Between reducing service while increasing fares, assuming at least a $65 million charge for canceling Transit City while dismissing the number as 'fictitious', making the TTC an essential service at what might cost another $25 million a year and canceling the Finch LRT to plan a fanciful unicorn subway line along Sheppard, transit is screwed up in Toronto.
It's something that Matt Elliott writes about in detail over at his blog today, and is a sentiment that has had an increased crescendo in recent weeks as more news comes out on the transit file.
Following up on this is Joe Drew, a Firefox developer who put together the website savetransitcity.com. I sent Drew some questions by e-mail to further explain his website and where the conversation on transit needs to go:
Why is savetransitcity.com needed, and why now? Transit City—and LRT in general—is the lowest-cost way of extending real rapid transit to the parts of Toronto that aren't served by the subway or the Scarborough RT. It's clear that Mayor Ford currently doesn't have any interest in reconsidering his cancellation of Transit City, but if there's one thing we can count on, it's that Mr. Ford listens to his constituents.
We have to spread the word that the province had already paid for three full lines of rapid transit. The people who are left out of Mayor Ford's new plan—like those watching full buses pass them by on Finch West—are the people we need writing to (and calling) Mr. Ford. Spending three transit lines' worth of money on burying a single transit line makes no financial sense.
And why now? I think the political and populous will is there now. $65 million, the price Mayor Ford imposed on Toronto by cancelling work already under way, is an awfully good motivator. I wish I'd started SaveTransitCity.com months ago, but I'm glad I started it now, because I think we can get real change now.
You announced your soft launch last night. What kind of response have you received?People are excited and very supportive. There are a lot of people who wanted to participate in the sort of action that I'm organizing. It takes a first mover to get something started, but once people start seeing flyers and posters around the city, I expect it to snowball.
There's been a lot of great feedback, too, and I'm going to implement most of that before going wider with my campaign.
Why do you think Transit City failed to gain traction originally and how does this site fill that gap? Transit City actually did have traction. The province had fully funded the construction of three lines, and in fact City Council voted in favour of Transit City three times, including (then-Councillor) Rob Ford. I believe the current opposition stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of Transit City as being "just streetcars" and somehow related to the St. Clair West reconstruction project. I hope that Save Transit City clears up both of these misunderstandings as it develops.
For the average person who won't see transit websites, how can they get connected with this information?
This is one of the most important parts of Save Transit City. I'm creating (and helping and encouraging others to create) posters and flyers to be distributed around the city. They'll inform and engage; I want people waiting in the cold to know that there was going to be a better way before Transit City was cancelled.
I want those who think Mayor Ford only helps the city's budget to know that he wasted $65 million without even bringing it to council for a vote. These posters and flyers, and the awareness they bring, will get the citizens of Toronto to contact their Councillor and Mayor Ford demanding that Transit City be reinstated.
Is the original transit city plan politically viable? Is a compromise plan needed?
Today's City Council is not fundamentally different from the City Council who voted in favour of Transit City. We have to tell our Councillors that we want solutions soon.
Everyone wants a subway near their home, but it will take billions more dollars and many decades to build subways everywhere, and the first phase of Transit City would have been completed before 2020. (Sheppard East would have opened in 2014!) Subways also require a significantly denser population to justify their increased cost, and outside of Toronto's core, that population density just isn't there.
Rapid transit doesn't just mean subways, and LRT provides great rapid transit at a fraction of the cost of subways. Transit City is the right plan for Toronto, and it's time for Torontonians to start demanding our representatives put Transit City back on track.