Sunday, November 20, 2005

Subways: Toronto Needs Them

"Scarborough subway merits consideration" is the headline on the Sunday Star's editorial today.

It being the Toronto Star, you can pretty much figure out what they're going to say; the Star doesn't buck the trend much and sticks pretty close to political correctness. And political correctness where the TTC is concerned is that we can only afford one subway and even one is a big IF. The Star doesn't disappoint, but does throw a bone to Scarborough in its quest for a line.
"Through it all, city council, the Toronto Transit Commission, and city residents should keep an open mind. It is far from clear which side has the best case....Plans to expand public transit rely heavily on new buses and developing streetcar rights of way, not on burrowing underground."
The basic assumption here comes from what Mike Harris said: Toronto isn't better than other Ontario municipalities, wastes its money, and can't afford subways; this fat cat city should curb its spending and be content with buses. (And then there's the Missassaugan who told me he longs for the smooth ride of a subway in his city.) When Harris swept to power Bob Rae's NDP government had OK'd spending on four -- repeat FOUR -- subway lines. Harris cancelled them all. The Sheppard line only got built because of Mel Lastman and his dramatic flair, but even he couldn't get what his city needed: a complete subway line. Instead we have a really short line that ends in nowhere instead of Scarborough, which is where it was supposed to end. (Sheppard line drivers must be bored out of their minds.) People were angry at Harris, but they have accepted his basic argument, which is Toronto cannot have more subway lines. And so instead of a paper, which champions Toronto in other ways, demanding our four subway lines back, we have it concede that "subway construction will resume in Toronto, at some point." And thus "...rather than pursue a hopeless dream of building two lines at once, this city will have to choose between Scarborough and York."

We are not other cities. We are the largest city in Canada. We pay more taxes out than we receive back by a colossal amount. Subways are the most efficient method of transporting large numbers of people across long distances. Subways attract people to live around them. Subways encourage retail and business growth. We need to stop acting as if we don't deserve the best transportation system, and start going back to those NDP days when the government understood that if they fund good transportation, businesses and people prosper, and thus Canada's economy prospers. It is mediocre thinking that suggests this should be an "or" situation. People up at York U have frozen their butts off long enough. People in Scarborough have squished themselves into a boondoggle and put up with rattling along in buses long enough. People along Eglinton have sat in traffic jams for way too long. And people downtown have put up with insanely long trips in stuffed streetcars for long enough. We need our leaders to be like Mel Lastman. Bluntly, dramatically, and persistently call for subways. And let the cost be on the provincial and federal governments' heads. They jipped our city for over a decade; it's catch up time. And catch up time always means big expense. If they don't do it now, it'll be even worse later, not only in building dollars, but also in dollars it costs the economy the longer they delay the inevitable.

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2 comments:

Classic said...

_Let's hope that urban planners have the foresight not to be in such a day-by-day penny pinching mode.
_The Scarborough RT, for example, should have been a longer-term Subway extension in the first place. Even half an extended line would be better than the RT already in place. At least we haven't wasted time & money on a Sheppard or York glorified Streetcar lane - yet. (just the white elephant Union-Airport train route)

talk talk talk said...

Unfortunately, they've all been in this we-can't-afford-anything-but-maintenance mode for years. There are signs some of the councillors are starting to think more about what Toronto really needs.

The RT was pure politics. What a waste!

They're going to waste time and money on a busway to York U -- I think the head honcho at York refused initially to allow the buses on to university lands to prevent them from planning for a busway instead of a subway. I don't know about the current status of that plan.