Wednesday, March 2, 2011

TotD: The more I see of Rob Ford...

... in action the more I get the opinion that he exists to delay Transit City long enough that the Tories can get elected this fall and cancel the whole kit and caboodle of transit funding for Toronto in an effort to trim the provincial deficit like they did back in the 90's.

At which point he can throw his hands in the air and claim it's all "The Province's" fault we've seen no transit infrastructure improvements of significance in this city in the last 20 years. Suggesting we blow billions on Subway lines to Scarborough when it lacks the population densities is part of this strategy - it makes it look like he wants to do something when he knows damned well no one is going to want to pay for his plan; least of all the private sector who, if they have any common sense, will be looking at his suggestion that they pay for the rights to build/run stations against splits of redevelopment money of the surrounding land and counterbalancing it against the Spadina Line north of St Clair station where you've entrenched residential owners who've fought any attempt to bring housing capacity to the areas around those stations tooth and nail and brought redevelopment to a snails pace. They'd be idiots to bet on being able to make their money back without city guarantees that they will, which we keep being told won't happen. Until it does.

Meanwhile, the lines that need to be built - particularly the long overdue Eglinton (hi 3 busses every 5 minutes at peak along low capacity roadways with no room for expansion within the areas of highest occupancy), and Downtown Relief Lines (the core is the heart of this city, we've largely successfully avoided the urban planning disaster of "hollowing it out" through multiple past initiatives, and we need to maintain ready access to it, the workplaces, and event facilities it contains) - continue to be overshadowed by largely Conservative pre-occupation with running lines out to residential Scarborough and its tracts of single dwelling households. You begin to get the idea that there's... "election funding"... tied to this from developers looking at cheap land, relatively speaking, and hoping they can go there instead of buying and/or redeveloping expensive buildings/properties nearer to the core. Which sounds great on paper, until you remember that the OMB lurkith like a troll waiting for them to cross the bridge and be consumed while existing residents close in from either end, furious with rage, to stop them escaping with pitchforks and fire.

The funny thing is, the Downtown Relief Line is already built - we need merely work with Private Enterprise and Go to take over the tracks and get TTC trains on them with a regular schedule. 4 lanes in and out of Union Station allowing for Express lines through the middle and Locals on the outers so we can whisk people into and out of the core as fast as they need to go or let them go 2 stops within the city. Before someone goes apeshit about no "First Class City" using rail... well, Tokyo's entire network is built on a combination of Surface and Subsurface trains, with the subsurface lines being largely internal to the city and the surface lines dual purposing as feeders from the surrounding towns. So, it's not like this has never been done before. For the most part, we need merely add more stations to existing lines and better connect existing Go Facilities with the TTC ones and we could have this sub-line operating out of Union in short order.

The primary problem will be working out how to deal with commercial traffic, in the form of shipping, that still needs to travel through the city. Do we have sufficient lanes to simply schedule around it, or would we need to work out a diversion line to take train traffic around the north end of the city instead of through the lower core. A key question that will also need to be answered is how much of that traffic still stops within the city itself, especially as the Harbour has become more playplace than Industrial Hub.

Finally, if we want Subways, maybe it's time we started bloody well paying for them instead of expecting other people to (the funny thing about Ford's stance on Transit City: the Province is footing essentially the entire bill and we've largely one man telling them to go fuck themselves. Gift Horse meet Mouth.). The city now has the power to levy special taxes, as evidenced by all the new ones that were introduced by the prior administration that the current one has decided to try and bankrupt us by cutting. So, figure out just how much of a tax is required to pay for X amount of new subway/year, legislate that the money from this tax be lock-boxed away from council and the TTC so it can't be lost into general revenues, and put the plan to a referendum and let the people decide.

We'll either decide we want to go forward with it, or we won't. But, either way, at least we'd have actually made progress towards deciding to do something other than tugging at Mom's leg like a 4 year old and throwing a tantrum when we're told no.

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