short on details, of course. Long on vague pandering populism.

Ditto the whole boondoggle angle being embraced by those trying to fend off new taxes. Add up your eHealths and your ORNGEs and your gas plants and your PRESTO fiascos, and you’re still well short of the funds needed to build the proposed transit. That’s not to condone these trip ups or simply shrug them off. Of course, there’s a huge trust issue with handing over more money for another major public infrastructure endeavour to a government whose track record in matters of oversight is somewhat sketchy. It still doesn’t mean doing nothing about congestion and our woeful lack of regional transit.

But that’s the thing.

Mayor Ford is simply looking for any excuse to do nothing on the transit file. The thought of actually doing something runs counter to every political instinct in his body. robfordstreetcarsOutside of public safety, the government isn’t supposed to do anything. Certainly not if it means disrupting traffic flow or demanding drivers pay more for the privilege right to drive their vehicles.

While Team Ford disavowed any attachment to it back in 2010, it is very telling to read through the mayor’s chief of staff’s views on public transit and the TTC back in the day. (Captured for posterity by Steve Munro, and brought to our attention by yesterday by Jude MacDonald.) In short it reads: stop funding the TTC, sell off the assets and let the market decide how people get around the city.

Since coming to office, has Mayor Ford done anything in terms of transit that has been less indifferent than the attitude his chief of staff displayed three years ago? So why would we expect him to change now? Of course, he’s fighting tooth and nail against new revenue tools for transit expansion. He doesn’t give a shit about transit.

So Team Ford has to do its best to frame this as a pitched battle to keep taxes low because the flipside of that debate – government shouldn’t be involved in actually governing – is unwinnable. shellgameThe mayor and those planning his re-election campaign seem to believe people will be content enough with the notion that their taxes have been kept low to return him to office. Moreover, voters will be ready to punish any councillor who even so much as raised the possibility of new taxes.

At this juncture, it seems more like wishful thinking than any sort of sound strategy. But that’s really all this administration’s ever been about, isn’t it.

bay of fund it all readily submitted by Cityslikr


The Problem Is Us

March 13, 2013

Now, I’m no brain doctor or mind scientist but it seems to me that a disturbing number of people – braindoctora majority of whom write for or read newspapers like the Toronto Sun* – lack what you might call an important neural bridge, an inability to make a synaptic leap from a point to its logical conclusion.

Here’s the second paragraph from the Sun’s Saturday editorial, Time to come clean on ‘Big Move’:

We’re skeptical because the people promising to fix the problem of traffic gridlock in the GTA — provincial and municipal politicians — are the people who created it in the first place.

Yeah!

Politicians! Refusing to build transit! We ask and we ask for more transit, and what do we get? Congestion! That’s what we get!

I’m stuck behind the wheel in this traffic jam and it’s all the politicians’ fault.

The idea that somehow, left to their own devices, politicians have failed to deliver, or rather, that politicians have delivered us into this transit mess is staggeringly simple minded. I know, I know. angryvotersIt’s the Sun we’re talking about. Still…

I’m not letting our politicians off the hook here. For the past two decades or so, our elected officials have sat on their collective hands, unwilling to tell the hard truths about the absolute necessity for transit expansion throughout the GTHA and the only way possible to get it done. That’s a major abdication of leadership, no argument.

But why would they be like that, one might venture to ask if one weren’t writing an editorial for the Toronto Sun. Why would politicians jeopardize the economic and social well-being of a region, a city, a ward, a neighbourhood by neglectfully refusing to build transit in a timely manner? Spite? Laziness?

Try, out of sheer political pandering.

We have the transit system and traffic congestion that we deserve. That we’ve paid for. The only ones we have to blame for the mess we’re currently in is ourselves.

And maybe, the Toronto Sun.

For its 40+ years of existence, it has championed the cause of small government and low taxes, touting any like-minded politician and vilifying those who weren’t. There was no major public expenditure it couldn’t see as a boondoggle or tax increase that didn’t pick the taxpayers’ pockets. texaschainsawmassacreI’ll go out on a limb here and bet my bottom dollar that back in 1995, the Toronto Sun endorsed Mike Harris and the Progressive Conservatives to be the new government of Ontario. The very gang that, when in power, filled the hole being dug for an Eglinton subway spur. A hole being dug back out, some 18 years later.

This cesspool of suspicion and tightwadedness has tended to make politicians a little gun shy in terms of transit building. You want what? Well, it’s going to cost about x m(b)illions of dollars. Too much? Right. Well, let’s just ignore this conversation then, shall we?

Worse still, there’s this phantasmagorical alternate reality out there, where politicians claim they can build whatever transit the folks want wherever the folks want it and it won’t cost anybody a thing. Just say the word. Clap your hands twice and click your heels three times [h/t to @christ for that image].

The Sun itself is out there promoting utter nonsense in terms of transit funding. Misinforming Torontonians for over 4 decades now.™©® You want new transit, Toronto? Easy peasy.

We believe much of the money can be raised by charging developers for the increased benefits to them of an integrated transit system, by eliminating waste in government, and by dedicating to public transit the new tax base generated by a proposed Toronto casino-resort.

disingenuousUh-huh.

And I believe much of the money can be raised by eating quarters and shitting out five dollar bills.

Once again, the Toronto Sun is spouting rubbish and muddying the debate about transit funding. According to Feeling Congested, the Sun’s preference for using Development Charges to pay for new transit will amount to about $90 million annually. In the spirit of increased benefits from new transit, I’ll throw in the $20 million Value Capture Levy from increased property values. So that totals $110 million a year which means that we’ll only need the additional one billion, eight hundred and ninety million dollars from a new ‘casino-resort’ and more government efficiencies.

Done, and done.

It’s beyond laughable that these people think they’re contributing constructively to the transit debate. This is the same kind of shirking of responsibility and refusing to make tough choices that have got us into this mess. They are not being honest brokers with their readers.

The fact is, the two billion dollar number being given for the Big Move is a very, very conservative number. kidstableIt’s going to cost us a lot more than that, and I’m just considering operational costs right now. Never mind, the additional transit that really should be built to noticeably improve transit matters in the GTHA. Don’t believe me? Ask Oakville mayor Rob Burton. Or read some Steve Munro.

There are no easy fixes to this, folks. This is the high cost of procrastination, selfishness and negligence. Everything the likes of the Toronto Sun has been encouraging since its inception. It’s never been serious about investment in the public sphere. Don’t start thinking it’s suddenly changed that tune.

* except for Reporter Don Peat

dismissively submitted by Cityslikr