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.