Rob Ford Campaign Disavows Policy Advisor’s Transit Blog

The Toronto Star reported today that an article (Only a Radical Approach Will Fix Toronto’s Transit Woes) written by Rob Ford’s Director of Policy, Mark Towhey, back in February does not represent the Ford campaign’s position on transit.

For the record, I attempted to get the campaign to react to this article by writing to the ever chatty candidate on June 17, but heard nothing in return.  The Star was a bit luckier.  Ford and Towhey don’t have much use for the media, or anyone whose political leanings could be described as left-leaning, and so I may not be one of the people who “count” in Ford’s political analysis.

Ford’s official position seems to consist of little more than scrapping anything that even vaguely resembles a streetcar, building subways, and having the TTC declared an essential service.

I will not do Towhey the honour of dismembering his drivel at length, and leave it to readers to peruse his attitudes.  They show a profound disrespect for people who use transit and for spending on anything other than the most obviously money-making ventures.  The idea that transit is a both a service and an investment in the city is utterly foreign.

Just a few points deserve mention:

In an election year, the exclusively left-wing political elite on the TTC board are [sic] ducking for cover.

If Towhey had done the most basic homework, he would know that the TTC board includes such flaming lefties as Peter Milczyn and Bill Saundercook.  They may be in a minority, but that’s also the makeup of Council.  An “exclusive left-wing” board it is not.  They argue strongly, and sometimes successfully, for their positions.

Apparently, there is a General Manager (a position that was high profile a number of years ago, but has since subsided into irrelevance,) however I can’t find anyone who knows who this person is, nor what he (or she?) does.

Gary Webster, who is frequently quoted in the media, will be surprised to learn that he is unknown.  He is hardly irrelevant.

In fact, 16 per cent of the $9.2 Billion (yes that’s Billion with a ‘B’) 2010 operating budget of the City of Toronto goes to keeping the TTC rolling.

Well, in fact, that number is the gross cost of running the TTC, not the net cost after you include the farebox revenue (which also shows up in the City’s books along with property taxes and all of the other fees, subsidies, contracts, what-have-you).  In fact the net cost of running the TTC is considerably lower than the cost of running the police force which gets almost no subsidies from anywhere.

This information is easily available in the City’s budget background information online, and one would hope a “director of policy” might be somewhat familiar with how the budget works even if his boss isn’t.

On the capital side, City Hall will spend $1.33 Billion this year alone to purchase new buses, streetcars and make other capital investments in TTC infrastructure. These are real dollars and they are driving out-of-control increases in property taxes that are forcing Toronto residents, and especially its small businesses, to begin planning an exodus to the outer suburbs.

Yes, the Capital Budget for TTC this year is $1.33-billion, but that’s the gross number.  Over half of this will come from Queen’s Park and Ottawa, some via the transit share of the gas tax, some via project-specific funding (such as the Spadina Subway), and some through a grab-bag of other funding schemes (see TTC Capital Budget for details).

Towhey proposes that all funding for the TTC be cut off on April 1, 2011.  I am not making up this date.  He would sell the TTC and use the proceeds to pay down various municipal debts.  The fact that these debts and liabilities include many related to the TTC itself seems to have escaped him.  Moreover, he forgets that large chunks of the TTC were paid for by other governments who might ask for a share of the proceeds.

But how will people get to and from work, shopping, school, etc? Good question. I imagine more people may drive — so some of the billions the city saves should go to improving its roads. Others will be forced to use bicycles, hire more taxis, join car pools, etc. Apparently, that’s good for the environment, even. Bonus.

What is utterly missed is that the idea that transit might be a general benefit like water, or a fire department, or even roads.  Taxis are a prohibitively expensive way to get around, especially for long trips.  Car pooling has its limitations, especially for non-commuting trips, and we all know what Ford’s attitude to cyclists is — put them anywhere but on a road that might go someplace useful.

Towhey has a vision for transit:

I want a fast, convenient and affordable way of getting from the door of my home to the doorway of my workplace, shopping centre, school, theatre, friends’ houses, etc. That’s what the TTC should be providing: door to door solutions. The subway has value only when it’s delivering this. Ditto buses. Ditto streetcars.

Door-to-door service will not be provided by transit, ever.  If Towhey had wanted this, he might have at least advocated for land use controls that would make it possible, or at least cheaper.  Of course, in his world, all of this will be provided by the private sector.

Many bus routes, however, would be abandoned. They’re not profitable. Such is life. The TTC should have dumped these routes long ago. But what about the people who need them? Well, life’s tough. Instead of being the only three people on a 60 passenger bus, perhaps these people will have to introduce themselves, get to know their neighbours and share a taxi.

Yes, life is tough, and it my profound hope that the citizens of Toronto dump Rob Ford and his Director of Policy for whom large chunks of the population don’t warrant their attention or public spending.

16 thoughts on “Rob Ford Campaign Disavows Policy Advisor’s Transit Blog

  1. You know why subways are fast? because they are on their right of way
    I remember 10 years ago I went to Ottawa, the 417 highway had a bus ROW (between EB and WB lanes). I can’t remember what part of the 417, they were fast.

    You know why the 509/510 are fast?
    You know why the 511 is fast from ex loop until Fleet/Bathurst?

    They are on a ROW.

    Ford is using the 512 as an example.

    Look at the Sheppard stubway, outside rush hour it bleeds more money than Harper’s money bleeding money for the G20.

    The 501 is pretty fast around the Queensway.

    Imagine if all the streetcars were on their ROW (just like subways).

    What slows down streetcars: Car drivers.

    Subways are not always good, Sheppard sTubway is a perfect example.

    Rob Ford only listens to people who agree with him, he will not be the people’s mayor, he will be “only people who agree with me” mayor.

    I wonder if the Policy Advisor will get the same “punishment” as the person on his social media team (remember that “incident”)?


  2. There is a huge difference between pure business person/manager and city-services manager. The business manager should make a profit every year whereas city-services manager should be able to balance the needs of many.

    How would Mr. R.F. justify to himself a recent police initiative in Durham, where citizens were invited for the shredding of their old documents?

    Even pure business manager may falter in a multi-faceted environment, because he is getting incorrect feedback from his minions, whereas city manager should not and really cannot lead the city to dead end.


  3. I want a fast, convenient and affordable way of getting from the door of my home to the doorway of my workplace, shopping centre, school, theatre, friends’ houses, etc. That’s what the TTC should be providing: door to door solutions. The subway has value only when it’s delivering this. Ditto buses. Ditto streetcars.




    I… just don’t know what to say to that. Is this guy for real?


  4. Hi Steve
    That has got to be one of the worst informed and just plain idiotic things that I have ever seen with regards not only to public transit but the entire operation of the city. I am not satisfied with the Ford team’s distancing themselves from it because it sounds like something that Ford himself would say. God help the city if he gets in. He will make Mel look like the pinnacle of competence.


  5. Re subsidy, TTC fares have been increasing way faster than inflation for the past decade, with no end in sight. Sooner or later, the subsidy will be small enough that it may as well be terminated.

    Steve: Actually, the subsidy has been going up faster than the fares, and now stands at about $450-million on a total budget of $1.4-billion. This has allowed service to be improved (although on some routes it’s hard to notice), and the proportion of total costs received from fare revenue to get back to the historical (1970s) level of 2/3. The subsidy is getting bigger, not smaller.


  6. It is sad that such person holding this position would think that ignoring the problems would solve the problems.


  7. Steve — why do you even bother posting this redneck garbage?

    Steve: To remind people that the “front runner” for mayor has such a fool as his policy director. When someone can be appointed to such a role, and have such a fundamental lack of understanding of how the city budget works, or of the larger role of the TTC, then we have big problems. If Ford chooses to lie his way through the campaign, misrepresenting how city services work and how, reasonably, they might be altered, we know he won’t be corrected by his policy shop. You are known by the friends you keep.


  8. Maybe science fiction (fantasy) has the same idea. Go to your basement and push a button. A door soon opens and a 4 door vehicle is on the other side. You dial in your destination and very quickly you arrive.

    The ultimate subway system!! Or is it the ultimate taxi system?

    PS: Although the vehicles are normally not seen I have it on good faith that they have an appendage on the front that looks an awful lot like a swan.


  9. Say what you want about Ford, the other candidates are not that much better and I suspect major tamperings with Transit City if one of them (not Pantalone) is elected!

    Steve: I hav already written critically about other major candidates, and will continue to follow their pronouncements. The troubling thread linking many platforms is the degree to which their authors, people the candidates must think know a thing or two about the issue, rely on inaccurate information. Ford’s advisor’s outlook is on a whole different level and expresses a contempt for transit as an integral part of the city.


  10. More political ammunition for the Candidates to use against Mr. Ford. Hopefully they take full advantage of it. Mr. Tohews wants door-to-door service. I am surprised he is not pushing for PRT.


  11. I read Mark Towhey’s article, as Rob Ford’s competitors likely also have done by now. Nonetheless, just a little while ago I emailed the hyperlink of the full article to all of his mayoral opponents as a reminder of what the city could potentially be dealing with.


  12. @Gordon: Maybe Mr. Towhey thinks that we have transporter technology as seen on Star Trek, and that we can beam from place to place.

    I wonder what it will take to get this moronic fool and his boss from assuming public office?


  13. On a lighter note, I found a link to Rob Ford’s personal blog, it gives a remarkable insight into the mind of this guy :

    www (dot) robfordmayor (dot) com

    Steve: That site was registered on July 16, 2010 and has a one-year registration life. Nothing on the site is older than this date. I have split up the name above so that it doesn’t establish a hotlink automatically.

    The owner is hiding behind a proxy service, Domains by Proxy, in Scottsdale Arizona (a simple whois lookup shows this to anyone). I suspect this is a satire site set up by someone who wants to make Ford look even worse than he is in real life.


  14. You will probably think this is a ludicrous concept, but we don’t need rights-of-way if we implement a better traffic signalling system.

    A: North-South + advance left
    B: East-West + advance left
    C: Pedestrian scramble

    This would cut the number of streetcars which are blocked by cars which are blocked by cars cutting them off from turning left or blocked by pedestrians wandering through the intersection. Note: I am strictly anti-car, but some of the problem lies within the way cars and pedestrians interact. Just a thought.

    BTW, this is a response to Miroslav Glavic.


  15. If they want to cut underperforming routes, then I guess that includes the Sheppard Subway.

    Steve: No, they will spend billions to extend it in the hopes of improving performance. Whether this is cost-effective is quite another matter. It will be interesting to see how the Ford administration calculates the benefit of transit investments, and whether they apply this consistently. Of course, considering that they hope to be spending other people’s money (subsidies from Queen’s Park and maybe even Ottawa), one wonders about the “respect for taxpayers’ dollars”.


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