Did Toronto Council Ever Vote For Transit City? (Update 2)

Updated Dec. 8, 2010 at 7:45 am:  On Sept. 30, 2009, Council voted to fund continuing work on Environmental Assessments, and to enter into an agreement with Metrolinx for funding of the Sheppard, Eglinton, Finch and SRT projects.

Updated Dec. 7, 2010 at 10:30 pm:  This post has been updated with additional info supplied in a comment by a reader.  See the body of the article for the change which documents a vote in 2009 reaffirming Council support for Transit City.

In the brouhaha of Mayor Ford’s inauguration, his brief meeting with Premier McGuinty, and the question of whether Council will support ditching the LRT plan in favour of a subway network, a question comes up often:  did Council ever actually approve the Transit City plan, or was this just done by the TTC Commission itself?

I rummaged through Council minutes (with no thanks to the recent changes in the City’s website that made finding material from the critical year, 2007, rather difficult) and could only find references to actions taken after the fact — funding of environmental analysis work, public consultation and preliminary designs for specific lines.  An embrace of the overall plan didn’t appear to be there.

Earlier today, I learned that there was a vote, but it was part of a larger package of items to move forward with the Climate Change, Clean Air and Sustainable Energy Action Plan.  Within this plan is the following directive:


8. City Council recognize that approximately one-third of the locally generated greenhouse gases and a significant portion of smog causing pollutants come from the operation of motor vehicles and that over one-half of the comments received during the public engagement process expressed a desire to see a more sustainable transportation system, and that City Council:

a. direct the initiation of appropriate environmental and engineering studies for the Transit City plan and request the General Manager of the Toronto Transit Commission to submit to Executive Committee in 2007 a schedule for the completion of aforementioned studies and a financial plan including funding sources and revenue tools;

Source Council Minutes for July 16, 2007, Item EX10.3 at page 25

The vote on this item was 37-0 with the following in favour:

Mayor: Miller

Councillors: Augimeri, Bussin, Carroll, Cho, Davis, De Baeremaeker, Del Grande, Di Giorgio, Feldman, Filion, Fletcher, Ford, Grimes, Hall, Heaps, Holyday, Jenkins, Kelly, Lee, Lindsay Luby, McConnell, Mihevc, Milczyn, Minnan-Wong, Moeser, Moscoe, Nunziata, Palacio, Pantalone, Perks, Rae, Saundercook, Stintz, Thompson, Vaughan, Walker

None of the proposed amendments to the overall report mentions Transit City, and there was no attempt to change the plan at this stage.

[Updated Dec. 7 at 10:30 pm begins here]

In January 2009, Council dealt with a report on the proposed extension of the Yonge Subway to Richmond Hill.  Among the motions approved at that meeting was the following:

3. City Council direct the City Manager and Chief General Manager of the TTC to commence discussions with Metrolinx, the Province of Ontario, York Region and Government of Canada for the purposes of securing the appropriate funding and service agreements on the basis of the following requirements:

l.          Metrolinx be requested to prioritize the Downtown Relief Line within its 15-year plan, noting that Transit City is the first priority for the Toronto Transit Commission and the City of Toronto; and

The clause above was inserted via an amendment from then Commissioner Suzan Hall which itself amended text proposed by Councillor Michael Thompson.  This carried 32:11 with the recorded vote as follows:

In favour: Ainslie, Ashton, Augimeri, Bussin, Carroll, Cho, Davis, De Baeremaeker, Del Grande, Di Giorgio, Filion, Fletcher, Ford, Giambrone, Grimes, Hall, Heaps, Jenkins, Lindsay Luby, McConnell, Mihevc, Miller, Moeser, Moscoe, Nunziata, Palacio, Pantalone, Perks, Rae, Saundercook, Thompson, Vaughan

Opposed: Holyday, Kelly, Lee, Milczyn, Minnan-Wong, Ootes, Parker, Perruzza, Shiner, Stintz, Walker

Absent: Feldman, Mammoliti

In the final vote on the item with all of its amendments, the vote was 42:2 with only Councillors Kelly and Mihevc(!) opposed, and Councillor Feldman absent.  Joe Mihevc was voting against the Richmond Hill subway.

Therefore, Council has explicitly voted on the priority of Transit City, and this has been supported by now-Mayor Ford on both occasions.  Thanks to those who dug up these references.

[Update 2]

On September 30, 2009, Council passed the following motion:

1. City Council increase the 2009-2013 Approved Capital Budget and Plan by $134.5 million gross, to continue work on the priority Transit City lines, with $125.8 million gross to be funded by the Province through Metrolinx and the balance of $8.7 million for environmental assessments for other Transit City lines to be funded through offsets within the TTC’s 2009 Approved Capital Budget, and report back to the Budget Committee on the offsets.

2. City Council authorize the City Manager to enter into a Memorandum of Agreement on behalf of the City, with Metrolinx and the TTC, wherein Metrolinx will provide interim funding for the implementation of components of the Sheppard East LRT, Finch West LRT, Eglinton Crosstown LRT, and Scarborough RT transit projects.

The vote was 30:3 with Councillors Ford and Stintz, among others, absent.  While this is over two years after the announcement of Transit City, it continues a pattern of Council support.

[Update ends here]

In theory, Transit City can be changed by a vote of only the Transit Commission, a body packed with Ford allies.  However, Queen’s Park has clearly stated that they will respect the will of Council on this.  Mayor Ford’s position is unclear as he has stated both that the issue would come to Council, and that it didn’t need to.  Considering that he has asked the TTC for a report on alternate networks, and this won’t be ready for Council consideration until February 2011, Council won’t even know what it is deciding on for the next two months.

This small detail may not bother the Mayor, but it bothers those of us who believe Councillors have an important role in making City policy.  Back in the Miller days, his opponents cried out about the powers of the Mayor and how he ignored his opposition.  It’s time for Ford and Company to take some of their own advice and stop prejudging the outcome.

39 thoughts on “Did Toronto Council Ever Vote For Transit City? (Update 2)

  1. Steve, what are the legalities involved?

    1) Ford has just announced his new Transit Commissioners, but are they appointed by the Mayor alone, or require confirmation by the full Council vote?

    2) If the views of the full Council majority are totally incompatible with the views of Transit Commission, can the Council replace the members of Transit Commission, or overwrite its decisions?

    Steve: Ford can propose the Commission membership to the Striking Committee which then reports back with recommendations to Council. Council may or may not agree with them, although at this point it doesn’t look as if there will be an attempt to thwart the Mayor on his choices. There are too many new Councillors who still have not figured out whether they are part of “Team Ford” to ensure a solid vote to wrest control of committees and boards from the Mayor’s preferences.

    Yes, Council could revoke Commissioners’ membership at any time. However, this would require a major on Council who were fed up enough with Commission decision to decide to make a change. See my comment above about new members. Strictly speaking, Council cannot force the TTC to do something the Commissioners oppose. They must do this either through amendments to the Commission’s budget (which must come to Council for funding) or by replacing the Commission.

    A further wrinkle here is that Transit City is now a Provincial project and there is no City money involved. The TTC is acting simply as a contractor to the Province doing design work and, eventually, construction management. The lines will be owned by Queen’s Park and operated by the TTC. Nothing prevents Queen’s Park from going it alone, although this would be difficult given the number of municipal services that are affected by transit construction.


  2. Hi, Steve. I’m not sure if this can help. But still I’d better post this information here:

    Council minutes of January 27, 2009

    There is a motion there to amend the motion moved by Councillor Suzan Hall (Carried)

    Motion 5a – That Part 1 of motion 1 by Councillor Thompson be amended by adding the words “noting that Transit City is the first priority for the Toronto Transit Commission and the City of Toronto”, so that Part 1 now reads:

    1. Metrolinx be requested to prioritize the Downtown Relief Line within its 15-year plan, noting that Transit City is the first priority for the Toronto Transit Commission and the City of Toronto.

    Now surprise: it was Rob Ford who voted for calling Transit City as the first priority for the TTC.

    So that was the final text of City Council Decision made in January, 2009. If you need to find other referrings to Transit City, please, type T and C as cap letters – otherwise it doesn’t find these words. Perhaps, you may find something else there.

    Steve: Thanks very much for this. I have updated the main post accordingly.


  3. I don’t think there will be much public traction on this – we don’t have the same brouhaha when pols are “for things before they are against them” as in the States. To be honest, to claim TC was approved as part of a larger report does little justice to the project – it should have had separate approval.

    However, if the City cannot commit to projects longer than 3 year horizons because of the risk of reversal at a future election (assume minimum 12 months from election to get to a decision) we will never get anything done.

    Steve: It turns out that Council did vote explicitly to affirm that Transit City was its top priority. See the update.


  4. In the final vote on the item with all of its amendments, the vote was 42:2 with only Councillors Kelly and Mihevc(!) opposed, and Councillor Feldman absent.

    I noticed you’re surprised at Mihevc’s vote, but you may recall that he was opposed wholesale to the extension of the Yonge Subway (not only at Council, but at the Commission meeting in Jan ’09, too).

    Steve: Yes, that was Mihevc’s reason for opposition. I should have noted that in my post, and will update it.


  5. What about the Transit City Funding Request in September 2009?

    Steve: Two points about this vote. First, an attempt by Councillor Milczyn — that the Eglinton tunnel be designed to be compatible with a subway — was ruled out of order. Second, several Councillors, notably Ford and Stintz, were absent for the item. However, this does continue the pattern of motions supporting Transit City.


  6. “Metrolinx be requested to prioritize the Downtown Relief Line within its 15-year plan, noting that Transit City is the first priority for the Toronto Transit Commission and the City of Toronto; and …”

    This is truly pathetic. This is a motion for prioritizing the DRL over the RH subway, NOT a “Day 1” endorsement of TC. Are you guys so desperate that you’re willing to grasp at straws?

    Miller never went to Council in 2007 and said “let’s kill the TTC’s RTES and build this … all those in favor … opposed …”. Even the Commission never voted on it.

    Steve: By 2007, there were two lines on the TTC’s priority list. They were the Sheppard line to STC and the Spadina line to Steeles. See the Subway Expansion Plan report of April 2003. It is self-evident that approval of the Sheppard LRT by the Commission undoes the support for the subway expansion. The Spadina line is under construction.


  7. So, Ford said the City didn’t vote for Transit City, but they did and worse, Ford actually voted for Transit City or wasn’t there for other like votes. So much for the message of a hard worker with a consistent message and approach.

    This sounds like the whole “I didn’t get arrested!” discussion during the election. I can deal with a politician who firmly believes in things. I can deal with a politician who changes his/her mind. I can even sympathize with a politician who didn’t realize what they were doing. But, I take issue with a politician who uses revisionism as their primary tool to change policy.

    On another note, as the province doesn’t have to listen to Ford, their throwing Transit City back to him to put before council is very shrewd. If Ford doesn’t do that, he looks both weak and dictatorial, and damages the PC brand in Toronto. If he does do that, Ford risks not getting the exact way he wants. Discussion would have to happen which brings out other voices, and the simple message of the Gravy Train has to start dealing with the reality of 45 person council politics. No wonder he is pushing so hard on this file so quickly. If the Ford administration can get its way on this issue, everything else in their agenda will take so much less work. However, if Transit City goes to a vote on council, the past approach of having to get stuff through using consensus will reemerge. I’m not sure that will be good for transit in this city but it will certainly will be better for democracy.


  8. Thanks for the details Steve.

    Steve said: “Nothing prevents Queen’s Park from going it [Transit City] alone, although this would be difficult given the number of municipal services that are affected by transit construction.”

    Legally, Queen’s Park can do that. But I think that both logistically and politically, this is highly improbable. Queen’s Park can take one of 3 approaches: a) accept and fund a modified plan; b) shift the money to transit projects in GTA, while Toronto figures out what it really wants; c) simply bury the issue in endless studies, and quietly redirect the funding to reduce the general deficit.


  9. Just a quick tip re. searching for toronto.ca documents: sometimes more pertinent results are found by searching directly on Google, using a search term pattern like site:www.toronto.ca inurl:legdocs inurl:2007 "transit city", and you can add more inurl: operators to capture different types of documents, e.g. ‘bgrd’ (background) reports, ‘agendas’, ‘mmis’ (minutes?), etc.

    Google may ask you to solve a Captcha before presenting the results, but that is just because most use of these operators is by nefarious geeks, and they must be always tested to see if they are actually human or not…

    I’ve also tried the same operators directly on the toronto.ca search form, but the results are often fewer in number–I’m not sure why, I believe that toronto.ca uses its own Google Appliance, which may be setup differently.

    Steve: Yes, Toronto’s search misses a lot, and there seems to be a major problem since they reorganized their website that searches are not as productive as they used to be.


  10. My problem with Rob Ford is not that he is a fiscal and social conservative (even though I am the exact opposite) or even that he wants a subway on Sheppard (which would be a waste of money) – my problem with him is that he lies to the public. Saying the City never voted on public transit when it did (on several occasions with him present) is a lie, plain and simple.

    I can respect politicians with views I strongly disagree with, but I can never have anything but contempt for those who knowingly lie to the public.


  11. What does lying have to do with anything??? Pick a politician – Miller – too numerous except for the biggie “we won the garbage strike” Yeah…right, McGuinty, pick a lie, Harris? same, Chretien, elect me and I’ll scrap the GST, Lastman, they’ll boil me in a pot, which we all know they don’t do anymore.

    I suppose Harper is the only guy that hasn’t lied to us. He has muzzled the press, stomped thru his policies like he had a majority etc etc etc, changed his mind on guns and Afghans, but I don’t think he has lied yet? Anyways, I don’t always agree with the way Ford is doing things but we elected him for CHANGE. I don’t care about percentages, nobody does, except you guys apparently.

    As a homeowner for the last 30 years (no offense to renters but homeowners feel everything directly from their mailbox!) Miller’s term has been the worst and most destructive I have lived through. Even Harris wasn’t as bad.

    Personally I think Ford should outright cancel Eglinton east subway, or LRT or whatever… this stretch has never even warranted an express service because since 1977, the route has not qualified under the TTC’s Express Bus Warrant which I believe demands at least a five-minute reduction.

    Clown, buffoon, asshole? All of these words are used on this site by the anti-Ford commenters. Cherry uses some words tongue-in-cheek and the left just cannot handle it. You rant and rave to anyone who will listen (other disenfranchised left-wingers) and are ready to jump on every little thing to further complain. The Miller/Bussin spend, spend, spend and when you’re not spending you tax, tax, tax era is finally over. Thank God. Ford has not stomped any different than Miller immediately canceling the airport bridge or McGuinty or Harper. Cut him some slack. There are a lot more pressing items to deal with first before Transit City!!!!!!!!!

    Steve: The Airport Bridge and Transit City are not in the same league. As for “tongue in cheek”, I will try that excuse the next time I insult a member of Council while making a deputation and see how far it gets me. Your use of the word “disenfranchised” says it all. Nobody should be “disenfranchised”, and we are all entitled to have our voices heard at City Hall. I repeat: More than half of Toronto’s voters did not support Rob Ford. That’s a lot of disenfranchisement.


  12. @Mimmo

    I keep hearing again and again that RTES was “killed” by transit city. Wait, let’s look a bit closer. There were 6 lines studied

    -SRT extension: Being built as part of Transit City.

    -Eglinton subway: We’re not only getting this, but the current plan includes more than twice as much “subway” as the original Eg W stn. to York CC.

    -Spadina subway extension – Got this one, again more than RTES wanted (Vaughan extension was unwarranted)

    -Yonge subway extension: High priority and approved in principle, once capacity issues are dealt with

    -BD extension to Sherway/Mississauga: Mississauga was not interested and the Sherway extension was realized to be a white elephant of monumental proportions

    Finally, the ever contentious Sheppard extension:

    The westward extension to Downsview was rejected as having very high cost:benefit ratio, and the eastward extension? The subway proponents love to quote RTES for showing the connection to STC, though if you read the report it does not particularly favour STC. It even obliquely infers that the majority of Sheppard’s traffic originates on Sheppard itself (but I think they wanted to keep construction rolling so they’re not going to say that directly lest they shoot themselves in the foot), and when you do some back-of-envelope calculations, the LRT proposal is more beneficial to more people on Sheppard, particularly those further east (8km on LRT at TTC’s stated speeds = 21 minutes, 8km with 3km -$1b worth – of subway + 5km of buses = 23 minutes, plus transfer time), and far more cost effective.

    So, even pessimistically we’re 4/6, optimistically, we’re 5/5 for the “good” projects.


  13. Steve, I can understand your frustration. I was just as frustrated over the last seven years. I think your voices are still being heard at City Hall, the new team has different priorities which is their right since they were the ones that got elected. I really don’t think it matters that 53% hate him, or for that matter 80% hate him. By whatever rules, the ‘other-guy” didn’t get elected.

    I wish for transit improvements also. I just don’t think this Transit City thing is well thought out at all. Railways in the middle of the street (by whatever name you call it) isn’t the way to go right now in Toronto, in my opinion. Maybe a few subways? Maybe not.

    Although I’m not as smart as most here, I don’t even think the universally-accepted ‘grid-system’ of bus routes works in this city. Since I was a kid the growth has been pockets here and there, eventually filling more. The only reason there is even a Pharmacy bus is because it’s very difficult to even walk between Vic Park and Pharmacy due to the street layouts. I grew up first north of Lawrence between Leslie and Don Mills – due to railway and EP Taylor’s circular madness, very unforgiving for transit and then I moved north of Sheppard, between Leslie & Don Mills in the early 60’s and I defy anybody to find their way out without a map. Buses have no chance.

    I say get a subway to STC, an artificially created terminal, but a terminal nonetheless, might as well finish Sheppard somehow, let the hundred or so people use the Spadina extension up to wherever it’s going and then concentrate on making what we have actually work for a change.


  14. ….P. Coulman, your comment is what’s also objectionable in Ford. It’s an angry unfocused rant. You want ‘CHANGE’ do you? What exactly do you mean by CHANGE? I guess you’re kind of like Peter Finch in Network, yelling “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it any more”.

    As a thirty-year homeowner, certainly you must realize that:

    1) Property taxes in Toronto are lower than property taxes elsewhere; if you were in Mississauga I guess you would completely blow your stack
    2) You have had the benefit of one of the greatest real-estate price increases in history, congratulations.

    (I guess Cherry missed a trick; while he ranted about ‘pinko left-wing bicycle riders’, he didn’t rise to ‘pinko left-wing bicycle-riding RENTERS’.)

    You have to back up exactly how you find Miller “destructive”. I know that Sue-Ann Levy and the Sun always foamed at the mouth about “silly hall”, but I could never quite see what the heck they were ranting about. I think just the presence of Miller threw them into a frenzy.

    As for me, I thought Miller was a good mayor. Now, it’s CHANGE brought by an idiot. Not an improvement.

    Steve: On the subject of renters: Property tax represents at least 1/3 of rent on my two-bedroom apartment at Broadview and Danforth in a well-maintained building. This number was verified a few years ago when the city published tax information for tenants. This tax is roughly the same as the tax on a residential property in North Toronto, a seven room house on a decently sized lot, that my family owns. House owners in Toronto are cross-subsidized by renters, but I doubt we will see Mayor Ford fight for “the little guys” who rent to get fair treatment.


  15. Since it was Metrolinx that actually placed an order for light rail vehicles for Transit City and not the City of Toronto or the Toronto Transit Commission, then Metrolinx can actually turn around and send those vehicles to Mississauga, Waterloo, or Hamilton if it wants to, and leave nothing for Rob Ford’s subway. Then Toronto would be left on its own, high and dry with no vehicles (light rail or heavy rail) for Rob Ford’s subway.


  16. Steve, please, check out the first update once again. Mihevc was not one of those who opposed the motion. Just Kelly.

    Steve: It’s in the second update, not the first, and the minutes clearly state that Kelly and Mihevc voted against the item as amended. See the vote at 4:52 pm on January 28, 2009 within the minutes.


  17. A hopeful sign that perhaps council’s progressives will stand up for Transit City… Here’s an excerpt from an e-bulletin I just received from my councillor, Janet Davis:

    On his first day in office, new Mayor Rob Ford declared “Transit City is over.”
    Not so fast, Mr. Mayor. City Council is comprised of 45 representatives: 44 local Councillors and one Mayor. City Council approved Transit City and thus City Council should have the final say, with all the facts and implications clearly outlined first.

    She goes on to lists the merits of Transit City, the fact that the Province has advised it will not commit to any further funding for a revised subway plan, and suggests we email Ford and Stintz to voice our support for Transit City. Hopfully the other (numerous) progressives on council will also stand up and demand that this issue be brought to council for a vote.


  18. Why’s everyone having so much trouble searching council records? I think the new interface makes it very easy – just go to this page then enter a search term like “Transit City” or “Eglinton LRT” or whatever. Seems easier than it ever has been.

    Here’s a vote where everyone put Ford and Ootes voted to approve the Eglinton LRT, for example.

    Steve: The problem was that the search engine has become case sensitive. This can also create problems when the same phrase exists in multiple formats. There is also a page in the new format of Council records that claims to include meetings from 2007, but in fact these items are empty. Transit City was introduced in 2007, and you can appreciate that trying to track activitives requires access to 2007 minutes. In time, but only after I had written the item, did I find that these still existed in the “old” format elsewhere on the site.

    As for votes in 2009, these were two or more years after the original Transit City proposal. While they show continuing support for this plan, the whole debate turned on whether Council approved Transit City when it was first introduced by the TTC.


  19. Disenfranchised. That was me before I got fed up and moved to Woodbridge. How is it that when I buy a new car to replace my old one, I have to pay the vehicle registration tax TWICE? Why did the city tell me that I didn’t have to pay the fee again and when I complained about this, they never returned my call? Why is it so difficult to get a response from the City on simple things such as blocked sewers and ice clearing, but they harrass you on such things like a speeding ticket or a rental complaint? Why is it that we are paying for more and ending up with less? The outside workers strike was pretty much the last straw for me.

    People say that people pay less taxes in the 416 compared to the 905? WRONG. I have friends who live in the 416 and his house costs less than mine. Surprisingly, he pays about $200 more in taxes than I do despite his place being about $10,000 less. You may say it’s not a significant amount, but something is wrong with this picture.

    Disenfranchised. This also happens on the right too. Not that I wish for anything terrible to happen to the left, but at least you know how we Ford supporters feel about the way the city was run. I concur with P. Coulman, the Miller years were terrible for the city. He may have Transit city to his credit, but everything else was just bad.

    Steve: The total property tax includes the provincially levied education tax which is higher in Toronto than elsewhere. This is an issue for Queen’s Park, not the current or previous City administrations.


  20. Maybe this whole ordeal will finally push the province to upload control of the TTC to Metrolinx. This would help reduce the ridiculous political interference in transit affairs by municipal politicians such as Ford, Lastman, etc.


  21. Steve wrote, “The total property tax includes the provincially levied education tax which is higher in Toronto than elsewhere.”

    The second part of that is incorrect. The province levies a flat 0.241% for education across the GTA. In comparisons made here in the recent past, this was made clear. The City of Toronto’s residential property tax brochure says so, as does my Town of Richmond Hill final 2010 tax bill.

    Toronto charges 0.5895702%, bringing the total to 0.8305702%. Here in Richmond Hill (one of the lower, but not the lowest), the non-education portion is 0.26146% for the town PLUS 0.477021% for the region, bringing the education-included total to 0.979481%. Toronto does have the car registration and garbage fee which may or may not make their total tax grab greater, depending on how large one’s garbage container is and how valuable one’s home is. The rate difference in this example results in $148.91 more per year per $100k of assessed value in Richmond Hill.

    When I use the City of Toronto’s tax calculator for my home, it comes up with a total of $4622.12 (including the education portion which it shows is $1341.17 – the SAME amount on my actual tax bill). My tax bill for 2010 was $5450.81 – that is $828.69 greater. Our garbage would cost us an extra $133.00 per year (according to Toronto’s summary of fees and rebates, based on a large bin with bi-weekly pickup – a little more than our current use), and we have only one vehicle. That still leaves us with paying $635.69 more than we would in Toronto for a property of the same value. Granted, we would have a smaller home and property in Toronto, but it is assessed value and tax rates that determine the total bill.

    Oh yea, Vaughan pays less than us: 0.258877%, which is a combined municipal and hospital levy! The regional and education portions are the same as Richmond Hill. Stephen Cheung has mentioned his friend before who pays $200 more for a home of $10k less value in Toronto. He has been asked about the details before, but only states the totals. The rates charged do not back up that claim and I suspect there is some other special levy involved here, or his friend has several large garbage containers in an area with weekly pick up or something like that. There is something missing from the picture presented.

    Steve: My apologies. The effective transfer of wealth from the more developed part of the province to other areas comes from the relative prevalence of each type of property class within each area, not from differences in tax rates on specific types of property.


  22. Stephen Cheung wrote

    “..I concur with P. Coulman, the Miller years were terrible for the city. He may have Transit city to his credit, but everything else was just bad…”

    One of the issues I have with the current rhetoric of both the left and the right in this country is the tendency to talk in absolutes, as if the other side, however that is defined is 100% bad, both in what they did/do and in how they are supported. Thus we get the various phrases like “You x wingers all do…” and “I can’t believe how whiny you x wingers all are.” which tend to populate discussions. I find the approach childish, immature and unhelpful.

    When people of this area, and we are all united in living around her, get past the labels to discuss the details of things that affect us all, this can lead to people coming to some sort of agreement on how things can move forward. Its why far more council discussions then the Sun and Star would lead us to believe end up in support from both right and left (discussion does not sell newspapers).

    Yes, many people over the last 8 years did not feel listened to by those supporting Miller because many Miller supporters assumed what they were doing and saying was understood and proper and correct. And, yes, many people who do not support Rob Ford do not feel that his supporters are engaging in discussing the issues but prefer to tell people to shut up and get over things.

    But, Rob Ford is not all bad for the city, and the sooner the doom and gloom brigade realises that an emphasis on responding to citizen questions is better then what we had before, the better.

    Nor was Miller’s regime all bad for the city. For example, the priority neighbourhoods may not be all that much better off then before, but that initiative finally got the province to move services into areas that service providers had been unwilling to go to, despite overt pressure going back to Brian Mulroney’s time.

    If it would be possible for people to move beyond the complete 100% us vs. them rhetoric, we’d get more done.


  23. To Pete and Stephen,

    The big question regarding the Miller years is, if you feel that the guys spent too much and raised taxes to compensate, what would you cut?

    I’ve always said that Toronto has had a structural deficit imposed on it by Mike Harris, and Dalton McGuinty has not done enough to remove it. This has created a load on the city that has gradually gotten worse, and which finally came to roost in the Miller years. McGuinty’s decision to grant Toronto council two additional sources of revenue (the land registry tax and the vehicle registration tax) served to make the city solvent, at least, but those weren’t the best sources of revenue McGuinty could have chosen, and it did little to address the considerable financial burden that the city finds itself under, regardless of whether Miller or Ford is in charge.

    So, what would you cut? For one thing, a third of the city’s budget is set not by city council but by the province of Ontario. One third. That’s the provincially mandated social services that Ontarians rely on when times get hard. This is the welfare cheques, the training centres, the provincially mandated disability pensions, et cetera. The province requires that these things be funded, the funds come out of the city budget and through that, your property taxes. The city of Toronto has no legal means to remove this expense from its books. And given that Toronto is a big city and big cities tend to attract these social services cases (not that this is a bad thing in the abstract; one can argue it’s more efficient this way), Toronto’s burden for social services is higher than the cities around it.

    Of the remaining operating budget, I believe about half is taken up by the TTC and the Police Services. Where do you cut there? Most of us here agree that public transit has been woefully underfunded over this past decade. The Ridership Growth Strategy represents the bare minimum of transit this city should be getting. Do we go back to the bad old days of 1997 when much of the suburbs was receiving little or no transit outside of rush hour?

    And do you cut the police services budget? Some can argue that, given our low crime rates, we don’t need to spend so much here. But I have to say that I’d admire the politician who would have the balls to campaign so.

    Of the remainder? Fire services, other emergency services and garbage collection. Where’s the fat?

    Steve: An important point about the TTC is the difference between the gross and the net budget. Although it accounts for over $1.4b out of over $9b in the total city budget, it also brings in $1b in fare and other revenues. When people talk about the “out of control” growth of city spending, they refer to the gross budget which includes revenues other than property taxes. The TTC actually costs the city tax base much less than the police force who generate no revenue of their own.

    Now, we can debate about certain side issues here: whether or not to contract out garbage services, for instance, or how hard we should be negotiating with our unions to keep wages down, but I think that you very quickly run out of cuts you can make without reducing services and, in the case of transit at least, we know the city is under-serviced. Ford talks about all of the gravy he can save, but the examples he lists barely come up to around $10 million in concrete savings, in a budget that runs in the billions, and has occasionally seen shortfalls of half a billion dollars. Given previous history I think we can invent a new rule of thumb: fat in a budget is largely illusionary. You can’t cut too far until you cut into bone.

    So, why did all this come to a head during Miller’s time? Why did you feel your taxes increase so sharply during his tenure in office and not before? Two reasons:

    1. During his time in office, Mike Harris physically prevented the amalgamated City of Toronto from raising taxes beyond 3% (I believe, with business taxes locked at half that), even in cases where certain local business interests (like the hotel lobby) suggested that this would be a good idea. This caused revenues to lag behind services, and increased the eventual tax increase required to catch things up.

    2. While Mel Lastman was dealing with this restriction, his council did a rather irresponsible thing: to balance the budget (as the city is legally required to do), they dipped into reserve funds to cover numerous shortfalls. They also relied on one-time payouts and other accounting trickery to paper over the shortfalls without actually addressing them.

    The cash reserves that protect our city from emergencies (ranging from economic slowdowns to major storms, et cetera) are basically depleted. Miller’s council wasn’t able to go to the well again (and it would have been irresponsible for them to do so, although this also did happen during the early part of his terms in office).

    So, you can see that the problems of Miller’s terms in office don’t just rest at his door. It has had a lot to do with the structural problems that were built into the city by the administration that created it: the Conservative government of Mike Harris. It may not have been intended, but the way the amalgamated city of Toronto was built, it was designed to fail, and a lot of that came home to roost under Miller’s watch.

    Even so, Miller managed to balance the books, stopped going begging to the province in his last two years, and left the city with a substantial surplus. I’m sure the tax pain hurt, but it did mean that the city was solvent and, with Transit City, was building again. You have to give him credit for that. And you should note that the problems he dealt with started developing years beforehand.

    Actually, it goes back even further than Harris and crosses party lines. David Petersen and Bob Rae have their own parts to play in this tragedy, and the whole shebang may have started due to a fateful decision made by Ontario Premier Bill Davis. I covered this in a blog series starting here. I invite you to read that before you cast all of the blame at Miller’s door.


  24. Stephen said: “People say that people pay less taxes in the 416 compared to the 905? WRONG. I have friends who live in the 416 and his house costs less than mine. Surprisingly, he pays about $200 more in taxes than I do despite his place being about $10,000 less.”

    I know it’s off topic Steve, but I really want to address this.

    Stephen, although there may be the odd exception such as the example you provided, the bottom line is that it is significantly more expensive to live in the 905 than the 416. I lived in Pickering for six years, and moving to Toronto resulted in significant savings for me. I pay approx $1800 less per year in property tax (on a house that cost about $50,000 more than the one in Pickering), and instead of being a two-car family, we now have (and need) only one. Living in Toronto, our total kms driven per year is down to 10,000, compared to approx 25,000 for each of our two cars in Pickering. Just the savings in gas and insurance alone is huge, nevermind monthly car payments, maintenance, plus higher public transit costs whenever we used GO to go downtown.

    Your example is a rarity. Most of my co-workers live in either Durham or York, and I have yet to find someone who pays less property tax than me (and my house is a decent size – 1900 sq ft – close to the Danforth). I don’t feel disenfranchised at all living in Toronto, even with the vehicle tax and LTT that Miller implemented. It was in Pickering where I felt disenfranchised, paying $4,800 in property tax (which today is up to $5,500 on that same house), and feeling like I was getting nothing in return. In Toronto, not only do I pay less, I also have a subway a few blocks down the street, far more services and ammenities available to me, and I can actually leave my house without having to get into a car, and stroll along nice streets lined with shops and things to do. In Pickering, I felt completely disconnected from where I lived because the lifestyle there is very isolating.

    If you’re enjoying living in Woodbridge, that’s great. But don’t distort facts by saying it’s cheaper. Overall, for most people it’s not.


  25. I said, “The province levies a flat 0.241% for education across the GTA.”

    I was speaking from my scope of knowledge on the subject, which was just the GTA. To be more accurate, Ontario Regulation 400/98 (under the Education Act) sets this rate for ALL residential class properties in the entire province.

    So, when comparing property taxes for properties that are both residential class within Ontario, education levies do not make a difference.


  26. James Bow said, “Ford talks about all of the gravy he can save, but the examples he lists barely come up to around $10 million in concrete savings, in a budget that runs in the billions…”

    This is why I came up with this cartoon on lrt.daxack.ca – while I’m no artist, it makes the point.


  27. Maybe this whole ordeal will finally push the province to upload control of the TTC to Metrolinx. This would help reduce the ridiculous political interference in transit affairs by municipal politicians such as Ford, Lastman, etc.

    Metrolinx is an agency of the Government of Ontario, not an independent body.


  28. I really wish I could agree with OgTheDim that a lessening of the left-right rhetoric would help us achieve more, but unfortunately I can’t see it making much difference. One of the less-inspiring features of a site like this that brings together so many people with a common interest and goal, is pouring through the amount of back-and-forth even amongst (nay, especially amongst) the people that for all intents agree with each other. Even when they’re on the same side, it feels like a solid consensus will rarely ever be reached, let alone ever reaching some point where political sides could come together in agreement if they would just ratchet back the hyperbole. There’s agreement on here that something needs to be done, but then it’s followed by miles of discourse about what that something absolutely should be.

    Systematically in Ontario, we collect and assess that discourse and ideas within the Environmental Assessment process, and see it as consultation that derives what’s hoped to be the best compromises necessary to get the project built. Yet since the start of the EA era, the number of major infrastructure projects (at least in Toronto) that have gotten past the EA process and actually come to fruition are minimal, as noted so well by Steve when he ended a recent post saying that another study would now just join his collection on a shelf. I wonder if the discussion amongst transit advocates should instead shift to considering the impact of the EA process on the overall needs of the region, rather than the details of the projects themselves. The correlation between when the lack of results started and the era of when the EA process began smacks to me of something that’s too coincidental to be discounted.

    I’m raising the suggestion here that maybe we should be advocating to weaken or dismantle the EA process whenever there’s strong agreement that new transit needs to be built. Let’s get that step reduced in the go-live process and move forward under the strong hand that’s backing it. Here’s why:

    * In the timelines shown for TC votes, we’re reminded that the agreements on it were in people’s minds at the START of Mr. Miller’s second term — TC was part of his platform for re-election in ’06. That’s four years back. The Commission approved the plan in March 2007, including a streamlined EA process a few months later in July (all dates taken from a Globe timeline printed today). Even streamlined, the votes approving the EAs only happened in late ’09 and 2010… which was already too late to see considerable build work begin within that election cycle.

    * Politicians who use transit in their election platforms need to show some kind of action during their term on creating new transit infrastructure, but consistently do not have budget room to do it all so have pushed studies and reviews — and Environmental Assessments — in compliance with the legislated demand for that work. This allows them to look like action is happening while they either scramble to raise the capital funds or quietly concede to themselves that they weren’t really ever going to be able to do the project. In effect, the studies give them legal and financial ‘outs’ that either kill their promise and dream or make them look ineffective by the time they’re running again for re-election.

    * Now imagine two things: 1) what if TC’s streamlined EA process had instead been an engineering stroke of pens under the command of an elected mayor in the biggest jurisdiction in the country implementing what he wanted and what he promised. What if the studies and consultations had been completed and passed by 2008? and 2) How did Madrid get so much built so fast? Could they really have had as rigorous a consultation and approval structure as we do for all of it, or did they instead build to what the national government in Spain demanded, envisioned and promised — and started building it within their mandate? For that matter, all the talk of London/ New York/ Paris having extensive systems to me ignores that when the bulk of their systems were built, just like the core spines of ours, rigorous consultation and approval structures like EAs did not exist and I suspect that they too would be grinding to a halt if they were trying to build great numbers of projects today.

    I suspect that if TC had had just a year’s worth of advancement on its build phases, it would have been impossible for a new mayor to cancel it so rapidly. For the timeline that occurred, yes, we can blame the fact that capital funding wasn’t acquired until April 2009 instead of mere months after the ’07 approvals, but I believe we also have to examine whether the process itself caused its own eventual demise. When an entire political cycle cannot get a project from the conception to execution stage, there is no hope of the projects ever being more than political ploys and discussions. Something’s got to change, and I think it may be the process itself. In short, I wish Mr. Miller had been able to just say, “Make it so!” and the implementation had been enacted to meet that command.

    The strong-hand corollary, however, unfortunately is something like how the ICTS system was foisted and forced onto the TTC — a demand by the upper tier government imposed a solution that an EA may indeed have rejected… but let’s face it — all planning reports are easily skewed and biased to match the command (shocking, I know!), and in my mind are no longer doing transit advocates any favours nowadays anyway. Do we really care that we were consulted on whether the Eglinton trains would run in the centre or on the south side as they approach Don Mills, or would we gladly have taken either result if we just knew the line would actually exist?

    I do suppose that strong hand, powerful mayor mentality that I wanted back then is exactly what we DON’T want Mr. Ford to be able to do now, but I also find myself asking if it’s really all that bad if he does just force something through — at least SOMETHING would get done rather than just becoming another study on a shelf, and the precedent would be set for future leaders to drive home their own visions and dreams while they’re still in office. The situation for the last two decades can’t continue as no dream or promise ever gets fulfilled in time that it can’t be squashed by the next guy. Maybe the dream can get done if left-right pull together, but I kinda suspect it’s even more likely to get done if we just compromise a way to get a little more dictating into our overall methods. (Right-wingers cheer! Left-wingers gasp in horror. I’m gasping myself, but am not seeing many other options for the methods as-is.)


  29. Hi Steve

    I would like to add to James Bow’s post about Toronto and its spending. Something else that must be considered in this is the added costs that amalgamation brought into play. Despite the promises that were claimed by Harris, it was not cheaper to have an amalgamated city. Costs rose, rather than declined. There was also an issue about the quality of what was transferred to the city. The city inherited the public housing stock but this was, according to a conservative administration, in far worse shape than the province claimed. It required a lot of expenditure to bring it back to standard. The same with the roads that were transferred.


  30. I believe that the intention of the amalgamation of both Ottawa and Toronto was to diminish the power of these cities against the Provincial government. As the wealth and power within the old city of Toronto grew it became apparent to the PC’s that they would be losing power over this political group, Making it dysfunctional has taken a lot of pressure off the Provincial government. In a down economy with fashion calling for deficit reduction, Mr. McGuinty will be only too glad to dump transit expansion. Don’t look for The Big Move to survive. Even if the Fords get their act together to pressure the Province to support his Scarborough idea, look for time lines to stretch out to the mid 20’s with no shovels in the ground. Hey. maybe they could keep the pressure digging machine now making its way south to Coxwell and O’Connor to keep going south on Coxwell to start the relief line. Ha!


  31. The myth of Madrid has been started during the Olympic Games. Spain is very isolated due to geographic location; the isolation was reinforced in the past by different railway gauge from neighbouring SNCF and its terrible “undemocratic” recent past.

    I have found an article dated 12th of September 2007. The writer claims that he really visited Madrid and that he was allowed to study its archives.

    Initial idea to put traffic underground emerged in 1891. Eight kilometres of subway was opened on 17th of October 1919 by King Alfonso XIII. The gauge was 1445 mm. The network has two supply systems – 600V and 1500V. Most of the cars are single systems,although there are some dual-systems.

    All streetcars have vanished between 1948 and 1972, although the writer says, that one of the streets will be (or has already been) re-used as LRT – that is, part of the line on the street, part underground.

    The expansion of Madrid network was during the 1990s one of the most important transportation projects in the world. The construction companies had at their disposal 6 (six) drilling machines; one of them made a record of 792m of tunnel during one month of drilling.

    Steve: A long table that was inline in the comment has been reformatted as a spreadsheet and printed as a PDF for easier reading. Apologies if I fouled up any formatting here, but I think it’s ok. I have added a column showing average station spacing on each segment. Note that it is much shorter in older parts of the system.

    Evolution of Madrid Network



  32. So, the mayor can appoint all committee heads and members (including the TTC) without consulting City Council. He has excluded all 12 downtown councillors from all committees (exception: Adam Vaughan, AGO board). It seems City Council can only vote against committee choices; they can never appoint. The mayor can punish anyone who disagrees with him by denying favours. Even though the right-wing at City Hall is only a minority (about 40%), the mayor has the power of an absolute majority. It seems, the only check against such power is the possibility that the mayor does a Larry O’Brien and self-destructs.

    My ex-councillor complained that the mayor (Miller at the time) had too much power. I thought it was sour grapes. Now I realize he has a point.

    Steve: Actually, if Council wanted to, it could have amended the composition of the Committees, but could not change their chairs (except for agencies like the TTC who appoint the chair and vice-chair from among their numbers, and this decision could have been affected by rebalancing the political makeup). However, the potential swing votes in the middle are new Councillors who are not yet sufficiently pissed off with the mayor to join the official opposition ranks.


  33. I think that it will be interesting to see the “NEW DRL” running through a SEWER – how appropriate for the “anti-transit/pro-car” Rob Ford administration! Let’s rename this new DRL the “ROB FORD LINE”!!!


  34. Give them time! Rob Ford’s office staff will soon try to bully them around -and they will come around and hopefully not drink the “Kool-Aid”. The first week was easy for Ford. Now he has to start reconciling revenue cuts with service levels/cuts! There is no way in hell that his “COST EFFICIENCIES” will ever make up the shortfalls and his promise that there will be “NO SERVICE CUTS”. His “VOODOO ECONOMICS” do not take into consideration inflation! How can you achieve cuts when inflation is factored in?


  35. While I’m no transit expert, I’ve attempted to estimate the operating costs myself, based on a few numbers I came across from multiple sources (including your log entry)

    Gross operating costs (ridership neglected)

    For low-density subways:

    From your blog entry it is estimated that the net operating costs for 5.5 km of subway is $8 million.

    The ridership in 2004 is 40,000/day.

    The average fare was $1.68 in 2007 (I couldn’t find the average fare for 2004).

    Therefore, the daily revenue on Sheppard from ridership is 40 000/day*$1.68 = $67,200/day.

    Mutliplying by 300 to convert to an annual revenue gets: 67,200*300 = $20.16 million/year in gross operating costs for 5.5 km of subway line
    which is an annual gross cost of $3.665 million/km subway.

    Steve: This is not a fair way to do the calculation on several counts. First, the fare revenue cannot be entirely allocated to the subway portion of the trip as most people on the Sheppard line take a bus at one end of their journey, and then the YUS to get downtown. Only part of the revenue “belongs” to the subway, and it is impossible to figure out what this is in a flat fare system with heavy use of passes. It is certainly much lower than the system average fare.

    The operating cost contains a substantial fixed cost for items such as station operations and routine maintenance of infrastructure that is not affected by the amount of riding or service. Station cost don’t necessarily translate to a per/km value because the station spacing on different lines may vary considerably.

    Finally, the real question is what it would have cost if there were no subway, how many riders the alternative service would attract, and how much revenue the alternate service would generate. Only with this information can you calculate a marginal cost/saving of having the subway, and even they this does not assign any value to the higher ridership.

    For streetcars (taking the Queen streetcar as an example):

    Daily operating cost for 2005: $79,800/day (I assume this is already gross) taken from Transit Toronto. [Steve: Who in turn took it from the TTC Annual Service Plan.]

    Annual operating costs = $79,800*300= $23.94 million for 24.779 km which is annual gross operating cost of $0.966 million/km streetcar.

    Steve: Careful here. We know that the section of the route west of Humber has only half the service of the rest of the line. Therefore the operating cost/km is not the same over the entire route. Costs are strongly affected by the amount of service operated.

    Therefore, a 15 km long Sheppard subway would cost $3.665 million *15 = $54.98 million/year

    Therefore, a 15 km long Sheppard streetcar would cost $0.966 million *15= $14.5 million/year

    Steve: No, it woudn’t. You also need to take into account the service level and relative speeds on Queen and on your “Sheppard Streetcar”, not to mention the size of the vehicles. All of these affect crewing costs as well as some of the marginal operating costs.

    Despite a few flaws (the inconsistent use of years, etc):

    My first question: is it therefore fair to conclude that a Sheppard subway would cost at least 3X as much to operate than a Sheppard streetcar from this calculation?

    Second question: How would the operating costs compare with a streetcar versus a surface LRT? Could the figure I derived from streetcars be used as an estimator for LRT?

    Steve: Unless you have much more detail about route layout, stop spacing, operating speeds and service levels, it would be very difficult. You have also not included the effect of capital costs which represent both an ongoing charge for debt service as well as an opportunity cost for other projects that might not be built and provide other benefits had the same money as a subway line cost been used for other purposes. There is no question that a subway will cost more, but nobody wants to publish just how much because it would utterly destroy the economic argument for this mode in most corridors.


  36. Also in the article on the “Sheppard Sinkhole”, you say that the city pays an additional $40 million/year to pay for initial capital costs for the Sheppard Subway. If the cost of the project was $1 billion, does that mean we’d be paying that cost for another 15 years (25 years in total, roughly), neglecting inflation?

    Also, would a transit project ever be paid through by lump sum? Or are all project financed by yearly payments? Is this the case for the Transit City projects?

    Steve: Large projects like this are financed in various ways including the use of debt by various levels of government as well as “capital from current” where current revenues pay for part of capital projects. The four percent I cite is an arbitrary, but reasonable estimate of borrowing costs for governments at the time the line was built. This only covers interest, not any payment on principal. Depending on how each government contributing to the project financed its share, there is some amount of debt “out there” that is part of the general public debt we are all paying off. The interest on such debt is not recorded as a “transit subsidy”.

    If Ontario moves to a financing model where third parties, typically large construction and/or leasing firms, builds a rapid transit line and leases it to the government (or operates it on their behalf), the debt would stay with the builder, but the cost of retiring that debt would be part of the annual lease costs for the line and would show up as an operating charge somewhere.

    Some projects have been paid for with lump sums for part of their funding, but that’s just the bookkeeping at the municipal end. For example, Queen’s Park paid off its commitment to the Sheppard Subway with a lump sum rather than waiting for the bills to come in. Basically, they said “here’s what you’re getting — don’t call us if you run short”. That money came from somewhere — either current revenues or as part of the overall provincial debt.


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