Ford Attempts Coup to Stall Debate on Transit City

In a bizarre political move at the TTC meeting today (January 31), Ford loyalists voted to gut staff recommendations on working with Metrolinx to finalize a framework for construction of the Eglinton project.  The effect was that staff were not instructed to continue working with Metrolinx, and in theory detailed information about alternatives for the Eglinton project won’t come forward to the TTC or Council.

The votes carried with only Chair Karen Stintz and Commissioners Maria Augimeri and John Parker voting against them.  Stintz has now effectively lost control of the Commission, and the true-blue Ford team has decided to run the show as they see fit.  How long she will stay as chair remains to be seen given the procedural manoeuvres required to unseat her.

The situation is even more ironic because earlier at the same meeting, Stintz had fought the good Ford fight by championing using Council’s recent allocation of $5-million to supplement Wheel-Trans budgets and continue to service to dialysis patients.  This is the same Commission that only months earlier effectively told these riders that theirs was not a core service of the City, and they would have to find cabs.  This didn’t wash politically, and service was restored for six months pending availability of new funding.

However, the City’s money was not intended for Wheel-Trans.  Stintz, by a feat of sophistry that deeply undermines her credibility, argued that “service cuts” were generic and the money could be used for either regular bus service or for Wheel-Trans.  The Commission smiled sweetly,  but voted to ignore Council, cut service and spend the money on a motherhood issue.

Lest readers think I am a heartless bastard, I’m not suggesting Wheel-Trans shouldn’t be properly funded, but its problems are much bigger, and the $5m was not intended to let Queen’s Park off of the hook for what is really a health services cost, not transit.  Even bringing the dialysis folks into the discussion shows how unprincipled the Ford camp (then including Stintz) might be in trying to bypass their loss of control on Council.

Stintz did her bit and sandbagged a big piece of Council’s rescue motion by scoffing the $5m.  However, her role as a Team Ford insider was short-lived when it became clear that by advocating an Eglinton alternative, she was now consigned to Ford’s trash heap and the truly loyal boys would run the show.

All this happened on the same day as a letter from Metrolinx to Mayor Ford and Chair Stintz said, briefly, “get your crap together and decide what you really want us to build”.  Metrolinx finally understands that the Memorandum of Understanding signed with Mayor Ford last year is of little value without the Council approval essential to committing the City.  “Absent Council’s endorsement of the MoU, the City is not bound by the plan and itis increasingly difficult for Metrolinx to implement it.”

Council now must seize the initiative.  Everyone has been trying to be oh-so-conciliatory, saying things they hoped Mayor Ford and his team would take as overtures for compromise, but Ford wants none of it.  It’s subways all the way.

By his actions, Ford has shown he only knows how to fight for turf, and that’s a disappearing quantity.  Ford Nation is becoming Ford Island.

Councillors now talk openly of calling a special meeting using a procedure that requires only a simple majority to invoke.  The agenda is set by the call for the meeting, not throttled by the mayor’s cronies at Executive Committee.  This will allow discussion of transit alternatives, disposition of the MoU, and many other actions such as reconstituting the TTC with a better balanced group of Councillors.  Council could even amend its own bylaws to strip Ford of his power to control Standing Committees and the Executive.  These are powers Council granted, and Council can take them away.

In 40 years of Council watching, I have never seen such open contempt for Council as that shown by Mayor Ford.  He claims a “mandate”, but forgets that Council was elected too, and they answer to voters and their distress at Mayor Ford’s agenda.

One final note:  Like City Council, the TTC has never rescinded its approval of Transit City.  We may debate just what exactly constitutes “approval” at the City, but at the TTC it’s quite clear.  On March 21, 2007, the TTC endorsed Transit City as the centrepiece of its planning, and they have never voted for anything else.  Nobody bothered to think of such a nicety when they had a fighting chance of winning the vote, and now their inattention leaves an embarrassing reminder of details ignored.

Whether Karen Stintz will survive these events as Chair or even as a TTC member is hard to say.  She’s no longer one of Ford’s boys, but by trying to play both sides of the street, she’s not exactly a prime candidate for Ford’s opponents.  She will have to prove her new position, if it is new, with actions that benefit transit and the city, not just the Mayor.

One way or another, we will have a new transit policy probably by the end of March.

70 thoughts on “Ford Attempts Coup to Stall Debate on Transit City

  1. Steve

    Sorry, I noticed some typos in the earlier post. My apologies.

    I’m sure that by now you are aware of the leak of Dr. Chong’s report on the Sheppard subway, and that you probably have a post & commentary coming soon. Perhaps you will want to add this comment to that post instead.

    I was surprised to read the Sun yesterday leaking the report by Dr. Chong about the Sheppard subway line extension supposedly being able to be paid for 60% by the private sector, and that the extension could be built for $1 billion less than projected. Not to mention the prospect of tolls being used as a revenue source to pay for the subway extensions (and presumably their operations, and presumably for TTC operations in future).

    Steve: It is unclear whether this is private investment by way of development charges, or if this is simply borrowing secured by the proposed revenue streams. If the latter, the idea that we would tie up decades of future revenue to fund one project begs the question of how to pay for the next one, not to mention the many other needs of the transit system.

    While I will wait for the details of the report (and your analysis), I’d like to say two things:

    First, with respect to the viability of private financing and the supposed $1 billion savings, I’ll believe it when I see it. Actually, I’m just standing just short of screaming “show me the money!!!!” at the upcoming presentation at the Mayor’s Executive Committee meeting (I believe it is supposed to be on February 13).

    And second, thank you Dr. Chong for re-framing the debate by mentioning road tolls.

    All the LRT/Transit City supporters have to now say is something along the lines of “if you (drivers) want subways be prepared to pay tolls. If you don’t want to pay tolls, then let’s start building these projects formerly known as Transit City.”

    Check and mate?

    The mention of tolls as a source of revenue (something that Ford has spoken against) is another example of a situation where Ford’s bluff is being called. You know that phrase “put your money where your mouth is” … well, this is more like Dr. Chong asking the taxpayers to “put your money where Ford’s mouth is”

    Cheers, Moaz


  2. Bruce, remember that the money wouldn’t be applied to Wheel Trans if Karen got her way. She (/the Fords) wanted it to go to the new streetcars. It only went to Wheel Trans after the City Solicitor said it had to go to reverse service cuts. Since they really wanted to cut service, Wheel Trans was their ‘out’.


  3. Steve wrote:

    “And by contrast, when Transit City is described as being little more than a streetcar, that too is a misrepresentation. “

    But that is what I am talking about. The transit planners have go to get out there and really tell us what we are getting with each option. You for example say we don’t need crossing arms to have Transit City operate as rapid transit. However everywhere else LRT operates in the median of street, and relies just on signals, the trains are not able to approach rapid speeds, due to the need to slow down as they cross intersections, and because people can end up on the median due to there being no fences.

    So what we need, are planners to actually tell us what is the deal with the whole proposals. We have got to know how everything is going to operate, including signals, etc.

    “As for residents not knowing what they are getting, you can talk to the folks in north-eastern Scarborough or Etobicoke. They know what they are getting — nothing. That’s the tradeoff for putting the Eglinton line underground and building a subway on Sheppard.”

    I think we have to stop thinking people are not getting anything.

    Lets just put ourselves in the shoes of people on the fringe. The average person at Morningside and Sheppard in Scarborough does not care if building a subway on Eglinton means no LRT on Sheppard. Why do I say that?

    Because at the end of the day, yes the ride might be a little better. But the LRT is still going to take about the same time as taking the bus across Sheppard. So to the average person at Sheppard and Morningside, they may find an Eglinton subway better, and it could offer them a speedy trip from Kennedy to wherever they are going.

    That is how we have to think about it.

    And again this all has to be discussed with all the facts on just what we would get with each option.

    In fact some of the present issues we see today can also be traced back to the Miller government. Because Miller pushed Transit City through without proper discussion either.
    So both mayors have and are trying to push things through.

    And lets be honest here. If the TTC wanted to improve the ride on Finch West, they could do it tomorrow if they wanted. The TTC just does not want to try anything new with the buses they operate on that corridor.


  4. Just out of curiosity,

    Why didn’t Miller speed things up until the point of no return for Sheppard East LRT? I don’t understand why the city is still digging under the train tracks (east of Kennedy / west of Midland).

    Let’s say Ford gets Sheppard, what’s to stop it from the same Eglinton West Subway fate happening to it (next Mayor in 2014 cancelling it?).

    I was thinking of saying that Metrolinx should do the Transit projects in the GTHA but isn’t the board or parts of it appointed by Ontario Premier?

    Is there any ways to have someone do Transit that is not a politician or hired/appointed by one? As I said, most mayors will cancel the previous mayor’s transit plan out of ego. The way things are going, we are going to get zippo.

    Steve: Part of the problem with Transit CIty’s timing came from foot-dragging by Queen’s Park on the flow of subsidy funding. Part because nobody expected that such a virulently anti-project administration would come to power. Oddly enough, the underpass at Agincourt Station is something GO Transit was going to need to allow for improved service whether or not there was an LRT on Sheppard. However, the LRT took the hit for negative publicity.

    The Metrolinx board members are appointed by the provincial cabinet (“the Lieutenant Governor in Council” is the legal term in the Metrolinx Act) on the recommendation of the Minister of Transportation.


  5. Moaz Yusuf Ahmad said,

    “All the LRT/Transit City supporters have to now say is something along the lines of ‘if you (drivers) want subways be prepared to pay tolls. If you don’t want to pay tolls, then let’s start building these projects formerly known as Transit City.’”

    It’s not quite that simple. As Michael wrote,

    “The transit planners have go to get out there and really tell us what we are getting with each option.”

    Sure, people don’t like road tolls, but that does NOT translate into “let’s go with median LRT”. I would have thought it might, but yesterday afternoon on Newstalk 1010’s Jim Richards show, he put that question out there. His own opinion was that the median LRT might be the preferred way to go, but every single call he took had people conceding that they would happily pay a road toll if it got the “streetcars” off the street.

    We have a lot of work to do.


  6. The councillors who follow Rob Ford on city council are suffering from “Stockholm syndrome”. Stockholm syndrome is a

    “paradoxical psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and have positive feelings towards their captors, sometimes to the point of defending them. These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness” (from Wikipedia).

    The councillors do not want to stand up to Rob Ford, to stay on his good side and not risk being punished by him. They remain hostages under him, but could free themselves, if they get the courage to do so. Hopefully, they will get the courage to overcome him.

    Rob Ford is transit illiterate. He does not use public transit in most cases. How can he make decisions on public transit when he does not understand. He sees it only from the point-of-view of a driver. Has he done research in it, doesn’t seem to. Keep coming up with sound bites, without facts. And the councillors shallow it.


  7. That’s right Michael. Did Miller go to council and the TTC to rescind RTES, which was a subway-only expansion? Wasn’t Miller guilty of doing the same thing Ford is doing now? Both are wrong.

    Steve: I think that the operative point here is the degree to which any change in “policy” was followed up with actions advancing specific projects. Council voted several times on Transit City related work, and reached the point of having approved EAs and funding — something Sheppard east of Don Mills never managed. There is an approved EA for the Waterfront West line (although you wouldn’t recognize it), but that doesn’t mean we’re rushing out to build it.


  8. Hi Steve:-

    I recently heard a short sound bite on CFMZ’s news that had hizzonour stating that 55% of Scarberians want subways, plain and simple.

    Well I know too that 95% want a 54 inch flat screen TV with surround sound, a new ‘Beemer’ in the driveway, a driveway even or if living in an apartment, valet parking with daily detailing, that dream lottery win deposited tomorrow in their bank accounts, speeding and parking tickets excused and apologized for and NO taxes, let alone a tax freeze along with no fees for hydro and water services. Such a huge majority of constituents that should be heard.

    Will hizzonour honour those requests too?

    Yours in polling through scientific research and hot magic, mimicking our illustrious mayyour!

    Dennis Rankin

    Steve: I am waiting for the polls in northern Etobicoke, Downsview and Malvern asking if they are happy to give up their lines so Ford can build subways elsewhere.


  9. Calvin Said:

    “Sure, people don’t like road tolls, but that does NOT translate into “let’s go with median LRT.”

    I would have thought it might, but yesterday afternoon on Newstalk 1010′s Jim Richards show, he put that question out there. His own opinion was that the median LRT might be the preferred way to go, but every single call he took had people conceding that they would happily pay a road toll if it got the “streetcars” off the street.”

    Then what is the big deal? I think we would all prefer subways if there was a way to pay for it all. There’s enough money in the region to fund a pretty substantial subway plan. There’s just not enough will to raise that money. Call it greed, short-sightedness or stupidity. One complaint I hear is that “taxpayers” are weary of spending taxes that go into general revenues and are not used as they are meant. Obviously the provincial gas tax subsidy is one counter-example but the general public is not aware of it.

    As pointed out earlier, if the councillors who oppose Ford’s plans are smart and as pragmatic as advertised, they should use Chong’s report against him. “Raise the revenues and piss your base off or back off.” With the right revenue tools you could do much more than what both Ford and Miller have proposed. That’s what makes it so sad in so many ways.


  10. @Michael (February 2, 2012 at 12:56 am)

    It is possible, and certainly more fiscally sane, to adjust the stop spacing on the above ground portion of Eglinton to the same as the underground portion (every kilometer) to provide similar speed and running conditions as to the LRTs in Calgary. In fact, I think it is very likely that this will be the case to get critics of the line such as yourself on board.

    Steve: Of course there are also critics who complain that the stops are too far apart in the underground section. Metrolinx was trying to drop some stops west of Yonge, but was dissuaded of this position.


  11. What’s The status on The Eglinton Crosstown LRT?

    Are they going with the underground east approach or back to surface Light Rail?

    Steve: Have you not been reading the newspapers? This issue has to come to a vote at Council for a decision, and that may take a special meeting given Ford’s obstructionism.


  12. @Ben Smith

    It’s funny how the residents of Pharmacy/Ashtonbee Road would face LONGER travel times with Ford’s Eglinton Subway than with the original surface Light Rail Plan, just because there wouldn’t be a station at Pharmacy.

    Walking distance to Pharmacy/Eglinton = 333 m
    Walking speed =1.5 m/s
    Surface LRT speed = 22 km/hr
    Subway speed = 34 km/hr

    Travel time to Don Mills Road with Light Rail = 12.57 min
    Travel time to Don Mills Road with subway = 13.88 min

    So in the end, fewer stations benefit outside commuters and people living near stations only, but screws everyone else living along the Eglinton corridor. Ironic, isn’t it?


  13. At the Thursday presentation about the LRT project at Eglinton West Station, a Metrolinx rep said that the Crosstown LRT cannot be opened in stages. That is, one could not open Black Creek to Eglinton West as stage 1, followed by Eglinton West to Yonge, etc. The Metrolinx people said the reason is that one would need to recalibrate signals after each phase opens and that would add 2 more years to the project. So presumably no LRT trains will run until the line is completed from Black Creek to Kennedy or (McCowan?) in 2022. Joe Mihevc was present and said that the line could have been opened by 2020 or perhaps 1 or 2 years earlier if the Leslie to Kennedy stretch is built above ground. Ten years seems a long wait for the first train.

    Steve: I have not heard such crap in ages. If the signal system is so complex that it cannot handle an interim terminal, something is very wrong. We have managed to open subway lines with this sort of arrangement on many occasions. Given that we’re dealing with software now rather than hardware, interim operation of a terminal at, say, Eglinton West should be easier than it was for subway extensions. This sounds like “the computer can’t do it” is a cover for someone not wanting buy the fleet and build the carhouse until the last possible moment.


  14. “Steve: I have not heard such crap in ages …”

    I can’t stop laughing, because that was my thought when I read the post. It’s a fully automated moving-block system for Pete’s sake, not that fixed block NX/UR antiquated junk we use on the subway.

    The only time I remember that “recalibration” of signals was pondered was when Bloor-Danforth-University (which was compatible with high-rate and low-rate trains) was incompatible with the original Eglinton-Union Yonge line (which was designed for low-rate only). In other words, a high-rate train could have rammed into the back of another train on Yonge, because the signals there were physically spaced out for slower moving low-rate trains.


  15. @Richard L

    “That is, one could not open Black Creek to Eglinton West as stage 1, followed by Eglinton West to Yonge, etc.”

    Opening from Black Creek to Eglinton West wouldn’t eliminate the 32 entirely, and some Crosstown travellers would face a triple-transfer: one at Black Creek, one at Eglinton West station, one Yonge station (yes, whether a lot of people are making such a long trip across Eglinton is an entirely different question, but maybe these riders are the type that Metrolinx obsesses over).

    However, I’m still generally surprised that even a Black Creek to Yonge phase I isn’t considered, since Yonge station is already equipped with a bus terminal, and transfers already exist at Yonge Station.


  16. Wow. In case anybody thinks this “cannot open in stages” excuse even potentially makes sense, consider this: once the line is open, it is a basic requirement that it be possible for part of the line to close due to a disruption without affecting the rest of the line. Therefore, the signal system must be able to handle closing part of the line. So, in order to open the line in stages, all you have to do is set up the signal system exactly as it will be when the line is complete, except with certain tracks (that haven’t been built yet) constantly marked as “closed”.

    Also, this “signal recalibration”, if it is even needed at all, should be a matter of a few weekends. If it “can’t” be done in that time, then the signal experts need to be replaced by more creative and innovative people.

    I think I’m comfortable asserting that the “signal recalibration” argument can only be made by somebody who is either incompetent or dishonest (or both). Having said that, I’d be fascinated to hear an actual explanation of why it’s real, but I think the “operate as if the line were complete but part of it was closed” solution pretty well kills any possibility of an actual explanation existing.

    The above may be harsh but I work in software development professionally and I consider this sort of “the computer can’t do it” excuse-making to be completely unprofessional.


  17. Let’s hope that whoever designs the software for the signal system is not from the same school of thought as those who designed BART and WMARTA. In both systems they had problems with the computer over riding the train agent who tried to give an emergency brake application to avoid an accident. In BART they were simulating an extension to a line when it somehow the simulation replaced the actual system and the train tried to take off down the extension which hadn’t been built. The train left an elevated station and landed on top of a bunch of parked cars. The operated pushed the stop button but it would not override the software.

    In Washington the system apparently lost a train and sent the following train full speed into it. The operator’s body was found in the cab with her hand clutched to the emergency stop button. Perhaps they should always have an air brake emergency application valve that is independent of the software. The train operator’s life depends on the brake application while the software designer’s life does not. Let’s leave the old fashioned valve in for emergencies instead of trusting the software.

    Steve: We could always implant a chip in the software designer triggered by a specific type of system failure. Of course the chip itself might fail, but that would add a certain frisson to the profession. Software folks always blame their problems on users or hardware.


  18. Hi Steve:-

    Your comment;

    “I am waiting for the polls in northern Etobicoke, Downsview and Malvern asking if they are happy to give up their lines so Ford can build subways elsewhere.”

    I can tell you with some authority, as I’m paraphrasing from a statement made soon after his election by our, ahem, illustrious Mayor, that the polls will show that residents of Northern Etobicoke are not wanting improved transit in their neighbourhood, for 85% of them are of the opinion that they don’t need it, “they have buses”!

    Yours in disbelief,

    Dennis Rankin


  19. As one who came of age in northern Etobicoke, I always wonder why anyone puts anything on Shepherd. It’s almost totally inaccessible from Rexdale.

    For curiosity, I looked at the map tonight. Shepherd deadends at Weston Road, and points at the area where the east and west branches of the Humber meet. Eventually it would come out on Westhumber Blvd. Right now, there are no road bridges over the east branch and the combined river between Finch and Albion & Weston Road (almost at Wilson). A Shepherd line going straight on would run in the Humber valley floodplain to at least Islington.

    I was forgetting: isn’t this where someone thinks the Finch Avenue Hydro corridor ends?


  20. This phony story about the signal system enrages me almost as much as Ford. Perhaps this is the same train of thought that called for demolishing a number of buildings at Weston/Eglinton because they “absolutely need a pocket track there to enable ATO operation”. How is it that I don’t have a university degree and yet I know far more about these systems than a large number of the project staff? We keep getting fed BS from all sides. I’m quite thoroughly sick of this routine!


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