Special city council meeting on Toronto transit
City Council has assembled for a special meeting to quarrel about the future of Toronto transit. The City has $8.4 billion worth of provincial dollars to play with, and naturally, there are conflicting ideas on the best way to spend it. While Ford et al. are, of course, touting subways, TTC chair Karen Stinz and a host of other councillors are backing a compromise solution that includes would bring LRT to streets like Finch currently lacking such infrastructure.
We'll periodically update this post as the meeting continues.
Update (7:15 p.m.)
Karen Stintz's motion passes 25-18 after a series of mis-votes. That means LRT on Finch West, at-grade LRT on Eglinton East, and a study of how best to proceed on Sheppard Avenue. We'll have more on this shortly.
Update (5:50 p.m.)
Councillor Nunziata, speaking in her outdoor voice as always, mentions her opposition to the late Transit City in emphasizing the superiority of buried transit on Eglinton. Councillor Mihevc points out that Nunziata did, in fact, vote in favour of Transit City, and a mild "raised-voice" match ensues. Mammoliti inevitably joins in. People in the gallery contemplate death.
Update (5:25 p.m.)
Councillor Peter Milczyn thinks Council needs to emphasize, literally, other possible sources of funds for the Sheppard line extension. He also thinks Stinz deserves some props for standing up for what she believes to be best for Toronto transit. Agree?
Update (5:15 p.m.)
Councillor Lee proposes an amendment to Stinz's proposal to include a member of the Sheppard East Village BIA on the suggested expert advisory panel. A totally logical recommendation—wait, am I at City Hall?!
Update (5:00 p.m.)
"Show me your magic beans!" Councillor Perruzza exclaims to Mammoliti. We'd all love subways, he continues, but we don't have the magic beans to fund them. TouchÃ©, sir. Perruzza says Council is burning money (I believe his exact words were, "We're burning it! We're burning it! We're burning it!") and emphasizes the need to move forward with Stinz's plan. I, for one, would like to see those magic beans.
Update (4:40 p.m.)
Doug Ford has just finished an impassioned plea on behalf of Scarborough. In arguing that subways vs. LRT create a two-tiered system, he has considerably amped up the downtown vs. suburbs rhetoric. For a different way of thinking about Scarborough transit, here are just a few of the problems it faces while it waits for an unfunded subway.
Update (4:20 p.m.)
And then Mammoliti dropped a bomb. "The only difference between the Giambrone and Stinz proposals," he said, "is that we don't have a leather couch in this particular proposal." Less stinging, perhaps, was his amendment motion to divert funds from the Finch LRT to go towards Eglinton and Sheppard. Yes, you read that right; he is taking money away from his ward and putting it elsewhere. That's one way to prove a point.
Update (4:35 p.m.)
Here's a link to Councillor Karen Stintz's PowerPoint presentation on Toronto transit planning. It's worth a look if you're looking for more context on why she's brought her motion forward.
Update (4:10 p.m.)
With the refer/defer motions having failed, Council has returned to the original debate of Stinz's motion. This has been a slow-moving process during which both Councillor Cho and Councillor Wong-Tam put forward motions regarding federal funding for Toronto transit expansion and gender and racial equality with regards to the Sheppard line extension.
Update (3:30 p.m.)
The afternoon session began with a cameo by Rob Ford (who was noticeably absent during much of the morning meeting). Ford brought forward a motion to defer the vote on the Eglinton line for 30 days in order to establish an expert fact-finding panel to assess the situation — and to delay what looks more and more like a vote he can't win. After passionate pleas by various councillors both for and against the motion (which was amended by Councillor David Shiner to include evaluation of other TTC projects including the LRT on Finch and Avenue), the motion failed by a vote of 24 to 19.
That has paved the way for continued deliberation on Stintz's original motion.
The meeting kicked off with Stinz's list of recommendations, which includes a proposal to establish an "expert" panel on transit. The panel would include former mayor David Crombie, Eric Miller from the University of Toronto, and Gordon Chong, among others, all of whom would weigh in on how best to execute the Sheppard Avenue expansion. According to Stinz's proposal, the advisory panel would report back no later than February 21. The mayor's existing plan sees the Sheppard expansion buried, as well as the entire Eglinton Crosstown line.
TTC chief general manager Gary Webster then put himself in front of the firing squad (only a bit of hyperbole there), fielding questions about Sheppard (Matlow: Does Sheppard meet the TTC's test for full subway? Webster: No), deflecting subtle motions for deferral (Grimes: Should we wait for Metrolinx to weigh in? Webster: No, we have the information we need), and defending his record and expertise.
Photo by Mariam Matti
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