There’s more high drama and intrigue at the TTC these days as Mayor Rob Ford and his brother Doug seem bound and determined to stick to an election promise to fund and build an extension of the Sheppard Subway, even if it means firing General Manager Gary Webster and dismantling the City’s streetcar system. I can offer no explanation as to why they feel so strongly about keeping this promise while simultaneously breaking other, more important promises.
Nevertheless, The Toronto Star’s Tess Kalinowski has the story:
Gary Webster, the TTC’s top executive, is caught in the crosshairs of Mayor Rob Ford’s administration, prompting fears that Toronto transit could be headed on a disastrous course if he’s fired.
A 30-year TTC veteran, the 60-year-old chief general manager has drawn the ire of the Fords over his refusal to support the Sheppard subway extension the mayor wants to build, say Toronto Star sources.
Most transit experts, including former TTC boss David Gunn, consider the subway plan a joke.
A joke! That’s great.
Kalinowski also confirms something I’ve heard in a few places: that TTC Chair Karen Stintz and the mayor are at odds over Webster’s future, with Stintz sticking up for her GM. That the Fords have apparently floated Case Ootes and Gordon Chong — are these their only allies? — as potential replacements can’t establish much confidence. No offence meant to either man, but careers as an oil company executive and a dentist, respectively, don’t exactly lend themselves to running the day-to-day operations of one of North America’s largest transit systems.
There’a also this, from the same article:
The plan to get rid of Webster “is in play now,” said former TTC vice-chair Joe Mihevc.
“(The Fords) are so committed to Sheppard they are actively contemplating getting rid of the entire streetcar system in Toronto,” he said, adding that the cost of the new streetcars could be applied to the subway.
“If Doug Ford bullies his way through on this, it truly will be the victory of extreme authoritarian ideology over good public transit policy and good business management,” Mihevc said.
Councillor Mihevc could be working off second-hand information, so it’s probably unfair to jump to immediate conclusions, but let’s go with this line of thinking as an exercise. Toronto’s streetcar system — including the right-of-way routes on St. Clair & Spadina — carries almost 275,000 riders per day. The Sheppard Subway, at its current abbreviated length, carries just under 50,000. (These are 2008 figures.) If this streetcars-for-Sheppard scheme is an attempt to win populist approval, it’s entirely backwards.
Transit advocate Steve Munro has the last word on this story:
In ten years, we would have a much reduced quality of transit service in the central city, we would choke streets with clouds of buses and limit the growth of major areas served by the present and proposed streetcar system. In return, Sheppard Avenue would have its subway, and what started as Lastman’s folly and a Liberal campaign promise by former Premier David Peterson would become a full-blown monument to the stupidity of transit planning and politics in Toronto.
A full-blown monument to the stupidity of transit planning and politics in Toronto. Nicely said.