As Premier Doug Ford and his Progressive Conservative government promote their new transit “vision”, President Carlos Santos outlined on Toronto.com why ripping up plans mid-way will just lead to more delays for badly need transit infrastructure.
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Premier Ford’s proposed Ontario Line will just lead to more delays
Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his Progressive Conservative government are out in full force promoting their new transit “vision” for Toronto.
Like right here on Toronto.com, with Associate Transportation Minister Kinga Surma’s opinion article “Proposed Ontario Line makes most sense, serves more people.” But when it comes to the Ford government and transit, you can’t believe everything you read.
Researchers call it the “illusory truth effect”: repeating the same thing over and over and over again to make people believe it. It’s a trick some politicians use when they try to sell you something.
Fortunately, the more you say something does not make it more true. Transit planning should stick to expert facts, not play politics to meet far-fetched promises.
Before leading the union of Toronto’s 12,000 public transit workers, I operated TTC streetcars for 12 years. When you’re on the front lines of public transit, you understand firsthand the frustration of riders.
Associate Minister Surma is right about one thing: Torontonians have come to expect crowded subways, buses and streetcars — not to mention the never-ending delays with building transit. However, what she does not say is Premier Ford’s plan to scrap the Downtown Relief Line for the Ontario Line will just lead to more delays. It’s a tired routine provincial PC governments have perfected; cancelling plans midway to just bring us back to square one, leaving riders behind.
Associate Minister Surma says the province’s plan will build on ready-to-go Downtown Relief Line planning, which has some design work and the environmental review complete. But in reality, less than half of the Ontario Line would follow the same route.
She also says the Ontario Line will be operational by 2027, two years faster than the Downtown Relief Line. But in reality, the head of Metrolinx, the province’s own transit agency, says that they don’t know if they can meet the arbitrary new timelines until companies start bidding for the work. Their president and CEO, Phil Verster, admitted to the Toronto Star, “If it can’t be done in 2027 (his agency) will declare that immediately.”
That’s from what we know, but in Premier Ford’s Ontario we don’t get all the details. We still don’t know if the province’s unilateral redrawing of Toronto’s transit map has funding partners at other levels of government.
The federal government, ready to help fund new transit, say the PC government started with just two pages explaining this project — and that it wasn’t enough for them to finance it with confidence. While the province has since submitted more details, important questions remain unanswered and the federal government has yet to commit to any funding for this “mystery line.” The City of Toronto has yet to commit to any funding. Toronto city councillors will decide in October whether to move forward at all with the Ontario Line.
If the Ford government had stayed the course with existing plans, we would have shovels in the ground for the Downtown Relief Line next year.
Meanwhile, as the PC government creates further delays with much-needed transit expansion, they have made TTC service and overcrowding worse for riders.
The PC government broke a campaign promise to keep the scheduled hike in the portion of the gas tax that municipalities receive to fund transit, which means about $1 billion less for Toronto than was already budgeted for the maintenance of the TTC’s buses, subways and streetcars, among other important initiatives like subway station accessibility.
It’s time for Premier Ford to properly fund the TTC. Transit is key to the growth of the city, but also its affordability though connecting our communities. We need to improve and expand the public system so everyone, at all income levels, can build a good-quality life here.
A properly funded public transit system will mean more buses on the road, as well as moving forward with critical projects like the Eglinton East LRT that would finally bring public transit to the University of Toronto Scarborough campus, as well as the Waterfront LRT to serve an ever-expanding community. It will also mean better service and less crowding, which is only getting worse as our city continues to grow.
When it comes to Ford and his PC government, don’t believe everything you read. You need to look through the empty promises to find the facts.