Transit City, rise from your grave! (Or, at least, let’s build something on Finch)

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On Councillor Josh Matlow’s radio show this week, the councillor half-wondered if the Transit City plan could be resurrected, given the recent flavour of council, which has shown a willingness to go against the mayor.

NewsTalk 1010’s Russ Courtney:

Matlow says transit advocates believe that because the mayor has been forced to alter his agenda the time could be right to return to the plan scrapped by Rob Ford after taking office.

“They smell blood in the water, says Matlow. “They’ve seen the Mayor not win every single vote. They’re wondering if this is an opportunity to revive Transit City from the dead.”

“Any discussion about whether or not (Transit City) get revisited would be done in conjunction with Metrolinx,” said TTC chair Karen Stintz.

via NEWSTALK 1010 – IN-DEPTH RADIO :: Matlow Wonders If Transit City Could Rise From the Dead – Local News :: Local News Stories.

As John Michael McGrath over at OpenFile notes, Stintz’s response on the issue is surprising, because you’d expect an outright denial and instead she side-stepped.

Reviving Transit City — and by Transit City at this point we mean the surface/underground alignment for the Eglinton LRT, the Sheppard LRT, and the Finch LRT — is challenging, but not so far outside the realm of possibility. Given construction timelines, switching the plan for Eglinton back to surface operation on the eastern and western edges of the line is doable. That said, I’m not sure Metrolinx — who has positioned the crosstown as a regional line with future links into the 905 — would be eager to accept yet another change to the plan.

I get where Matlow’s coming from, though. Given council’s newfound enthusiasm for rejecting the mayor’s most unworkable ideas, a council debate on the current transit strategy is warranted. We’ve been promised a council vote on these issues for months now. Even if the idea of reviving Transit City doesn’t come to the forefront, a thorough look at the mayor’s quest to privately fund a Sheppard Subway extension deserves scrutiny.

Remember, there’ still $300 million in committed funding from the federal government for transit on Sheppard. No one is entirely sure where that’s going. Attaching those funds to a Sheppard Subway extension that probably won’t ever happen is a waste. Applying that cash where it’s needed — say, on Finch West, in the form of light rail or a bus rapid transit project — could provide immediate, transformative benefit to an overcrowded corridor.

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