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Truth and Fiction in Toronto Politics

The Fords are trying to divide Toronto against itself. But the downtown vs. suburbs rhetoric is both wrong and irresponsible.

Doug Ford during a city council meeting this week.

When Rob Ford ran for mayor, his campaign was based, in ways both implicit and explicit, on a sense of suburban alienation. We were, he told us, not giving a fair shake to people across Toronto; years of urbanist development had come at the expense of parts north, east, and west of downtown. We saw it in his rhetoric around subways, in his conception that the “little guy” meant someone who was frustrated by gridlock while driving an hour home from work, and wanted a back-to-basics approach to governance that didn’t get too ambitious, didn’t demand taxes for fancy projects that only benefited some areas of the city.

Toronto voters are diverse, but when Ford pictures them he describes very specifically, classically suburban residents—and their needs are the ones he thinks he was elected to meet.

Regional alienation is an age-old trope in politics; campaigns are often born out of this sense of neglect and candidates elected on a promise of righting the imbalance. Politics, as the cliché goes, is always local. The problem, of course, is that once you are elected, you need to govern not just the region that elected you, but a broader constituency, and the peril of pitting your constituents against one another is that everyone will end up feeling even more frustrated than before. Alienation may get you elected, in short, but your job once in office is to overcome it.

In this, Rob Ford has failed spectacularly. And his ongoing campaign of alienation has done the residents of Toronto—not just the ones who live downtown, but all of us—a tremendous disservice.

Deputy mayor Doug Holyday

Rhetoric reinforcing this notion of a rift between the suburbs and downtown has grown stronger and more explicit over Ford’s first year as mayor; during this week’s transit debate, it broke completely out into the open. Giorgio Mammoliti, Doug Ford, Rob Ford—they all lined up to tell us how Scarborough was getting screwed by selfish downtowners, that suburbanites were being turned into second class citizens forced to settle for second class amenities.

Don’t believe them.

The claim that council’s vote on transit was just the most recent case of longstanding downtown entitlement run amok is false for numerous reasons, but here are some of the most important:

Subways are not co-extensive with downtown Toronto. There is a subway stop at Yonge and Finch; there is none at Bathurst and Queen. It is an act of gross geographic misrepresentation to say that subways run downtown and not elsewhere. In fact, they run a lot of other places, and don’t exist in most of downtown.

The subways we’ve built most recently are furthest from downtown. For a variety of reasons, some of which have more to do with political jockeying than principled planning, transit development in the last three decades has been concentrated in the outer portions of Toronto. Downtown has not seen any new major infrastructure go in since well before amalgamation and the constitution of our current municipal governance structure.

Downtown councillors don’t hold a majority in council. Toronto city council breaks up into four community councils, each of which deals with a different part of the city: Toronto and East York, Scarborough, North York, and Etobicoke York. There is no universally agreed-upon understanding of what exactly counts as “downtown,” but for political purposes, these community councils provide as good a set of boundaries as we are likely to get. Of the 44 councillors in Toronto, 12 are included in the Toronto and East York group—27% of the votes on council.

If and when the LRT lines are built, the suburbs will have better transit infrastructure than much of downtown. Most of downtown relies on streetcar service running in mixed traffic. It is slow and frustrating, but fantasies of the Downtown Relief Line aside, it is the best we can do on narrow, busy streets. Should, say, Finch actually get the LRT it has just been (re)promised, area residents will benefit from higher capacity vehicles running at higher speeds in dedicated lanes. Finch will have better transit than Queen or Dundas or College. That’s not a complaint—with the busiest bus route in the system, Finch certainly needs it as fast as we can possibly lay the track—but it does put the lie to the notion that the best infrastructure is a downtown perk.

But here, politically, is the most important point: this week’s transit vote was won by North York. Support for the light rail transit plan came from all parts of the city, including several councillors from Scarborough, which purportedly is getting the short end of the stick in the whole deal. But the scales were tipped, decisively, by representatives from North York. Of the 11 councillors on the North York community council, nine voted for the light rail option. This included Ford allies John Parker and Jaye Robinson. This included councillors whose wards stand to gain directly from the light rail deal (via construction on Finch) such as James Pasternak, and councillors who are taking great political risks in supporting the proposal, like TTC Chair Karen Stintz.

An overwhelming majority of North York representatives proved they know what Rob Ford doesn’t: that Toronto works best when representatives of all parts of the city work together to solve problems that affect residents who live in all parts of the city, rather than demonizing each other in the hopes of scoring political points.

North York councillor Maria Augimeri

Rob Ford did not invent the suburban sense of alienation in Toronto—it is real, and it is a problem. We remain a city that is amalgamated but not integrated. (This is arguably the biggest failure of David Miller’s administration.) But our current problem is that, for Ford, this is not a problem to overcome, but a political opportunity to exploit.

The role of our leadership must be to try to bridge the gaps that do divide us rather than to work actively at widening them. The politics of alienation can all too quickly become the politics of resentment and, eventually, the politics of revenge—and then we have a mayor telling us councillors are irrelevant and that only some views and some parts of the city matter. Even if it were true that downtown amenities came at the expense of suburban development—and it’s false, since most of those amenities were built long before amalgamation, and we were one city at all—punishment is not the guiding principle of a responsible government.

Rob Ford would have us believe that Toronto is a city riven by conflict, that our neighbourhoods are doing battle with each other. Except it isn’t true at all. The people and the councillors of North York just proved that. A light rail plan was passed by a real coalition of people who live north of the 401 and south of Bloor, and all points in between.

There is still a great way to go in bringing Toronto fully together. But that way is to keep working together, not trying to instigate a civil war.


  • Anonymous

    Thank you, this was a great post!

  • Anonymous

    Excellent article. Unfortunately Ford will continue to be an uneducated bully who will lie through his teeth to cling to his position, as evidenced by his every action to date. Watch him now try to get revenge on the rebel councillors by simply making stuff up. He really needs to be removed from office.

    • Kr5927

      Right on… I thought I was the only one who sees this happening…

    • Barry St. Denis

      Of course, bullying is the tool of those who do not have the mental faculties to deal with issues as an rational, intelligent adult.

  • Michael Kolberg

    Miller may have been downtown’s darling, but two of his marquee initiatives – Transit City and Mayor’s Tower Renewal – were designed with the express intent to better integrate TO’s inner suburbs with downtown, a scheme born out of a vision of social equality. If he failed on the integration front, it was a failure to communicate his vision. If he had run for one more term (I think he could have beat Ford) Toronto would’ve learned that Miller cared more than anyone about Toronto’s suburban residents.

    • Anonymous

      Miller is a quitter, who just didn’t quit soon enough, seeings how he was AWOL for the last 12-18 months of his term (writing a book, I guess). His absence (and de facto failure) of leadership was felt most keenly during the garbage strike and again, during the police riots of the G20.

      He was also a spectacularly poor judge of character for at least some of the people he appointed (Blair, and Giambrone).

      Miller was absolutely crucial in getting Ford, the notorious village idiot of Council, elected Mayor.

      • Paul

        What nonsense.

        • ford_for_salvation

          clearly, rob ford would have single-handedly saved toronto from itself during the g20 and laid subway tracks at the same time! with his bare hands! juche! north korea is best korea! i mean, etobicoke is best toronto!

        • Anonymous

          Which part(s)? I may not be the most keen (or apt) student of municipal politics but, in broad strokes, that’s how I remember it.

          Miller strikes me as an affable and very intelligent man, with the charisma of Ned Flanders. The revival of Transit City is a testament to his vision and political acumen.

          Saying he was a better mayor than Ford is a meaningless motherhood statement, that doesn’t get us any closer to understanding how we got saddled with the likes of Rob Ford. A rabid squirrel would be a better mayor than Rob Ford.

          Ford basically ran as the anti-Miller. And Miller was nowhere to be found: the perfect straw man.

    • Anonymous

      If Miller was still mayor, work on the Sheppard and Finch West LRTs would be well underway by now. Certainly enough would have been done to make it political suicide to slam the brakes on in 2014.

      Miller had two problems:

      1. He failed to communicate strongly enough the benefits of Transit City, especially regarding city integration – how it would make the trip to school/work etc. much easier. There should have been displays of LRT vehicles at Mel Lastman Square, Jane and Finch, Scarborough Town Centre, and so on.

      2. His handling of the garbage strike was abysmal. Better communication would have gone a long way towards resolving and quietening down grievances. As it was, it was the final straw for a lot of people, and effectively acted as a recruiting sergeant for Ford. If the situation had been defused quickly, I could see Miller dispatching Ford, perhaps not with ease, but certainly giving him a clear win. But hindsight is 20/20.

      • Anonymous

        According to John Lorinc, writing in the G&M, the final “compromise” on the Outdoor Workers strike (Grandfathering the banked sick day privilege with existing employees) was what the Miller led City Council voted to request in the first place. The hard line with the union – total elimination now – was the position taken by the right wing city (staff) negotiator. Mayors are not supposed to interfere with staff functions, but eventually Miller did and a compromise was reached. Unfortunately the optics played out poorly and it looked as if Miller caved in – which is not the case if he got what he and Council originally asked for. Also, after 7 years of right wing diatribes about how Miller gave in to the Unions, I think he found the personal disrespect that came his way from CUPE very disheartening. Singing good bye David on City Hall steps may have been fun for a moment, but I think that is the straw that broke the camel’s back – and cost a lot of CUPE members their jobs. (Because when Miller didn’t run it lead to Ford). I miss Mr. Miller. He was a fine Mayor unjustly criticised from several sides.

  • guest

    As someone who lives a near St. Clair, Suburanites consider St. Clair downtown. So the St. Clair street car right-of-way would be considered a significant infrastructure project given to downtown since amalgamation.

    I’m not saying they’re right, but if you ask someone who lives at McCowan and Finch “Is St. Clair and Bathurst downtown?” I guarantee you they will say “yes”. If you ask a hipster from the Annex the exact same question I guarantee you they will say “no”.

    • Anonymous

      … which shows people define “downtown” as “less surburban than me”.

    • Nick

      Right, but St. Clair didn’t get a subway! So you got screwed too (in Ford’s world, not in my opinion).

  • Anonymous

    This was very well said; thank you.

  • Anonymous


    Nailed it.
    So sad. I think I never saw the word “elitist” as much as during the last Toronto election..

    • Anonymous

      The same ‘divide and conquer’ we see the trash populist right using all the time. Same we see for Canada-East vs Canada-West.

  • Matt Patterson

    It’s a nice thought, but what would it actually mean to “integrate” downtown and the suburbs? There are significant differences in the downtown and suburban landscapes and, as a result, significant differences in their respective lifestyles and in the populations who live in each part of the city. There’s nothing a mayor can do to change this. As long as this division exists, pitting one side against another will continue to be a convenient political wedge issue available for politicians on both sides. Keep in mind that downtown councilors also appeal to a sense of suburban domination on issues like the Jarvis bike lanes (e.g. that suburbanites are turning our neighbourhoods into their expressways). The only real way to integrate the two sides would be for the suburbs to become so densely populated that they start to resemble downtown (which will take a few decades).

    • Anonymous

      It (integration) might mean that we build better transit infrastructure so that people will be more free to travel across the city. Of course every neighbourhood has its own character, and that won’t change. But if it didn’t take me over two hours to get to the zoo (as an example of a suburban attraction) from my home I might actually want to go there once in awhile. And if it didn’t take suburbanites equally long to get to downtown, they might not resent it so much.

    • Anonymous

      Everyone wants parks, good transit, libraries, recreation centres, skating rinks, snow removal, policing, fire protection and clean water and proper sewage. Are not those the things that a good City Government delivers to all regions. Before anyone writes and says that suburban voters (maybe) don’t want Green Roofs, Arts Funding, various social programmes and bike lanes, please remember that these programmes are not significantly costly in relation to the whole City Budget. That resentment is stirred up by Ford, The Sun and their ilk.

  • Fred

    Suburbanites aren’t integrated with Toronto because most of them choose not to be. For the most part, they live, work, shop, dine, and find entertainment where they live, and they seldom venture into the downtown area unless they have tickets at the ACC or Rogers ex-Skydome. Coming downtown takes too long for them, streets are too congested, parking is too hard to find and too expensive, etc. It’s a totally different lifestyle – and mindset.

    • fonzymorris

      I dunno about this, Fred. Strikes kind of a snooty tone that could feed the perception that downtown-ites have a sense of superiority. Hope I haven’t misinterpreted your words, and perhaps there’s a grain of truth there.

    • Anonymous

      well, duh. how many downtowners got to scarborough or north york? i can’t really blame either party, but people tend not to go out of their neighbourhoods all that much.

    • Anonymous


      ~ North York Resident – Steeles/Bayview

    • Vampchick21

      That’s true when you’re talking ACTUAL suburbs, those separate municipalities surrounding Toronto. Etobicoke, Scarborough, these aren’t actual suburbs. They’re part of the City of Toronto.

      • Randy

        A city can still have suburban areas. Etobicoke, Scarborough, and North York are suburban Toronto. Yes, actual suburbs.

        • Vampchick21

          Like I said in an early post, my own view of what a suburb is stems from living in areas well away from the city. I tend to view Etobicoke, Scarborough & North York as part of the city proper. To me, a suburb is a separate town or municipality….what the above three used to be prior to Amalgamation. So I guess we’re both right…lol

    • Raggedclaws

      This type of generalization is exactly what this article is addressing, Fred. I think you are mistaken, and I think it’s a harmful idea to say that our mindsets and lifestyles are “totally different” from that of our neighbours. This is exactly the division we need to heal, not encourage. It seems to be based on nothing except a very strange microxenophobia of sorts, and I’ve never understood it.

  • NC

    Great read!

  • Anonymous

    Perfectly stated and spot on.

  • Vampchick21

    Call me crazy, and maybe it’s because I grew up in small to mid-sized towns before moving to Toronto, but to me, whe you say ‘downtown’, I’ve always viewed it as the major business area, which here would be, well, the Financial District. And the suburbs, in my mind, aren’t even Toronto, but places like Mississauga and Durham Region… my brain ‘suburb’ being a municipality with it’s own government seperate from the large urban centre where most of the residences of said suburb work. So to me, Etobicoke and Scarborough and North York are residential areas of the city with business and industry sprinkled througout. But what do I know? I live in the Parkdale neighbourhood, so I’m just a jaded downtowner according to Ford & Co. I don’t have a subway though….unless I take a bus up to Bloor.

  • Robert Kennedy

    What do you mean there are no subways downtown? I have a stop right here in the basement
    of my Queen St West apartment. I just slide down my batpole in the morning and Voila–I’m at work!

    • welfare_elitist

      I don’t even have to work! I’m a latte sipping champagne socialist liberal elitist in a loft paid for by welfare and the hard work of Scarberians!

      • Robert Kennedy

        They work like dogs those Scarberians.

      • Dave_kates

        Thanks! I laughed so hard I nearly choked on my latte and nearly spilled champagne all over my copy of Das Kapital.

  • Mark

    Toronto has some of the worst transit in the world. We are the 5th largest city in all of North America. We’d like to think of ourselves as a “World class city” Yet take a look at our transit.

    For Christ sakes, relive the congestion and build subways! I don’t see how this is even an issue!! Our streets are too small, the congestion is ridiculous, cyclists and motorists are battling like the Habs and Leafs.. .. and we don’t want to build more subways?

    We want to clog up the streets with more above ground transit? Are you kidding me??!!! Do you realize there are only two transfer points with the Toronto subway. It’s a JOKE. What we have runs very well, but come on! I cannot believe this is even an issue!!.

    I’ve been all over the world, New York, London, Paris, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Toronto has some of the most laughable transit going.

    “Lets see, I’m at Union, and I want to go to High Park…. hmm ok, I have to first go north to Bloor before I can even begin going WEST?.. What the hell is that?

    It was never planned properly from the very beginning, and now it’s a joke.

    • Richard

      Not to mention, no subway from the Air Port. Now that is a joke.

      • guest

        How much are you willing to pay, Mark? Because that is the issue here. Our population and job density is a fraction of these ‘world-class’ cities you mentioned. As long those politicians and supporters in the suburbs want what the perceive to be the amenities of the ‘downtown’, they better be prepared to live at the densities that downtowners live at. And if your concern is congestion, no planner in their right mind would put public transit as the silver bullet cure-all to congestion. You don’t want congestion? Start charging for use of roads/congestion fees. It’s a built-form tragedy of the commons. And as the right is always so fond of pricing common resources, start pricing the damn roads.

        • Mark

          I could not agree more with you. Yes these cities have a bigger population. But with 3 million in Toronto alone, and close to 6 million in the GTA it’s certainly nothing to cry about.

          We’re a big bad ass city, and the rest of Canada can hate us all they want, but the fact remains, it’s big and it’s congested. I don’t believe in the slightest that it would get rid of all downtown congestion, not at all. You are 100% correct. The streets are too small, and quite frankly there’s no room for bikes. All the bikers can get upset with all the cars, but sorry to say. There isn’t enough room and with a big city the car and truck traffic come first.

          When Toronto was being built clearly someone didn’t expect it to be as big as it is now. What we need is all streets to be as wide as university avenue. Can you imagine Yonge and Bay with an extra lane on both sides? Would it get rid of congestion? of course not, but the point is, there’s too many people for the avenues given to place them in. And yes I’m aware the expansion of Yonge and Bay is impossible.

          What the extra subways would do is to help relieve “some” of that congestion in and out of the city. Get rid of it? not at all. But the biggest complaint by people is not the congestion “in” the city per say. There’s a whole lot of nothing we can do there. (can’t widen the streets anymore than they are) The complaint comes from going in and out of the city. To add more above road transit to go along with the cars, trucks and buses is ridiculous. I would absolutely be willing to pay a little more. No question abut it. I pay it now anyway in gas sitting in bumper to bumper traffic.

          I don’t think we realize how big Toronto is. As mentioned I’ve been to these other places, Are they big? You bet. But so is Toronto, and our transit is laughable. I’ve had friends and family from all over the world come here and they are astonished and confused. “Your transit doesn’t match the sheer size” They often say. No… no it doesn’t. Not even close with no hope in hell of it changing.

          • Anonymous

            The biggest problem is that the inner suburbs are mostly very low density, Toronto is a big city because its 6 cities combined into one and covers a massive physical area. Only the old city of Toronto has enough density to a support an actual subway network but because there’s more votes in the inner suburbs, even back in the old metro days, most of our transit expansion is focused in the inner suburbs and the only reason the subway lines that already exist in the inner suburbs are successful, with the exception of the money losing Sheppard line, is that they pull in a lot of commuters from vast distances but at their current and likely to remain densities an actual subway network is simply far too expensive to operate for so few riders. It could be done in the old city of Toronto though, Dufferin from the CNE to Eglinton for example is better suited for a subway line now, not to mention the King-Queen corridor, with greater growth potential than the existing Sheppard line but then there’d be howls of protest from the inner suburbs who have the most votes so its politically unlikely to happen.

            Perhaps an education campaign about what it takes to make different sorts of transit succeed would help a bit, but really the best solution would be to change the zoning in the inner suburbs to allow for greater density all over and not just in a thin strip along major roads, then maybe in 30-50 years or so there might be enough density in the inner suburbs to support subways there so that then the old city can get them too. I also think it’d be ideal if transit planning was left to transit experts and not politicians but so long as such vast amounts of money are involved so too will the politicians be involved. Metrolinx was supposed to be the answer to political interference but clearly its incapable of doing that job.

    • Anonymous

      All the cities you mentioned, still have road congestion, despite the fact that they have subways. Congestion has more to do with cars, i.e. one person, in one vehicle, than the lack of subways.

      Want to unclog the streets? Provide affordable, reliable public transit, of any kind. Tax personal vehicle use, via, VRT and road tolls. Create a network of separate bike lanes, connecting every corner of the city. But most of all, encourage development that creates neighbourhoods where people can live, work and play, without needing to use any form of transportation except their feet. This can be done. It’ll take a generation or two, but it is possible. Unfortunately, few on council have the vision to see past the next election.

      • Mark

        Yes, they do all have road congestion, but in many cases double the population. With nearly 3 million people in Toronto alone, we’re pretty much the same size as Chicago. And we have nearly 6 million in the GTA. Take a look at Chicago’s subway map. It’s stellar! We could only dream of having this kind of convenience. You can catch a subway from almost anywhere.

        It’s unbelievably ridiculous that I can catch a Subway at King and Yonge, but not King and Church… Or Jarvis..or Sherbourne… and on and on and on. Same with the West. And like I mentioned above, to have only two transfer points is crazy.

        Take a look at this fictional map someone drew up. This is how it should be.

        I like your idea of the transit-less neighborhoods. It’s a great vision, I like it, but like you said.. it would take a generation or two. And sadly, most people don’t give a flying rats ass if they won’t live to see and experience the day.

        Building more Subways won’t get ride of congestion, but it would certainly help it. It’s faster, more practical in the Winter and more convenient. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had visitors to our “world class city” keel over in utter shock. The look on their faces is priceless when I tell them they can’t take “ANY” form of rapid transit to or from the Airport. It’s Priceless.. for everything else, there’s Master-card. lol. :p

        • Jerome

          First of all that map is a fantasy. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that would cost a trillion dollars.

          But you want to go to High Park from Union, and think the 10-minute ride up to Bloor is offensive? Mark, maybe you live in a fantasy.

        • Anonymous

          A) what does a “world class city” really mean? I hate that term, it’s empty subjectivism.
          B) so what’s your point? Subways are good? I don’t think anyones saying that we don’t want them, it’s just right now it isn’t logical to build one small subway that will only service a small segment of the population for more money then we have.

        • Anonymous

          you can take transit from Yorkdale or Kipling. Let your ‘friends’ know you were mistaken.

        • Anonymous

          Aside: That map – and others, ahem – was featured here a few years ago.

    • Anonymous

      There was a report last week that pointed out there is no feasible way to pay for subways. They sure as hell won’t pay for themselves. The Sheppard line is already running at a loss, and the planned expansion will be losing money for decades.

    • Testu

      You seem to think that the council voted against subways. That didn’t happen, because there was no plan for subways or even a single subway line. Council voted to act on literally the only transit plan we had. If this had been voted down there may have eventually been a LRT line on Eglinton and that’s it.

      There was no subway option, the choice was the approved and paid for LRT plan or nothing at all for the foreseeable future. Rob Ford’s bold vision of the future couldn’t have even started construction until nearly 2020, assuming he somehow found a way to pay for it.

    • Kev

      “5 largest” is a bit of a misnomer. I could be wrong, and if so, I apologize and I don’t want the urban planning nerds to jump down my throat… but if I remember correctly, the way ‘burbs and outer towns are calculated or more importantly, NOT calculated comes into play. For example, if you look at Atlanta, it’s got tons of bedroom communities that feed into Atlanta proper and if you include those into the population of Atlanta, it’s far larger than Toronto. Toronto really isn’t all that big.

    • Guest

      This seems to be a common misconception, but the proposed above-ground transit will not be clogging up any streets. The streets will be widened to accommodate the same number of lanes of traffic.

      Toronto’s transit can’t be compared to cities like New York or London because we don’t have the same population density — the single most important factor that decides whether a subway line is sustainable.

      If you have millions of people packed into moderate and high density spaces like in New York and London, then subways are sustainable. If you have single-family detached homes spread over a vast area like in the Toronto suburbs, then a subway just becomes a money-losing white elephant.

  • steven

    This is really well thought out and articulately written. Well done you!

  • Anonymous

    I have lived in Scarborough, in Gary Crawford’s ward around Cliffside, for the past three years. I see plenty of public projects out here: road improvements, sidewalk repair, hydro rewiring, sewer replacement, conservation projects below the Bluffs, parkland, library renovation, new community centres. Public money is spent throughout Toronto. I have also seen improvements resisted out here, by NIMBYs who don’t want sidewalks or public access pathways near their homes. At the special meeting Wednesday, Cllr. Berardinetti read a letter from a constituent, a former clerk at the city, who imagined a subway all the way to the zoo. This is pandering to suburban fantasies, that they can have their wide streets, backyards, parking everywhere, but deserve the same level of infrastructure of the tightly packed city centre, all the way to the zoo, at whatever cost.

    Two things that Ford said in his interview on CP24 last night that require further direct questioning from journalists: when asked if he supported new revenue sources (sales tax, parking levies, gas tax) to fund subway construction, he continued to float the belief that the money will be found by delivering further efficiency at City Hall; and, even after Chong has delivered his report he continued to say that private developers are coming to his office every day, he just can’t say who they are.

  • Anonymous

    If you want to integrate Toronto, you could do worse than … LRT.,1518,566419,00.html

    • Anonymous

      Should send that Spiegel article to all of the councillors that voted against grade level LRT’s. Not that any of them would change their minds. After all, the Ford’s with all of their expertise in LRT’s, would tell them what is working extremely well everywhere esle in the world, can never work in Toronto. End of story. I wonder if a free trip to France or Germany to see LRT’s in action, would help change their minds?

  • tablogloid

    Fantastic clarification. However I don’t get the Miller jab, “We remain a city that is amalgamated but not integrated. (This is arguably the biggest failure of David Miller’s administration.) ”

    Was not the amalgamation forced upon us by Mike Harris and the “Common Sense Revolution” in the late ’90s. It will take more than a few terms of mayorality to overcome the obstacles it created methinks.

    • Anonymous

      Oh, I didn’t mean that Miller was in any way responsible for amalgamation—he wasn’t—but just that he didn’t accomplish much by way of bringing various parts of the city together when he was in office. His initiatives—and especially Transit City—were very beneficial to the suburbs, but his efforts in terms of developing a sense of cohesion across Toronto were sorely lacking. The policy was there, but not the community-building.

  • Raggedclaws

    Brilliant article. I hate when people try to pit us against each other. We’re all Torontonians. We need a mayor and a council who will encourage unity and try to come up with solutions that will do the greatest good for the greatest number of people, regardless where they live in our city.

  • Paul Kishimoto

    The quibbling in the comments here about what is “downtown” versus “not”; whether the inner (416) or outer (905) suburbs are “real” suburbs, etc. demonstrate precisely why we, and Council, must value expert advice in the transit planning process.

    Semantic distinctions are only useful as caricatures to form arguments. Speakers will define or identify groups in the way that best recruits support for a specific political position.

    Planners, as non-advocates, can work with the full texture of the city’s structure, communities, residents, etc. A planner need not shy from dividing the city into 10 or 20 areas according to transit-relevant characteristics, even if this shows no correspondence to ward boundaries or does not help anyone identify “winners” and “losers.”

    Dispassionate analysis can identify the infrastructure that is best suited to each area in a technical sense. If politicians then choose to support other things, it will at least be clear that they are layering other considerations on correct technical advice, and we will be able to judge that separately.

  • Paul Kishimoto

    The quibbling in the comments here about what is “downtown” versus “not”; whether the inner (416) or outer (905) suburbs are “real” suburbs, etc. demonstrate precisely why we, and Council, must value expert advice in the transit planning process.

    Semantic distinctions are only useful as caricatures to form arguments. Speakers will define or identify groups in the way that best recruits support for a specific political position.

    Planners, as non-advocates, can work with the full texture of the city’s structure, communities, residents, etc. A planner need not shy from dividing the city into 10 or 20 areas according to transit-relevant characteristics, even if this shows no correspondence to ward boundaries or does not help anyone identify “winners” and “losers.”

    Dispassionate analysis can identify the infrastructure that is best suited to each area in a technical sense. If politicians then choose to support other things, it will at least be clear that they are layering other considerations on correct technical advice, and we will be able to judge that separately.

  • Anonymous

    And here I was citing your piece about the Fords lacking insight rather than empathy as an example of generosity of spirit. And now you’ve gone and one-upped me.

  • Farnand

    nicely done

  • RCRobman

    Ahh yes another article dedicated to bashing Rob Ford and whatever it is that he is behind.
    Sorry to be on the dissenting side here BUT Ford is right on this one.
    Rapid Transit cannot be rapid if it travels above ground – too dangerous
    Rapid Transit cannot be rapid if it has to deal with cross traffic
    Subways are the only means of transportation that is virtually immune from the effects of our weather – snow, ice, high winds – not a problem for the most part for a subway
    It takes 2 Operators to run a 6 car subway train which replaces at least 10 or more buses — the labor cost savings alone are considerable – if you are going to run 24X7 (the city does) then you are looking at 30 Operators vs 6 to do so
    The maintenance costs on vehicles exposed to the elements are much higher than those that run underground.
    If time is money then there is no comparison – imagine the time difference in travelling Bloor Danforth from end to end on a subway vs a bus (or god forbid a streetcar – which btw is another thing Ford has right – having all traffic stop so one person can get on or off is ludicrous).
    Toronto has been run in knee jerk mode for far too long and it is time we started looking well into the future – not just a few years (until the next left wing council for example). We need to start building serious long term infrastructure like has been done around the world and stop putting band aids on our ever worsening traffic situation. Unless of course like the previous council you think that removing a lane of traffic on one of the busiest streets in Toronto so a few bicycles can use it is somehow a solution.
    Sadly this has turned into “anything that Ford says is wrong so we must stop him” in the big picture looking long term Ford is the one who is right on this issue.

    • Anonymous
    • Anonymous

      “Rapid Transit cannot be rapid if it travels above ground – too dangerous”

      The hell?

      “6 car subway train which replaces at least 10 or more buses”

      Only on a single street – and good luck getting off the subway at the corner nearest your destination – but then subway stations become hubs for more buses in time.

      “having all traffic stop so one person can get on or off is ludicrous”

      Not applicable on ROWs or LRTs, but being stopped by a streetcar is no different from being stopped by a bus, or a taxi, or a delivery van or other private vehicle.

      “We need to start building serious long term infrastructure like has been done around the world and stop putting band aids on our ever worsening traffic situation.”

      You won’t find anyone here who disagrees with you there, but building such infrastructure in places that can’t justify it in the next 20 years is a foolish waste of money. You want subways? Let’s start building them where they’ll do the most good for the most people – downtown. Trains going south of Bloor in the morning rush hour and north to Bloor in the evening rush are already at maximum capacity. Forget the singular DRL, we need lines criss-crossing downtown and we needed them 10 years ago.

  • Donald M

    A good and thoughtful piece. Toronto is fortunate to have some great councillors who care deeply about the city and its millions of residents; we saw that in their fight to preserve services in the face of budget cuts that were planned, it would seem, on the back of a pub napkin. We all deserve better.

  • Lauren

    Different communities have different needs. Residents chose those areas because of their short and long term priorities. To ignore this fact is the same as ignoring racism, hoping that if we just pretend there are no differences, everything will come out equal. It won’t. Wards should be doing surveys to see what their residents want most, and then their councilors can act on those terms with confidence.

  • Gary M

    The point that people are missing is that we don’t want surface LRT lines. It’s either subways or nothing. We can live with nothing. Thats pretty much all we get from midtown politicians anyway. We are use to it now.

  • Bluegreenblogger

    Good article, good comments too. I think there were issues with Millers transit plans, but the best thing that could be said about it was that it had been painstakingly fought over, with compromise, dialogue, back and forth with a great many stakeholders, and multiple levels of government, and finally was being put into effect.
    Then we had a mayoral election…..Subways are great, sure, but Toronto does not have enough dough to pay for money losing subway lines. Not at those honking huge capital costs, and the tens of billions of dollars it would take for a robust subway network is just not going to happen. The fact is that it will take many years before the outer wards of the city will have sufficient densities to support a London, or New York style subway network. Those outer areas are not likley to acheive the densities required without far more robust public transportation than they now enjoy. Therefore, a less expensive means of improving transit is the obvious answer to bridge the half century or so that it will take until the suburbs ‘grow up’ (no insult intended).
    Half a century does not work very well in the real world of politics though. It seems some suburbanites (or so the Ford brothers tell us) want their cake NOW, and they jolly well aren’t gonna let any pinko latte sipping art-fags pull a swifty on them and steal the subways they were promised.