Posts Tagged: finch lrt


10
Feb 12

Notes on a Transit Plan

An April 2010 photo shows David Miller distributing "Save Transit City" buttons at Eglinton station. That woman on the left sure looks familiar. (Photo by Brad Pritchard / InsideToronto)

An April 2010 photo shows David Miller distributing "Save Transit City" flyers at Eglinton station. The woman pictured at far left sure looks familiar. (Photo by Brad Pritchard / InsideToronto)

1. We probably should have seen this coming

In April 2010, Karen Stintz spent a morning at Eglinton station with then-mayor David Miller. In the wake of provincial cuts to funding, the two of them distributed “Save Transit City” flyers to commuters. “I fully support Mayor Miller and his initiative and I’m proud to stand here beside him and get the message out,” she told the National Post.

That was a big statement. Stintz and Miller rarely saw eye-to-eye. It’s probably fair to describe her as a perpetual thorn in his side. She once dismissed his agenda as “bags, bottles and bicycles.” But when it came to funded and realistic transit planning, she was willing to work with the guy in the mayor’s chair. She was willing to be an advocate.

So what did we really learn about Karen Stintz this week? That she’s willing to stand up for achievable and realistic transit planning? That she’s open to working with people across the political spectrum to ensure those plans move forward? That she believes in Light Rail Transit?

We already knew these things about Karen Stintz.

2. Unavoidable truth: Transit City’s back

The light rail plan endorsed by council on Wednesday has got all sorts of names. Some called it the “Stintz plan.” Others called it the “Council plan.” The mayor, as is his way, called it “streetcar city.”

But whatever. Ignoring the politics of it — and maybe it’s not wise to point this out — it’s impossible to ignore that this plan is, essentially, a direct continuation of Transit City. It’s pretty well the same plan we would have seen go forward had David Miller remained in office for another term.

No bones about it: David Miller’s legacy got a shot in the arm on Wednesday.

3. Will the mayor get his Sheppard Subway anyway?

An interesting twist at this week’s meeting came from a Stintz motion that called for an “expert panel” brought together over the next month to discuss what to do with transit on Sheppard Avenue. The light rail plan — currently on the books as part of Transit City — has faced opposition because it’ll force an inconvenient transfer at Don Mills station on the Sheppard Subway line.

My first thought was that this panel was just an attempt to throw a bone toward Scarborough councillors, and that they’d ultimately conclude that light rail was the way to go. But during an appearance on NewsTalk 1010 Thursday morning, Councillor Adam Vaughan gave the impression that he expected the experts to support a one- or two-stop subway extension to Victoria Park.

A small subway extension would be an interesting outcome, serving two purposes: first, it shoves the question of what to do on Sheppard in the long-term off to the far-flung future. Another council and another mayor can figure it out. Second, it gives the mayor — even after all of his bitching and hyperbole and dirty tricks — a chance to deliver on a campaign promise.

4. Dirty Tricks & Pettiness

I mentioned dirty tricks: it’s worth noting how desperate and petty Ford and his allies got as yesterday’s council meeting rolled forward. Coming back from the lunch break, rumour was that the Ford allies were going to attempt the procedural equivalent of  taking the ball and going home. The talk was that the mayor would try to force a halt to the meeting by intentionally breaking quorum in the council chamber.

After a tense delay, Ford and a handful of allies did return to the chamber so the meeting could resume. There weren’t enough of them to break quorum.

They followed that up with further petty procedural meddling. When it came time to excuse councillors who were absent from the meeting, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong insisted on separating the vote into two parts. He wanted to vote against excusing Gloria Lindsay Luby, who had booked a vacation before talk of this special council meeting got started.

In a show of macho pride made completely bizarre because all it does is further alienate a councillor who is ideologically aligned with Rob Ford on most issues, Minnan-Wong voted against excusing her. So did Paul Ainslie, Mike Del Grande, Frank Di Giorgio, Doug Ford, Giorgio Mammoliti, Frances Nunziata and the mayor.

This is not how you win friends and influence people.

5. What happens next? 

As expected, the province was quick to lend legitimacy to council’s decision. In fact, we learned today that Dalton McGuinty told Rob Ford days before the meeting that he would not support the mayor’s subway plan without council’s endorsement.

The remaining piece of the puzzle is Sheppard. Council will come back for another special meeting on March 21, at which time we’ll know whether we’re looking at subway or light rail in that corridor. That should be another fun meeting for the mayor to sit through.

Meanwhile, Rob Ford’s doing his best to make himself relevant to this debate. He’s spent damn near every hour since the vote attempting to spark public outcry over council’s decision, but there’s no real indication that he’s going to get anywhere with this plan. Yeah, the average person on the street will tell you that subways are awesome and we should have more of them, but that same person might also tell you that we should have libraries that are open 24 hours a day, free recreation programs, no property taxes and a fully-developed waterfront built by 2015.

Politics is about balancing what people want with fiscal reality — you can’t give people services you can’t pay for. You have to accept trade-offs to ensure public money is spent to maximum public benefit. You’ve got to be efficient and realistic. It’s weird that Rob Ford doesn’t understand this.


9
Feb 12

LRT for Toronto: Rob Ford loses bid to control Toronto’s transit future

Rob Ford’s unilateral transit planning came to an end today when council voted 25-18 to re-endorse plans for light rail transit on Eglinton, Finch & the SRT route. Back before Rob Ford was elected, we would have called this “Transit City.” Mostly.

There were no major surprises coming out of today’s vote. TTC Chair Karen Stintz did broker a small compromise when she ended up punting on the idea of light rail on Sheppard. As it stands, an “expert panel” will review various options for that corridor — including the mayor’s favoured subway scheme. In addition, Jaye Robinson, who will always be a wildcard and was a major unknown going in to today’s vote, ended up voting in favour of the proposal championed by Stintz. Her vote was important as it gave council the strong majority it needed to convince the province this was a serious  — and unwavering — decision.

It seemed like it worked. Every indication is that the province will accept council’s plan and move forward under this new framework.

Rob Ford is obviously not happy. Over the course of the meeting, his administration tried everything from a deferral motion to spiteful procedural delay in an effort to stave off the inevitable vote. In the end, nothing worked. The mayor went down, losing a major vote on transit.

Afterwards, Ford attempted to save face by declaring today’s meeting irrelevant. On his Facebook page, he promised that the fight for transit is not over. But given the province’s reaction and the nature of today’s vote, it’s hard to see his statements as anything more than a lame duck mayor grasping for relevance in the face of total defeat.


25
Jan 12

Council builds a new transit plan: the pros and cons

Toronto Star: Proposed New Transit Plan

That happened quickly. We got word last night that TTC Chair Karen Stintz’s musings about an above ground Eglinton LRT have given way to a full-blown alternative transit plan. One that’s significantly different from the scheme Rob Ford and Metrolinx have been pushing for the last year.

The Globe & Mail’s Elizabeth Church:

A compromise is in the works to relieve Toronto’s transit headache for the new Eglinton light rail line and fulfill the mayor’s election pledge for a Sheppard subway extension.

A group of Toronto city councillors that includes TTC chair Karen Stintz is proposing that the eastern leg of the new Eglinton Crosstown line run at street level as first planned with the money that saves used to extend the Sheppard subway two stops to Victoria Park. The proposal also would use some of the money to improve TTC service on Finch Avenue West with a dedicated transit corridor.

via Compromise would bring leg of Eglinton LRT back to street level | Globe & Mail.

The Toronto Star’s version of the story includes a helpful map, though it leaves out the coming Spadina subway extension for some reason. I’ve included their graphic at the top of this post.

So: Surface LRT on Eglinton East. A stubby extension to the already stubby Sheppard Subway. And a long Bus Rapid Transit line on Finch. Details are light, but — like with anything — there are some notable pros and cons to this plan.

PRO: This is a plan that’s actually sensible and realistic. It’s a design that serves riders, not the whims of a man with an irrational bias against transit he can see while he’s driving.

CON: Ignoring the fact that it was thrown in as an offering to the mayor, there doesn’t seem to be a strong business case for the one- or two-stop Sheppard extension included in the plan. The Star’s David Rider and Tess Kalinowski peg the cost of that extension at $1 billion, which seems like a high estimate considering that was the cost of the entire Sheppard East LRT, a 14 kilometre route.

PRO: The LRT, as planned as part of Transit City, would have required a similar underground connection to Victoria Park, because there’s a highway interchange standing in the way. In terms of design, a subway extension doesn’t greatly differ from what we would have seen under the original plan, and still leaves the door open to a future LRT line on Sheppard East from Victoria Park to the zoo….

CON: …or ANOTHER subway extension to Scarborough Town Centre. Without a firm long-term plan for transit in this corridor, Toronto risks spending another twenty years endlessly debating what to do on Sheppard. Meanwhile, other parts of the city that are crying out for transit infrastructure go neglected.

PRO: Finch finally gets some love. One of the most horrifically overcrowded transit corridors in the city, Finch needs something — anything — that can help provide higher order service.

CON: The ‘busway’ concept planned for Finch seems rather poorly defined. Rider and Kalinowski peg the cost at about $400 million, for a route that looks to be more than double the length of the 11km Finch West LRT. That LRT line was to cost about $1.2 billion, three times as much. The low cost-per-kilometre makes me wonder how much we’re sacrificing: is this ‘BRT’ just going to be some painted lines on the road or is the plan to build something robust enough that it can be easily converted to light rail in the future? More details are desperately needed here.

PRO: A return to the surface alignment on the eastern section of Eglinton opens the door to further on-street extensions of the line westward toward Pearson Airport. Over time, we may just get the kind of comprehensive network of LRT routes once envisioned with Transit City.

CON: On-street operation on Eglinton East means that the TTC and the City’s transportation department desperately need to get their act together when it comes to route management and transit signal priority. Staff tend to come up with an endless list of excuses for why the streetcars on Spadina and St. Clair continue to bunch up. But we don’t need excuses on Eglinton — we need a transit line that runs well.

PRO: With support from councillors like Karen Stintz, Josh Matlow and John Parker, this alternative transit plan will most assuredly sail through council. Both Dalton McGuinty and reps from Metrolinx have said they’re on board with exploring a new plan. Given growing political support for switching up Toronto’s transit plans, the mayor would have to be completely out of his mind to stand in opposition.

CON: The National Post’s Natalie Alcoba reports that Mark Towhey, Ford’s Director of Policy, has indicated that the mayor does not support any changes. “Residents don’t want trains running down the middle of the street,” he said. Right.

PRO: Despite the questions and concerns on the table, this rethink is very welcome. Blowing $8 billion on a single transit line is the kind of bonehead decision that haunts a city for decades, similar to building an escalator to nowhere or the world’s largest magnifying glass. Going forward, the thing to watch is that we don’t jump from one half-baked plan to another. Council has to make sure that what they’re proposing is realistic, cost-effective and timely.