A Look At Candidates’ Transit Policies: Jane Pitfield

In the interest of full disclosure, I will state up front that I am supporting David Miller.  All the same, the two serious candidates’ platforms deserve review and comment, and I will start with Jane Pitfield.  In another post, I will look at David Miller.

If you are or represent or support one of the other 257 candidates for Mayor, please do not write me asking for equal time.  This is a private blog and I am not bound by fair time rules like the CBC.  As far as I am concerned, there are only two candidates worth looking at in this race, and I am not going to waste time and space on the rest.  They have their own blogs anyhow.

The comments here are based on the information on Councillor Pitfield’s site at this link.  I have rearranged the items in the platform to group related topics for discussion, and paraphrased them for brevity.  Read the original for the definitive text.

  • GTA Mayor’s [sic] Regional Committee to lobby Queen’s Park and Ottawa.

What, exactly, does this mean and how does it differ from the current practice of large municipalities banding together to lobby for many things, not just transit?  What would this contribute to changing the perception of transit in the 905 (and hence most of the GTA mayors) that transit is something most of their constituents don’t use?  People are not going to lobby hard for something they don’t believe in.

  • A “Transit Committee of the Whole” to direct the development of an integrated transportation plan with full stakeholder involvement.  This committee will be asked to examine the costs and benefits of building two kilometers of subway a year for the next 25 years.

I have to assume that Councillor Pitfield means that the entire Council would meet as a Committee to oversee transit matters.  This is a recipe for complete stalemate as every miniscule transit decision is debated ad nauseum by Councillors more concerned with their own bus routes than with the system as a whole.  We already have stakeholder involvement through the existing processes of Council and of the Environmental Assessment process.  The problem is that residents are shut out of the process by decisions that are made in advance for rubber stamping by “consultation”.

I have already written about the limits of the “two kilometer” proposal.  One line that is often mentioned is one right across Eglinton from the Airport to West Hill.  The length of that line would be over 30 km, and it would not be completed until about 2024.  If we really are serious about this as a subway, we need to spend and build at a much faster rate.

  • Respect for the needs of all residents be they pedestrians, cyclists, transit riders or vehicle users.

Beyond motherhood, what does this mean?  Are we finally going to give pedestrians and cyclists priority and protection on roads?  Does respecting the needs of transit riders include giving them good service so that they don’t freeze to the spot waiting for a vehicle to show up?  Does respect for “vehicle users” mean that road construction takes precedence over transit for funding? 

  • Change the makeup of the TTC Board to include Councillors, and citizens with expertise in business management and transportation.

At the risk of asking the obvious, where are the riders represented in this?  By the Councillors who seem more intent on balancing the books and planning for subways we cannot afford than on really, really championing better service?

How do we determine that some proposed member has expertise in business management and transportation?  It’s not as if transit systems (and management) are thick on the ground.  A favourite ploy of politicians of every stripe is to blame management for waste.  Funny thing is that there is waste in the private sector too, we just don’t usually see it publicly until horror stories surface about mismanaged companies.  We also need to guard against the mentality that tries to map running a corner store into a $2-billion corporation providing a vital public service.

Citizen appointees are inevitably friends of the gang in power at the time.  Tories appoint Tories, Liberals appoint Liberals, and the NDP rarely gets the chance to do anything.  The idea that somehow a “business” appointee looks at the TTC as a true independent is a myth.  It would be a rare person who is not swayed in his (it will always be “his”) thoughts by whoever appointed him between golf and squash games.  If you want a consultant, hire a consultant, but keep responsibility for making decisions in elected hands, thank you, where we have a chance of seeing what’s going on.

  • Investigate reduced pricing on passes with business sponsorship, and reduce the price of off-peak travel for students and seniors.

Does anyone actually believe that any business has the spare change sitting around to make a meaningful contribution to the TTC’s revenue stream?  That is, in effect, what is asked here.  As for off-peak student and senior fares, the real benefit to these riders would come from reducing the price of their monthly passes so that they were actually attactive to moderate users of the system.

What will pay for the added service that the new riding will require?

  • Making the TCC more user-friendly by promoting “customer service over administrative protocols such as schedule adherence”.

There are really three problems here.  First is the poor management of service by the TTC who claims that all problems are caused by congestion even when the service is screwed up at 11 pm.  There is a need for the TTC to do a much better job of managing service.  Next is the question of adequacy of service.  If a line cannot handle the demand, the service will always be a mess because of delays at stops.  Finally, one reason for schedule adherence is so that operators finish their shifts on time and don’t get paid overtime.  Is Councillor Pitfield willing to entertain some alternative scheme where pay for a certain amount of lateness was built into the operators’ wages so that they could routinely be, say, up to 30 minutes late?  

  • No further expansion of the St. Clair project “until full public consultations are held”.
  • Review the barrier effect of the completed portion on motorists.
  • Hold a ballot-box referendum on the future of the Gardiner.

I’m intrigued that these involve asking the public what they want to do rather than providing leadership by taking a position.  Pitfield is portrayed as being anti-St. Clair.  Period.  But here we have the option of consulting with the public.  What would she do if the public actually said they wanted the right-of-way?  This sounds like someone who is keeping her options open.

As for the barrier effect, we won’t really know what it is until construction is completed.  I’m not impressed with the effect of some road widening on sidewalks and neighbouring properties, but Pitfield only seems to care about the motorists.  What was that about respecting pedestrians?

Finally, on the Gardiner, take a position.  EIther you want to leave it up or you want to take it down.  All a referendum does is convince any gullible reader that you support their position, whatever it is.  

  • Eliminate the $300-million backlog of road repairs and manage them so that more work is done at night.

A lot of work takes more than one day or night to complete, and typically roadways are constrained for days if not weeks while the work is done.  You might fill a pothole in one day, but you don’t repave miles of roads that way.  Oh yes.  Residential areas absolutely loathe the idea of people with jackhammers working at 1 am.  We can do lots of maintenance in the industrial parks and shopping malls at that hour, but don’t try it in Leaside. 

  • As part of the Waterfront development, integrating a Legacy Park to host all fundraising cycling, walking and running events on dedicated trails to avoid shutting down main thoroughfares in the city.

Again, what was that bit about respecting pedestrians and cyclists?  Are we going to have a dedicated parade route on the waterfront for Pride, Caribana, Santa Claus and any other event that happens in town?  Get used to the idea that the city is for people, and that means we shut down roads from time to time. 

  • Aggressively promoting car pooling.

There is a fundamental problem with car pooling.  It does not work on a large scale because travel demands are far too diverse in time and space especially in big, complex cities.  The problems are not unlike those of public transit that has to bring people from many low density areas to the places they work.  Looking at the office I work in where I am in a single-digit minority of transit users, the difficulties involved in co-ordinating times and locations would be enormous.  People don’t work from 8:30 to 4:30 every day, they don’t go home via the same route, etc., etc.

My overall impression of Councillor Pitfield’s program is that it was thrown together by someone with a passing sense of current events, but with no vision and certainly with no real grasp of how we would pay for any particular scheme.

In a post this weekend, I will look at David Miller’s platform which is far from perfect too, but certainly better than Jane Pitfield’s.

2 thoughts on “A Look At Candidates’ Transit Policies: Jane Pitfield

  1. Thank you! For writing this article. This is the first time I’m eligible to vote for officials in the City of Toronto, and I really don’t know enough about where they stand.

    That said, I knew I could count on you to provide insight into each candidate’s stand on Transit.

    I enjoy reading your blog, it’s on my tabbed homepage every morning!

    -Drew Jones
    Formerly of Broadview
    Now of Yorkville

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  2. Immediately after amalgamation, Toronto needed a strong but flexible leader and got it in Mel Lastman.  Following a strong leader it is usually better to let off the pressure and let things settle for a while, but still maintain an integrated whole.  David Miller appears to have served this purpose for Toronto.

    The next evolutionary step should be to provide strong leadership in ways that re-orient people’s thinking to Toronto rather than local regions.  David Miller is moving in this direction but it seemed to me something stronger was required.  At first Jane looked like it, until I began to get the idea she was a fence sitter, ready to go wherever the winds blew.  Your blog only made the perception stronger.

    Steve:  I don’t agree that Mel was a “strong but flexible leader“.  He was a puppet of the Tories who forced amalgamation down our throats (something Mel opposed until he was paid off with the virtual guarantee of being megamayor), and his “no new taxes” mantra put the city in a hole it is still digging itself out of.  We have been stewing in this pot for nearly a decade while Queen’s Park cares little about fixing funding formulae for municipal services like transit, housing and education.

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