Our Fare Lady: Q&A with Karen Stinz, the newly appointed TTC chair

Our Fare Lady: Q&A with Karen Stinz, the newly appointed TTC chair

Complaints about TTC customer service, possible strikes, delays—Stintz says she’s ready to take it all on

(Image: Adam Rankin)

You’re one of few councillors from a non‑suburban area in Rob Ford’s circle. How important do you think it is for the mayor to bridge the divide between urban and suburban voters?
Residents want the same things no matter where they live: good value for their money, good city services, the ability to get around.

Do you ride the TTC to work?
Most days. I live near Lawrence station, and I work near Queen station, so it’s easy for me to hop on the subway.

The Yonge line at rush hour can be hell. How do you cope?
I like to read the newspaper, but sometimes it’s just way too crowded.

What are your plans for the TTC?
Among other things, we want to introduce modern fare payment and phase out paper transfers, tokens and tickets.

We’ve heard that before. Is it really going to happen?
We are going to make sure it gets done. Customer service in general is a big priority. Both management and the union understand the importance of improving customer service.

Do you agree with the mayor that there’s a war on cars in this city?
When people talk about cars or buses or bikes, they’re really talking about people and how we get around. The city has made some decisions in the past that haven’t made getting around easy.

Such as?
Like the bike lanes on Jarvis and the St. Clair streetcar right of way.

How has your rapport been with Mayor Ford so far? Has anything surprised you about him?
He recently chaired a good council meeting and a good executive committee meeting. He made sure that different voices were heard, and he got his agenda passed.

Any comment on Don Cherry’s colourful introduction?

You have been on council for seven years. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
I’ve learned that if you have a chance to negotiate, you should take it. Getting a little bit of what you want is better than getting nothing.

It’s rumoured that you’re being courted by the provincial Tories. Would you consider running for them in 2011?
It’s funny—Tim Hudak is a constituent. He lives in my ward when he’s in Toronto working at Queen’s Park. I see him at Pusateri’s. Yes, we had a discussion, and I was clear about my commitment to the city. We haven’t talked about it since.

What do you do for fun?
My husband and I take our two kids, six-year-old Jackson and four-year-old Hailey, to Blue Mountain to ski in the winter. The kids are in tae kwon do, gymnastics and ballet, so that keeps us busy. And I’m learning how to play the piano. I’ve got my grade two—with honours!

When did you start taking lessons?
About 10 years ago!

You ran in the Toronto Marathon last year. Was it your first marathon?
My first and last.

Why last?
The training was hard and involved a lot of time away from home. The whole thing was gruelling. Now I just do 10Ks.

So what’s harder, running the TTC or running a marathon? Give me some time and I’ll get back to you on that.