Updated December 2, 2010 at 11:55 pm:
The Globe and Mail has a story by John Lorinc echoing the sentiments here with quotes from sundry people weightier than I am.
The Star reports on provincial reaction to Mayor Ford’s move.
Updated December 2, 2010 at 1:50 am: The Globe and Mail reports on a poll of Councillors regarding support for Transit City or subways.
- Pro Transit City: 14
- Transit City + Tweaks: 4
- Subways: 11
- Unknown: 15
Original article from December 1, 2010:
Toronto’s new Mayor Ford, acting with a haste uncharacteristic in Toronto affairs, and without even bothering to consult his new Council, has directed the TTC to stop work on Transit City. The “war on the car” is over, and all new rapid transit will be underground.
The deafening silence from Queen’s Park shows us how much Metrolinx and its regional plan, The Big Move, depend on political agreement among GTA municipalities. Removing the pols from the Metrolinx Board may have centralized important announcements at Queen’s Park, but it did nothing to blunt the effect any local Mayor or Council can have if they don’t play ball.
The Big Move has both a 15-year and a 25-year component, although the likelihood either of these would see substantial construction was compromised the moment Queen’s Park’s budget priorities trumped a scheme to build major transit improvements first as a prelude to new revenue tools. Nobody wants to talk about taxes or tolls, but money for transit, whatever the technology, won’t come from the tooth fairy. It won’t come from the private sector either, at least not without a guaranteed return on their investment.
Ford, whose aggressive tactics on Council are well known but whose character was carefully controlled during the election, has shown that he has a plan, and feels that his mandate gives him carte blanche to implement whatever he wants. The voters have spoken. Those who voted for 44 Councillors might beg to disagree, but that’s for Council to decide in weeks and months ahead.
The real problem is the lack of leadership on the transit file from Queen’s Park. The Big Move was cobbled together from many local plans, including Transit City, and flawed though it might have been, there was general agreement about the shape of the plan. Changing Toronto’s focus to subways unbalances the plan’s scale and benefits, not to mention the huge change in net cost. Mayor Ford’s concern for taxpayers’ dollars appears to end when someone else is expected to pay the bill, and this could deprive Toronto of transit improvements while growth proceeds on smaller-scale projects in the 905.
If we can rip Transit City out of The Big Move with only the barest of response from Queen’s Park, how safe is the rest of the plan? Will expansions in Mississauga, Hamilton, York Region and Durham be subject to the whims of whoever is in power, or will a semblance of regional planning remain? Will provincial efforts dwindle to supporting GO Transit, an organization whose forced marriage with Metrolinx is still quite shaky. The bride and groom are still arguing over decorations, and they almost certainly have separate bedrooms.
Readers who know me well will appreciate that today is not the brightest day in my history of transit advocacy. It would be easy just to write a bitter rant against the incoming regime. That would be a waste of time — they won’t read it anyhow, any more than they will listen to editorial boards at the Globe and Star.
That regime is not stupid, although many would paint Ford and his crew as a bunch of bumbling hicks. They know what they want to achieve and they appear ready to push as hard as possible until, no, even if someone pushes back. That’s the role of Council and of Queen’s Park if they really believe in Transit City.
There is a place for LRT and for subways in Toronto, and if we are to remake the transit plans, this process deserves more than the midnight YouTube announcement of Ford’s election campaign. It also deserves a concerted effort by transit supporters everywhere to fight against slurs of downtown elitism, and to argue strongly for better, cost-effective transit. We need to ensure that the “war on the car” is not replaced, stealthily, by a war on transit.
As for Metrolinx, I can’t help wondering what, exactly, its purpose is. The Board rarely meets in public, and doesn’t discuss much of substance when it does. Major announcements come from the Premier or the Minister, and many of these deal with GO plans that were in the pipeline before the Metrolinx amalgamation. Now we see a Mayor can just tear up part of the plan, an ironic situation considering the grief David Miller endured for trying to get Toronto’s interests recognized at Queen’s Park. If the Tories win the fall 2011 provincial election, Metrolinx and its hoard of consultants may find themselves out of work, and transit may be relegated to a desk at the back of the Ministry of Transportation offices in Downsview.
Meanwhile, my box of “Big Move” documents can join the many other plans in my archives.