CityVote: The Three Debate

I watched CityVote 2006 in full glorious HD vision last night on CityTV. CityTV had set up a panel of 4 reporters, two from City and two from the Toronto Star; they also had a select audience from which they picked out four people to ask additional questions. Being a downtown, NDPish station, I expected them to have packed the audience with Millerites. I got quite the surprise at the end. But more on that later.

The combatants were Jane Pitfield, David Miller, and Stephen LeDrew. Pitfield looked her usual self, Miller looked spiffed up, and LeDrew had had serious grooming right down to his brows and to putting on professional glasses. The latter changed after the first commercial break, back to those giant hornglasses.

The opening statements were forgettable from LeDrew and Miller. Miller is rather wooden when delivering prepared speeches, which I found surprising. Pitfield's though was dreadful. I don't like the turning to Miller, profile to the camera, asking questions type of speech. Whoever dreamed that up needs a serious talking to. I have no idea what she said, and so although not forgettable, it still didn't make an impact in terms of content.

The first three topics -- crime, transportation, and taxes -- were debated in a fairly civilized manner. The two men tower over Pitfield, and Miller has a booming voice. As a result, Pitfield looked insignificant on the screen when seen with the other two. That was unfortunate, but couldn't be helped. It's not like you can give an adult woman instant growth pills. However, someone ought to have recommended vocal coaching so that she at least could use her voice to project a powerful presence. Her voice is far quieter than Miller's, who moreso than flamboyant LeDrew, just used the power of his vocal chords to dominate the debate. But I noticed that despite her inability to be heard in the beginning until City trained its cameras on her, in essence shutting up (usually) Miller, she became better by the quarter hour at projecting her voice so that we clearly heard her wit during Miller's bombast. Nice.

Garbage really tore the lid off the civility. And was when I had my first serious doubts about Pitfield. What is it about municipal politicians: do they simply stick their heads in the sand and ignore all the technological advances going on around them? Miller is a landfill troglodyte. Pitfield is at least aware that incinerators are clean and efficient now and not at all like their belching ancestors. But she, like all those NDP activists, wants to take on the rod-wielding parental role and smack us when we're bad bad bad in figuring out what goes where when sorting our garbage. She wants to institute bag tags and clear plastic bags. That's so 1950s. As LeDrew pointed out (sanity! Thank heavens for a note of sanity in the debate! Too bad he kept his comments to a minimum and didn't expound on it.) we have mechanical and technological ways to sort our garbage. We do NOT have to have individuals sorting the garbage anymore. We do NOT have to depend on the mentally challenged, who can barely get out of bed never mind get the garbage out the door never mind having it all properly sorted; nor the physically challenged for whom the green bins are a nightmare of pain and frustration to open and close; nor the brain injured who need post-it notes to remind them to brush their teeth never mind trying to figure out if kleenex goes in this bin or that bin; nor harried couples who cannot agree on whether cereal boxes go in this bin or that bag; nor the rich, lazy, and entitled who just dump all their garbage in one bag -- we don't need to depend on any of them to sort the garbage. The GARBAGE sorting plant will do all that, far more effectively and efficiently than any of us can and do. But apparently that's too 2006 thinking for Pitfield and Miller. You'd think the recycling spokeswoman would be for all the city carrying a bigger stick and making our garbage days more of a misery than they already are. But nope. She's still into Miller. He had one idea going for him. He suggested looking at the packaging industry. I suspect though it would not get much past the idea stage, just as it hasn't gotten past the idea stage in these last 3 years.

Pitfield has the certain support of the faith communities in her ideas for fighting crime. She has my absolute support for her idea of building 2km of subway line per year for the next 25 years, starting within her term (although she did not state where she'd build those subways). But her garbage ideas seriously concern me. The only hope is if LeDrew does the expected and bows out before the vote to join Pitfield's campaign, and in that joining gets her to join the 21st century when it comes to handling our garbage and getting the load off our shoulders.

Miller's idea of rapid transit -- streetcars and buses with right-of-ways -- is a joke and a vision of mediocrity. If my tax dollars, as a taxpayer in a have province, can pay for subway lines in Montreal, then why the heck can they not pay for them in my own city?

When CityTV took an informal poll of the audience at the end of the debate as to who they preferred, there was sustained and loud applause for Pitfield. LeDrew merited three clappers. And Miller got a rather muted response. I was quite surprised, and so it seemed were the hosts.


James Bow said…
Proposing to build 2 km of subway per year is all well and good. Miller himself backed this idea in 2003. But where does Pitfield intend to find the money?

My advice is to focus on bulking up surface transit first, and then we can tackle the subway extensions. Ambition is nice, but worthless if we end up accomplishing nothing.
talk talk talk said…
LOL! I think we're on opposite sides of the fence here James. But you do have a point -- surface transit has been reduced too much. Yet despite talk for the past several years about improving service, it keeps getting worse. The subway is more packed than ever, and buses remain crowded, and I haven't seen hacked routes restored to previous levels.

Pitfield did answer the question about where she'd get the money, I just can't recall what she said, and in typical 1-hour debate fashion, it wasn't a detailed answer anyway.
Classic said…
A) I want a full Malvern diagonal line built - complete with park 'n rides at the DVP & 401, not a tepid 2km by 2km political plan for over 15-30 years.
B) We have enough of a raccoon & rat problem with central area homes and Green Bins. I don't want to see that expanded.
talk talk talk said…
I figure 2 km per year is better than zero!

Are you talking about extending the Sheppard line to Scarborough Town Centre or replacing that pseudo subway line? I have yet to check out her site for further details, but it's on my to-do list.

I still have not recovered from seeing a rat in broad daylight on Bathurst from my vantage point in the streetcar. That was one hell of a BIG rat! We have exploded the rat population because of reducing the pick up frequency, and as you point out, the Green Bins. (Do our politicians just ignore WHY we went to garbage pick up instead of just chucking it into the middle of the street way back when?)

We have expanded the raccoon population because of the idiotic catch and release bylaws. The raccoons are now fighting over food cause there's too many of them in Toronto, hence we get flying raccoon parts and a big mess on garbage day.

Pitfield's idea will be even more disgusting -- we'll not only be able to see the raccoon mess but our neighbour's garbage that's remained intact. Lovely.

ANOTHER reason to go for more frequent pick ups and mechanized sorting, so we can return to putting out all the garbage in secure bins that even physically challenged humans can manage easier than raccoons.
Mark Dowling said…
The problem with the streetcar lines, especially downtown in the narrow streets, is that they need draconian enforcement of parking rules and no-turn signs and Toronto Police have refused to do so.

The failure to replace the streetcars mean that when the new Bombardier subway cars arrive the streetcars will have even less appeal (except to transit fans) compared to those cities that have deployed new-build trams.
talk talk talk said…
Mark, I'm not familiar with the new-build trams. What are they like? How would they get around the parking problem? Where are they used? Thanks!

When I suggested to the vote-drumming volunteer at my door that we ought to build a subway along Queen, which would instantly fill up unlike the Sheppard line, before we think about dismantling the Gardiner, her face went, WOW, I never thought of that. Well, why the heck not?! If subways are supposed to be where the dense populations are, wouldn't that be downtown????
Mark Dowling said…
The one that comes to mind is LUAS
as it is already ahead of projected ridership - being nice and shiny helps. Some of the line runs on old railway track which helps keep speed up.
Classic said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Classic said…
_Neither (re: diagonal subway line)
_In another blogtime, I wrote about such a specific sub-rail line (Oct '04) from Malvern into Bloor/Bathhurst. I'd also posted an overall transit entry with a drawn image in Feb '05.
James Bow said…
Regarding which lines the TTC would pursue, if money somehow became available to maintain capital spending, AND increase the number of buses on the road, can be found here. In 2001, the TTC was asked by the City of Toronto to produce a Rapid Transit Expansion Study, to prioritize which subway extensions the city should pursue.

Two options went on the table, in order of priority.

1. Extend the Sheppard subway, in phases (first to Victoria Park, then to Kennedy) to the Scarborough Town Centre.
2. Extend the Spadina subway to York University.

True to form, even though the TTC stated that the Sheppard subway extension would generate more riders per dollar spent, the province decided to extend the subway to York University extend. All the better to protect Greg Sorbara's riding, I guess.

The TTC actually found that extending the Yonge subway north to Clark Blvd (with an intermediate stop at Steeles) would generate more ridership than either extension. However, there was insufficient capacity on the Yonge subway south of Lawrence in order to accommodate the new passengers.

My biggest disappointment regarding this report is the nixing of the proposed extension of the Sheppard subway west to Downsview station. If you're going to finish the Sheppard subway, really finish it, and start to build a true subway network in Toronto. Appending subway lines to the outer branches of the U, rather than closing gaps, is a recipe for congestion.

But I recommend you look at this report. I honestly think that it makes more sense to focus on bringing our surface route service back up to standard should take priority to subway extensions. You say that the TTC is overcrowded all round. That's true. And that's because we are failing to spend an additional $100 million per year that we SHOULD be spending. It seems illogical to me that you would criticize David Miller for pushing to focus on spending money on that $100 million program, and then praise Pitfield for advocating spending $300 million in addition, when we're not sure how we're going to maintain the system we got, much less increase it by $100 million per year.

The money committed by the province to the York University extension is going to increase ridership by about 100,000 passengers per day. Not bad. That's a better performance than the increase in ridership from the Sheppard subway. But Steve Munro estimates that the same money could pay for 500 additional buses, plus the drivers to operate them. That increases the TTC's bus fleet by 33%. So, instead of waiting 9 minutes for an overcrowded bus at rush hour, one arrives, with seats available, in six minutes. That's significant, and that's an increase that extends across the city, from downtown Toronto to the corner of Steeles and Highway 27. And that promises to increase ridership by a lot more than York University subway extension.

Ideally we should have both -- implement the Ridership Growth Strategy and expand the subway network. But I doubt we could do that without raising taxes. I personally am not opposed to raising taxes throughout the province if it means that the streets in our economic main engine start to flow better, but that's going to take a lot more political will than I think Jane Pitfield is capable of offering.

Sadly, I think it outstrips David Miller's abilities as well. For this reason, I tend to target my attention at Queen's Park. They're the only government here with real power in the GTA.
talk talk talk said…
Your last line hits the nail on the head. It's why I cannot wait for the provincial election. My hope is on John Tory. If the McGuinty government had wanted to be serious about getting Ontario back on board (as in the Davis era), they would've started by now.

Thanks for the links everyone! I know what I'll be reading for the next few days!! :)