New mayor wants subways not streetcars
TTC will cost-out different options and report back in Jan
(Written for Town Crier Dec. 1)
Transit City is dead.
So said Mayor Rob Ford on his first day in office Dec. 1.
The first task of the new TTC board will be to formally stop spending on the project we do not need anymore, said Ford.
“Transit City is over,” Ford told the media this afternoon. “Their second task will be to move forward on subway construction. I expect they will report back on options by the end of January.”
“We will re-focus our transit plan on subways not streetcars. And we will not build anymore tracks down the middle of our streets.”
During the election campaign Ford pledged $3 billion for a Sheppard subway connecting Downsview subway and the Scarborough Town Centre; and $1 billion to turn the existing Scarborough Rapid Transit line into a subway. He planned to achieve this by 2015 by reallocating $3.7 billion committed by the province for the approved Transit City plan and generating an additional $300 million by selling density rights to developers along the subway corridor.
But it is unclear if the province and the regional transit agency Metrolinx will agree to switch gears.
“I look forward to meeting Premier (Dalton) McGuinty in the next few weeks,” to talk about the new transit plan, said Ford.
It’s also not clear what the reaction will be from the province if the money it has spent so far is wasted.
The province has spent at least $130 million so far on environmental assessments and tunnel boring machines for Eglinton LRT and signed contracts for over a billion.
What is clear is Ford is wasting no time asking the TTC to go back to the drawing board. He met with TTC general manager Gary Webster this morning at 7 a.m. for 90 minutes.
“As staff, he asked us to cost out his plan — the plan he generated during his campaign,” Webster told a media conference call this afternoon.
Webster was asked to come back in January with a couple of options including the cost of the current plan for LRT with underground options; the current plan but with subways instead of light rapid transit; the cost of Ford’s plan for a Sheppard subway versus the cost the same line as underground light rapid transit; and the cost of turning the existing Scarborough Rapid Transit line into a subway versus cost of making it a LRT line.
“He is not opposed to light rapid transit underground is my understanding,” said Webster.
So does that mean the Eglinton LRT is dead?
“I don’t know yet,” said Webster. “That will be answered when we come up with a new plan.”
How ‘bout the Sheppard LRT?
About $28 million on work along Sheppard for an at grade separation will proceed, said Webster.
“We need to look at Sheppard as an LRT underground, a Sheppard subway and purchasing vehicles, a storage yard,” said Webster about comparing various costs before proceeding further.
Councillor Joe Mihevc, the outgoing TTC vice-chair, was not impressed with Ford’s announcement to kill Transit City.
“The first lesson the mayor needs to learn is council is supreme — not the mayor,” said Mihevc. “In my view, council needs to vote (on changes).
“As of today, the only thing (Ford) can say is he will be proposed this, frankly, to council.”
Mihevc, whose Ward 21 includes sections of Eglinton said a transit plan here isn’t dead.
“The mayor’s assistant personally told me yesterday that they are okay with the underground portion of the Eglinton LRT and the reason for that is because it’s underground,” said Mihevc.
And if Transit City is canceled, Mihevc said, the province may come to the city to recoup millions it has spent already.
“If I was the province and if I was to be asked, ‘I want to cancel the work you have paid 100 percent of the dollars on’ and you Mr. and Mrs. City voted on and supported and now want to change direction. I’d say, ‘fine you pay our bills.’ ”
Mihevc said so far the province has spent about $250 million on Transit City.
“We have signed agreements with a whole bunch of parties,” Mihevc told the media this afternoon. “So as a fiscally responsible mayor as he is reporting to be, this is highly, fiscally irresponsible.”