Reaction Roundup: what the revival of Transit City could mean for Toronto (and Rob Ford)
The whole “war on cars” talking point feels so 2009 (and 2010… and 2011), but now that Metrolinx and city council have pushed through an LRT-based transit plan against Rob Ford’s wishes, it’s back in a big way. Some members of council (well, mostly Doug Ford) are already gnashing their teeth over what the plan means for drivers—especially since tolls could be on the table if Josh Matlow gets his way. Others are looking ahead to the 2014 election and how shifts in power could change the whole project once more.
A roundup of what politicos and columnists are saying about Toronto’s new (but also old) transit plan:
• In a CBC video, we heard some familiar talking points from mayoral brother Doug Ford, fired up not only over plans to construct LRTs, but also over a proposal to lower speed limits and Matlow’s toll-talk: “It’s definitely a war on the car. When you want to St. Clairize the whole city, turn Sheppard into the disaster on St. Clair, turn Eglinton into the disaster on St. Clair, that’s a war on the car.” Still, Doug Ford could find the silver lining—he told the Toronto Star, “They’ve just re-elected Rob,” suggesting Metrolinx’s approval of the LRTs (and Torontonians’ innate hatred for trolleys) will propel his brother back into office.
• The Toronto Star’s Royson James kind of agrees with Doug (!), writing that, though the revival of Transit City seems like “manna from heaven,” it will likely boost Rob Ford’s re-election campaign: “the surety of disruption and traffic jams from construction delays along those corridors, in the middle of the 2014 mayoral election campaign, is almost miraculously good fortune for the mayor who wants transit out of the way of cars.”
• The National Post’s Chris Selley also believes the 2014 election could see Rob Ford back in office and the Sheppard LRT line dashed again. His advice for the the mayor’s opponents: “When it comes to subways and LRTs specifically, someone needs figure out how to make staying the course look sexy.” In other words, figure out some LRT talking points that are as memorable and persuasive as, “People want subways folks…subways, subways!”
• Meanwhile, Metrolinx hasn’t escaped scrutiny over its transit flip-flops, having backed David Miller’s Transit City, gone along with Ford when he declared that plan dead and then gone back to the original idea of LRT lines now that council has spoken. In his Globe and Mail column, Marcus Gee suggests that the agency could swing back easily with a change in government in Queen’s Park, since it has shown “no inclination to go against the political grain.”
• Of course, Transportation Minister Bob Chiarelli defended the provincial agency in the Toronto Star, saying it’s what they’re meant to do: “Changing our minds, accommodating different circumstances—that’s part of our job.”
• Doug Ford: Light rail plans example of ‘war on the car’ [CBC News]
• James: Return to LRT is a gift for both sides in the debate [Toronto Star]
• Chris Selley: Time to talk about taking on the Fords [National Post]
• It was alive, it was dead and now Transit City is back to life, maybe [Globe and Mail]
• Road clear for Sheppard LRT [Toronto Star]