‘Some adjustments’ made by mayor’s opponents in transit battle

TTC chair Karen Stintz extended an olive branch to Mayor Rob Ford in Toronto’s transit battle at city hall earlier today.

Ahead of today’s special meeting, Stintz and 23 other councillors had lined up to counter the mayor’s underground transit plans — which include burying the bulk of the Eglinton LRT and a Sheppard subway extension — in favour of building more light rail above ground with the money already set aside.

Her recommendation, if adopted, would temporarily suspend the Sheppard extension while an advisory panel is established to report back on its feasibility before the end of March.

No matter what, council wants to get shovels in the ground.

—TTC chair Karen Stintz

“We’ve made some adjustments based on some of the mayor’s concerns,” Stintz told reporters. “Given that that was the mayor’s campaign commitment, we do think as a council it’s important we support the mayor in that campaign commitment, and we allow him further time and further options to find funding for the Sheppard subway.”

Under Ford’s transit plan, $8.4 billion in provincial funding would be spent to build the Eglinton Crosstown LRT line underground, apart from a section at the Don Valley, as well as extending the Sheppard subway.

The coalition of 24 councillors against the mayor’s plan had proposed light rail transit along Finch Avenue West to Humber College, a partially buried Eglinton Crosstown LRT and a Scarborough RT conversion to LRT from Kennedy Station to Sheppard Avenue with an extension to Malvern Town Centre as funds become available.

Building these the three light-rail lines, Stintz said, would free up to $650 million for the the Sheppard subway extension and $1.9 billion for above-ground rapid transit on Finch.

“No matter what I think, it’s going to be a win,” she said. “No matter what, council wants to get shovels in the ground.”

Lost in the debate, Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti said, is his call for a subway along Finch Avenue.

“Nobody’s listening to us,” he said. “There’s a part of this city that’s being ignored. They’re throwing all kinds of compromises out on the floor here and ignoring a huge part of the city that wants a subway.

“Don’t ram it down our throats. Give us an opportunity at least to talk about it and put a subway on the table.”

Mammoliti said he hoped the matter would be postponed, adding a provisional bus system along Finch would give him sufficient time to put together a long-term subway plan.

The meeting is set to continue into the afternoon.