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Subway elevators urged for Olympics

$190 million project would give city’s bid a lift, councillor says

By Paul Moloney
Toronto Star City Hall Bureau

Toronto is considering boosting its Olympics bid by spending $190 million to install elevators in every subway station.

The bid’s chances will improve if Toronto can boast that it offers access to disabled people throughout the transit system, said Councillor Joe Mihevc, a TTC commissioner.

“We need a hook to get (International Olympic Committee) delegates on board,” said Mihevc (York-Eglinton), who is also chair of the city’s access and equity task force.

“Some will be hooked by the waterfront, some by Canada being a safe country, and others will be enthused by having fully accessible transit,” he said last week.

Sydney’s successful bid for this summer’s Games was helped greatly by that city’s decision to include environmental cleanup as part of its efforts, Mihevc said.

Elevators would not only make the city look good but would provide a lasting benefit because WheelTrans buses could then drop people at the nearest subway station, increasing service and efficiency, he said.

The disabled community has long lobbied for elevtors but current plans call for 29 accessible stations by 2004, leaving 41 stations without the device.

All stations could be fitted with elevators by mid-2008, just in time for the Games, TTC chief general manager Rick Ducharme said in a letter to the economic development committee.

Ducharme said the project is so costly - at $4.6 million per station - because the installations are complex and take a long time.

The cost is prohibitive, said Councillor Tom Jakobek (East Toronto), the city’s budget chief.

Jakobek is locked in a battle with TTC chair Howard Moscoe (North York Spadina) over cutting $13 million from the $149 million subsidy the city hands the TTC each year.

He was surprised Moscoe would be asking the city to put up elevator money, starting next year.

“I would like to know what kind of drugs Howard’s taking,” Jakobek said.

Moscoe couldn’t be reached but Mihevc said the money can be found, with a little ingenuity.

He suggested doubling of advertising on buses - the kind in which the entire bus is transformed into a billboard on wheels - as well as more advertising in the subway.

Another idea is to sell rights to developers to build atop subway stations, he added.

Other options include asking the bid committee to pick up some of the costs and going after infrastructure funding from the federal government, said Councillor Brian Ashton (Scarborough Bluffs), chair of the economic development committee. He called it a very worthy project.

The issue comes up for debate at Ashton’s committee next Monday.




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