Toronto Council Elects Maria Augimeri as New TTC Chair (Updated)

Toronto Council has elected Maria Augimeri as the new Chair of the Toronto Transit Commission to replace Karen Stintz who resigned the post (but not her seat on the Board) to run for Mayor.

During the nomination process, Mayor Ford attempted to nominate his brother Doug for the position, but he is ineligible as he is not on the Board and there is no vacancy to which he could be appointed.  The Mayor attempted to move that his brother replace Commissioner Glen DeBaeremaeker on the Commission, but this was ruled out of order by the Speaker.  A notice of motion (or a special meeting of Council) to change the composition of the TTC would be required for future debate.

The result of the vote was:

  • Maria Augimeri: 23
  • Josh Colle: 21
  • Spoiled: 0
  • Absent: 1

In speeches before the vote, Augimeri talked of her role as a “caretaker” for the remainder of the term, whereas Colle emphasized that there were many important issues facing the TTC, including labour negotiations.  He also mentioned that his constituents are more concerned about being able to get on the Bathurst and Dufferin buses than with new lines on maps.

Colle’s speech was the more forward-looking, but his candidacy may have suffered by association with outgoing Chair Stintz and Mayor Ford.  In any event, I hope that both Commissioners will work together and do more than simply minding the store for the coming months.  There are important policy discussions that can, at least, be set in motion even if they are not decided until the next Council and Commission.  We have had three years of inaction and cutbacks, and now is not the time to sit back and just wait for the election.

Updated February 20, 2014 at 1:00 am:

By contrast with her speech at Council, Maria Augimeri spoke about the importance of service improvements in a press scrum following her election.

In the Globe, Oliver Moore quoted Augimeri:

“I’m very concerned about crowding,” she told reporters shortly after the 23-21 vote at Toronto council, in which the brothers Ford both supported her opponent.

“People feel like sardines and, hopefully, if we can get the buses running better, that’s a one-up on what we’ve done for decades, and that is centre on subways versus LRT and the sexier forms of transit. People ignore the buses and the streetcars, so we want to put more emphasis on those.”

I look forward to Chair Augimeri’s inaugural comments at the TTC Board meeting on February 24.

11 thoughts on “Toronto Council Elects Maria Augimeri as New TTC Chair (Updated)

  1. Well that does not bode well. I was really hoping for Colle. Maria’s speech was terrible and I fear she is gonna be another Stintz. Colle’s speech I thought showed some hope.

    Steve: Colle made the speech I had hoped to hear from Augimeri. As a supporter of transit cutbacks and the Ford/Stintz agenda, Colle’s concerns about riders on his bus routes rang just a little hollow.


  2. Sit back and just wait for the elections is probably what we’ll get though. Is there any political upside for the members of the Board to do otherwise?


  3. And then this story from the National Post today quoting “Ms. Augimeri views her role as one of “caretaker” until the term ends in December. She says she has no interest is continuing on as chair next year.” This along with the one you quoted re: concerned about crowding.

    I read on other sites today that she drives an expensive Jag and never takes transit … do you know her Steve? Is this true?

    Steve: Augimeri has an old, second-hand Jag, although she doesn’t drive it all the time. She has been very active on behalf of her constituents raising the issue of overcrowding and poor service on bus routes in her ward which is in Downsview, and does use the TTC occasionally although not on a day-to-day basis. Of course, we could always have one of the Fords who never uses transit and drives a really expensive car, but it’s probably not fair to point out how poorly they represent the average rider.


  4. Maria Augimeri will be just fine as a caretaker Chair. She certainly won’t be another Stintz – she opposed the Ford/Stintz-mandated service cuts and generally supports TTC improvements. I’ve lived in her ward for a few years, her heart is mostly in the right place, even if she isn’t the strongest member of the progressive faction on council.


  5. Augimeri’s choice not to interfere with decisions related to transit expansion projects, and focus on smaller issues like dealing with bus overcrowding, is a good one. I am really frustrated by Stintz’s political interference in these issues, and the strange decision to put LRT on Eglinton/Sheppard while simultaneously putting subway on McCowan Road, which makes no sense. This seems to be based on the idea that the Scarborough RT replacement subway goes “downtown”, never mind that this means Yonge/Bloor which has no new office buildings built for years and only has slightly more office space than the North York Centre area has, while all new office space downtown is further south.

    In reality if you compare Sheppard (Scarborough Centre + Consumers Road + North York Centre), Eglinton (Don Mills/Eglinton + Yonge/Eglinton + Airport Corporate Centre) and Bloor-Danforth (Scarborough Centre + Yonge/Bloor + Islington/Bloor), all three routes have fairly similar amounts of existing office space, the Bloor-Danforth route has seen no new office buildings built for years, the Sheppard route has seen a small amount of growth (one small office building at Yonge/Sheppard), and Eglinton has seen a fair amount of growth all of which is in Mississauga.

    The TTC chair should have nothing to do with these transit expansion decisions and these decisions should be made by the province with as little political interference as possible from city council.

    Steve: And the province will make decisions based on who is politically well connected, not on good planning. See the subways to Vaughan and Scarborough for prime examples.


  6. Since Doug Ford has announced he won’t be running in the next provincial election he may has his sights on the TTC chair next term. Its doesn’t look like the ‘Subways! Subways!’ mantra is going away.

    Steve: Doug Ford first requires a credulous bunch of trained seals on Council (which he won’t be on any more) to put him on the TTC as a “citizen” member, change the rules about the Chair being a member of Council, and then making him Chair. He should go back to peddling labels.


  7. While watching council, I was shocked at the tone and nature of Maria’s speech and her somewhat nonchalant nature towards the chair position. J-Colle’s speech was more concrete and powerful. Makes me disheartened because I feel like most councillors go into those chambers with their minds made up, so does the debate and Q&A portion and staff reports really change anything?

    Either way, she won, and I’m actually impressed by what she has been saying and doing in the short time already. Finally we have someone talking about better surface route performance and running better operations, instead of crayons/map drawing as the only part of the convo.

    7 meetings and ~10.5 months is not a ton of time, but if she can kick-start some projects and continue the TTC cultural shift, that will be a good thing.

    I know you are the eternal skeptic and critic (somewhat by design/your role, and I’m sure somewhat by decades of face palming, frustration and banging your head against a wall), but do feel that things are more positive than they’ve been in a long time at the TTC?

    Steve: Much will depend on what Maria Augimeri and the rest of the Commission do with their “caretaker” time. As I wrote in a long article, there are many policy areas that will not be decided in this term, certainly not with the bluster of an election or two, but which deserve, no demand much better presentation of the issues and options, including costs and benefits, than they have had over the past three years. That’s a legacy that is worth leaving for the next Chair, Commission and Council.

    We will not fix service quality between now and October. Line management techniques need to change, and the TTC does not even have the tools and procedures needed to properly monitor what is going on. Additional service affects the budget and debates about both fares and subsidies, and of course more peak service means more vehicles and garage space. Even transit priority on the simple level of BRT-lite requires a policy shift about the use of road space, green time at signals and the enforcement of lane exclusivity.

    But we won’t do any of this, we won’t even start talking about it, if the TTC does not generate policy papers as a starting point. The Ford/Stintz Commission was not interested in this sort of thing because one way or another, it would mean spending money. Changing the funding and service strategy at the TTC will be a decision for Council and Queens Park, but if there is no concrete proposal of what might be done on the table, then nothing will happen.


  8. The words and the emotions of the speeches are not as important as the actions of the last few years.

    In that regard, Colle was the poorer choice and I for one am glad he lost.


  9. Not that I care what she drives, [but the] article made it sound like she was into driving flashy car (like Ford) all the time and she did not take TTC to work everyday. I have the greatest respect for TTC people that actually use their own system. Their time or meetings are not more important than ours.

    I read that you do not see eye-to-eye with Mitch [Stambler] but I respect a guy who does take his own product to work and back. Everyday he climbs on the crowded 64 and stands to the subway and I’m sure stands to Bathurst and then stands again on the 7 to Hillcrest. You have to give him credit for that. Same with Gunn when he was here. (I don’t know whether Byford commutes by TTC or not?) I know a lot of the planning guys ride bikes, or walk, but while admirable, it’s not the same as taking an actual bus or subway.

    I thought Karen took TTC a lot and was hoping Maria would also to try and get a better understanding of her product.

    Steve: I have known Mitch for a very long time, and although we do not agree on everything, our outlooks are not all that far apart. The difference with me is that I am an advocate always pushing for improvement while he is in a staff position and is limited by the political flavour of the day.

    Andy Byford does not own a car. He lives in central Toronto and travels on the TTC regularly, and not just for official business.

    Karen Stintz lives near Lawrence Station and her experience is primarily with the subway. Maria Augimeri’s ward, on the other hand, has a lot of bus routes on which her constituents depend, and she has been consistent in arguing for better service (complete with a YouTube video shown conditions on Finch West).


  10. With this lady being in the position she’s now in, maybe, just maybe, there’s hope for better service for bus and streetcar riders.


  11. Any plans for a VIVA rapidway style in Toronto soon to beef up bus service? What about the BRTs from the One City plan?

    Steve: Don’t hold your breath. The argument, whether for LRT or BRT, remains the question of losing road space (real or perceived), and too often “BRT” means only paint on the road, not dedicated rights-of-way.


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