Updated September 9, 2010 at 10:15pm: The Toronto Sun cites Rob Ford’s “transit policy guru” Mark Towhey in a followup article to the Ford transit platform. Oddly enough, Towhey’s own blog post, an inaccurate rant about the TTC from February 2010, is still online even though Ford’s people disowned the article.
Toronto deserves an explanation of just what Rob Ford’s real agenda is, and to what extent it is driven by someone who has an even more radical view of what would happen to transit in this city than candidate Ford’s own official position.
The original post from September 8 at 4:00 pm follows here.
The Rob Ford mayoral campaign has released a transportation plan, and it’s a rather threadbare effort.
Ford’s subway plan involves redirecting Transit City funding to completion of the original Sheppard Subway plan from Downsview to Scarborough Town Centre, and extension of the Danforth subway to STC via the SRT alignment. The Eglinton line has completely disappeared even though the money scooped to build Sheppard would have paid for the first stages of Eglinton’s construction.
As the Smitherman campaign has already pointed out, $790-million of the provincial $3.7-billion Ford counts on is earmarked for the Viva system in York Region. (See page 25 of the Metrolinx funding summary.) It is unclear why Queen’s Park would agree to such a massive shift in transit priorities, effectively turning the clock back to the 1990 transit network announcement rather than building the more extensive network already agreed to. [Note: As of 2 pm on September 9, Metrolinx has fouled up their website and the funding summary is not available. The link above is to the relevant pages copied to my own site.]
Notable by its absence from the Ford plan is any rapid transit service to northeastern Scarborough, the UTSC Campus or anywhere in Etobicoke, Ford’s home turf. Presumably everyone west of the Humber river won’t need transit. Nothing about downtown or the waterfront. Nothing about addressing priority neighbourhoods. Nothing about regional integration.
That SRT conversion has appeared in other candidates’ platforms, and it suffers from problems with assumptions about recycling the existing infrastructure and route. Kennedy Station faces east, and an alignment up the SRT corridor would require a new subway station. Although the Transit City LRT lines will result in construction at Kennedy, they wrap new LRT platforms around the existing structure while leaving the subway itself intact. Further north on the SRT there are narrow sections, a tight curve at Ellesmere, and stations that were not designed for full subway service.
Yes, this could all be rebuilt, but the line would never go further because the cost versus demand numbers simply wouldn’t work out. That’s the whole reason for using LRT, but Ford’s folks don’t seem to understand this.
Ford really doesn’t like streetcars in any form, and trots out the expected complaints about how construction fouls up businesses, how streetcars delay traffic and thereby create more pollution. Indeed, he would shut down our streetcar network and sell our new cars elsewhere to recoup whatever money could be had. The platform material says Ford would remove “some streetcars”, but according to a media source, Ford wants to get rid of all streetcars in 10 years.
Oddly enough, they would be replaced by even more buses that would sit in the same traffic jams behind delivery trucks, illegally parked cars, taxis, J-walking pedestrians, and a whole range of problems common to congested 4-lane roads that cannot simultaneously be speedy arterials and local streets. Buses pulling into stops on narrow streets with parking regularly block through traffic because they can’t properly reach the curb. Bus bays are not an option because there are usually buildings right at the sidewalk.
The larger omission from Ford’s plan is any discussion of fares, service quality or what transit should be as part of the city’s fabric. He condemns much of the city to buses running in mixed traffic, and says nothing about how he would address the $70-million in additional funding just needed to operate the TTC in 2011. Will he raise fares? Will he cut service? How much filthier will stations and vehicles get? Will escalators and elevators stop, never to run again? Will he simply starve the TTC and place the blame for whatever happens on their inability to make hard choices?
Ford’s financing plans simply don’t add up, nor do his construction schedules. He claims that the Sheppard and BD extensions could be completed by 2015. That’s a real stretch considering that we have not even been through a project assessment and approval, detailed design and tendering. The SRT is 6.4km long, the Sheppard West connection is about 4km, and the Sheppard East extension would be about 7.5km from Don Mills to McCowan. The total is 17.9km.
The Spadina extension to Vaughan is only 8.6km, has fewer stations, and will cost $2.6-billion including inflation. This brings the pricetag of Ford’s subways to somewhere over $5-billion, not the $4-billion he claims, and assumes we could build them in the same timeframe, with the same inflation factors, as Spadina. That’s simply not realistic.
Ford also hopes for $1-billion in private sector contributions through development fees. As we have seen in many locations — the Bloor-Danforth subway, the Spadina line — development does not follow immediately after subway construction and may be decades, if ever, in the future. Indeed, some neighbourhoods won’t take kindly to someone drawing subway lines through them if the tradeoff is the destruction of what’s there today. There are ways to earmark lands for future higher taxes once a rapid transit line is built, but no guarantee that we will see the money in the short term.
Seeing a platform like this, not to mention similar proposals from other candidates, makes me wonder if anyone has been paying attention to transit history in Toronto and other cities. We seemed doomed to turn the clock back 25 years, at least, to an era when making life better for cars trumped all other concerns, when a few subway proposals were a substitute for real transit planning.