Rob Ford’s Transit City II: how will the mayor get it from campaign promise to reality?
When Mayor Rob Ford announced that “Transit City is over” and that he was replacing it with “Transportation City” (gutting all the LRT lines and building a Sheppard subway instead) the most basic question was how, exactly, he would get the TTC, Metrolinx, the city and the province, all of whom have various political and financial stakes in the ground for Transit City, to roll over for him. As the city continues to wait for the details of Ford’s changes—the plan was supposed to be out late January, now expected sometime in the next few weeks—it’s becoming clear that Ford doesn’t have to push too hard to get what he wants. He might not even break a sweat.
The alpha and omega for city planning is “what the province will let us do.” So LRT loyalists were happy when Queen’s Park, through Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne, said she wanted a full council vote on Ford’s proposal, contradicting the mayor. However, more recent conversations with Wynne’s office show a softening on what had been a hard line. Wynne’s press secretary Kelly Baker told The Informer that while the Province would still hope for a full council vote, “we will respect the local decision-making process” at the city.
Like all good press secretaries, Kelly Baker didn’t want to answer hypothetical questions—and didn’t rule out the province accepting a plan approved by the TTC alone, instead of by a full council vote. Metrolinx’s CEO Bruce McCuaig is similarly conciliatory. This is a problem for Transit City diehards because the TTC commission was named by Rob Ford and would vote for a revised transit plan with less fuss than the full city council. If he brought the vote to council, of course, Ford would have to contend with former members of the David Miller team like Joe Mihevc and Shelley Carroll. Mihevc, echoing previous comments from Carroll, thinks that approving any new plan by the TTC alone would be wrong.
“The TTC can’t approve this alone, because it’s not just their money. The city itself could be on the hook for cancellation fees,” says Mihevc. If the mayor and council disagree for now on transit planning, then Mihevc says at least the city can start building projects that they agree on like the underground section of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. Since most of the money for Transit City is scheduled for later years anyway, says Mihevc, “the stuff we all agree on soaks up most of the early money anyway.” And gives the pro-LRT people more time to do things like canvass neighbourhoods to try and raise opposition to the Ford plan.
Peter Milczyn acknowledges that some parts of any new plan will have to go through the city’s budget committee at least—and that committee’s recommendations will be voted on before council. However, he doesn’t see a council vote to approve the new plan as necessary: “If the old plan didn’t go to council, why should the new one?” asks Milczyn. Transit City was approved as a whole by the TTC and then by council in bits and pieces over several votes, some of which Rob Ford himself supported.
Ford’s opponents say a change of this magnitude needs to go to council, but Milczyn says that the city has already had more discussion around the current transit situation than it did over Transit City. “When David Miller was running for mayor in 2006”, says Milczyn, “he didn’t run as the Transit City mayor,” while Ford was quite clear about his intentions. Milczyn is fudging things here: it may not have been as central to the 2006 election as subways were in 2010, but Miller certainly did run on a pro-LRT platform.
Multiple requests to speak with the mayor’s office and TTC chair Karen Stintz were unanswered.
The whole TTC-versus-council argument may very well be irrelevant. Even a full council vote may not give the Transit City side the win they’re looking for. Maria Augimeri, member of the TTC and one of the councillors whose ward will almost certainly be left out with the change from LRTs to subways, says simply and bleakly, “it’s early in the mayor’s term. How could he lose? People are selling their votes, and selling them cheap.” Augimeri is particularly upset that the Finch line—which would have served three “Priority Neighbourhoods”—looks likely to be axed in favour of a rapid bus line. But she wasn’t the only councillor to sound a bleak note about the prospects of a council vote.
So from the Province, down through Metrolinx, the TTC, and even Toronto city council itself, Ford and his subway plan seem to be pushing on open doors. It’s hard to see what, if anything, the pro-LRT side can do to stop the oncoming subway.
(Images: human figure, iStockphoto; Ford, Shaun Merritt)
19 thoughts on “Rob Ford’s Transit City II: how will the mayor get it from campaign promise to reality?”
This article beautifully surmises everything that is wrong with the pro-LRT movement. It’s not based on a desire to improve the quality of service for long-distance commuters; it’s not based on finding a happy medium for expansion of all modes of transit i.e. bus rapid transit, LRT and subways. No, their zeal is grounded in ideological bias and the misguided presumption that gentrifying the suburbs’ land use is a more lofty goal than delivering actual rapid mass transit to the masses. You simply cannot spend billions of dollars to build a crosstown lrt line that takes 80 minutes to go from end to end, then rejoice over it being a mere 10 mins faster than if such a trip were taken by bus.
Augimeri’s position is even more odd since her’s would be one of the wards in line to benefit from the Sheppard subway extensions. Do her constituens not deserve a rapid means of getting to/from North York Centre and Scarborough? This isn’t about what Ford wants, it’s about what the voters want. Every Torontonian benefits from extending the Sheppard subway. It sets a precedence for building subways elsewhere: along Eglinton, Queen, Don Mills, you name it.
If only the Left would stop pretending as though Toronto will never see another public dollar invested in transit expansion for eternity, they’d come to see the infinite wisdom in completing a northern crosstown subway line.
LRT??Pls go to Downtown and see how the streetcar block the road and how slow they can run. Pls dont waste the time and money on LRT anymore. Toronto’s subway building process is much slower than other modern cities.
Torontonian: It is the single-occupant motor vehicles that block and slow down traffic, not the streetcars. The streetcars carry up to 100 people, but have to yield to the lone occupant in the automobile. Should be the other way around.
Everyone who thinks the Sheppard subway expansion will benefit all of Toronto is DEAD WRONG. In case you haven’t noticed this line serves only the northeast of the city and will dry up ALL of our transit funding. Transit City first, DRL second, and Sheppard subway to Downsview IF WE CAN AFFORD IT LATER ON.
So suburban Torontonians are supposed to eat cake then for another thrity years? Huh? In case you haven’t noticed there’s only 3 subway stops throughout the entirity of Scarborough and it’s the only fast, reliable, frequent means to get in and out of that region by using transit. A northeast subway line is long overdue. A northern crosstown line is long overdue. A bunch of disjointed light-rail lines won’t resolve a darn thing. Stop treating suburban residents whom pay MORE tax dollars per capita than downtowners do like second-class citizens! $8 billion dollars to go stand in the cold waiting for light-rail vehicles that can’t adhere to a schedule. Blasphemy!
Not everyone is destined for downtown, and not all resources should be squandered on lines that’ll solely feed into the core (DRL), particularly not when GO Transit is so readily accessible down there. Finishing off the Sheppard Line from Downsview to Scarborough Ctr (stretching halfway across the city, btw) as was originally intended as short as five years ago is course correction. Get ‘er done!
I can’t believe some of these comments.
Folks, LRTs and subways are the same thing. The only difference is that the former carries fewer people per hour than the latter. LRTs can be faster if its given signal priority, all door proof-of-payment boarding and stops that are wider apart.
The Sheppard line should have been an LRT from the start. Yes its full during rush hour but during the day, evenings and weekends, its like a ghost town.
What do you mean “signal priority”,so all the cars should wait and let the LRT runs? can you guaranteed the LRT run as fast as subway? I don’t think so. Subway is a reliable transit tool. Their traveling time is reliable and the people who is going to work can count on it but not LRT since LRT will stuck into traffic jem. USE 8 billion to obtain some road blocks and transit tool which run much slower than buses? Who win?
OMG, when will the lies and deception end? Lol, subway trains can cross at-grade level with cars and pedestrians down the middle of narrow streets. Who knew. Who knew that LRT lines stopping average every 500m metres is considered “wider apart” spacing. Who knew that the TTC won’t even adopt fare integration with the 905 or Presto cards but magically will have all-door boarding for light rail vehicles ready by 2013.
Tell me, TTC employee, why not implement all-door boarding right now during rush hour on the busiest surface routes? Will that cost your employer $8 billion to undertake? FYI, the Scarborough (L)RT is also like a ghost town during those periods, at around the same km length. Perhaps seamlessly linking the two half-filled lines with a subway interchange at Scarborough Ctr will translate into one heavily used commuter service.
Re: “TTC Employee”
An LRT will NEVER be faster than a subway, especially an above-ground LRT.
A subway can reach a pretty high velocity along an unobstructed path and stops only at station platforms, which are spaced far enough away.
An LRT could not possibly reach the velocity that a subway could run at because, in addition to stopping at designated pick-up points…they also have to stop at traffic lights. Signal priority means nothing when you still have to share to road with other motorists and pedestrians. What do you do when an LRT approaches a major intersection? Prohibit pedestrians from crossing the road and prevent cars from making left turns just so that the LRT can keep moving? I’m sure that won’t create more traffic nightmares.
You want to significantly reduce traffic headaches and gridlock in Toronto (especially downtown) and increase ridership? Give people living away from the downtown core (i.e. east Scarborough, North York, Durham region, York region) an alternative to their car that is legitimately faster and accessible than what’s available now. Give them ample commuter parking and the promise that you can get to where you need to go by hopping onto a subway, staying covered and away from the hot/cold weather and conserving your own gas.
Yes, connecting the subway/RT at Scarborough Town Centre is the way to go.
The GTA is expanding. People are moving farther and farther away from the downtown core. Those people likely drive or take the GO train, but the TTC can get in on that population by making the subway closer and easier to access.
What many of these posts seem to be ignoring is that many neighbourhoods will now not be serviced by anything other than “rapid” bus lines. Yes LRT is not an ideal solution but anything, repeat ANYTHING, is faster than a bus. The TTC bus system is the absolute worst way to get around the city and cancelling an alternative to buses and replacing them with more buses is simply ridiculous.
@Bus=Slow…. regarding your claim that “ANYTHING is faster than a bus”… Obviously, you haven’t been on a streetcar.
To Bus=Slow, Where did you get the LRT will be fast than bus idea? Pls go to spadina subway station and take a ride on street car
I used (less than six months ago) ride the Spadina street car to work everyday, both ways. Also take a bus everyday. I will take a streetcar anyday, rather than stand outside for upwards of half an hour waiting for a bus. Maybe get out of downtown once and a while and see just how effective buses are.
It depends on the route that you ride on. You cannot tell me that service on Finch Ave. or Steeles Ave. at most hours of the day, is lacking. During rush hour, I often see 3-4 buses dodging and weaving around each other in succession on those routes. There is usually a 5-10 minute wait, which is not bad at all. LRT would not be much of an improvement over that, on well-serviced route like Finch. It’s a waste of money, in fact.
Routes with less ridership get less buses running on them compared to more commonly used ones. LRT was never intended to change that.
When you talk of how to best spend transit money the question is: do we want to spend it on a solution that might only marginally improve service and only serves replace bus routes or spend a bit more to potentially attract a larger ridership from even outside the GTA and have a significantly faster alternative to what’s already there?
People love subways, but the cold hard fact is they are expensive, and so expensive we cant afford to build them. The numbers (expected ridership/current demand) simply don’t add up when it comes to putting a subway extension along Sheppard (in either direction).
The value in LRT is its flexibility and lower capital costs / lower operational costs. The people that say LRT is OVERALL better than subways are wrong, but for us it fits our needs perfectly for the next 30 to 40 years.
The one thing that might be overlooked is that when a line reaches its capacity (some 20+ years from now) the money saved can be spent building a line running along another corridor or prehaps the much needed downtown releif line.
I don’t think the debate about streetcars vs LRT belongs here, because that is an entirely seperate issue.
My basic point is that we can’t hold our breath and say its a subway or nothing: because if we do, we will get a short stretch of subway, affecting a small portion of the transit riders, and we will get it 10 years later than we could have had widespread LRT.
I love the subway, but I hate their price tags.
I think that most of the anti-LRT posts here show how out of touch, insular, backward, backwater and obdurate most Torontonians are.
Many cities around the world have LRT, and in those cities (three in Canada!) LRT lines run smoothly everywhere, and with no problem. Down South, most American cities also have LRT, and they work fine as well. So, what’s the problem with the supposedly cosmopolitan and ‘world class’ but in reality dumb, stupid and provincial people of Toronto who voted for Rob Ford like Lee, realityCheck, Sarah, JR, Fresh Start, and Torontonian? If its a question of info, I can direct you to two sites that will give you great info on Transit City and LRT: The Toronto LRT Information Page and Steve Munro-both of these sites (run by fans of transit who don’t work for the TTC) will tell all of you clueless people what you really need to know about LRT so that you’re not confused and speaking the nonsense you all have been saying on this issue.
Street car vs Bus. A streetcar on a designated track like the one on Spadina does not abstruct automobile traffic at all. It has its own lane, its own traffic signals and the riders get on and off on the center islands where the stops are and cross the streets at traffic lights without getting in the way of traffic. These stops and traffic flow are as unobtrusive to automobile traffic as a subway route. It is much better that having a huge gas guzzling bus weaving in and out of lanes at every corner.
There are routes like Queen Street which can be problematic but that is because Queen is a 2 lane street with cars often parked in one of the two lanes. Problems on such routes are as much the parked car’s fault as they are the streetcars fault. If a car broke down on Queen Street during rush hour there would be no way of getting around it either. I suggest taking alternate routes when driving through the city in a car and let teh TTC riders use Queen since it is the only long running east-west route available south of Bloor.
Transit City doesn’t solve anything!
1) More congestion on already congested streets since stop lights need to be longer to accommodate passing trains.
2) Given the tendency of TTC vehicles to break down, if LRT trains break down, the whole line is shut down and if it actually stops on an intersection, no traffic gets through.
3) It’s an everyday occurrence that people chase after streetcars downtown dangerously. LRT would be the same thing, but with more people doing it because they probably won’t run as often as downtown streetcars given the larger capacity so more people would want to chase after them.
4) Adding a Sheppard East LRT means killing any dreams of extending the subway west to Downsview, which is much needed. As the Spadina subway gets built to York University and Vaughan, there’ll be a much higher need for an east-west connection in North York. Sure, a Finch West LRT can help that, but it’s common sense that people wish fewer transfers which is why Sheppard West to Downsview does this job much more efficiently.
5) Other than from Yonge to Bathurst, a Finch West LRT doesn’t make much sense especially since extending Sheppard West makes more sense. There are plenty of apartments along Finch from Yonge to Bathurst and the hospital is west of Bathurst, and after that, people likely get off buses at Dufferin to get to YorkU, and there is only Jane and then Humber that there are enough apartments, businesses, and destinations that would support such a line – and that is not enough. I wonder why there aren’t even express buses on Finch West – it makes much more sense to run express buses before trying to build a rail line.
5) People don’t understand why Sheppard gets special treatment. It’s OBVIOUSLY because there is enough existing development and development already underway to support higher ridership. You cannot build anything on Steeles, there isn’t as much on Finch, York Mills/Ellesmere/Wilson and Lawrence are all residential. So where else could one possibly put a line to service the top of the city? And what is the point of building something that makes people transfer several times on the same road? If LRT is built on Sheppard East, there’s a transfer at Don Mills, a transfer at Yonge, then north to Finch, transfer to Finch West, transfer to Spadina line to get to YorkU? I’m not a YorkU student nor do I travel there, but it makes NO sense whatsoever when there could be one simple line running from Scarborough Center to Downsview where it connects to YorkU a few years ahead.
6) It’s common sense that universities attract a huge number of riders. Making numerous transfers would not attract YorkU and U of T Scarborough riders to use the Sheppard line.
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