Mayoral candidate Rossi presents his TTC vision

A public transit commuter from Scarborough challenged Toronto’s mayoral candidates to come up with a better way during a public debate at the University of Toronto Tuesday night.

Sarah Thomson, Rocco Rossi, George Smitherman, Joe Pantalone and Rocco Achampong fielded questions regarding improvements to TTC accessibility during mayoral candidate “interviews” Tuesday night at the U of T’s Innis Town Hall. Candidate Rob Ford couldn’t attend due to a scheduling conflict..

During the evening discussion, Rathika Sitsabaiesan, a staff member of U of T’s student union (UTSU), asked candidate Rossi if there was any chance her two-hour commute from the Malvern area of Scarborough would be reduced if he were mayor.

“Malvern…is generally cut very quickly from any new (TTC) projects such as Transit City,” she said. “What do you have to say about the Transit City cuts and the further alienation or isolation of (the residents) of Scarborough?”

The audience applauded her question and Rossi began by mentioning his upbringing in Scarborough, He said that his parents currently reside there and that he has promised $450 million a year for the next 10 years for transit expansion. He did not offer her any specifics, however.

The proposed Sheppard LRT line, due to be completed by July of 2013 at an estimated of between $950 million to $4.6 billion would help, according to Sitsabaiesan, 28.

“I think LRT is the way to go,” she said after the interviews. “But if busses are the answer, then they need to be more frequent.”

Robert Marshall, a 24-year-old accounting student at Ryerson University, had a comment for candidate Rossi regarding TTC users with disabilities.

“It’s not just about elevators at particular subway stops,” he said. “If you look at something like Wheel Trans (described on the TTC website as a door-to-door paratransit service for persons with physical disabilities), it has been a disaster for years.”

Rossi insisted that he would reverse what he called “the scandalous decision of moving the deadline for fully retrofitting all subway stations with wheelchair accessibility (from 2020) to 2024.”

Marshall, who helped out with Ryerson’s disabled community, learned of these trials and tribulations through conversations he said he’d had with “dozens of community members who have dealt with (Wheel Trans) on a daily basis.”

Following this debate, candidate Rossi announced his intention to build an eight-kilometre underground expressway liking Spadina and the Gardiner. (Rossi_1)

He was discouraged that he hadn’t heard anything about Wheel Trans, but Marshall has reached a conclusion about which candidate will look most kindly at improving TTC service.

“If I was to look at any of (the five major candidates),” he said, “I would probably say that Rossi has the best chance because he’s a liberal and is used to that non-for-profit thinking, if you will.”