Metrolinx Dumps TTC as LRT Partner (Maybe)

Updated October 4, 2012 at 9:20 am:

Mr reaction to the announcement yesterday that TTC would remain as “operator” of the LRT lines is on the Torontoist website.

Although the TTC sees this as a “good news” story, I am less impressed because Toronto is still very much the junior partner.  We get to drive the trains, and that’s about all.  With all maintenance remaining in the hands of Metrolinx private partner, whoever that will eventually be, this is a big step in outsourcing transit operations.

Updated October 1, 2012 at 10:00 pm:

The Toronto Star reports that discussions continue between Metrolinx, the City of Toronto and the TTC regarding the possible operation of the planned LRT lines by the TTC rather than a private contractor.

Exactly how much “operation” would entail is not mentioned, although the TTC is known to be concerned about responsibility for safety-sensitive systems such as vehicle, signal and track maintenance.

A related issue is the amount of detail that must be worked out before a master contract is let by Infrastructure Ontario.  If the private work ends when operation begins (with possible exceptions such as building and station maintenance), then this is a much simpler contract to draft than one that would require all of the details of future operations to be bundled with a design and construction contract.

Whether Queen’s Park and Metrolinx are aware of or care about the delay inherent in needing to specify so much detail so far in advance for a single contract remains to be seen.

September 21, 2012

My thoughts on recent announcements that Metrolinx would completely take over the LRT projects formerly part of Transit City are in an article on the Torontoist website.

 

OneCity Plan Reviewed

The OneCity plan has much to recommend it even though in the details it is far from perfect.

The funding scheme requires Queen’s Park to modify the handling of assessment value changes, and they are already cool to this scheme.  Why OneCity proponents could not simply and honestly say “we need a 1.9% tax hike every year for the next four years” (not unlike the ongoing 9% increases to pay for Toronto Water infrastructure upgrades) is baffling.  A discussion about transit is needlessly diverted into debates about arcane ways of implementing a tax increase without quite calling it what it is.

On the bright side, Toronto may leave behind the technology wars and the posturing of one neighbourhood against another to get their own projects built.  Talking about transit as a city-wide good is essential to break the logjam of decades where parochialism ruled.  Couple this with a revenue stream that could actually be depended on, and the plan has a fighting chance.  Ah, there’s the rub — actually finding funding at some level of government to pay for all of this.

Rob Ford’s subway plan depended on the supposed generosity of Metrolinx to redirect committed funding to the Ford Plan (complete with some faulty arithmetic).  Similarly, the OneCity plan depends for its first big project on money already earmarked by Metrolinx to the Scarborough RT to LRT conversion.  If this goes ahead, we would have a new subway funded roughly 80% by Queen’s Park and 20% by Toronto.  Not a bad deal, but not an arrangement we are likely to see for any other line.

On the eastern waterfront, there is already $90m on the table from Waterfront Toronto (itself funded by three levels of government), and OneCity proposes to spend another @200m or so to top up this project.  Whether all $200m would be City money, or would have to wait for other partners to buy in is unclear.

Toronto must make some hard decisions about a “Plan B” if the Ottawa refuses to play while the Tories remain in power.  Even if we saw an NDP (or an NDP/Liberal) government, I wouldn’t hold my breath for money flowing to Toronto (and other Canadian cities) overnight.  A federal presence is a long term strategy, and spending plans in Toronto must be framed with that in mind.

Sitting on our hands waiting for Premier McGuinty or would-be PM Mulcair to engineer two rainbows complete with pots of gold landing in Nathan Phillips Square would be a dead wrong strategy.  Bang the drum all we might for a “one cent solution” or a “National Transit Strategy”, Toronto needs to get on with debating our transit needs whether funding is already in place or not.  Knowing what we need and want makes for a much stronger argument to pull in funding partners.

In some cases, Toronto may be best to go it alone on some of the smaller projects, or be prepared to fund at a higher level than 1/3.  If transit is important, it should not be held hostage by waiting for a funding partner who will never show up.

The briefing package for OneCity is available online.

My comments on the political aspects of OneCity are over at the Torontoist site.

To start the ball rolling on the technical review of the OneCity network, here are my thoughts on each of the proposals in the network. Throughout the discussions that will inevitably follow, it is vital that politicians, advocates, gurus of all flavours not become wedded to the fine details. Many of these lines won’t be built for decades, if ever, and we can discuss the pros and cons without becoming mired in conversations about the colour of station tiles.

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“One City” To Serve Them All

Updated June 27 at 5:20pm:  I have written a political analysis of today’s announcement for the Torontoist website that will probably go live tomorrow morning.  A line-by-line review of the plan will go up here later the same day.

TTC Chair Karen Stintz and Vice-Chair Glen De Baeremaeker will formally announce a new plan called “One City” on June 27 at 10:30.

The plan already has coverage on the Star and Globe websites.  Maps:  Globe Star

I will comment in more detail after their press conference, but two points leap off the page at me:

  • The proposed funding scheme for the $30-billion plan presumes 1/3 shares from each of the Provincial and Federal governments.  This money is extremely unlikely to show up, especially Ottawa’s share.  From Queen’s Park, some of the funding is from presumed “commitments” to current projects such as the Scarborough RT/LRT conversion which would be replaced by a subway extension.  The rest is uncertain.
  • The “plan” is little more than a compendium of every scheme for transit within the 416 that has been floated recently in various quarters (including this blog).  What is notable is the fact that glitches in some of the existing ideas (notably the fact that the Waterfront East line ends at Parliament) are not addressed.  The whole package definitely needs some fine tuning lest it fall victim to the dreaded problem of all maps — once you draw them, it’s almost impossible to change them.

For those who keep an eye on political evolution, the brand “One City” surfaced in April 2012 in a speech made by Karen Stintz at the Economic Club of Canada.  This idea of a new, unifying transit brand appears to have been cooking for some time.

TTC v. Metrolinx (Again): Who’s In Charge Here? (Update 2)

Updated June 8, 2012 at 11:00am:  My comments about the Commission’s action appear in an article on the Torontoist website.

Updated June 1, 2012 at 9:15am:  The motions passed at the TTC meeting of May 30 have been added at the end of this article.  The Commission took a much more conciliatory view of their relationship with Metrolinx than the staff report.  I will be writing about this situation in a separate article.

The original May 29 article follows below.

The Supplementary Agenda for the May 30, 2012 TTC meeting includes a report “LRT Projects in Toronto — Project Delivery”.

This report deals with the proposed transfer of responsibility for the Transit City LRT projects on Eglinton, Sheppard, Finch and the SRT replacement from the TTC to Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario.

As TTC reports go, this one is rather oddly worded in that it:

  • asks the Commission to “note” a number of factors,
  • requests that provincial agencies respond to various issues,
  • sets an October 31, 2012 deadline for the transfer of project control, and
  • proposes that the TTC’s own staff now dedicated to the LRT projects be redeployed internally.

In effect, the TTC is taking their ball and going home rather than play with the guys from down the block.  This suggests a strained relationship between agencies notwithstanding the soothing words we hear so often, and a sense that a fed up TTC is telling Queen’s Park to get lost.

From a purely political and administrative point of view, Queen’s Park holds all the cards because they are paying almost the entire cost (with a small Ottawa contribution to Sheppard) for these projects.  It’s their money, and they get to say how it will be spent.  Whether it will be spent wisely, and how the projects might fare with the TTC on the sidelines, these are questions that won’t be answered for years until we see the results.

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TTC Meeting Wrapup: May 1, 2012

The TTC board met on May 1.  This was a quiet affair without the political drama of the “old” Ford-stacked Commission, and I almost missed the bumbling antics of the old crew.  The agenda was on the thin side, and everything wrapped up in a few hours.

Major items included:

  • a status report on the LRT projects,
  • proposed changes to the Richmond Hill extension of the Yonge Subway,
  • the Framework Agreement with Metrolinx for implementation of the Presto farecard,
  • the Customer Satisfaction Survey, and
  • the CEO’s report.

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Metrolinx Resurrects Transit City (Updated)

Updated April 26, 2012 at 1:10pm:  This article has been updated to reflect discussions at the Metrolinx Board meeting of April 25, the press scrum following that meeting, and correspondence between me and Metrolinx to clarify some issues.

Notes from the Board Meeting and Press Scrum:

Chair Rob Prichard asked about the status of unrecoverable losses due to the diversion of Metrolinx effort from the original Transit City plan to the Ford transit Memorandum of Understanding.  Less that $10-million has been spent on preliminary engineering for the Eglinton tunnel east from Laird Station.  Potential extra costs from Bombardier for the vehicle supply contract are not yet known.  If these were simply inflationary increases, then the Metrolinx funding (which includes inflation) should cover this.  However, Bombardier may also claim additional expenses related to the delay.  Prichard urged staff to “negotiate” away as much of such claims as possible.

This issue came up again in the press scrum.  Metrolinx has always said that “others” must bear any extra costs due to the Ford delay, but the identity of this party is unclear.  Elizabeth Church from the Globe noted that Karen Stintz has pointed out that since the Ford MOU was never approved by City Council, the city can hardly be held responsible for the delay.

Both Rob Prichard and CEO Bruce McCuaig dodged around this and other questions related to Metrolinx’ role in pursuing the Ford plan in the absence of Council support, especially considering that Metrolinx hangs its return to LRT on Council’s clear vote for the original Transit City plan as the City’s definitive policy statement.  The Star’s Royson James described Prichard as being good at “ragging the puck”, but never managed to pin him down to an answer.

Prichard hopes that the value of the “extra cost” will be reduced to zero making this a moot point, or at least one small enough to fit under any nearby rug without most people noticing the lump.

Director Lee Parsons asked about the possible funding from P3 Canada and what this might enable.  Bruce McCuaig suggested that it might be possible to add to the scope of work with the additional money available through this federal program, but the dollar value is not large and Metrolinx must still pitch their projects to the P3C board.

Director Richard Koroscil asked what the differences were between the plan proposed here and the previously approved 5-in-10 scheme.

Jack Collins (Vice President, Rapid Transit Implementation) replied that these are mainly the slippage of Sheppard’s completion out to 2018 and the shift of the SRT completion back from 2020 to 2019.  The design team and project manager for the Sheppard project were disbanded when work stopped just over a year ago and a new team must be assembled.  Moreover, the project will now be delivered through Infrastructure Ontario (IO) as an Alternate Finance and Procurement (AFP) scheme, and this adds time for production of the contracts related to managing this process.

In the case of the SRT, the section of the route north of McCowan Station will be built while the existing SRT is still operating and this allows work to start sooner than planned on that line.

Director Rahul Bhardwaj asked about the requirement that the TTC implement the Presto smart card as a precondition of having these projects funded by Queen’s Park.  Bruce McCuaig replied that a proposal from TTC staff for an agreement with Metrolinx and the rollout of Presto will be going to the TTC board at its meeting of May 1.

Director Joe Halstead asked about the roles of three agencies — Metrolinx, the TTC and IO — in these projects.  Metrolinx will be the project owner.  IO will be the procurement agency.  The TTC will provide the design criteria, manage the design consultants and technical details of the projects, and will eventually operate the lines.

Halstead also asked about lessons learned from the St. Clair project.  Collins replied that Metrolinx will maintain a presence in communities to keep them informed as the projects evolve, and noted that the neighbourhood office for the Sheppard LRT that had been closed because of the Ford MOU would have to be reopened.

Director Doug Turnbull asked where Metrolinx stands on the role of subways.  Bruce McCuaig replied that Metrolinx supports subways such as the Spadina extension now under construction, and noted that “The Big Move 2.0” includes both the Richmond Hill extension of the Yonge line and the Downtown Relief Line.  Metrolinx will continue to support subways in this context.  Rob Prichard noted that Toronto Council had asked city planning staff for studies of a Sheppard West connection to Downsview and a Bloor West extension to Sherway.

Turnbull asked whether TBM 2.0 affects any of the four LRT lines up for approval.  Bruce McCuaig replied that the 2.0 document will review progress to date and incorporate new initiatives such as the GO electrification.

During the press scrum, Metrolinx clarified that The Big Move 2.0 will be published at the end of 2012.

Director Stephen Smith asked for a clarification of the AFP bidding process and the meaning of the term “Financial Close” in the project chart.  Jack Collins explained that the procurement would have several stages.  First, bidders would be invited to qualify to bid on the work.  Based on this, three would be chosen, and they would be given funding to prepare a more detailed proposal.  From that work, IO would make its evaluation and select a winner.  At that point, the overall contract and financing details would have to be nailed down, and this would be the “financial close”.  IO will rely on Metrolinx, the TTC and technical consultants for evaluation of the proposals.

Smith asked whether pricing would be affected by the level of activity in the construction market.  Collins replied that preliminary indications from the international market are good because work is drying up overseas.  Also, experienced resources now committed to the Spadina extension will be freed up starting in late 2015.

The report was approved by the Board, and most of us adjourned to the press scrum which was attended by Rob Prichard, Bruce McCuaig, Jack Collins and the usual bevy of Metrolinx communications staff.

After the discussion about “extra costs” noted above, questions turned to the location of the Eglinton tunnel.  It will definitely not go under the Don River because this would involve tunneling through bedrock.  The tunnel boring machines are designed for softer conditions (soil, clay, etc), not for hard rock, and this work would be very expensive.  The line will go under Don Mills Road and will provide for a future connection to a north-south route.

Questions returned to the role of Metrolinx and “the need for a clear and supportive partner” as they put it.  Elizabeth Church asked about the Mayor’s opposition to the LRT scheme.  Bruce McCuaig noted that Council had voted, and had delegated authority to the City Manager to execute contracts for these projects.  Rob Prichard observed that the Mayor and his brother speak for themselves, and that there is a broad consensus for the LRT plan.  Metrolinx won’t stand in the way of debate, but they have lots of room for working with the city.

John Lorinc asked whether Metrolinx is concerned about being “the meat in the sandwich” in the 2014 election?  Prichard replied “no”.  He observed that political actors have strong ideas, and we shouldn’t try to take politics out of transit.  However, we should keep our eyes on the main goal of better transit and less congestion rather than just fixating on four projects.  There will be a contract with the city for these four, and other projects may come.  Metrolinx should be steady in its execution of the projects and although there will be elections along the way, the recommendation is that these projects should be completed.

A few questions on the vehicle contract came up.

Would other cities outside the Metrolinx planning area be able to procure LRVs through the Metrolinx contract?  Jack Collins replied that this decision would be up to the local municipality (e.g. Kitchener-Waterloo or Ottawa).

Given the extended period between vehicle delivery and start of service on the first line (Sheppard), what will Metrolinx do about the warranty that could expire before the cars begin revenue operations?  Bruce McCuaig replied that this would form part of the discussions with Bombardier and final approval of the terms would come from Queen’s Park.  There will be two pilot cars built for Metrolinx but no dates are set yet for their delivery.

Royson James asked about Metrolinx’ role — are they simply following the political path of least resistance, or can we “take their recommendations to the bank”?  Bruce McCuaig replied that Metrolinx would give its best advice regarding regional transportation systems, and that they are the keeper of the long term view.

James asked why Metrolinx keeps changing its mind.  McCuaig replied that there are choices between technologies, and it’s not always a black and white decision.

Rob Prichard chimed in saying that there had also been changes in preference on the City’s side for Eglinton’s technology.  The Ford MOU had tradeoffs — a longer Eglinton tunnel was a gain at the expense of losing the Finch LRT (and the eastern part of a Sheppard line).  Metrolinx need to build projects that make sense, and they are “respecting democracy”.

Elizabeth Church noted that Metrolinx has changed its “expert opinion” especially on Eglinton, and this is frustrating to those who seek technical advice.  Prichard replied that between 2006-08, the original vision for Eglinton was all underground, a faster line attracting more riders.  However, the tradeoffs between costs and benefits led to a subway-surface arrangement.

This exchange led me to write for clarification because at no time did the City of Toronto endorse an all-underground Eglinton line, particularly not once Transit City was announced.  Even before, Eglinton was flagged as a corridor for improved transit and surface priority treatment, but not for a subway.  Prichard is mixing the Metrolinx planners’ fantasies of an all-underground Eglinton with official city and TTC policy decisions, and Metrolinx can hardly claim to be following the City’s changes in policy when in fact the drive for an Eglinton subway came from Metrolinx itself.

I wrote to Metrolinx:

At the media scrum, Rob Prichard talked about the to-and-fro of the city’s position on an Eglinton all-underground line.

It’s worth noting that several reports dating from 2005-6 including the City’s Official Plan and the TTC’s “Building a Transit City” showed Eglinton as a potential transit corridor, but talked much more of surface transit priority than of a subway. ‪

Yes, there was an older proposal for a subway west from Mt. Dennis to Renforth, but the projected demand was quite low and it was not taken seriously.

Therefore to suggest that there was any serious support for an Eglinton line completely underground … is stretching the point.

Metrolinx replied:

As The Big Move was being developed between 2006 and 2008, a variety of transit lines and technologies were modeled and considered in developing the full integrated GTHA system of the future, including Eglinton as a fully-separated rapid transit corridor. The Big Move does not specify whether sections are below ground or above ground.

Also, as Metrolinx worked with the City of Toronto and the Toronto Transit Commission, and a more detailed Benefits Case Analysis was undertaken, Eglinton was confirmed as grade-separated through the central section, and at surface, east of Laird Ave.

It should be noted that the benefits of a totally grade-separated Eglinton were weighed against all other rapid transit projects across the GTHA on a range of issues, including future land use, location of employment, integration with local transit, GHG reductions, the ability to serve communities of higher social need, and travel time.

You can judge for yourself whether there was a city position on the vertical alignment of Eglinton that would support Metrolinx’ claim.

John Lorinc got in a good last word with the question “Will you still support this plan in 2014?”

To assist readers in keeping track of the shifting completion dates for the projects, here is a consolidated chart of the original plans, the revised “5-in-10” plan, and the new 2012 version.

2012.04.25_Project Staging Chart

The original article from April 24 follows below.  Note that some route-specific information has been updated on April 26.

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The Sheppard LRT Report (Part III)

Many background presentations informed the Expert Panel’s review of options for the Sheppard corridor.  This article is the first of two summarizing and commenting on this information.

There are six groups of documents:

  • Professor Eric Miller’s comments
  • Metrolinx presentations and reports
  • TTC presentations and reports
  • Toronto Transit Infrsatructure Ltd. (TTIL) presentations and reports
  • City of Toronto presentations and reports
  • Third Party reports

TTIL is the TTC subsidiary through which Dr. Chong’s pro-subway work reported.  Given the amount of material, I will deal with reports from TTIL, the City and Third Parties in the fourth and final article in this series.

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Metrolinx and the Toronto Council LRT Decision

At its February 16, 2012 meeting, the Metrolinx Board received a presentation and report on the status of projects in Toronto arising out of the Council action taken on February 8.  The report does not add much to information already reported, but it consolidates various documents in one convenient location.

The map of the 5-in-10 plan (the version of Transit City agreed to by Toronto Council in 2009 and disavowed by Mayor Ford) appears in both documents.  This map includes:

  • The Eglinton line from Jane to Kennedy with an underground section from Keele station to Laird station.  In the press scrum following the meeting, I asked about the possibility of redesign of the section through Mount Dennis (Weston Road) and near Don Mills and the DVP.  Metrolinx confirmed that details of these areas are still being worked out.  (See below)
  • The SRT rebuilt as LRT from Kennedy Station to Sheppard.
  • The Sheppard LRT from Don Mills Station to Morningside including a new carhouse at Conlins Road.
  • The Finch West LRT from Finch West Station to Humber College.

A note I received from Rick Ciccarelli (long active in transit affairs in Weston) gave further information from a public meeting on February 15 in Weston:

In speaking with Jack Collins [Metrolinx Vice-President, Rapid Transit Implementation] last night at Councillor di Giorgio’s Kodak Town Hall, he said underground [is] still in play and indicated the loading and unloading of trains at the start and end of service will be a problem for at-grade, and he also expects an interconnecting GO/TTC station to work better. He is not sure if it will go underground past this station. They are also looking at a bridge across Black Creek Drive to service the yards, plus bus connections for both TTC and regional service. The Kodak building could become a bus terminal. He said there are multiple issues to sort through before the design can be finalized including whether they are designing for 3 car LRT or full subway vehicles, and the relationship with the GO rail corridor track expansion project and the new station.

Collins confirmed at the Metrolinx meeting that the purchase of the Kodak site was concluded at about the beginning of February.  The remark about possibly designing the carhouse for full subway vehicles dates, I suspect, from a period when the actual technology to be used for the line had not been settled by Council.  Changing to full subway requires far more extensive design modifications than simply at the carhouse.

During the Board’s discussion, the question arose of interference in Council’s decision by the Ford brothers and their “Save Our Subways” scheme.  CEO and President Bruce McCuaig replied that Queen’s Park has indicated that they will listen to Council.  Chair Rob Prichard said that Metrolinx’ job was to be respectful of the Council process, and that it was not for Metrolinx to take sides with individual Councillors, but to wait for Council’s decision-making process to complete.

Director Lee Parsons asked what risk there might be that the Council debate will not be resolved by the end of March.  McCuaig replied that Metrolinx needs “certainty and clarity” from Council.  Prichard said that the “end game” is an agreement with the City, a binding agreement, and that McCuaig and his staff would move forward to a full master agreement as quickly as possible.  In the press scrum, Prichard hopes that Council will take a position endorsing a new master agreement, and referred to comments by individual members as “noise on the side”.

Director Douglas Turnbull worried that the longer the LRT versus subway debate continues — a false one he believed because LRT is the only reasonable option — that a window of opportunity for transit expansion may be lost.

Director Peter Smith noted that both Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario are strong supporters of arrangements where the entire provision of a line would be outsourced.  Bruce McCuaig replied that the province is committed to AFP (alternative financing and procurement) models, but various types of “package” may be appropriate.  Smith wondered whether the TTC was in any position to dictate an alternative arrangement for a facility that was not their own, and thought that the public did not understand the situation well (blaming the media for this state of affairs).

On the status of penalties for cancelled projects, Rob Prichard stated that Metrolinx would provide the City’s “expert panel” reviewing options for Sheppard with information about these and the effect of various possible options on which sunk costs could be reinstated as part of active projects.  Jack Collins said that Metrolinx has now broken down the costs per project and that the amount of sunk (unrecoverable) costs will go down as original route designs come back into the plan.  There will be some loss from the work done on tunnel design for the eastern section of Eglinton, although to whose cost this might be is an interesting point considering that Council never requested the change.

The vehicle delivery schedule must be revisited now that Finch and possibly Sheppard are  back in the mix.  Delivery dates can now move back to something close to the original contract based on the 5-in-10 plan.

Director Joe Halstead asked what differences there were between the Council motion of February 8 and the Transit City 5-in-10 plan.  Collins replied that the big issue is the status of Sheppard East although this also would have an effect on the SRT/LRT project.  If there is no Sheppard LRT and carhouse, then extension of the SRT beyond McCowan Station is unlikely.  Rob Prichard noted that the sequencing of projects may be changed depending on what is planned for Sheppard to accommodate constraints on the cash flow acceptable to Queen’s Park.

During the press scrum, the Star’s Tess Kalinowski asked at what point is Council’s position considered to have “coalesced”.  Bruce McCuaig replied that there are two points:

  • What position will Council take after the report of the Expert Panel on Sheppard?
  • How much power will they delegate to staff to negotiate the Master Agreement with Metrolinx, and will the agreement have to come back to Council for ratification?

McCuaig noted that a lot of work on the language of an agreement already existed from previous work on the 5-in-10 plan.

I asked about press reports that the Presto implementation in Toronto might be held hostage now that the Ford MoU which purported to commit Toronto to Presto was of no force.  Bruce McCuaig replied that work on Presto is still moving forward, and that implementation of the fare card is linked to other funding agreements including the streetcar purchase and the provincial gas tax share.  Metrolinx expects that an agreement for Presto implementation will go to the TTC Commission at its March 2012 meeting.

[I will report on other issues from the Metrolinx meeting as an update to my “preview” article.]

The LRT Vote: A Long Day at Council (I)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012 brought the debate on the future of LRT in Toronto to the floor of Council for a Special Meeting.  After a year waiting for Mayor Ford to get his act together on the transit file, to bring his Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Queen’s Park to Council for debate, to bring a credible plan for financing the Sheppard Subway extensions into public view, Council had enough.

TTC Chair Karen Stintz, the last person the progressive wing of Council would have expected, filed a petition with the City Clerk on February 6 for the meeting with the support of 23 of her colleagues.  Two days later, Council would be in open revolt against the Mayor.  The public gallery filled quickly, with overflow viewing by video in the rotunda of City Hall, and the Press Gallery had more reporters and camera crews than I have seen at Council in years.  They stayed all day — this was not a story to cover in an hour or so.

Stepping back from the political drama, this was an astounding day for me as a lifelong advocate for Light Rail Transit.  Here was Toronto Council spending an entire day debating transit planning, technology and funding with a level of detailed knowledge of the issues advocates could only have dreamed of years ago.  At stake was not just $8.4-billion of provincial money, but the future direction of transit development.

The results are reported elsewhere.  This article presents the flavour of the questions and speeches that filled the day together with a strong sense that LRT, forty years after the Streetcars for Toronto Committee’s victory, will finally have a fair chance in Toronto.  I have included details of the questions asked by most Councillors in the interest of showing the range of the debate and the growing understanding, or lack of it, by various members of the details of the issues.

Mayor Ford is not known as a gracious loser, and long before the votes were actually counted, it was clear which way the issue would turn.  The lowest point of the day came just after lunch when the Mayor’s team attempted to sabotage the meeting by breaking quorum.  Council cannot meet without a majority of members present (23), and the Mayor’s folks actually seemed to think that by staying away, they could halt the meeting.

This shows the desperation of the anti-LRT side, and puts Ford’s later comment that Council’s vote was “irrelevant” in a different light.  So relevant was that vote that he attempted to ensure it never took place.  He failed.

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