Feeling Congested: Does Toronto Suffer From “The Moscow Syndrome”? (Updated)

The City of Toronto’s consultations about transportation plans and financing continued on the evening of March 4, 2013, with a panel discussion at the St. Lawrence Centre.  The 500-seat Jane Mallett Theatre was packed for the event, and had been sold out for several days in advance.

The participants were:

  • Matt Galloway, host of CBC’s “Metro Morning”, as moderator
  • Jennifer Keesmaat, Chief Planner of Toronto
  • Larry Beasley, retired Chief Planner for Vancouver, keynote speaker
  • Carol Wilding, president and CEO of the Toronto Board of Trade
  • Councillor Peter Milczyn, chair of Toronto’s Planning & Growth Management Committee and member of the Toronto Transit Commission
  • Councillor Michael Thompson, chair of Toronto’s Economic Development Committee
  • John Howe, Vice-President, Investment Strategy and Project Evaluation at Metrolinx

The most newsworthy comments of the evening were a clear break by the two Councillors, both members of Mayor Ford’s Executive Committee, with the Mayor’s position on financing transit.  Michael Thompson stated that getting rid of the Vehicle Registration Tax was “a mistake”, and Peter Milczyn stated that Council (by implication with or without the Mayor) would approve “a suite” of tools to generate the needed revenue.

The message that “the people are ahead of the politicians” on transit financing, first raised by Carol Wilding, was a consistent theme.

Updated Mar. 5, 2013 at 11:10 am:

Although Larry Beasley’s thesis was that Moscow was trapped in an inescapable hole caused by decades of inaction on transit investment, this information appears to be out of date.  As one commenter here has noted, since the arrival of a new mayor and the availability of petrodollars, a lot has been happening.  This can also be seen by a cursory trip around the internet looking at the Moscow system.

Yes, the hole they have to dig out of was very deep, but they’re trying.  Toronto has not yet really acknowledged the effort needed not just to arrest the decline, but to make up for decades when transit wasn’t “important enough” beyond fighting over a vanity subway line or two.

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