Council once again looks at the long-term prospects for building transit in Toronto.
At City Hall this afternoon: another chapter in the long story of council’s vexed relationship with transit planning, as councillors debate several motions that have to do with establishing long-term transit priorities and the funding thereof.
Today’s debate is sparked by the OneCity transit plan unveiled a couple of weeks ago by TTC Chair Karen Stintz (Ward 16, Eglinton-Lawrence), and TTC Vice-Chair and Scarborough councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker (Ward 38, Scarborough Centre). Though it initially called for 21 new transit subway, LRT, streetcar, and bus rapid transit lines, and a new property tax-related revenue tool to help pay for them, the plan’s authors have backed off considerably. What’s left for debate today: a proposal for a staff report that will outline a process for creating a long-term transit strategy for Toronto, a proposal to create a regional roundtable to discuss revenue tools to raise money for transit, and proposals to make an East Bayfront LRT and Scarborough subway the city’s top two new transit priorities.
Follow our liveblog of the debate after the jump…
MOTIONS FOR DEBATE
- A motion which calls for including transit priorities in the City’s Official Plan, which is currently under review. Peter Milczyn (Ward 5, Etobicoke-Lakeshore) told reporters earlier today that he will move an amendment to this, asking for a full study of Toronto’s long-term transit options. (This is very similar to a motion council already approved back in March—see #5 here.) PASSES 43-1
- A motion that calls for making an East Bayfront LRT a transit priority for Toronto, in the hopes of completing such a line in time for the Pan Am Games in 2015. This proposal also addresses some concerns that the rapid development in the Port Lands requires that transit infrastructure be included from the beginning—that it will help shape the neighbourhood to have transit included at the outset rather than trying to jam it in later. PASSES 38–6
- A motion that originated with councillor Josh Matlow (Ward 22, St. Paul’s), which calls on the City of Toronto to try to establish a working group including officials from GTA municipalities as well as the province, to discuss the various revenue-generating tools Metrolinx might include in its long-term funding plan, which will be released next year.
- A motion (not yet online) addressing the future of transit in Scarborough, as the RT line is at the end of its lifespan. Earlier this spring council decided to restore the Transit City strategy for dealing with this: replacing the RT with an LRT line. Scarborough councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker is proposing that council reconsider that decision, and that staff study the viability of extending the Bloor-Danforth subway line into Scarborough instead RULED OUT OF ORDER
6:48 PM: Peter Milczyn’s motion calling for a major study on long-term transit planning priorities PASSES 43-1 (the one dissenter is John Filion). And the motion to make an East Bayfront LRT a priority transit line; report on funding options in October PASSES 38-6. (Rob and Doug Ford were among the dissenters.)
6:47 PM: Bells ringing, signalling that voting is about to commence. Woo!
6:38 PM: More seriously, Stintz says that this motion is important because it will install transit priorities in the City’s Official Plan, and that will make them more resilient. One of our big problems, she says (and she is far from the first), is that “our transit plans don’t survive election cycles.” She adds: “I would be remiss as chair of the TTC and as a member of the Planning and Growth Management Committee if I let the debate end at those four [Transit City] lines.”
6:36 PM: Karen Stintz rises to speak, thanks Peter Milczyn, as chair of the Planning and Growth Management Committee, for taking carriage of the motion calling for a long-term transit study. She jokes that when he agreed to take carriage of the motion, he told her he’d do it on one condition: “that next time I have an idea, I keep it to myself.” A few awkward laughs.
6:16 PM: Shelley Carroll, a few minutes ago regarding Peter Milczyn’s motion calling for a broad transit study: “It’s a face saving motion, and we need one right now.” The difference between that and the OneCity plan, she adds, is that it begins with staff study and research. Message: if council is going to go out into the community and conduct public consultations on what our transit priorities should be, they can’t do it properly without staff advice.
5:36 PM: Gord Perks makes a plea for councillors to pay attention to maintaining and sustaining the network we already have instead of just getting fixated on building new things, and also to pull together and work together more effectively than they have been. “Stop fighting about what part of the city you’re from, stop fighting about what part of the political spectrum you’re from, stop fighting about what technology you want, and start fighing for Toronto.”
5:25 PM: Diversion! Former mayoral chief of staff Nick Kouvalis has rewritten the lyrics of U2’s “One” in honour of OneCity and addressed to TTC Chair Karen Stintz, and is publishing these new words line by line on Twitter. A sample:
Have you come here for forgiveness?
Have you come to raise the dead?
Have you come to play Jesus?
Is the TTC Union in your head?
Did I ask you for too much?
More than a lot.
You gave me Transit City
Now LRT’s is all I got
But we’re not the same
Hurt each other
Then we do it again
5:17 PM: So, councillors continue to discuss the merits of long-term transit planning. Given that they have already voted to conduct a long-term transit study (earlier in the spring) and are today considering a motion that doesn’t substantively add to that earlier request for study, there is not much new that is being said. At some point, council will turn to the East Bayfront LRT line—a priority which, while on the books, could potentially get accelerated by a decision today. Which is to say, that debate might produce something new. For now, not much to report.
4:58 PM: Giorgio Mammoliti is speaking again. Yelling, actually. “What’s in your Kool-Aid?” he asks councillors who sometimes want subways and sometimes LRT, among various other complaints.
4:38 PM: And, councillors uphold the chair 26-14. De Baeremaeker’s motion is out of order, will not be debated. No Scarborough subway study. One of the last major elements of OneCity falls. (Note: councillors who voted to uphold the chair / kill Scarborough subway bid: Ford and most of his allies, and most of the progressive/left councillors. Voting against the chair, trying to keep the Scarborough subway vision going: Augimeri, Bailao, Cho, Colle, Davis, De Baeremaeker, Doucette, Fletcher, Fragedakis, Lee, McMahon, Mihevic, Milczyn, Stintz.)
4:35 PM: Glenn De Baeremaeker has just introduced his motion regarding a Scarborough subway. Speaker Frances Nunziata rules that motion out of order because; councillors will now vote on whether to overrule her.
4:18 PM: Milczyn: “I have heard no new ideas in the past two weeks.” Speaking now in favour of his motion, which calls for a global transit study that would eventually have a list of priorities incorporated into the City’s Official Plan. Also, a plea to his colleagues: “If we could set aside egos.”
4:16 PM: More information from Byford: the Scarborough RT ridership is close to subway capacity; ridership projected to be 11,000—14,000 an hour if it is rebuilt as a subway extension. Also, he says that the RT could stay open for relatively low cost if a subway was constructed, during the construction period; this option doesn’t exist if the RT is replaced with LRT.
4:13 PM: Deputy mayor Doug Holyday asks TTC CEO Andy Byford if, supposing the goal of transit is to take cars off the road, it wouldn’t make sense rather than extending the Bloor/Danforth subway east, we extend it west into Mississauga? Andy Byford, diplomatically, replies that such questions could certainly be folded into an overall transit review.
3:55 PM: “For reconsideration of a specific line now you’re back into what we went into for six or eight months and the end of last and beginning of this year.” City manager Joe Pennachetti in reply to questions from Raymond Cho, on the consequences of revisiting council’s decision on Scarborough transit. He say that changing one of the lines now might re-opoen up whole debate, and also will incur costs due to delays, new studies, and so on. A bit later in questioning he says the added costs could be as high at $100 million.
3:42 PM: Metrolinx is coming in for some pointed remarks today—even Pennachetti said during questioning that they are not an accountable body, since no politicians serve on the board.
3:40 PM: Technical note: the province has indicated that it is not interested in revising the plan for Scarborough transit. Since they are the ones paying for it, that’s significant. Since in principle they have said they will only pay for complete assets (like the planned LRT line) rather than extensions of other assets (like adding new subway stops to the Bloor/Danforth line) even if council were to change course and vote for a subway rather than light rail as the replacement of the Scarborough RT, it seems they will have no provincial money to enact that plan. (This is importantly different than the province’s “we will respect the will of council line”—that was contingent on council proposing a plan that met the province’s funding guidelines, which a Bloor/Danforth extension would not.)
3:28 PM: We’ve got advance copies of the language of two key motions.
For a transit study (from Peter Milczyn):
That City Council direct the City Manager….to report to the September  meeting of the Planning and Growth Management Committee..respecting transit related matters including the development of a Toronto Public Transit Expansion Plan; consultation with the Toronto Transit Commission and Metrolinx; review of all transit routes contained within the current Official Plan, Metrolinx Big Move, the previous Let’s Move Plan, and other previous City, TTC or provincial plans.
That City Council direct the City Manager…to report to the Planning and Growth Management Committee in the second quarter of 2013 with a proposed City-wide transit plan to update the Official Plan and a prioritization strategy for all lines.
For a study on a Scarborough subway extension (from Glenn De Baeremaeker):
De Baeremaeker wants to amend the above motion by adding the following clause—
…respecting transit related matters including the development of a Toronto Public Transit Expansion Plan, such expansion plan to consider the eastern extension of the Bloor/Danforth subway and that an interim report on the merits of the eastern extension of the Bloor/Danforth line be submitted to the October 12, 2012 Planning and Growth Management Committee meeting.
3:15 PM: Michael Thompson asks Pennachetti about what opportunities there might be for the public to weigh in on transit, so it isn’t just politicians participating in the discussion? Pennachetti says that what he thinks is best is for staff to finish its research and prepare its report, to come out in October. Then councillors could weigh in, and City staff could facilitate a period of public consultation. The City would then need to make a final decision about its priorities by February, so that it could pass those decisions on to Metrolinx, which needs to issue its own report on a regional transit strategy next June.
3:08 PM: Josh Matlow asks City staff: given that TTC CEO Andy Byford has said publicly that Toronto’s next major transit need is a downtown relief line, does that mean that the DRL is, in fact, already established as our next major transit priority, and is it useful for council to be advancing other transit lines at the same time? City manager Pennachetti (Byford isn’t the council chamber right now) replies that what they (staff) would prefer is to be able to report back to council in October on what their research indicates should be our city’s top transit priorities.
2:59 PM: Reminder: council has already asked City staff to write a report on revenue options for transit funding, and on what our transit planning priorities should be. The results of staff research will be summarized in a series of reports anticipated in October of this year.
2:55 PM: Mammoliti to the City Manager Joe Pennachetti: “did the decisions in the spring take you off your game?” (Note: this is fairly aggressive as councillors don’t generally impugn the professionalism of staff in public debate.) Mammoliti’s voice rises as he asks “Where is OneCity??” And then, as his mike is turned off, “where’s Waldo?”
2:52 PM: And, we’re off. Councillors will begin by asking questions of City staff. Currently up: Giorgio Mammoliti, who is trying to get staff to describe the councillors who wrote OneCity as flip-floppers, for backing a subway in Scarborough now after resisting the mayor’s call for subways earlier this year. TTC Chair Karen Stintz rises to point out that nobody is voting on OneCity today.