CodeBlueTO fought for a measured, evidence-based approach to developing our waterfront—and won. Can CodeRedTO do the same for transit planning?
For all of their concerns about Rob Ford and his approach to governance, many on the progressive side of Toronto do credit the mayor with one thing: he’s sparked a wave of activism and community engagement this city hasn’t seen in years. Helping to lead the charge against some of Ford’s more headline-grabbing plans last year was CodeBlueTO, a group of citizens who became very concerned when Ford brother Doug started musing about scrapping existing plans for waterfront revitalization in favour of Ferris wheels and monorails. Building on a network of concerned residents that had developed over the past decade or more, as those original plans were developed, CodeBlueTO launched a website, hashtag, petition, and public information campaign that helped turn the tide against the Ford brothers and let to a unanimous vote by city council to endorse the existing planning framework.
Looming larger even than the waterfront for many is Ford’s revisionist approach to transit planning—most notably, his cancellation of the long-planned Transit City network of light rail lines in favour of a completely buried Eglinton LRT, and a fervent wish to build a subway line on Sheppard.
Hoping to turn the tide on this front as well, and advocating for “a rational, affordable, and achievable rapid transit strategy” is a successor group of sorts to CodeBlueTO named (of course) CodeRedTO.
The group is very new, and their first order of business is to hone in on a mission statement—and they are hoping to do it with a bit of help from you. Between now and Monday, they are asking for feedback on four draft mission statements from Torontonians who care about transit planning; you can view the drafts (they are all very short) and submit your comments here. Organizers will mull over that feedback and finalize their mission statement next week. They’ll follow that up with calls to action: plans include reaching out to city councillors, canvassing in transit corridors, and making buttons—the bread and butter campaign work that helped CodeBlue generate a broader public debate on the issues involved.
Transit planner (and Torontoist contributor) Laurence Lui is one of CodeRed’s organizers. I asked him today about CodeRed’s aspirations—and whether, specifically, the goal was to bring back Transit City. He replied that their hope was “to achieve some sort of Council consensus that would return some sanity to the City’s rapid transit plan. By extension, it may mean returning to aspects of Transit City, especially since all the [environmental assessments] and planning are already completed and approved. That doesn’t mean that those plans can’t be tweaked to address concerns.”
This isn’t the first time there’s been a campaign to save some version of the light rail transit plans Ford inherited and then quickly jettisoned—efforts which have thus far haven’t gained anything like the momentum that would be needed to pressure Ford into reversing course. But with recent disclosures that the penalties for cancelling Transit City are now pegged at $65 million, and that private sector can only be expected to cover between 10 to 30 per cent of a Sheppard subway, there’s an opening for CodeRed to build momentum around Transit City’s less splashy approach—one which has light rail instead of subways, but which would provide service to more residents at a lower cost. Now it’s up to those residents to take that message to City Hall.