Will Nobody Stop Fords’ Folly?

The Toronto Star and Globe & Mail report that TTC Chief General Manager Gary Webster’s days may be numbered thanks to his failure to support the Sheppard Subway proposal.  Not only might we lose Webster, but we might gain a Ford cohort, a politician with no real transit experience, as his replacement.

I will leave readers to peruse the full articles, but here is a key section in the Star:

The plan to get rid of Webster “is in play now,” said former TTC vice-chair Joe Mihevc.

“(The Fords) are so committed to Sheppard they are actively contemplating getting rid of the entire streetcar system in Toronto,” he said, adding that the cost of the new streetcars could be applied to the subway.

“If Doug Ford bullies his way through on this, it truly will be the victory of extreme authoritarian ideology over good public transit policy and good business management,” Mihevc said.

Elsewhere, we learn that TTC Chair Karen Stintz who, as recently as yesterday morning praised Mayor Ford’s support for TTC customer service initiatives, is actually frustrated with the speed of implementation of changes.  The fact that there isn’t a penny for this program in the budget, and that the TTC faces a 10% cut in city funding for 2012, shows what the real level of commitment is in Toronto.

Meanwhile, the only project of any importance to the Brothers Ford is the Sheppard Subway whose “private sector” financing is a bubble of their imagination that burst months ago.  Every penny that can be scrounged from other projects, plus tax revenue from developments miles away on Eglinton, would be used to finance Sheppard and minimize the level of private sector participation needed to top up the budget.  This is financial trickery of the worst kind.

According to the Globe’s story, Stintz appears to be splitting from Ford’s all-or-nothing approach to the Sheppard line preferring instead to build to Victoria Park as a first step using money originally earmarked for the Sheppard LRT.

Queen’s Park struck a deal with the devil to preserve the Eglinton LRT as a subway while leaving Ford free to work his financial magic on Sheppard.  The streetcar system appeared safe if only because replacing it would be a long-term, difficult proposal.  However, the Liberals’ hold on power is tenuous, and a Ford-favouring Tory government would no doubt be happy to cancel the streetcar order (and probably the LRVs for Eglinton as well) with Bombardier, and the voters of Thunder Bay be damned.

In ten years, we would have a much reduced quality of transit service in the central city, we would choke streets with clouds of buses and limit the growth of major areas served by the present and proposed streetcar system.  In return, Sheppard Avenue would have its subway, and what started as Lastman’s folly and a Liberal campaign promise by former Premier David Peterson would become a full-blown monument to the stupidity of transit planning and politics in Toronto.

Has any of Rob Ford’s transit scheme gone to Council for review?  No.  Council, especially its “mushy middle”, is too busy currying favour with the Mayor to rein in his actions, leaving the Fords to dictate policy on the transit file and so many others.