On Wednesday, December 1, Rob Ford condemned Toronto to mediocrity. With his decision to cancel Transit City he decided what the Toronto of the future will look like: sprawling, car-choked and bland. Moreover, he has managed to do this through a campaign of misinformation and false promises.
Transit City was the single greatest opportunity that Toronto has had in 30 years to increase the breadth and quality of the transit system. It would have extended service out to the outer suburbs and benefited hundreds of thousands of people who have been denied access to fast commutes. It was also, in a major coup for the previous city government, completely paid for by the provincial and federal governments. That’s right – the province and the federal government are paying the costs of building the network; contrary to the misinformation swirling around, this is not a Toronto-funded project. Rob Ford is simply using the confusion surrounding Transit City’s funding to further his own agenda: making cars the focus of Toronto’s transportation future. And, adding insult to injury, he is cancelling a wide-reaching, cost-effective transit-expansion plan in favor of a hugely-expensive option (subways) that will only reach a fraction of the people.
Let’s consider the facts:
Cost per-km of light rail: $75 – 90 million
Cost per-km of subways: $300-500 million
That’s right – subways, the option Rob Ford is promising Torontonians instead of Transit City, costs half-a-billion dollars per km. No one – not the province, not the federal government, not the people of Toronto – no one is going to swallow that. In other words, Rob Ford is going to kill a fully-funded plan and replace it with an option that’s so expensive it’s DOA.
Not concrete enough? Let’s look at the one proposal that Rob Ford has actually tabled: building a subway in Scarborough.
Transit City Option
Total cost: 1.1 billion
Number of stops: 26
Total length of line: 12 km – reaching all the way to Morningside Ave.
Rob Ford’s Subway Option
Total cost: 3.6 billion
Number of stops: 7
Total length of line: 7 km – making it only to Scarborough Centre (shorter than the current RT)
That’s right: Rob Ford’s subway option is 3 times the cost, has 27% of the stops, and would be shorter than the current Scarborough RT.. This is not value for money. This is not stopping waste. This is simply irresponsible.
Rob Ford’s cancellation of Transit City is more than irresponsible – it is a slap in the face to the people of Toronto. Torontonians have the worst commute times in North America. Killing public transit only worsens this. Gas prices are rising. Making cars the future of transportation in Toronto will only make it more expensive to get to work, drop off the kids or do errands. And throwing away fully-committed provincial/federal funding while putting Torontonians on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in cancellation fees is hardly the stuff of fiscal prudence. Moreover, Rob Ford’s decision removes the first chance Toronto has had in a generation to significantly improve the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of people in Toronto’s outer suburbs.
There are some that believe that cooler heads will prevail and that council will save Transit City. This is by no means a given. Rob Ford is already invoking his margin of victory as a mandate to simply strong-arm his decision into reality. This is a man that hates transit, hates LRT, and would do anything to kill Transit City, regardless of how much money has been spent. No, the only way to save the transit expansion and improve your quality of life is to speak out and speak loudly against this wilful ignorance, this breathtakingly short-sighted decision. Only we can stop Rob Ford.