The Toronto mayoral race is filled with candidates that all lack leadership. Each and everyone of the candidates of note have kowtowed to the “we need more subways” chant. Not one candidate has the leadership qualities to be able to sell a transit vision that incorporates the appropriate modes where necessary.
Even Rob Ford, known for his fiscal responsible nature is out to lunch when he downplays all LRT plans in favour of subways. Fiscal responsibility should dictate that numerous corridors in this city are far better served with LRT technology over subways. Ford would also focus on buses, which again run counter to the idea of fiscal responsibility as they are far more expensive to operate than LRT trains on a per passenger basis.
Rocco Rossi comes out today with a vision-less idea he calls “Transit City Plus”. It is a plan to sell off certain city assets to pay off the city’s debt, which would free up $450 million per year that the city is currently paying in interest on that debt. Thus, that money could go into transit funding to the tune of $4.5 billion over the next ten years. I call this vision-less because he has no specific vision for what this will build, but he sees 2 km of tunnels and one subway station per year. We all know how well that idea has served us over the past four decades: councillors will fight over who’s constituency will get the next 2 kilometres, and we will end up with NOTHING getting built.
Then there is that wonderful plan of Sarah Thomson who would add a $5 toll on the Toronto-controlled expressways to pay for, wait for it, subway construction. Of course, she fails to realize that a chunk of the traffic on expressways will move to nearby arteries. This in turn slows traffic on those streets and since our subway system works on feeder bus routes, those streets will need more buses in order to provide the current capacity. Not as much of that $5 toll will be available to fund subway lines because more buses will have to be purchased, and their cost of operation will have to come from somewhere.
Numerous candidates have been using the term “Streetcar City” when referring to “Transit City”. For the most part, I find this offensive because Transit City is an LRT plan and not a streetcar plan, but at the same time I do not have complete faith that the TTC has the ability to properly implement a true LRT system. Some of the plans that they appear hard pressed to budge on indicate a very streetcar-oriented frame of mind, particularly with the Eglinton-Crosstown line.
Quite frankly, the Eglinton-Crosstown line must be designed to protect for high capacity all the way from Jane to Don Mills. The tunnelled section is a little short of this length and the design uses only median running for the remainder, when separate right of way options are very viable for these locations.
Though the Don Mills LRT is not part of the first phase of Transit City, what open houses the TTC has held on this line suggests that they insist on shoehorning it onto streets that simply do not have room for an LRT line. With that mindset, is it any wonder why the term “Streetcar City” is being bandied about?
A true leader would take a good look at where new subways are really beneficial to the network as a whole, and where LRT is the best mode, and come up with a plan that would benefit all, and then sell it to the public. If that means cherry-picking parts of the Transit City plan and altering others than so be it. Instead, since Transit City is tainted by David Miller, it must be all bad and must be shunned at every opportunity. Let us all spend billions where it is unnecessary because to do otherwise would be to somehow acknowledge that any of the excess spending under David Miller was somehow acceptable.