Transit and planning experts rally against Ford's plans
It's deja vu, to be sure — but will Mayor Ford's plans be undone once again? Roughly 120 urban planning and transit experts — many of whom criticized the Fords' redevelopment vision for the Port Lands last September — have released an open letter that urges Toronto city councillors to put a stop to a plan that would see the Eglinton Crosstown LRT buried in its entirety. Noting that the current policy would "inflict punitive social costs on large numbers of our citizens who will receive no relief from unacceptably poor transit service and unremitting congestion," the authors outline a three-step plan to get Toronto transit planning back on track.
Along with a call to reinvigorate long term planning, the letter's signees, which include former chief planner Paul Bedford and mayor David Crombie, encourage council to support previous plans for at-grade (surface) alignment of the eastern section of the Eglinton Crosstown and to divert funds to other capital projects, including "high-order transit" on Finch Avenue West and Sheppard Avenue East. In other words, the authors support a course of action that's somewhat similar to the compromise plan put forward by TTC Chair Karen Stintz, with the major exception being that they conceive of heavy-rail on Sheppard as "unjustified."
The timing of the letter seemed somewhat strange when it was first released at 11:00 a.m. on so-called Superbowl Sunday, the same day that CUPE and the City of Toronto announced that they had reached a tentative agreement in labour negotiations. When Stintz tweeted that she'd be asking for a special meeting of city council early Monday morning to "respond to Metrolinx's letter regarding its transit projects," however, it started to make a whole lot more sense. Perhaps it's just a bit of good luck, but this letter has been released just before council will effectively have to choose between the former Transit City plan or Rob Ford's desire to spend $8.4 million on a completely underground version of the Eglinton Crosstown.
"Planning for desperately needed public transit expansion within the City of Toronto... is currently in astate of disarray and the Mayor's current plans will not provide cost-effective solutions to the City's pressing transportation needs," the letter reads. Perhaps the collective clout of the signees will sway council when it convenes to determine the immediate future of transit planning in Toronto. That's clearly the idea.
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