The Changing of the Guard

With the new Toronto City Council comes change at the TTC.

Long-serving and controversial Chair Howard Moscoe did not stand for reappointment, but has taken over as Chair of the Licensing and Standards Committee.  Former TTC Vice-chair Adam Giambrone is now Chair, and Joe Mihevc is the new Vice-chair. 

Other new commissioners Peter Milczyn, Michael Thompson and Anthony Peruzza.  This rebalances the regional representation on the TTC based on the “old” regions to Toronto (3), Etobicoke (2), York (1), North York (1), Scarborough (2).  Whether it will change the rampant desire for subways everywhere remains to be seen.

Some may say “good riddance” to see Moscoe out of the TTC.  I am not among them.  Although Moscoe could be a loose cannon, his heart was always with the betterment of the transit system.  Through the dark years of Mike Harris and Mel Lastman, Moscoe defended the TTC against the worst excesses of the cut-cut-cut mentality and kept alive the hope that the system could be improved.

If anything, his failing was that real improvement did not come in the Miller-Mcguinty years and we still focus on expensive subway expansion boondoggles rather than overall improvements.  We are still woefully of short buses and operators, in part thanks to short-sighted decisions to cut back on staff training and a refusal by Council to entertain additional vehicle orders.

Joe Mihevc, long-suffering for his defence of the St. Clair project, is now Vice-chair.  Joe too has a passion for better transit, but as Vice-chair must step up from a ward view to a system wide one.  He also needs to look staff in the eye and challenge old ideas, old designs, business as usual.

This goes for both the TTC and City staff where much remains to be done to give true priority to transit.  For starters, the next phases of the St. Clair project need detailed review both for design and for construction staging, and this must happen over the whole project, not just in Mihevc’s ward.  The words “it’s already approved and we can’t change it” should be stricken from Joe’s vocabulary.

Adam Giambrone is now Chair.  This brings responsibility as point man for Mayor Miller’s policies (I reviewed Miller’s platform during the campaign at this link).  Giambrone came to the TTC as a wunderkind, and his tendency to believe in his own ideas to the exclusion of others put me off at first.

Over the past year, Giambrone has worked through review of all TTC internal policies — some vital, some deadly dull.  This certainly gave him a broader view of the organization.  Moreover, he seems to be mellowing, becoming a bit more collegial in his outlook.

Giambrone’s challenge now is to face those policies that are not written down, long-held attitudes at the TTC and the City about the role of transit.  He must become a true advocate for what transit can do and put meat on the outlines in the Miller platform.

That platform desperately needs real examples of what can be done.  Just look at the complexity of the proposals put forward for some of the waterfront redevelopment schemes.  These show people what could actually be even though (with the Gardiner plan as a good example) we may not agree with it.  The City and TTC need to show people what other cities are doing and how this could be applied to Toronto.

In Toronto, people know that buses and streetcars are slow and crowded, and subways are fast.  That’s their frame of reference, and it must change if we are to have strong public support for anything other than subway proposals.

On the financial front, we must stop saying “we can’t do anything without Queen’s Park and Ottawa” because that way leads to stagnation.  We must prioritize what we want.  We must avoid putting one gigantic project at the top of the list so that it crowds out everything else.  What would we do if we only get half the money we ask for?  Nobody ever has this debate.  There is no “plan B”.

Adam Giambrone needs to show Toronto what can be done and lead us there.

5 thoughts on “The Changing of the Guard

  1. “Giambrone came to the TTC as a wunderkind, and his tendency to believe in his own ideas to the exclusion of others put me off at first.”

    Ah, the impetuosity of youth! Remember when you were 29? I remember being 29. To quote Eric Burdon and the Animals : “I was so much older then / when I was young”.

    In time Giambrone will settle down. The most important thing is that he is passionate about transit. Heck, he dosen’t even own a car! Even though we’ve had other high-ups recently who actually take Transit to 1900 Yonge, it’s nice to see more and more of the beuraucrats whose second nature is to understand that the car is not the answer for travelling within Toronto.
    So, maybe, we’ll start seeing a push for more surface vehicles. Will we ever return to the days when the TTC could brag “always a streetcar in sight? (will I see the return of my beloved trolley buses?) Maybe not. Maybe that’s not as efficient in this day and age. But there must be a serious push for better than what we have now.


  2. I’m really surprised (and disheartened) that Gord Perks is not on the TTC Commission.

    Steve:  Everybody can’t be on the Commission, and it already had over-representation from the former City of Toronto.  And Gord has other ways of making his voice heard.


  3. David Cavlovic Said about Giambrone, “Heck, he dosen’t even own a car!” then said, “it’s nice to see more and more of the beuraucrats whose second nature is to understand that the car is not the answer for travelling within Toronto.”

    The trouble is, the car is AN answer for travelling within Toronto, and always will be. Being one who owns an automobile, but takes transit to and from work, I have reservations about someone who does not own a car having the necessary wisdom to have a full understanding of transit needs, “transit” is not just “public transit” nor is it just “rapid transit”.

    To put it into perspective, does anyone recall the bomb threat back in 1985 against “Toronto’s transportation system”? Most took this to mean the subway, so all garbage containers were sealed and very few people took transit, especially the subway. As I enjoyed a crowd-free commute for several days, it occurred to me that if a terrorist wanted to have a major impact, “transportation system” could be interpreted to include cars and a few well placed bombs under a few manhole covers would have more impact when the roads are clogged with people afraid of using the subway.

    Our rapid transit backbone is supported by a network of surface feeder routes. If the big picture of transit including the private automobile is not taken into account, those feeder routes get choked off.


  4. For me, Calvin’s post raises an interesting question: should there be one person (or committee) responsible for transportation — not just public transit — as a whole?

    Under the current structure, the Commission and its chair can’t be responsible for the smooth flow of traffic, because the control lies elsewhere. As I understand it, new roads would fall under the Planning committee (Brian Ashton), though existing roads might be under Public Works (Glenn De Baereaeker). Taxis are handled through Licensing (Howard Moscoe), and bikes? I hope it’s one of the above, though it might be Community Development and Recreation (Joe Mihevc).

    This sort of structure sets the scene for turf wars (as symbolized by the needlessly bad transit signalling on Spadina) and may make it hard to deliver projects too (e.g. St. Clair). Centralizing it all onto one transportation committee would mean one group has to make the tradeoffs, and be responsible for the results. And yes, such a committee would have to recognize cars as a legitimate mode of transportation, though presumably not the preferred one.

    Two places where this is already done are Vancouver (TransLink handles transit, major roads, bridges, and cycling) and London, England (Transport for London covers everything TransLink does, plus cargo, cabs, walking, and all traffic lights).


  5. To add to Matt’s list of other examples, in Dallas, DART is not only responsible for the busses and LRT system, but they are also the body that oversees and maintains the HOV lanes on expressways and also Trinity Rail Express (in conjunction with The T, the Fort Worth Transit Authority).

    There really should be some more combined effort to deal with transit as a “big picture” issue.

    Of course, if you really want to stay the way of separate departments, or even extend it, we could take hint from Buenos Aires where several different commuter rail companies exist, another company exists to operate the subway system, and almost EVERY bus route is operated by a separate company! I kid you not, there are some 200-odd bus companies each operating their own routes, collecting their own fare with no transfers (of course, at about C$0.32 per fare, I don’t mind not having transfers).


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