Council votes against Ford to return to LRT transit
Although Rob Ford continued to proclaim that "taxpayers want subways" the folks on city council proved they don't buy that theory, earlier today adopting a motion put forward by Karen Stintz to return to a LRT-focused transit plan that looks a lot like the first phase of Transit City. After a marathon special meeting at City Hall today, the final tally was 25-18 in favour of the TTC Chair's transit strategy, which includes light rail on Finch Avenue, an at-grade section on Eglinton East and a proposal to investigate the best course of action for Sheppard Avenue East.
Adding mirth to the already-mockery of a meeting, the final vote was attempted a total of three times as councillors claimed they pushed the wrong button. Yes, 8.4 billion worth of transit-bound dollars with which to play, and councillors are stumbling on the first step: pressing the right button. The mis-votes weren't, however, a factor in the final outcome.
It's very possible Giorgio Mammoliti let out an audible weep following the concluding count. Animated throughout the day, the Ward 7 councillor objected to the idea that LRT was being rammed down his constituents' throats, and at one point even suggested that money be diverted to a Finch BRT, the Eglinton LRT and Sheppard subway instead of at-grade rail in the area.
Ford was similarly indignant about the day's proceedings. At the outset of the afternoon session, the mayor attempted to pass a motion that would delay a vote on Stintz's motion in favour of referring the options for the Eglinton Crosstown to an expert panel, who would evaluate the merits of at-grade or underground passage East of Laird Drive.
When that didn't work — his motion was defeated 19-24 — he would later call the entire meeting into question. I'm very confident the Premier will build subways," Ford said during a brief media scrum after the voting had concluded. "Technically speaking that whole meeting was irrelevant because it's a provincial project."
It remains to be seen what exactly Metrolinx and the province will do with today's news, but pretty much any way that you dice it, this meeting was another huge blow to the mayor and his putative leadership. The councillors who backed the Stintz plan spoke of the need for the city to get the most transit infrastructure possible from the $8.4 billion in funding available. So long as the province endorses today's decision, it appears that's set to be the case after all.
Update (9:05 p.m.)
Ontario Minister of Transportation, Bob Chiarelli, has released a statement on today's council meeting, one that sure makes it sound like the province will support council's decision:
"Earlier today, City Council met to debate the future of public transit in the City of Toronto. As a former Regional Chair and Mayor, I have always respected the will of council, as a whole, to come to a position regarding public transit priorities.
Over the past few weeks, Torontonians have been party to a healthy debate about the future of public transit. For many, public transit is a necessity — it's how employees get to and from work, how seniors get to and from their appointments and how students commute to school.
Throughout the debate, the McGuinty government has maintained a clear stance--we wanted the City to come to a common position so that we all could focus on building much-needed transit infrastructure.
Now that Council has endorsed a position, we have asked Metrolinx to consider the impacts on current transit planning and report back to us as quickly as possible."
Update (9:25 p.m.)
Rob Ford has posted a note to his Facebook page indicating that he plans to continue to campaign for subways in spite of today's vote. We've copied it in full below:
I campaigned to bring subways to Toronto and the people of Toronto gave me an overwhelming mandate to build subways.
Today, City Council spoke to its wish for the Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown. The residents of Scarborough, Toronto's fastest growing region, deserve underground rapid transit — and I promised to deliver it to them. Today's vote does not change my promise.
Great cities, like Paris, London and New York were built around long term transit visions 100 years ago. Subways in Scarborough represent that long term vision for our great city.
I want to thank the thousands of you who called and wrote to my office and to the office of your respective Councillors to tell them that you voted for subways.
I will continue to stand up for taxpayers across Toronto. I will continue to work for a high-speed subway network in Scarborough and across the city.
An investment in first class transit infrastructure will stand the test of time. I want residents, many years from now, to look back at our time and be thankful we did the right thing by building subways that will still be in use.
I will not abandon the people of Scarborough and Finch Avenue to a second class transit solution that will inflict St. Clair Avenue style chaos on neighbourhoods without any promise of improved travel times.
That is, and remains, my commitment to you as Mayor of this great city."
Robyn Urback and Derek Flack
Photo by Mariam Matti