A Few Questions About “Emerging Transit Plans”

At the February TTC Board meeting, Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat took the Board through the road show presentation she and her staff have been taking around Toronto with the proposed new Toronto transit plan. This issue was held over to the March Board meeting because, for procedural reasons, there were limited questions in February.

One major issue here is that the body actually charged with setting transit policy, the TTC Board, was being briefed on a plan they had not seen before, and to which they had given no input or direction. This is only partly explainable by the fact that any long-term transportation plan would form part of the city’s Official Plan, and the Planning Department “owns” that document. However, one would hope that members of the TTC Board would have at least a passing familiarity with what was in the works. This situation is complicated by the presence of “citizen” members who are not also Councillors and are not part of the information flow, such as it is, at City Hall.

The plan and supporting reports will go to City Council a week after the TTC meeting.

A major problem, of course, is that “planning” in Toronto consists of catering to the whims of the Mayor, influential Councillors, the Minister of Transportation (and his government), and senior members of the government caucus. To describe planning in this context as unbiased and purely “evidence based” is something of a stretch.

That said, the situation is better today than in recent years because, at least, all of the proposals are on the table at once, and it is more difficult to dress up a bad proposal when it must compete for attention and analysis with many others at the same time. This does not prevent Councillors from making the attempt at advancing their pet projects, but some degree of comparative evaluation might keep them in check.

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