I will focus on the across the board improvement of Toronto's transit system that is needed to serve Toronto now; seeking to induce drivers out of their cars by offering a functioning, reliable, “better alternative” transit system, while positioning Toronto to be ready to handle the continually growing number of commuters, as Toronto's population increases.
Toronto needs a leader with the vision to be able to work towards addressing transit needs 10 and 20 years from now, as well as fixing a system that currently struggles to satisfy demand and fails to reach our expectations.
I will provide that leadership envisioning subways for mass transit, ready to handle Toronto winters, increasingly violent weather phenomenon, increasing capacity demands, and ready to last 50–75 years rather than the 15–20 years of streetcars.
♦ means testing based free TTC access for children so that our poorest residents are not longer expected to fund free transit for Tory's trust-fund millionaire grandchildren and their peers;
♦ means testing based subsidy to provide reduced cost transit to children, seniors, and other residents unable to afford full priced transit — individuals and parents/guardians receiving social assistance and/or low-income earners will be able to make an annual application enabling them to access discounted fares;
♦ improve TTC management & operations oversight to address bus grouping and help reduce lengthy waits for delayed service;
♦ an end to TTC staff taking breaks, switching drivers/shift changes at the expense of riders' time;
♦ improved implementation of the two-hour TTC transfer program so that everybody has access to it, not exclusivity for PRESTO participants;
♦ an end to forced PRESTO adoption — PRESTO will remain, allowing optional use by those who wish to use it, but cash and token and metropass and, depending upon related costs, tickets, will not be fazed out — being unwilling to loan free money to Metrolinx's bankers will not increase the cost to use taxpayer funded public transit;
♦ an end to the proof of payment (POP) program; fare inspectors will be redeployed to two areas:
⋄ as plainclothes inspectors issuing tickets and summonses to customers who refuse to pay their fare; and
⋄ as secondary entrance fare collectors (i.e. at back doors of select streetcars & buses, etc);
with a commencerate pay reduction to reflect the change in primary focus, from authoritarian and confrontational to chiefly customer service in their revised role;
♦ improved co-ordination of TTC special constables to respond to identified fare evasion and/or assaults;
♦ plus enhanced co-ordination with Toronto Police to catch and prosecute fleeing TTC assaulters; and
♦ completion of subway signal upgrades, to expedite conversion to automated subway train operation, with the associated 25% system-wide capacity increase;
Invariable I refer to reviews of planning concepts and public input; I am always committed to the fullest possible democracy; this means a commitment to true public consultation so that the concerns of those that actually use and operate the services are fully considered and reflected in the decisions made. The desires of one small, vocal group that wants, for example, more streetcars and less privately owned vehicles in their neighbourhood will no longer hold commuters in other parts of the city hostage with changes that fail to consider the needs of all.
At the same time, all transit decisions will be based on best capability to serve the long term requirements of Torontonians, over the life and residuals of the project, and able to provide the best service for value throughout and to provide the best, most appropriate service possible across each of the city's neighbourhoods, and talking to neighbourhoods to ensure services correspond with demands.
This leads me to generally favour subways, given their 50–75+year life, over the LRTs, with their 25–30+year lifespan, conditional upon projected long-term demand that is sufficient to justify added costs:
• a subway to service areas projected to have sufficient capacity to justify subways 35–40 years in the future might justify a subway, after considering costs wasted in constructing an LRT that becomes a burden requiring upgrading;
• conversely, a projected 40–50 timeframe before demand justified subways would likely make LRT the better option in that location.
Subways offer better reliability, particularly in bad weather — though some design reconsiderations seem necessary to enhance flood handling, reliability, and people flows — plus subways, unlike LRTs or dedicated Express Bus lanes, don't require eliminating 30–50% of our city's existing surface transportation capacity at the expense of private vehicle users or our commercial supply infrastructure – those things that keep Torontonians alive and support our high standard of living.
Transit improvements are necessary to entice private vehicle users to opt to use public transit (at least occasionally); the current method — degrading the level of public infrastructure to such abysmal standards that people are forced onto overcrowded, mismanaged mass transit — serves only to lower the standard of living and enjoyment across huge swaths of Toronto's populace.
Projects already commenced, (i.e. shovels in the ground) will be continued to completion — the city has seen too many successive municipal governments undo the decisions of their predecessors, ultimately leaving Torontonians with almost two decades of waiting for service improvement with little to show for it.
♦ First priority on new construction will be the Downtown Relief Line,
⋄ construction at Pape Station commencing immediately upon taking office (or immediately upon receipt of necessary Ministerial approvals), plus
⋄ a very rapid review of Tory's route selection (routing the relief line south to Eastern Avenue, crossing the Don River south of Queen, drifting back north to Queen Station) with decisions and construction quickly moving forward so as not to delay completion;
♦ extension of the Scarborough subway to Scarborough Town Centre, working with Premier Ford to plan and complete a 3-stop system extension designed, planned, and built to service an integrated transit network for Scarborough, designed with long-term consideration of potential extension east into Durham and/or north into Markham;
♦ eventual extension of the Sheppard subway, as a subway, east from Don Mills to connect to the Bloor/Danforth/Scarborough Line, as originally designed, and beyond to Durham region or Markham, subject to provincial and regional funding participation;
♦ extension of the Sheppard subway westward to connect to the University/Spadina leg towards YorkU/Vaughan;
♦ expansion of the subway system into Toronto's northwest, tying into the Sheppard West extension, providing service to the city's west end and completing an integrated transit backbone ready to serve Toronto through the rest of the century;
♦ it seems likely that, particularly once the Eglinton Crosstown LRT is completed, that there will be a greater need for overflow capacity to provide relief to the newly extended University/Spadina/York/Vaughan by bringing commuters south to the Bloor West portion of Line 2 and eventually a Downtown West Relief Line.
I will look for ways to capitalize on cooperation with the Province and Ottawa to leverage funding programs to achieve noticable improvement through expansion and improved organization of our transit system.
And at the same time I will ardently stress my stance that Toronto must act as an equal partner with provincial and federal government involvement, with the city having controlling interest of the asset that is Toronto's subways.
Toronto's banking and financial district executives, appointed to Metrolinx by past provincial governments, have demonstrated their failure to meet the needs of Toronto residents, prioritizing contruction of their $½Billion dollar private luxury train system from the airport to their Bay street offices, with Toronto taxpayers still footing the bill to the tune of $10°° per ride for the comfort of those bankers and their out of town visitors — Change is needed.
Toronto cannot afford to turn over, what has been the backbone of our transporation network for the better part of the last century, to provincial appointees in plum patronage appointments — appointees who prioritize satisfaction of their elite Toronto society friends' wants over the needs of the everyday commuters who suffer the costs.
Even if Premier Ford does believe that his appointees would place the needs of average Torontonians ahead of Toronto's aristrocracy; I will strive to remind him that the next Wynguinty government will appoint their friends, and that the Fords and everybody else in Toronto may be less than pleased with those choices — Toronto must control her own core commuter infrastructure.
Regardless of potential perceived financial structuring advantages that the province might be able to access, the tangible loss of what bound Metropolitan Toronto together, long before the world-class megacity of TORONTO (the 6) was envisioned by the masses, our subway system that connected West-to-East, North-to-South(-to-North-again) would be too great a loss — to surrender it would prove tragic for our Toronto.
Clearly the province will always be an important financial partner in all of Toronto's municipal transit programs, as it is with every Ontario municipality; and obviously the city must continue to work with the province and surrounding municipalities and regions as all of our transit systems support more, better, more efficient integration, but ensuring citizens' democratic representation is strong within the decision making process affecting access to the municipal transit system used by those citizens.
Some other mayoral candidates want to make the TTC free — despite that being a loss of $1¼B of fare revenue in the TTC's 2018 Operating Budget.
Beyond the ever escalating annual cost of $1+B in revenue lost every year — compare with one time infrastructure investments into long term assets producing quality employment and job-training opportunities — a free transit system will immediately take up the slack of our homeless shelters and drop-in centres. Air-conditioned in summer, heating in winter, few people to disturb you, ‘indoors’ with a good view, a gentle rocking back-and-forth for a good sleep, and employees (drivers) to busy working to disturb those using the transit system as their shelter — riding end-to-end on our buses and subways and creating a whole new type of ridership crowding issue.
Until we actually solve the longstanding, decades-in-the-making, challenges of homelessness and mental health service shortfalls, there are many more important priorities, where taxpayer money spent will generate effective results, representing priorities bigger than free transit.
Some day free transit will be a viable possibility, but that day is unfortunately still a long way off — certainly much more than four years from now, when the next municipal election will take place. Torontonians deserve better ideas coming from City Hall to truly address today's issues and to prepare for tomorrow's demands.