Ward 6 contenders say incumbent’s transit pledge not fulfilled

Getting around his corner of the city is harder than it should be, says Russ Ford.

“We’re not on the map,” the Ward 6 council candidate said. “Transit services down here are extremely poor.

“The congestion is extremely high and frustration is even higher.”

It’s a problem advocacy group CivicAction decided to tackle though its Pledge to Get a Move On, which asks those who sign on to support Metrolinx’s Big Move plan for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

“The pledge was our way of giving both residents and politicians a way to show their support for new transportation,” said Linda Weichel, vice-president of initiatives at CivicAction. “For politicians, signing the pledge means they’re joining residents to find new sources of funding to finally deal with our congestion crisis.”

According to CivicAction, The Big Move plan includes $50 billion in capital projects over 25 years, but only $16 billion has been committed so far.

“Our message will be (transit) all has to be connected to the regional plan and done in collaboration with Metrolinx, the regional planning body,” Weichel said.

Since April 2013, 187 elected officials from Hamilton to Durham and from all three levels of government have made the Pledge to Get a Move On, she said.

But not all have followed up their pledge with action.

“They (elected officials) may have signed our pledge but voted against the specifics,” Weichel said. “It was a general pledge and it was a principle-based pledge, but it didn’t get into the specific ways of paying.”

Coun. Mark Grimes, who Ford is running against in the Ward 6 race, signed the pledge earlier this year. Despite declaring his support, Grimes’ opponents say his voting and attendance record on matters directly related to the pledge has been spotty.

“City council hasn’t been able to make any decisions and that affects not only the whole city but also Ward 6,” said Miroslaw Jankeilewicz, also a contender for the Ward 6 council seat. “We’re having more and more residential development coming to Ward 6 and we haven’t thought about the transit strategy.”

Grimes declined one interview request and didn’t respond to a second one.

“We need councillors who are going to follow through on their promise,” said Brenda Thompson, a member of TTCriders, a public transit activist group. “There’s been a lot of talk about how important transit is, but if we don’t see the results it’s pretty hard to have confidence that they’re going to do the right thing.”

Some councillors are very genuine in their support of transit, Thompson said, but she said she thinks it’s time to take the issue more seriously.

“Everyone who takes public transit is doing everyone else a favour, especially drivers,” she said.