Ford’s transit plan: still unapproved, still lacking

On Monday, Rob Ford’s Executive Committee briefly discussed the City Manager’s response to Councillor Janet Davis’ administrative inquiries regarding the mayor’s transit plan and the steps necessary to officially adopt his plan over the previously-approved — and started — Transit City plan.

You’ll recall that the City Manager confirmed in his response that “any agreements to implement the Memorandum [between the province and the city, regarding the new transit plan] will require Council approval.” That’s a requirement that Rob Ford has continued to ignore.

Still, Ford was defiant at the meeting, as reported by the Toronto Sun’s Don Peat:

“We’re working on [my transit plan], everyone is going to see it, everything is on track, pardon the pun,” Ford told reporters.

He dismissed Davis’ concern that his transit plan hasn’t been approved by council.

“I campaigned for close to a year, I was crystal clear that I want to build subways and that I was going to kill Transit City or Streetcar City or whatever you want to call it…the people spoke loud and clear.”

via Ford’s opponents try to block his transit plan | Toronto & GTA | News | Toronto Sun.

(For sanity’s sake, let’s just ignore the bit where the mayor seems to imply that things he perceives as popular don’t require council approval.)

While Ford did campaign for close to a year, his transit plan was not unveiled until his team released it via YouTube on September 7, 2010. A mere 48 days before election day.

Before the YouTube reveal, Ford’s comments on transit did tend to stick close to his “subways good, streetcars bad” position, but it was never a top-of-mind issue when he was campaigning. His supporters were, I’d argue, most moved by the “stop the gravy train” rhetoric. His other policy positions were background noise.

Ford’s anti-LRT position hinges on a number of incorrect assumptions. First, he wrongly believes that LRT as proposed with Transit City is synonymous with the city’s downtown streetcar network. It’s not. Second, he believes that LRT will inevitably remove road space used by vehicles. But it doesn’t. Transit City didn’t propose any loss of lanes for cars.

He also believes — and I think this is the prime motivator — that on-street LRT construction is inherently more disruptive to businesses and residents (In the campaign-era article I referred to above, he argued “Once you’re going underground you won’t affect the stores and the businesses as much as you did on St. Clair.”). Thus by avoiding on-street construction we avoid situations like we saw on St. Clair, where businesses suffered and children cried and so on.

But the mayor has never really understood that the St. Clair construction –and the recent project on Roncesvalles, for that matter — was about more than just installing a streetcar right-of-way. It was about street beautification, improving the pedestrian realm and doing necessary utility upgrades, among other things.

Now that construction for the coming Eglinton LRT has shifted underground along the length of the route — at a cost of two billion dollars — some of the same businesses Rob Ford would seek to protect by avoiding another St. Clair situation are actually complaining. Turns out they wanted the streetscape improvements they would have received with the original on-street LRT plan.

The Globe & Mail’s Josh O’Kane:

[The Eglinton light-rail line] was originally was originally planned to be a largely above-ground project, but this spring the province gave in to Mayor Rob Ford’s desire for underground transit, agreeing to fund $8.2-billion for the Eglinton line. Because it will be mostly dug by a tunnel-boring machine, there’ll be few disruptions on the ground. But at Tuesday’s meeting, there was concern that the underground project would mean no revitalization for the midtown artery.

“The street is a mess,” local business owner Arnold Rowe told The Globe. “We need improvement for pedestrian facilities … and the use of roadways.” He asked the city and provincial representatives at the meeting – TTC chairwoman Karen Stintz, Ontario Minister of Transportation Kathleen Wynne, Eglinton-Lawrence MPP Mike Colle and Ward 15 Councillor Josh Colle – if there were plans to work on the street itself as part of the project.

Mike Colle said that there no concrete plans, but that he hoped the launch of the rail line would mean the “reshaping, revitalizing, improving above ground – starting now.”

via Metrolinx seeks to calm anxieties over Eglinton LRT | The Globe and Mail. (Emphasis added.)

It should be noted that underground subway construction is no picnic for businesses and residents that live along the route. Stations still need to be constructed, and stations require on-street access.

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