Updated June 4 at 10:20 am: The Star has published an article discussing road tolls and other ways to squeeze money out of drivers to pay for transit improvements. David Gunn weighs in on the folly of a Sheppard subway, and Toronto’s transit woes in general.
Updated June 2 at 2:00 pm: Inside Toronto has published an article discussing the zoning increases needed to make the Sheppard Subway a reality. This includes an illustration of the intersection at Victoria Park developed at the density likely to exist. The drawing is from Tridel, a well-known developer, not from some wild-eyed lefty trying to frighten the locals.
Although Mayor Ford has disowned the concept of road tolls as a revenue source for subway funding, Gordon Chong continues to press the issue saying:
“I was hired to put all the options on the table and that’s what I’m doing. Road tolls are off the table for the Ford administration. But they’re still part of the toolbox. If you choose not to use that tool, that’s your choice.”
Honesty about the real cost of Ford’s obsession with subways is rare, but refreshing.
Missing from the discussion is the whole question of what development at this density will mean for suburbs through which subways are built, and by extension along Eglinton Avenue which may encounter the same fate. Just because you have a subway (or underground LRT) doesn’t mean that the neighbourhood or the roads can accept the resulting traffic and population. Many people who live in the new buildings along Sheppard do not travel by TTC, and they will simply add to congestion on the road system.
Updated May 28 at 10:30 pm: The Star has published a followup article with reaction to Royson James’ column.
Original post from 9:18 am, May 28:
Today’s article by Royson James in the Star brings the astounding news that the crew running City Hall have already run aground on their mad scheme to build subways with private sector investments.
Gordon Chong, the former TTC Commissioner and politician hired to run Toronto Transit Infrastructure Limited (TTIL) has barely moved into his office and is already talking about tolls and congestion charges. How this will sit with the “war on the car” crowd remains to be seen.
The subways will also need better government funding and higher development fees.
According to James, Chong says that
claims that the private sector will step in and build the line on their own are not realistic
This statement should surprise nobody, but coming from the current administration at City Hall it is an astounding admission of the bankruptcy of thought behind the Ford transportation plan. What was touted as a miracle of private sector investment quickly has turned into the usual exercise of looking for government handouts and new revenue tools. The private sector might be lured in somehow, but to what degree and to what benefit is uncertain. After all, with a potload of public investment, there’s less reason to give away the store in return for private capital.
This view, not yet an official City policy but certain to generate lots of debate, has implications for Metrolinx whose own “Investment Strategy” will be funded from the same collection of revenue tools. How many hands will be in motorists’ pockets at the toll booth, and is there enough revenue available to both municipal and provincial treasuries to build all of their pet projects?
Discussions at the provincial level have deliberately kept a low profile for fear of spooking voters, but the background info has been out in reports and workshops for a few years. If we want a big transit network, we have to pay for it, and this will mean public sector investment on a grand scale, however it might be disguised in neocon flim-flam.
When TTIL was created and Dr. Chong hired to run it, I feared the whole question of sound financing would disappear into research and consultation for an extended period, long enough to get Mayor Ford through the troubles of the coming 2012 budget cycle. With Chong’s public acknowledgement that private sector financing won’t get us anywhere, we must turn to the larger question of Ford’s fiscal wisdom and the state of Toronto’s finances.
Coming years will not be pretty for transit budgets as the City wrangles its deficit, and Queen’s Park sits back saying “you’re already getting enough”. Now at least one of Ford’s team has the courage to say there is no Tooth Fairy, no pot of gold hidden at City Hall to fund the something-for-nothing plan Ford sold to gullible voters.