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.

76 thoughts on “Will Nobody Stop Fords’ Folly?

  1. “I am merely saying that this sort of thing happens and has happened all the time so why is it a big deal now!”

    With respect, I think you are being somewhat selective in suggesting that it wasn’t a big deal then, and one reason I can see for arguing it is to suggest that it shouldn’t be a big deal now. Possibly, this line of argument could be used to accuse the people here of hypocrisy: why the frenzy now? Where were you when Gunn or Ducharme was shown the door?

    Except, it was a pretty big deal when Gunn and Ducharme up and quit, saying specifically that the political interference of people like Howard Moscoe had made their positions at the TTC untenable. Their resignations were pretty prominent news in Toronto, and it was a black eye against City Council. Moscoe in particular was taken to task for his abrasive style, and it brought into question the relationship between the elected council and the civil servants who are hired to serve the city. Civil servants are (theoretically) professionally obliged to provide their best professional advice; what does it say of the politician who rejects it out of hand? And how can the City of Toronto attract the best and brightest public servants if the political players treat them with such disrespect?

    So, I would put it to you that Gunn and Ducharme’s resignation were big things, and if Webster is shown the door, it would be at least as big of a thing.

    Where I think you are justified in telling everyone here to take a chill pill is the fact that we are dealing with rumours. As far as Stintz is concerned, Webster is the CGM now, and will be so tomorrow. We’ve heard nothing from the mayor’s office as to their intentions, and until we do, we are jumping the gun. I agree with that.

    However, I would be interested in hearing from you what you think would constitute a Very Bad Move ™ on the part of the mayor’s office. If the rumours turn out to be true, and Ford chooses to oust Webster because Webster refused to give his backing for the Sheppard subway. If indeed Ford decides to provide seed funding for the Sheppard subway by cancelling the legacy streetcar order and effectively ending streetcar service in this city, will you say that the mayor is making a good decision? Or would you say that he is being excessively dogmatic, and that his bullheadedness is doing serious damage to the city?

    Steve: All this about “rumours” and playing down what’s happening sounds very altruistic. However, I have been hearing about the Fords, Webster and Stintz for months, but have not published anything because I could not attribute sources.


  2. The fact that Karen Stintz appears to be breaking ranks with the mayor’s office on issues like the Sheppard subway extension and removing Gary Webster is quite surprising. I wouldn’t have expected it, especially not this soon too, given how short a leash the mayor’s office keeps everybody on and the fact that she appeared to be one of the city councillors heavily favored by the Fords until now. I will give credit where credit is due if Karen Stintz runs the TTC in the best interest of the passengers who use it but I’m still not 100% convinced that she’s willing to risk making a big break from the agenda set by the mayor’s office to do so. It will be interesting to see how this develops over the next few months.

    The TTC is one of the biggest issues at play here but Rob and Doug Ford’s administration’s policies concerning so many things are extremely detrimental to the quality of life in this city. Even if Ford isn’t re-elected in three years’ time, the damage may be substantial and will be both costly and time consuming to repair. Some things like streetcar abandonment if it should happen would probably be irreversible. The question is, how do we convince those in charge not to proceed with many of the bad ideas that are being pushed? I don’t have an answer to this one since anybody that complains is immediately written off as a lefty pinko elite no matter how well reasoned, articulated, and researched they may be in making their point. As for the anti-elitism being sold for political purposes, it doesn’t get more bourgeoise-elite than being a wealthy factory owner, of say a label and tag printing plant, for example, does it?


  3. Raymond Kennedy said:

    “Perhaps it is time for the Province to take a bold step and have Metrolinx build the Sheppard Subway and buy back the existing “stubway”.”

    The problem is, with the deficit the province is facing, the fact that they are partly funding the Spadina extension and fully funding the Crosstown (including possibly operating it), and Ford’s blustering that the private sector will do it for us; why would the province be interested in spending another four billion or more on Toronto’s subway network after the fall election? Frankly, it’s best we just focus on holding the province to their existing commitments with transit regardless of who wins this fall before asking for more.

    Ernie said:

    “Even if you replace him with one of his cronies, the 4 billion dollars to build the Sheppard subway extension will not appear by 2015 (Ford’s announced date for completion of the extension), barring a major announcement from the Federal government.”

    Actually, if I’m not mistaken, I think we’ve already passed the point where even a “money is no object” level of funding would be unable to complete it by 2015. Mind you, that’s assuming that they don’t go to such extremes like establishing the Canadian Forces Sheppard Avenue East Urban Carpet Bombing Range to speed up construction.

    Steve: More likely, we would have a change of technology to flying carpets. Yet another technology Ontario and Canada can export to the rest of the world after billions in development costs.


  4. Hi Steve,

    This is a very sad time for this beautiful city. I note people are saying, “it’s only rumours” at the moment etc. Who do you think starts these rumours, the Mayor’s lackies of course, they are testing the water to see what kind of backlash there will be when they officially announce they are scrapping the system. This is the time when the “Save Our Streetcars” should be up and running.

    The way this buffoon(s) is becoming a dictator is making Toronto a laughing stock, this guy belongs back in the 1920’s and it’s up to the people of Toronto to send him there, don’t just sit around waiting for someone else to do it. His agenda is to get all the unpopular things done in the first part of his term so it’s mostly forgotten about or can’t be undone by the time the next election comes around.

    Geez, if I wasn’t living in Melbourne (the largest streetcar city in the world) and was still in the GTA, I’d be out there doing SOMETHING other than commenting on chat groups!

    (devastated by what is happening to his favourite city)


  5. I believe the LFLRV contract was worth $1.5 billion, and freeing up this money covers a significant portion of a Sheppard Subway extension.

    Steve: $1.2bm of which 1/3 comes from Queen’s Park. Therefore there is only about $800m of city money in that. Then there’s the Ashbridge Carhouse which is up to around $450m. The site could be recycled as a bus garage, but more would be needed elsewhere to accommodate a very large bus fleet capable of handling not just current service levels, but the backlog of improvements needed due to rising demand on the major streetcar lines. Then there’s the cost of the buses and their operation. Yes, if all you look at is the short term saving of not buying streetcars, there’s roughly a billion on the table, but taking that decision commits you to major expenses on the operating and capital budgets in the future, not to mention constraints on the level of service possible on some major routes.

    Steve, can Bombardier impose a penalty/lawsuit on the city as high as the contract itself? If that’s how high the penalties to the city are, then cancelling the LFLRV contract won’t do anything for Sheppard.

    Steve: Bombardier would probably go after all sunk costs of design plus some allowance for future loss of business. They would not be able to claim the full contract value because a good chunk of that goes to subsystems such as electronics that would be purchased from other manufacturers.


  6. I’m writing from far away (from Switzerland) because I was reading this great interest. It seems to be a replay in history. Wasn’t it the name Ford, who destroyed the urban railways in most US cities? Is it really necesary that such things happen again in a time when environmental issues become more and more important and gas prices will rise? A city of the dimensions like Toronto without streetcars will die. I see the financial problems the city is facing. But is there any city in this world who has no financial problems? Abandoning such a good streetcars system as Toronto has will be the biggest mistake ever. The people of Toronto should go out to the street to protest in favour of this cheap and environmentally friendly and good transport system.


  7. Greg King says:

    “I’d be out there doing SOMETHING other than commenting on chat groups!”

    From what I heard, last week hundreds of people attended various committee meetings at City Hall to give public deputations to express outrage over the proposed cuts. Cyclists held a mass ride on Jarvis street to protest the removal of the Jarvis St. bike lanes. To me, that looks like Torontonians are doing something rather than just merely commenting on chat groups.

    Steve: The real challenge is to pry loose enough votes at Council to wrest control from the Executive Committee that is packed with Ford acolytes. Speaking to Exec is almost a waste of time for the direct audience of the committee, but valuable for the wider audience of Councillors and media as a means of educating them about the true effect of proposed cutbacks.


  8. P. Coulman writes:

    “I have lived in the beach for over 27 years and yes, I think the streetcars were wonderful 20 years ago, I would like to see them gone from the beach. The quaint days of sleepy trams trundling through are over!”

    Can you please explain what’s changed in 20 years to have changed streetcar service from “wonderful” to apparently relics of bygone days?

    Same CLRVs and ALRVs. Same traffic with everyone trying to drive to the Beach(es) on weekends. Probably better service to Neville Park … at least there was better service while Bussin was pushing for it.


  9. I got this note from a facebook friend. I was astounded – it took Pierre Trudeau eight years to get to this point. Wee Bobby Ford is moving fast! I think we will see some real political problems develop. The Fords are bullies but they are not dealing with cowards on city council or in the province.


  10. Well James,

    If Ford chooses to oust Webster, I would have no problem with the decision regardless of the reason. While “we” hire good minds (and pay them very well) to advise us and give us their best professional opinion, at the end of the day (in all political life) you have to obey the ‘boss’. As Steve himself said in an earlier post, “From a Commissioner’s point of view, any CGM who expects to operate without some political interference is hopelessly naïve.”

    Also I do not think any of those ‘firings’ you mentioned could be called a big deal outside of transit circles. It’s the same as a new Police Chief or a new Fire Chief. What’s the difference? I WOULD be bothered if Ford mothballed the trams to pay for Sheppard as I do not support anything but buses on Sheppard at the moment however, I would NOT BE BOTHERED if he mothballed them for other reasons.

    No offense intended but I’m not as emotionally attached to the trolleys as some of you guys are. Since I was raised in North Toronto, late-50’s, early-60’s, I never rode a streetcar until I was 15 or so. It was all buses and subway, and outside of the odd Leaf hockey game and the Simpsons’ & Eatons’ Christmas window displays, we never had the need to go downtown so I missed out on riding the trams. I live in the beach for the last 25 years and I would not miss the streetcars if they went. I don’t drive and take transit everywhere. It’s a nice nostalgic moment when the PPC comes trundling along every once in a while but otherwise I find the streetcars annoying. Again, just me.

    I appreciate your guys concern for better transit for all, but I think we need to get our ‘house’ in order first. We have to stop spending and get what we now have properly maintained and funded and then we expand. We are about to run a subway so far out to nowhere it makes the Sheppard line look really useful. Can we even afford to operate this? Previous administrations have taxed, no I mean added ‘revenue tools’ which I think is BS. You get your ‘house’ in order by controlling spending, you do not just go borrow or tax on top so you can continue your out of control spending. So for now, yes, some folks, through no fault of their own, might just lose their bus service or their night bus service or whatever. Unfortunate but tough times require tough measures.

    Steve: The myth that our spending is out of control arises from the premise that taxes (and fares) are too high, and that the services we provide with them are not “essential”. It’s worth noting that the Sheppard subway exists because of administrations predating David Miller, and that even the Spadina subway extension was not his pet project (although he supported it for broader political reasons). In the current city budget “debates”, Mayor Ford continues to prattle on about the $774m “deficit” even though this has already been cut roughly in half by unexpected revenues and cost savings, and further savings are likely without broad-brush cutbacks. The tactic is to frighten people and paint anyone who wants to preserve a service as opposing the greater good of tax relief. This ignores the value of whatever service might be under review.

    I would have greater faith in Ford’s approach to cost cutting if it were not for what he is doing on Sheppard. The line doesn’t make sense financially, it isn’t the highest priority for spending on transit, and the scheme to use private sector funding is impractical. If this were any other project, we would hear about how the City can’t afford such things in difficult times. Ford’s insistence that the project be paid for by raiding whatever budgets are available shows that “value for money” is not what he’s interested in.

    As for the PCCs, cities with historic fleets run them as tourist attractions, and as a way citizens can enjoy some contact with their own city’s past. This has a value like so many other things that make Toronto what it is. By the way, streetcars ran in “North Toronto” until the Mt. Pleasant line came off in the 70s.


  11. @Ed
    sorry, I’m old. I still think 20 years ago refers to the 70′ & 80’s

    I was referring to the PCC days which was pretty good service! Once the big cars arrived, service got worse and worse as they figured they could run wider headway, use less cars and everything would be golden.

    @ Steve
    yes, the streetcar on Mt Pleasant was the first one I ever rode and no, I am not blaming Miller for the Spadina to nowhere subway at all and it is my recollection that Sheppard survived for no other reason than Lastman won the “p****sing contest” and even though the current length is roughly equivalent as Yonge to Woodbine, it still should have gone a little further from the start.
    I’ll admit I’m at a loss as to budget or any numbers.

    The older I get I realize that any good accountant can, by using the same numbers, make you look rich on one hand, and make you look poor on the other hand. All legal, just by manipulating the numbers, so I don’t know who to believe. Obviously Ford is pushing for huge numbers and his opposition is trying to show lower deficit numbers.

    I kind of think that Ford’s battle plan is close to genius. By attacking everything, left. right. middle, and from all sides. Obviously he’s not going to cut all the Fire services or decimate the cops, but by attacking like this, whatever he does come up with in the end, will seem like a relief to everybody and he can claim is was a tough fight but he did it for us all. The general population will probably fall for this and like the guy even more.

    Steve: I agree that his scattershot approach will ensure he gets some cuts while his opposition wears itself out fighting on many, many fronts. There will also be lots of small things saved that can be cherry-picked for future campaigns against “waste” and “special interests”.


  12. Pete,

    You talk about having to make tough choices, but then you go and oppose tax increases. I would put it to you that having to increase taxes is just the same tough choice as having to cut spending. If we want good government, that is something we have to pay for. And speaking as a taxpayer who knows precisely how much taxes he pays each year (I work on contract, with little or no tax withholding. Whatever tax I pay comes out in one lump sum come April 30, or in monthly property tax increments), I’m willing to pay more taxes than I’m paying now to ensure that the services my community benefits from remain in the years to come.

    I agree with you that deficit spending is a serious issue. We can’t borrow indefinitely. But if you view the only acceptable solution for living within our means is spending cuts, leaving tax increases off the table dogmatically, I personally believe you are looking at this issue with a very blinkered viewpoint.

    The KPMG studies have shown that there is very little actual “gravy” in the City of Toronto’s budget. There is almost no inefficiencies. Workers are being paid roughly market rates. The City is delivering provincially mandated services in the most cost-effective ways yet seen. The only spending cuts KPMG has been able to identify has been actual cuts to services, and in each and every case, they’ve identified negative consequences to each measure. From an increase in tooth decay from the elimination of fluoridation, to seriously inconveniencing shift workers if night bus service is eliminated.

    And given that Ford promised “no major cuts to services”, then I think we have an obligation to debate seriously the consequences of the potential cuts that KPMG has identified. And since Ford is now looking at violating his campaign promise not to cut services in order to balance the budget (as he is legally obliged to do), then surely it’s fair (or, at least, within the bounds of debate) to suggest that he should also consider going back on the other part of his promise not to raise taxes.

    Budget chief Mike Del Grande himself said that Toronto pays the lowest taxes in the GTA and receives the most services, so it seems to me that tax increases should be on the table. If that maintains good transit service, a good library service, decent police coverage, and so on, then the decision to raise taxes in these tough times is as necessary a “tough choice” as cutting those same services in order to lower taxes that area already among the lowest in the GTA.


  13. Pete,

    Although it’s been pointed out elsewhere, I should mention to you that eliminating the streetcars is not a fiscally prudent measure. The streetcars themselves, in the streets in which they’re called upon to operate, are not operating noticeably slower than the buses that would replace them, and buses do not have the advantage of a streetcar’s capacity. To maintain the same level of capacity on the King streetcar, wherein 30 streetcars are assigned to the line’s peak hour, per direction, at least 40 buses would be required to provide that same service. That INCREASES the congestion on King street, increases pollution on the street, and increases the number of drivers the TTC has to pay for. And King Street needs more public transit service, not less.

    I support Toronto’s streetcars not because they’re quaint, or I have a nostalgic soft spot for them, but because they are the best technological solution for the public transit picture in the area. And the American cities that are re-investing in streetcar and LRT networks are showing that this belief is shared among many other cities, with whom Toronto will be increasingly called upon to compete for international investment in the coming years.


  14. @ James
    We will just have to agree to disagree. It’s totally irrelevant how much taxes are paid in Toronto as opposed to elsewhere. Wanna pay higher taxes? then move there, or wanna pay lower taxes? then move here. Apples and Oranges.

    Spending cuts are not the only answer but I sure want every drip of blood to had BEFORE I pay more taxes. Like you I also pay quarterly and I pay more than most make but that’s just what we have to do. We can argue all day but I think closing down some libraries, combining some ‘close-by’ ones is fair game. Don’t touch fire, don’t touch police but if Pride funding gets cut, well, rather than sitting back they will just have to fund-raise like everybody else. I am willing to pay more taxes IF cuts happen also. I think the City has too many employees, why not contract out some grass cutting, more garbage etc. Everybody should share the pain – no free rides!

    I don’t know what happened and am not blaming anybody but when I first bought this house in 1989 I was making “X” and had a mortgage at around 17%. (You are probably too young to remember those fun days) Didn’t really have a problem keeping up. Wasn’t easy all the time, but not difficult. Now, 22 years later I am making about 12 times “X” and I have a really hard time keeping up. Not only that but I feel my services have been cut by 2/3rds. I don’t care if he lies, time for cuts. Show me you are serious and make some cuts, painful as they may be and then I will be happy for them to fleece my pocket even more.

    As far as streetcars, I don’t want them gone… if they do go, that would be OK with me.

    I grew up on Brills, Old Looks, New Looks etc. Just my opinion

    yes, PM (1230-730) 501 service is way better since they have fully crewed the SAC cars which at this time ALL run from Neville to the carhouse only. (The actual car continues but the drivers all change). That plus the PM 143 Express runs local EB from Coxwell. AM 501 service & weekends is still hit and miss.

    Re: Ex-Queen-of-the-Beach, HRH Bussin, she did not do a thing and is not in the least missed. She should have been dispatched years ago, IMO. (Well her neighbors don’t get the extra free snow plowing and the ice cream trucks can’t park there anymore).

    Steve: I have to agree about Sandra Bussin. I did a lot of work on analysis of the 501 service, and while I didn’t agree with everything the TTC tried, they at least made an effort to improve things. Bussin swooped in to a meeting that had actually been planned to talk about the entire line, including the west end where service is quite erratic and there is no special crewing arrangement, and took over as if the meeting and the fixes were her doing. I was not amused. She was similarly high-handed at TTC meetings.

    As for the proposed budget cuts and staffing, there has been no analysis of the effect of many cuts from the point of view of what we lose. It’s easy to dismiss the process as “just a few libraries” or “Pride can fend for itself”, but the story is different when we’re looking at cutting support for community groups that provide valuable services. Telling people to just go and fundraise isn’t an option in all parts of the city and for all causes.

    When I worked at TDSB, one huge problem we had was that fundraising by schools produced vastly different results depending on the type of neighbourhood a school was in. The very schools that most needed funding for extras were the least likely to have the resources to pay for them. The whole idea of central taxation and program funding is to share the wealth of the city generally. Yup, that’s pinko socialism and I have no problem with it.


  15. A lot of this hit-everybody-and-everything-early-in-the-term comes straight out of “Unfinished Business” by former New Zealand Finance Minister Roger Douglas, who in the mid-80’s did a Margaret Thatcher number on New Zealand. He came around to Ontario around 1994, offering his advice to the Bob Rae NDP government. I was at a lecture by him at the U of T and have an autographed copy of his book. The NDP didn’t buy it, but it seems the Harris Tories did. Douglas represents an extreme libertarian political philosophy, strange for someone who was a Labour Party MP and cabinet minister. He later co-founded the libertarian ACT party.

    In Douglas’ scheme, just about everything becomes private. He very much pushed the idea that many people have unwarranted privileges, and that by hitting very widely and early you can defuse opposition by the next election.

    How can we counter such negative politics? That’s the great question, especially when the Ontario Tories are on the ascendant. In my opinion, the most competent progressive people are working for the union movement, and furthermore party discipline needs to be practised on the progressive side; the Fords have cleverly done that on the Right. With proper collective discipline, the excesses of Bussin, Giambrone et al. would never have blown up, and Miller would not have disastrously provoked a strike. Of course, effective one-man rule combined with party discipline allows the disastrous decisions of a Bob Rae to happen …. perhaps the Fords are also about to commit even bigger errors.

    People should look at the history of Vancouver politics to see how a similarly buffoonish clown was defeated in 1972 by an alliance of Liberal and NDP supporters.


  16. “Yup, that’s pinko socialism and I have no problem with it.”

    To build on what Steve has said, there are good capitalist reasons for this type of spending. Money spent by the government isn’t always (or often) money down the drain. The city is making an investment that comes back to the residents in the form of improved economic activity, increased investment, and more jobs. Businesses do this all the time, and there’s no reason why governments can’t do this in situations where businesses can’t, or won’t.

    This is language that Ford and others have applied in defending the Sheppard subway. The money spent on the infrastructure will allow vast areas of the city to redevelop, and to redevelop more densely than before. This is a major influx of cash, construction jobs, and new residents who will spend money on shops and restaurants, and so on, and so on, and so on. There simply isn’t enough profit in the venture for Bombardier to go in, on its own, dig up Sheppard Avenue, install a subway, and recoup its costs through fares alone. To make the venture worthwhile, it would have to tap into the economic development that grows up around its project. We already call that taxes (or development charges).

    For years, I couldn’t understand why Caribana always lost money through the 1980s. It was attracting about a million visitors into the city, from well outside the city, all of whom were spending money. The first time I saw an American fifty dollar bill was in Chinatown, spent by one of these tourists. They had all this money, and the businesses around the Caribana parade route were clearly benefitting from it, so why couldn’t the Caribana parade make ends meet?

    This was before the age of big sponsors, and sponsors could well be a good alternative today to such cultural festivals as Luminato, the Pride parade, or Taste of the Danforth. But the city gets a return on its investment by spending wisely on a number of cultural events such as these. And a similar (or higher) rate of return is achieved by spending money on public transportation. Congestion throughout the GTA is costing our economy $5 billion per year in terms of increased fuel costs, shipping delays, pollution costs, et cetera. Reduce that, and the region as a whole benefits with more jobs.

    I agree that you need to spend efficiently, and you should always be on the lookout for the best deal. I agree that there are some things that are better investments than others, and the city should focus on that, and cast aside what doesn’t make sense. But this process requires some forethought here. The statement that “I don’t care if he lies, time for cuts” really takes me aback. Never mind that my Christian self was told more than once that I would burn in hell if I lied, how can you possibly be sure that Ford is giving you credible reasons that what he wants to be cut should be cut, and that what he cuts won’t hurt you in the long run, if you don’t care that he is honest with you?

    By cutting out investments in the economy of the city’s future, you are cutting into the city’s ability to raise taxes through increased investment and economic growth, and the cost of that is an INCREASED tax burden on your home as infrastructure ages and deteriorates and needs to be replaced, and the funding that could have come from stronger economic activity in the city simply isn’t there.

    Increasingly, Toronto is being asked to compete against American centres that were, in the 1970s, thought to be long dead. Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, even Montreal — investment bypassed these urban centres and went to Toronto because of the social and political problems that these cities were experiencing, and you benefitted from that economic reality by living in a city that could pay its bills.

    But the US federal government has invested billions revitalizing the downtown cores of Cleveland and Chicago, and they’re nowhere near the hellholes that they were in the 1970s. Montreal has come a long way, baby, since its separatist-inspired exodus, and is a vibrant urban centre that is experiencing great new development. Their transit agency puts the TTC to shame in a few respects, but then their forebox recovery ratio only has to be 50%. Increasingly, international investors looking to spend money in the urban centres of northeast North America will find much to attract them in the big cities around Toronto, unless Toronto makes some investments in its own right, cleaning up the Port lands, promoting a good quality of life to attract a highly skilled workforce, and finding ways of staying on top of its congestion.

    It’s for this reason that Ford’s actions could make it even harder for you to get by in this city ten years down the line. That’s what I’m concerned about.

    And, as an aside, it’s already been shown that contracting out the grass cutting and garbage does little to actually save all that money. Our public sector workers are actually fairly darn efficient, and they too are already sharing a fair amount of the pain of this economic recession. It seems to me that politicians like Ford (and Smitherman) often liken privatization and contracting out as a big silver bullet, making the costs go away, but you’re still hiring workers. Instead, your going through a corporate middleman to get them. I’m amenable to looking at things on a case-by-case basis, but my experience is that the promised savings rarely materialize. YRT’s pay scale is lower than that of the TTC, but not _that_ much lower.

    I don’t think it’s too much to ask that our politicians think very carefully, debate a lot, and be willing to listen to a diversity of opinions when it comes to the very real problems we’ll have to solve in 2012. The current partisan crowd on city council do not yet seem intent on doing this. And that’s a shame. It harms this city, and it harms us all.


  17. Toronto needs to look at the political reality.  Rob Ford is the mayor for at least 3, and possibly more, years and Tim Hudak is poised to be the next Premier, and both are not the greatest proponents of transit, and especially not of Transit City.  it seems something palatable to these two must be found.

    Ford’s reasons for disliking LRT, which appears to be shared by his supporters, include; traffic lanes being blocked or eliminated, inconvenience of waiting in the centre of the road in inclement weather, and the transfer at the Sheppard subway.  Can LRT be located beside the road instead of in the centre?  Can roads be widened to retain all traffic lanes?  Can overpasses be built at major intersections to compensate for the loss of traffic lanes?  Can stations be a bit more enclosed?  Some of these could be done at a much lower cost than burying the entire line.‬‪

    Steve: Side of road construction tends to work poorly where there are abutting properties that need access. Widening was in fact planned for both Sheppard and Finch using, in the main, property that was already part of the road allowance. This was not generally acknowledged (or maybe conveniently ignored) by anti LRT factions. Overpasses/underpasses make intersections much more complex and generally poison them for pedestrian access. For examples of “a bit more enclosed stations”, see VIVA which is, wait for it, BRT in the middle of the street.

    Can areas of the city be served by other means than the LRT?  For example, Agincourt GO to Kennedy Subway with frequent service could be viewed as a way to help the people of North Scarborough instead of a  Sheppard subway (or LRT).   Enhanced GO service in other areas may also be feasible.‬‪

    Steve: I and others have been writing about the role of GO for some time. However, it’s important to remember that there are at least two distinct demand patterns to be served. One is the radial suburbs-to-downtown flow, mainly peak period. This lends itself well to GO, and carrying these riders on commuter rail would shave the top off of demand on an LRT line (at the expense of using capacity at Union Station). However, there is the question of local riding along the routes, as well as traffic that is not core-oriented. Oddly enough, the demand modelled by Metrolinx on Eglinton looks a lot more like core-oriented trips, but I will know more when I have a chance to meet with Metrolinx staff.

    Transit will come up as an issue in the election and the debate will go from the blogs to the papers to the politicians.  Hudak may be interested in putting money into GO expansion, if he can save more elsewhere.  Ford could use it as an excuse to have his mind changed on subways on Eglinton and Sheppard.  Without providing some options, Ford could build the Sheppard subway tunnel (and leave the tracks and stations for later), and/or bend the Eglinton LRT at Vic Park to follow the Hydro ROW (forever setting those modes and locations), so that Ford can declare he has reduced costs, improved transit and fulfilled the essence of his election promises.‬‪

    Steve: I don’t think Hudak would do anything beyond cutting back the scale of Metrolinx plans, or at least demanding some badly-needed realism about what they are hoping to build. The Big Move needs review in light of increased costs and the number of changes implemented by announcements from the Premier’s office. As for Ford, he wants one thing only, the Sheppard Subway. Anything else would require admitting he might have been wrong, not to mention compromise on an alternative. That’s not Ford’s style.


  18. Gentlemen, all fair comments. I’m not sure why you are bothered by the “lying”? “burn in hell”???? Huh??? It’s politics, shall we start with Mulroney and then Chretien “elect me and I’ll kill the GST” and then move thru the years up to the biggest liar of all, Mr. Dalton…….. So who is telling the truth????

    I also don’t think Ford got elected on promises, no tax, no service cuts etc. I think he got elected because he out-smoked, out-gunned, out-maneuvered all of the competition. The sound byte, “GRAVY” in all it’s forms was brilliant. Every newspaper, TV, radio, internet all grabbed on to this one and why not, because of the food connotation everybody instantly knew what it meant. No guessing here. Most politicians dream about that kind of publicity. Ford never had to say another word. To create a slogan of so few words, yet it actually meant something, also rolled off the tongue and was catchy as hell I think was a master-stroke.( Whoever thought that up I should say)

    Anyways, I also disagree about SOME public sector workers being more efficient,. Down my end it used to take 5 city workers 2 1/2 days to cut the RC Harris lawns etc. Recently the job has gone to a private company and 2 guys do the entire job beautifully in ONE day. There must be some savings there??? (Of course the irate city guys do a lot of tire slashing etc but that’s to be expected.)

    I know it’s probably simplistic of me but you seem to be saying let’s spend, spend, spend and raise taxes at the same time.

    To get back to transit a bit here, in every household, every government, sometimes there has to be a little pain. Sometimes your kid has to wait an extra year before going to college, maybe you have to put off buying that house or maybe you can’t afford to paint the house you have for another year or whatever. Governments are the same. I think we need to put off some of the transit building frenzy, not kill it We have a new subway to nowhere we have to pay to operate and I guess maintain, a ton of new streetcars, new carhouses, a pile of new subway trains, new LRT or subway or whatever it is on Eglinton, still maintain an aging infrastructure that is already starting to fall apart and so on. Maybe congestion and the environment can wait a few years until we are a better position to afford it all?

    Steve: If there were any indication of careful consideration of spending options and of the effects of proposed actions, along with a recognition that there are many different and equally valid ways of determining that a service is “worthwhile” or “essential”, I might agree with your overall analysis. However, there is no sign of such subtlety coming from Ford or his supporters.

    Also, there is a fundamental difference between saying “we could do a job better, cheaper” by changing how a service is provided, and saying “this service isn’t worth doing at all” without considering the implications. Assuming that the communities or the private sector will magically pick up the threads is terribly naive, and also ignores the benefit of programs delivered on a common basis through city-wide agencies. In the transit world, we can debate who should provide transit service, but this is a separate question from whether we should have transit service at all.

    The Fords (or their handlers) cleverly mix together discussions of issues of many kinds with widely varying constituencies. Just about anything the city does will have some group who thinks it is a complete waste of money. Lumping everything together lets everyone hate some part of the whole, and by extension denigrate stuff that has been included in the grab bag.


  19. Steve says:

    ” Yes, if all you look at is the short term saving of not buying streetcars, there’s roughly a billion on the table, but taking that decision commits you to major expenses on the operating and capital budgets in the future, not to mention constraints on the level of service possible on some major routes.”

    As if Rob Ford cares about maintaining transit service. I’m sure he’d happily raid the short-term savings from the cancelled streetcar contract to pay for the Sheppard Subway and not give a crap about what happens to downtown service thereafter.

    About how much are the sunk costs at this point? (i.e. how much money has been used so far?)

    Steve: I suspect we’re not up to $100-million yet on the streetcar contract as the really expensive stuff — building the cars — has not progressed beyond work on the prototypes. There’s also the money spent on design and site prep for the carhouse at Ashbridge’s Bay, but again that’s in the tens of millions.


  20. Steve: Side of road construction tends to work poorly where there are abutting properties that need access.

    Yes, but there are areas where such issues were very few, yet staff would never consider it even in areas where it made ample sense.


  21. “I was referring to the PCC days which was pretty good service! Once the big cars arrived, service got worse and worse as they figured they could run wider headway, use less cars and everything would be golden.”

    Like you, I remember the PCC era. I also rode the first CLRVs on Long Branch and was not really impressed. The CLRVs have since grown on me (somewhat), and appear to have, at 30+ years of age, held up in most ways much better than PCCs of similar age. However, there are a number of ironies I see here as well.

    1. The good service was with old equipment. The bad service came with “new, modern” equipment.
    2. There were nevertheless people in the PCC days pointing at the PCCs and saying “get rid of streetcar service so we don’t need to look at these relics of the 1940s!” What you saw as good service back in the 1970s others saw as obsolete forms of transport.
    3. I think it’s hasty to say “I won’t miss it if streetcars go away”, because we are (hopefully) at the end of the CLRV/ALRV era and heading into the era of the new cars. While the proof will be in the riding, I can tell you that I have been on my share of crowded Orion VIIs and it’s a miserable experience. I’d much rather be on an equally crowded CLRV (even missing A/C), and hold out hope that the new cars will be much nicer to be on than a VII. Unfortunately for years to come, VIIs will be the backbone of the bus fleet, and I can’t see them handing the sorts of crowds we see on King and Queen.

    Steve: Last weekend on Roncesvalles, it was amusing how the celebrations had to pause from time to time while a 504 bus roared by. People who long for frequent service with buses don’t take this sort of thing into account. A related issue is that of street design. On a big suburban arterial, the noise isn’t constrained by buildings and the street is so wide that pedestrian activities tend to be far removed from the traffic. On a narrow city street, the situation is far different. I am particularly looking forward to the disappearance of the “thunder track” on the south end of Spadina and on Queen’s Quay over the next year as this is not a good advert for the benefits of rail transit.


  22. To get back to transit a bit here, in every household, every government, sometimes there has to be a little pain. Sometimes your kid has to wait an extra year before going to college, maybe you have to put off buying that house or maybe you can’t afford to paint the house you have for another year or whatever. Governments are the same. I think we need to put off some of the transit building frenzy, not kill it We have a new subway to nowhere we have to pay to operate and I guess maintain, a ton of new streetcars, new carhouses, a pile of new subway trains, new LRT or subway or whatever it is on Eglinton, still maintain an aging infrastructure that is already starting to fall apart and so on. Maybe congestion and the environment can wait a few years until we are a better position to afford it all?

    The new subway trains, streetcars, carhouse are paid for. The Ontario government’s paying for whatever is going to be built under Eglinton even if it ultimately amounts to nothing more than contract cancellation penalty fees sometime after October. The Ontario and Federal governments are paying for a substantial part of the Spadina line extension.

    Steve: Actually, the streetcars are only 1/3 paid for by Queen’s Park, and the carhouse is all on Toronto’s dime. On the subway, there are several projects required to actually achieve the capacity increases the TTC touts so often, and these are not yet funded.

    At the same time, how many times are governments going to say “…too expensive…can’t do it right now…” and cancel transit improvements? Look at Eglinton. Eglinton has to be the best example in this city. Construction on building trolleybus infrastructure got stopped (my understanding this was more NIMBY than cost but still). Construction on building a subway got stopped. Should construction on building the LRT get stopped? How many different projects need to get stopped on Eglinton alone in the name of austerity while the crummy bus service mopes along at average speeds that decline every year for the last 30+ year and every attempt at improvement gets shot down? As for not painting things etc. the TTC has already officially started doing deferred maintenance again as a cost saving measure. We’ve already been around the block with that before and we know from experience that it’s not a good idea.

    Steve: Trolleybus infrastructure? The last “stop” on that was over half a century ago when the then Village of Forest Hill wouldn’t let the TTC extend wires into its precious territory. In the relatively more recent era, the biggest problem with TBs was that TTC management actively worked against them, assisted by the Ministry of Transportation and the natural gas bus lobbyists.

    There are other issues that need to be considered, too. The fact that Toronto has the worst commuting times in North America and financial cost traffic congestion is pegged at several billion dollars lost from the economy according to the Toronto Board of Trade, doing nothing is a very expensive way of saving money. There is also opportunity cost in the form of business lost to other more competitive cities.

    As for the “war on the car” being over. Motorists stand to benefit from public transportation improvements which free up road space formerly used by other drivers who become discretionary TTC riders.

    It’s become fashionable to preach austerity for those who can least afford it in recent years. Lowering TTC service while attempting raising fares for captive riders but removing the car registration tax that worked out to the same value of the proposed fare increase and eliminating the land transfer tax for those who have the good fortune of being wealthy enough to purchase expensive Toronto real estate may play well to people like my very wealthy grandmother who thinks that other people should suffer for the sake of suffering but I don’t think it’s a good idea and I don’t think it’s something that city hall under anybody’s administration should be pushing.

    Steve: Musings about fare by distance also have a social element. The people who can afford to live close to where they work would benefit from such a scheme, while those who must travel a long way by transit would pay more for the same service. I doubt very much that we would actually see someone propose large-scale service improvements in an era of cutbacks where the main purpose of higher fares would be to lower the subsidy level. As things stand, we face cutbacks in service quality by reduction in the TTC Service Standards as part of the 2012 cutbacks. This is already pitched in some quarters as one of those necessary adjustments to hard times.


  23. So how do we stop the Fords? We are going to have to stop them. That’s getting more and more clear. I really think there is a lot of opposition to them but it is scattered over a number of issues which, as has been mentioned above, they seem smart enough to exploit. There must be a way of rallying the opposition. We’ve had battles before and won them e.g. the Spadina Expressway or the battle to Save Our Streetcars led by Steve himself and arguably we have potentially more allies now. It’s time to start pressuring the soft middle Councillors. Name them to start with. They’re to comfortable hiding behind Ford’;s fat a**. Drag them out into the sunlight!

    Many of us are retirement age now and the real fight will have to come from the younger generation. Believe me they will rise to it! I was very impressed at the efforts I saw put forth by so many young people to save Transit City. I saw few names from the older Transit lobbies. These guys were doing it on their own. They have their own reasons for knowing that what is going on isn’t right although that doesn’t mean that help and inspiration from more seasoned veterans wouldn’t be appreciated. It’s also worth noting that they know how to use such media as Facebook and Twitter in the fight. These were devices that helped bring the obscure Barack Obama to prominence.

    Perhaps the Shepperd Subway is the place to start. Why is Ford so anxious to build it? It has become an obsession with him and maybe it could become his Achilles Heal.

    I didn’t think I would live to see us having to fight to save our streetcars again, certainly not in my day.


  24. After reading [Doug] Ford’s comments on the Toronto Star website regarding Margaret Atwood’s attempts to stop the closing of library branches, I think it’s fair to say that the only way to stop Ford from going off the deep end with the Sheppard subway is an open council revolt.

    In other words, keep writing to your councillor.


  25. Hi Steve and Nick L:-

    Well Margaret Atwood ain’t no ball scratching Don ‘The Grapes’ Cherry, eh! So who the heck cares what she says when we gots the greatest mind and mouth on earth, the wise sage ‘Grapes’, eh!!!! And he ain’t no Pinko, ya know whats I mean, eh!!!!


    Steve: Well, I know who Margaret Atwood is and have seen her browsing along Queen Street on occasion. Guess that means I am utterly incompetent to comment on municipal affairs.


  26. well guys, I’m no pinko either but I guess you would label me an idiot also. I was born here, got a couple of so-so UofT degrees and I would not recognize Atwood if you stuck a gun to my head and a hundred dollar bill on my forehead. I know who she is and many decades ago I tried to read one of her books, hated it and thought she was a boring writer. I’m aware that there are some out there that think she’s gold…not me, so there is another reason to call me an idiot.

    @DavidO… The ‘battles’ you speak of were over 40 years ago…anything more recent??

    Steve: The problem with Doug Ford is not that he doesn’t know who Atwood is, but that he doesn’t even care, and thinks that the only way she would be worth listening to would be for her to be elected. So why has his brother inviting the whole town to City Hall to speak for 5 minutes? According to Doug, anyone who shows up will be a union plant, or a shiftless bum who doesn’t have a job to go to and can waste their time sitting at meetings. The Fords have reached the point where their claimed “Ford Nation” is invisible because it’s too hard working. Wonder why they didn’t show up for the public consultations on Core Services?


  27. @Dennis Rankin: For your sake, I’ll assume that was satire. Lord know in this day and age it’s hard to tell sometimes.

    But in all seriousness though, when you are two days away from giving the public a chance to give their opinion on service cuts and the brother and right hand man of the mayor is suggesting that he won’t listen to you unless you are elected… Well, let’s just say that McGuinty may have read the Ford card better than some people had expected.


  28. Doug Ford’s comment is right up there with Mel Lastman not knowing who the World Health Organization is. It’s only second because Lastman said it on internationally broadcast television. My only surprise is that it didn’t come from Rob Ford himself. Doug’s attitude on this issue makes me even more sick than anything he’s said about transit. I think this is finally a subject that hits home with people of just about every background and age. It could be quite damaging to the Fords.


  29. Steve wrote,

    “The problem with Doug Ford is not that he doesn’t know who Atwood is, but that he doesn’t even care, and thinks that the only way she would be worth listening to would be for her to be elected. So why has his brother inviting the whole town to City Hall to speak for 5 minutes?”

    I suspect that Doug let it slip that his brother’s invitations are a cozenage. This will be a cavalcade of speakers stating their point of view to councillors on their Blackberries and running to the washrooms. What am I saying?!? That could never happen!


  30. Hi Nick L

    Yes satire. My point being, that a boorish, mealy mouthed, mean spirited, egotistical, one of the boys (as long as you’re white and not one of them sissy Frenchies eh) slug of a human being can be invited to Hizzonnour’s Investiture to spout his Lilliputian’s thimbleful of political knowledge (but he knows hockey and he knows dogs eh!!!?) and be encouraged to degrade people with humanitarian leanings (yer wild eyed Pinkos), to be lauded and applauded by their Fordnesses; but, a respected, articulate and genteel Canadian woman (AHHH there’s her problem, she doesn’t have two) is given the bum’s rush ’cause she didn’t get elected as Thaironnours did!

    And Dougiepooh (with the emphasis on the third syllable), what Ward did the ‘Grapes’ win in in this formerly fair burg? You let him have his vulgar, coarse and worse than offensive say, so he must have been elected somewhere south of Steeles eh? Say what??? He wasn’t!! I’m taken aback! What does that say about you and your disdainful logic? Does that make you and your twin buffoon the Cherry’s court jesters?


    Dennis Rankin


  31. Pete,

    I’m not sure if you’re still around to read this, as I’ve been delayed by other issues, but I hope you are. I wanted to thank you for taking the time to actually talk to Steve and I and have an honest debate, even though in the end we had to agree to disagree. That’s more than what most people do, on both sides of the spectrum. I hope you’ll note that everybody else in this forum is not much different from you. We are all real people with real opinions, and we get really passionate about them. And frustration mounts when two sides argue past each other, or give the other side the impression they are willfully ignoring their points. Part of this is just the soundbite culture that’s eaten into our political discussions these days.

    On the issue of taxes, and the fact that you’re finding it hard to get by — I have said that I would rather have my taxes increased than certain services decreased. However, some taxes are definitely better than others, and I would rate property taxes as among the worst that can be levied. The only tax that I think is worse than property tax is a poll tax. Property taxes make almost no allowance for the income of the person who pays them, and with cities obliged to pay for social services out of their property taxes, there is very little relationship between the property tax, and the services the property taxpayer pays for. If I had my way, I would transfer as much revenue as possible away from property taxes to more sensible forms of taxation, like income taxes or consumption taxes. If we could reduce property taxes to only those items which relate to property — and reduce things further by charging user fees on utilities such as water, then I think we all would be better off.

    Unfortunately, the city can’t do that, and there is a startling disconnect between what the city is responsible for paying for, and what it actually has the power to tax for. Social services in particular are a nasty burden to put on a city’s shoulders. Those costs go up when the economy goes down, and property taxes are very, VERY susceptible to economic downturns. Nasty match.

    But, more than that, these social services, which represent 33% of the city’s budget which it cannot legally cut or alter, are mandated by the province. What the hell are they doing on the property tax rolls? If the province has mandated these services, then they should be the ones taking the political heat for taxing them. Besides, these services are better matched up against income and consumption taxes than property taxes, for reasons I’ve described before.

    This has been a fact of city life for decades. Mike Harris had the opportunity to fix things somewhat when he commissioned David Crombie to handle the Who Does What Commission. Unfortunately, he didn’t listen to Crombie’s recommendations. He took education taxes off the municipal property tax rolls, while keeping social services on — precisely the opposite of what Crombie recommended.

    The city has also been on the receiving end of a fair amount of downloading, and Toronto has been more susceptible than most. When Mike Harris was elected, he followed up on two promises: cut provincial income taxes by 30%, and reduce welfare rates to the national average. What might surprise you is that those two items didn’t reinforce each other. You might think that reducing welfare rates would help the province pay for its 30% income tax cut, but at the time, welfare was paid for out of municipal property taxes. When Harris cut welfare rates, he produced a windfall of revenues for all but four of the municipalities of Ontario — so much so that his government had to sternly warn the municipalities not to go overboard on spending.

    But who were the four that didn’t reap a windfall? Toronto was one, because it had a higher than average welfare case rate — hardly surprising since such cases tend to gravitate to the big city where the jobs theoretically are and where the services are. Up to that point, however, the province provided Toronto (and the three other special cases) a special top-up to handle their additional case load. This top-up was eliminated, such that Toronto ended up increasing its expenses by $11 million, even as welfare rates were slashed.

    And as for the other municipalities, just like Toronto, they ended up receiving a major download of services. The full cost of public transportation came down on them, as did the full cost of ambulance services. All of this helped Harris reduce his deficit in the wake of his 30% income tax reduction, but he turned the municipalities into patsies who now had the responsibility for services Harris refused to cut, and the obligation to raise taxes to pay for them. In many cities, the resulting increase in property taxes negated the savings achieved through Harris’ 30% income tax cut.

    The problem does not just rest with Harris, of course. Chretien balanced his budget and got this country into surplus by severely cutting back on provincial transfers for health care and other federally mandated programs. This added billions of dollars to Harris’ burden, which probably encouraged further downloading. In the end, it all migrated to the cities because they don’t have any real power under this country’s constitution, and the only people they can download their costs to is us. McGuinty has re-uploaded some services, but not all. He has continued other policies which drain money out of Toronto to the rest of the province. I believe as much as $120 million per year in direct tax dollars leaves the city to pay for education systems elsewhere in the province. All of these items have certainly made it more difficult for you to get by financially.

    I feel that the property tax system is fundamentally unfair, and I feel that the provincial/municipal service arrangements are needlessly complex, and run counter to the concept of accountability and transparency. I would like to see more of the city’s services uploaded back to the province — especially social services. I would like to see the city given different taxation tools so that property taxes could be severely reduced or even phased out. Once the tax system is rearranged so that taxation more closely aligns with one’s actual contributions to the economy, I think most of us will end up breathing easier. Indeed, even those who end up paying more under this system will end up benefitting in the end, because when those who live hand-to-mouth find themselves with a bit more cash to spend, the economy as a whole improves, which is a benefit to everybody’s bottom line.


  32. Steve & James

    The above answer deserves time to digest and respond which I do not have at the moment. I will read in it’s entirety and respond later on.

    In the meantime, what would it cost to install this in Toronto?

    Steve: Given our past experience with the huge danger posed by “Walk Left, Stand Right” signs, you can bet that the lawyers would tie a proposal like this in knots forever.


  33. James:

    Your points about the Harris tax changes are all most welcome. I have to emphasise a point you made, that I think is the most egregious tax inequity. Harris made the mil rate (multiplier) for education tax the same across the province. This means that in the GTA (not just the City) where property values are inflated, the tax burden is higher. This is not fair and the excess tax collected in the GTA is transferred elsewhere as a subsidy. (as you mentioned.) This is not a social transfer, where better off taxpayers help those who are less well off to achieve minimum levels of social services. This is a transfer from GTA residents – already burdened by paying “more for less” for their living space – to people who, while better off and living in better housing, still have a lower market value on their house and therefore pay lower education tax. Obviously this tactic had a certain appeal in small town Ontario and since the GTA did not elect many Harris government members, it was useful politically. It does however, remain very unfair.

    The Commercial education tax is even more unfair. I am unsure of the details as to how it is calculated, but it too punishes Toronto. Tenants, who live in “Commercial” properties (no it’s not your “home”, it’s the landlord’s “business”) are subject to the full burden of this tax and once again subsidise those who are better off than they are but who live outside Toronto.

    Steve: And, as both a tenant in a “commercial” apartment building and co-owner of a house in North Toronto, I can tell you that the taxes on my 2-bedroom apartment are almost identical to those on the 7-room house thanks to the overtaxation of tenants.


  34. Steve: Actually, the streetcars are only 1/3 paid for by Queen’s Park, and the carhouse is all on Toronto’s dime. On the subway, there are several projects required to actually achieve the capacity increases the TTC touts so often, and these are not yet funded.

    I was just going over the items for which money has already been budgeted and contracts signed without getting into where the money’s coming from or related projects that are unfunded. Now “Ford Nation” seems to be oscillating between cancelling the streetcar purchase outright and using the money for Sheppard, or not cancelling it but spreading out the LRV delivery along with the delivery of the last of the Toronto Rockets to spread out the payments to Bombardier. I guess that deliveries on the original schedule are still possible too since that’s what the contracts specify as they were worded when the orders made.

    Steve: Trolleybus infrastructure? The last “stop” on that was over half a century ago when the then Village of Forest Hill wouldn’t let the TTC extend wires into its precious territory.

    I stand corrected but I think that makes my point even better: Instead of 30 years of abortive transit improvement on Eglinton it’s over 50. This is absurd and cancelling the Eglinton LRT is going to make that at least 60 or 70 years of time and money being blown to produce nothing. Work’s underway now – just get the damn thing done this time.

    In the relatively more recent era, the biggest problem with TBs was that TTC management actively worked against them, assisted by the Ministry of Transportation and the natural gas bus lobbyists.

    I remember it well. At the time, I was a daily user of one of the trolley bus lines to get to and from school. Service went downhill badly after the TB line was replaced with diesel buses and I was frequently in the principal’s office signing the late book due to TTC delays when this wasn’t a problem previously. You couldn’t really hear the trolleybuses in my family’s backyard unless it was a very quiet evening. If you listened carefully, you could hear a bit of tire noise as the TB would pass by a couple of blocks away but you could hear the diesel bus replacements any time of day as they’d be grinding along. The quality of life impact from the noise had to be greater for people living closer to the bus line than my family.

    Now the TTC is having to budget around a 35% increase in diesel prices that would’ve been easier to absorb if the diesel powered fleet was a smaller proportion of the total by having some routes powered by electric-anything like LRT (blame Ford Nation) or trolley bus (blame TTC, gov’t of Ontario). The problem is the people behind these bad decisions don’t face any consequences and they don’t even experience the financial impact because the 35% increase in diesel fuel that powers a huge chunk of the TTC’s operations will just get passed along to the passengers in the form of a fare increase, service cut or combination of the two.

    Steve: Musings about fare by distance also have a social element. The people who can afford to live close to where they work would benefit from such a scheme, while those who must travel a long way by transit would pay more for the same service. I doubt very much that we would actually see someone propose large-scale service improvements in an era of cutbacks where the main purpose of higher fares would be to lower the subsidy level.

    It’s the little guy that’s going to get hosed. Working poor who live in apartments get hit with the property taxes explained in the last few posts above and would stand to get hit again due to commuting huge distances between home and work. I did that for a couple of years with a low paying job and met many people in the same boat. As I said, it’s fashionable to preach austerity to those who can least afford it. For example, there’s a lot of people living at Jane & Finch who would’ve stood to gain a lot with the Finch LRT combined with the flat TTC fare. Even if nothing else changed, a lot of the people living there who deal with awful two-hour-each way commutes would’ve recovered a lot of lost travel time without a fare increase. These people just got creamed the moment the supposed ‘war on the car’ ended. I don’t think they’d have much sympathy for people living in prime Beaches real estate grouching about how they don’t care whether it’s a streetcar or a bus, just give me a tax cut.


  35. And of course, it doesn’t hurt that any electoral blowback in Thunder Bay will be minimal, since the PCs are unlikely to win seats there in October.


Comments are closed.