Ford’s Transit Plan is finally out, and McGuinty wins the “Getting Ford to Compromise” prize
Looks like Mayor Rob Ford has picked up on the way a city is supposed to work: behind schedule, all the time. All it took was a lesson from Dalton McGuinty. After promising to replace David Miller’s Transit City plan by late January, Ford and McGuinty unveiled it this morning—only two months late. The formal plan doesn’t deviate much from the scheme we saw previously. Probably the biggest change is that instead of extending the Bloor-Danforth subway line to replace the Scarborough rapid transit, this plan would have the Eglinton light-rail transit tunnel underground for almost its entire length and then pop above-ground along the old SRT route.
Meanwhile, as was expected and feared, the news for Finch West is pretty bleak. Finch West will lose the LRT it was promised under the Transit City plan and get an “enhanced bus service” instead. So far, it’s unclear what that means (simply adding more buses won’t actually solve the problem and may make it worse). Groups such as the Pembina Institute [PDF] had proposed a bus RT line for Finch West, but that could involve forcing cars to give up real estate on the road—and as we all learned from the mayoral election, Ford won’t look kindly on that. Ottawa has and Mississauga is building a BRT line, so it’s not like this is crazy untested technology. But then, neither is surface LRT, and it had to die so that Ford’s plan could live.
The meta-story here is that Ford seems to have actually been forced to compromise. While his allies on city council outnumber his opponents about two to one, it’s the first time in his political career Ford has come up against someone he couldn’t just steamroller in the press or council chambers—the premier of Ontario. Extending the Bloor-Danforth line, one of the key parts of Ford’s original plan, would have been much more expensive and complicated than the Transit City idea of putting LRT on the old SRT route, and the province’s red line was that Toronto wasn’t going to get more cash.
The city, then, is on the hook for everything from here on out. Fines for cancelling Transit City? Costs for extending the Sheppard subway? Anything above the province’s $8 billion commitment? That’s all on Toronto’s budget–at least until election day in October, when we get to see if Tim Hudak will shake any money loose to help his friends in the mayor’s office.