Subways

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Municipal Election 2014

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If Doug Ford is elected, will he actually be able to build all those subways?

THE IDEA

If Doug Ford’s transit plan has one thing going for it, it’s simplicity. He wants to do one thing, and one thing only: build subways. In the first phase of his Toronto Subway Expansion Plan, a scheme originally advanced by his brother, he proposes not only following through with the Scarborough subway, but also building a Sheppard extension connecting Don Mills to McCowan, a downtown relief line from Queen to Pape, and a Finch West line, to Humber College. He also wants to bury the rest of the Eglinton Crosstown (or however you spell it). Then, in the second phase of the plan, he says he’ll extend the Sheppard line west to Downsview, lengthen the relief line on both ends, burrow the Eglinton line farther west of Mount Dennis and connect Kipling to Humber College with a north-south line. Altogether, the plan would create 32 new kilometres of subway. Ford claims the price tag for the first phase would be $9 billion—an amount he says he’ll raise using a series of measures that would include reallocating existing LRT funding (and, in the process, cancelling approved LRT lines), forging public-private partnerships, instituting development charges, using tax increment financing and selling air rights above stations.

election-idea-evaluator-red-smallIF FORD IS ELECTED, WILL IT HAPPEN?

As a map, Ford’s plan is far superior to any other transit platform. “From a point of view of coverage, he’s got a big network that covers the whole city,” says transit advocate and writer Steve Munro. “The problem is there’s no way we can afford to build the damn thing.”

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The Informer

Municipal Election 2014

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Could Doug Ford really sell city real estate to fund his subway plan?

THE IDEA

Doug Ford, like his brother Rob before him, is busy promoting a $9-billion, 32-kilometre subway plan that, according to him, would come at no extra cost to taxpayers—even though experts agree that the scheme is, for a huge number of reasons, completely unrealistic. Late last month, Doug offered the public a glimpse into how he hopes to finance the ambitious transit platform. Among other revenue measures, he intends to earmark $540 million of expected revenue from Build Toronto, the organization that sells city-owned real estate, for the sole purpose of building subways. “We want to take the underutilized property in Toronto, sell it at a premium, and make sure that it goes directly to subways,” said Ford, “not the general coffers, where the councillors can get their hands on it and spend it.”

election-idea-evaluator-red-smallWOULD IT WORK?

Though we wouldn’t put it past him to be, er, “disingenuous” with his numbers, it’s probably fair to assume that, as vice-chair of Build Toronto, Ford is in a position to communicate how much revenue the agency can expect to pull in from its current collection of properties. The first question, then, is whether Build can sell its land and generate $540 million within Ford’s promised timeline: five years.

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The Informer

Municipal Election 2014

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Doug Ford makes yet another subway promise he can’t possibly keep

doug-ford-now-whatAt a press conference this afternoon, according to the Star, Doug Ford made a major adjustment to the transit plan he inherited when Rob Ford dropped out of the mayoral race last month. Rob had promised to prioritize subway lines on Sheppard and Finch avenues—a crowd-pleasing pledge, but one he had no workable way of paying for. Doug is now saying that he will instead prioritize the downtown relief line—a possibly even-more-crowd-pleasing pledge that he still has no workable way of paying for. Both Fords have said that they can get all these subway lines built for the bargain price of $9 billion, and at no additional cost to taxpayers, but experts have long agreed that some form of taxation would be needed to jump-start the tunnelling.

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Features

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Gridlocked: how incompetence, pandering and baffling inertia have kept Toronto stuck in traffic

Gridlocked: The Botched Union Station Reno

(Image: Peter Andrew)

Getting around the city, by public transit or by car, has become a perpetual nightmare of sardine-tin crowds, endless queues and construction bottlenecks. Gridlock is the lightning-rod issue of this mayoral race, with candidates sparring over which transportation fix—underground subways, surface subways, LRT, more buses, more bike lanes, no bike lanes, more speed bumps, no speed bumps—is best. But to voters, who’ve endured a generation-long succession of false starts, bad decisions and political interference, it’s all empty promises. Toronto’s epic infrastructure fail has put commuters in a fury and brought the city to a halt. Here’s a list of the most egregious scandals in recent memory—and who’s to blame.

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Politics

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Rob Ford had some trouble staying upright on the subway on Monday

now-what-newThis Globe and Mail video of Rob Ford riding the Sheppard subway during his public-transit photo-op on Monday is curious for a few reasons. For one, it shows the mayor bobbing and weaving a little more violently than the average train passenger. For another, the 57-second video was quietly uploaded by someone at the Globe to YouTube yesterday with little context beyond the title—”Rob Ford rides the subway, pushes subway plan”—even though Ford says nothing about that plan, and talks instead about Richard Pryor and some upcoming football games. So what’s up? Over on Reddit and Twitter, people have some ideas.

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Politics

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Scarborough’s subway hopes just got slightly more remote

The Scarborough RT. (Image: Loozrboy)

The Scarborough RT. (Image: Loozrboy)

Considering all the political chicanery that went into getting Scarborough’s subway extension approved in the first place, it’s easy to take grim satisfaction in the project’s setbacks. Speaking of which, here’s one: the Globe reports that the city’s planning division is taking a more assertive role in the new subway line’s environmental assessment.

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Random Stuff

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VIDEO: the TTC teaches you more than you really need to know about subway signalling

For most commuters, the fact that the TTC’s subway trains don’t collide with one another is good enough—no additional explanations are required. Recently, though, the TTC has been shutting down portions of the Yonge-University-Spadina line on weekends so workers can upgrade the signalling systems responsible for the daily no-deaths-or-maimings miracle, leading to some curiosity about the system’s workings. The video above, released yesterday on the TTC’s YouTube channel, goes into quite a bit of detail about how signals prevent trains from crashing into one another, why the signalling systems need to be upgraded and why it’s necessary to shut down subway tunnels to perform those upgrades. Yes, it’s propaganda, but snappy animations and an informative voiceover make it edutainment of the highest order. Enjoy.

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Politics

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QUOTED: Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi on Toronto’s decision to build a Scarborough subway instead of light rail

(Image: 5of7)

(Image: 5of7)

“I, for the life of me, cannot understand the decision on the Scarborough subway and maybe I’m missing something. I don’t understand why you’d not spend less to serve more people…Clearly I’m missing something, I’m not that bright.”

Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi, speaking during a Toronto Region Board of Trade luncheon. In October, city council approved the idea of replacing the Scarborough RT with a two- or three-stop subway extension, despite earlier plans to install a longer (but less expensive) above-ground light-rail line. The subway has the enthusiastic backing of local politicians like Rob Ford and Karen Stintz, but it remains controversial among people who see it as an overpriced sop to Scarborough voters. Former councillor David Soknacki has made bringing back the light-rail plan a central tenet of his mayoral campaign.

The Informer

Municipal Election 2014

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Mayoral candidate David Soknacki says he’ll reverse the city’s course on the Scarborough subway, again

(Image: Soknacki.com)

(Image: Soknacki.com)

Well, that didn’t take long. Two weeks in, the 2014 mayoral election has already produced its first sweeping policy announcement, and it’s this: former city budget chief David Soknacki says that, if elected, he’ll scrap Rob Ford‘s beloved two-or-three-stop Scarborough subway extension in favour of the seven-stop light-rail line that was originally planned for the corridor.

In an audaciously misleading rhetorical flourish worthy of Ford himself, Soknacki’s press release claims that the move would “cancel Mayor Rob Ford’s $1 billion property tax increase needed to pay for the subway option, delivering the largest tax cut in Toronto’s history.”

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Random Stuff

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The Spadina Subway Extension is behind schedule—but at least it’s actually being built

A rendering of the future Pioneer Village station, made before its name was changed from "Steeles West station." (Image: Courtesy TTC)

A rendering of the future Pioneer Village station, made before its name was changed from “Steeles West Station.” (Image: Courtesy TTC)

Here’s a phrase you never want to hear from TTC CEO Andy Byford: “The project is facing a serious schedule challenge.”

Byford, known for his level-headedness and his willingness to admit his agency’s mistakes, wrote those words in December’s edition of his monthly report to the TTC board. He was talking about the Spadina Subway Extension, a tunnelling project that will extend the Spadina subway line to Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, adding six new stations in the process. It’s scheduled to open in fall 2016.

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Politics

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PHOTO: How Bloor-Yonge station will look if the TTC renames its subway lines

bloor-yonge-subway-renaming

Before and after (Images: Brad Ross)

TTC spokesman Brad Ross posted a pair of images last night showing the Bloor-Yonge station’s current signage (top), and a spiffy mock-up of a new design featuring numbered subway lines. At a meeting today, the transit agency’s board will consider a report suggesting that the Yonge-University-Spadina line become “line 1” and the Bloor-Danforth, “line 2”—an idea that has transit nerds and graphic designers pretty worked up.

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Politics

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The five weirdest metaphors Toronto city councillors used to describe the Scarborough subway

rob-ford-subway-dream2

(Images: Rob Ford, Christopher Drost; subway, gloom)

After four years, countless political squabbles and at least six competing proposals, Rob Ford’s Scarborough subway dream is finally coming true. The mayor fist-pumped heartily yesterday evening after the crucial vote for a three-stop subway extension to replace the Scarborough SRT. Queen’s Park and Ottawa will contribute $1.48 billion and $660 million, respectively, which leaves Toronto taxpayers on the hook for about $1 billion over the next 30 years (a sum that will be raised by a 1.6-per-cent property tax levy and a development charge hike). Given the bitter, years-long fight over Toronto transit, we weren’t surprised that the debate was heated. We were, however, a little taken aback by the oddly vivid metaphors favoured by several councillors. Below, the day’s five strangest similes.

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The Informer

Politics

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Six common reactions to the proposal to rename Toronto subway lines

subway-numbers

(Image: @TTCchair)

In two weeks, the TTC board will consider replacing the names of Toronto subway lines  with numbers to make things less confusing for tourists and occasional users. If the proposal is accepted, the awkwardly named Yonge–University–Spadina Line will become 1; the Bloor-Danforth Line will be 2; the Scarborough RT will be 3; the Sheppard Line will be 4; and some future line will be 5 (a system that conveniently eliminates the Downtown Relief Line’s nomenclature issues). Unsurprisingly, TTC users and transit enthusiasts feel strongly about the idea. Here, the six main reactions, from tentative enthusiasm to outright mockery.

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Politics

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Philip Preville: Why Kathleen Wynne needs Rob Ford

If Kathleen Wynne is to achieve anything for Toronto—and transit is top of the list—she needs Rob Ford to knock around


The Good Fight: if Kathleen Wynne is to achieve anything for Toronto—and transit is top of the list—she needs Rob Ford to knock around
Back in mid-June, when the crack scandal had brought Rob Ford to his knees, it was Premier Kathleen Wynne who, with a few carefully chosen words, made his problems go away. She said publicly that she wanted to repair the rifts between them and that she would not “stand in judgment” of his personal or legal troubles. He could not have asked for a better endorsement. If the premier doesn’t care about a crack video, why should anyone else? The scandal was stashed in the bushes alongside his speech slurrings, conflict-of-interest court dramas and the rest.

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Politics

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Tim Hudak does his best Rob Ford impression for the Toronto Board of Trade

Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak sounded eerily like his good buddy Rob Ford yesterday in a speech to the Toronto Region Board of Trade. Hudak outlined his three-point plan for expanding Toronto’s transit system: (1) root out waste (one of Ford’s favourite pastimes); (2) subways, subways, subways, especially in Scarborough; and (3) no new taxes or tolls to pay for transit (Ford has been criticizedand mocked—for his staunch opposition to new revenue sources). Hudak even said Toronto is a city where “something has gone off the rails”—like, say, a gravy train? [Toronto Star]

(Images: Tim Hudak, Ontario Chamber of Commerce; Rob Ford, Christopher Drost)

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