Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Transit: How we got here and what to expect

So you may have heard that there's a special meeting of council this morning. Called by opponents to Mayor Ford's transit plan, the meeting will focus on just transit. 

At issue is the 2009 Memorandum of Agreement for the Transit City plan. The MoA expires on March 31 after which Council would have no transit deal in place (particularly since Ford's memorandum of understanding has no chance of passing). 

That this MoA has been resurrected is surprising by itself and deserves some context. Here's the timeline of how we got here:

  • Ford ally and Deputy Speaker John Parker calls the all-underground LRT plan 'goofy'. 
  • While Ford campaigned on subways (and no Eglinton line), TTC chair Karen Stintz comments to the Globe and Mail's Adrian Morrow that if the decision is to go with an LRT, it should be done at-grade where possible. 
  • At City Hall the next day, Stintz indicates she thought she had the support of Doug Ford (and thus the Mayor's office) on the item. The Mayor strongly opposes the Stintz plan. 
  • A group of councillors, including Stintz, Parker, Josh Matlow, Maria Augimeri and Joe Mihevc have meetings throughout the day to come up with some kind of compromise plan. 
  • The compromise plan comes out and includes a BRT on Finch (which could conceivably be turned into LRT later), a subway stop added to the Sheppard line and the Eglinton east crosstown surfacing for 8km. 
  • As the transit file becomes increasingly nebulous, Metrolinx issues a letter asking for a clear direction to move forward. 
  • At the regularly scheduled TTC meeting, Ford allies on the board, knowing they can't win at Council, vote 6-3 against a Stintz motion to finalize a framework for construction on the Eglinton project. In effect it is a vote of non-confidence in Stintz (Parker and Augimeri were the other two in the minority). 
  • As the Ford team gets beat up on the transit file, it doubles down on the rhetoric. In his weekly 'Cut the Waist' scrum, Ford fields questions on transit with the same answer, resulting in poetic and autotuned homages. 
  • The rhetoric continues. A push poll comes out later in the week suggesting people want subways, but its value is panned. Gordon Chong's long-awaited Sheppard report surfaces with more optimistic numbers than he ever suggested before. It also argues that any subway financing would be contingent on an alternate revenue source, like road tolls or congestion charges. The mayor's team also co-ordinates talking points, some of which are debunked here.  
  • On Superbowl Sunday news breaks that Council's opposition will call a special meeting to essentially revert to Transit City (but don't call it that). Stintz indicates that had her TTC commission vote went through she would not have done this. 
Further Information
Torontoist has a great summary of what this special meeting means, and you should totally read that. Additionall, Matt Elliott does his usual and rounds up the votes on the issue. Key people to watch will be James Pasternak, Jaye Robinson and John Parker. Robinson and Parker did not sign the petition for the special meeting but have had reservations about the Ford plan. 

What to Expect
Aside from rancorous debate and an out-of-control Frances Nunziata? Well, it's an omnibus motion so Team Ford will try to break it up to get councillors to vote against one another on prioritizing their areas. There will also be amendments to try to delay this to past the key March 31 date, or to send it back to the TTC commission, which coincidentally has a motion to reconstitute its membership (hrmmmmm). 

There were rumours going around City Hall yesterday about some kind of compromise package, but it's been shown that this isn't Ford's preferred route. 

In the meantime, follow council the same way as for the budget meeting (see tips here) and I'll be on Twitter. 

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