Well, Toronto, there’s nothing on earth like a genuine, bona fide, electrified, six-car monorail. After all, it glides as softly as a cloud, and there’s not a chance the track could bend.
Simpsons’ references aside, city council decided on March 22 whether the proposed Sheppard extension will see a light-rail transit (LRT) line, or Mayor Ford’s beloved subway vision.
It’s a shame, really, because the mayor got a standing ovation – literally – when he paid a surprise visit to a March 19 Scarborough town hall meeting. Once the meeting concluded, hopes were quite high, both among the panel at the meeting and residents who attended, that Sheppard would be getting a subway by the end of that week.
The panel at the town hall meeting, comprised of public figures such as councillors Norm Kelly and Peter Milczyn, former adviser to New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jo Kennelly, former TTC vice chair Gordon Chong, and former TTC planner John Barnes, raised convincing arguments in favour of subways.
The most convincing one? Planning a transit system that will last 100 years, instead of 25, according to Kelly (Ward 40 Scarborough-Agincourt).
On the day of the vote, March 22, Ford’s hopes were all but quashed. Despite council voting 24-19 in favour of LRT, Ford remained adamant that Sheppard will see subways, and vowed to continue his battle.
I hate to say it, Mayor Ford, but the battle will cause more harm than good. If the two days it took for council to decide on LRT are any indication, Ford will come under heavy fire — even from his own supporters — regarding his leadership abilities.
Case in point — March 21, the original day of the vote. The mayor stormed out of council chambers, avoiding media scrums and questions, when his subway vision was on the verge of defeat. At least it gave council an extra day to decide on LRT.
The beauty about city council is that it’s a democracy. It has spoken in favour of LRT, a transit expansion system that’s 60 per cent cheaper to build than subways, that will likely have the construction ball rolling sooner and, as a result, would likely be completed sooner.
That doesn’t mean light-rail transit isn’t without its disadvantages. It’s noisy, susceptible to weather and traffic delays, and the numbers don’t lie — it’s slower than a subway, carries fewer people and costs more to operate.
Council’s decision likely won’t change, regardless of how hard Ford tries to block provincial funding for the Sheppard Avenue expansion.
For the time being, city hall doesn’t have the revenue to support the construction of a subway along Sheppard. Not to mention, breaking the mayor’s own “no new taxes” promise isn’t a viable way to generate the required revenue. Even if it does generate $100 million, it’s still not enough.
Time will tell whether Ford will win his temporarily derailed, uphill battle for subways. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, though – LRT is more efficient than the existing buses, let alone a monorail.