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New TTC: Fewer politicians, more private citizens

by Tess Kalinowski
Transportation Reporter

Adding some private-sector appointees could boost skills on the TTC board without reducing its accountability to the public, according to the councillor expected to chair the incoming Toronto Transit Commission.

Karen Stintz (Ward 16, Eglinton-Lawrence) said she supports appointing non-politicians to what is now an all-councillor board of nine. But ultimately, councillors will continue to be accountable.

“I think that’s why we want to have a mix” of politicians and private citizens, she said. “We do need to keep city councillors as part of the board because city council is the primary funder. As it is now, the TTC operates very arm’s-length from council, and there’s a sense even with the current composition and the way it’s designed that it’s not accountable enough to city council.”

Private-sector appointees could bring project management, financial and customer-service skills to the table, said Stintz.

But transit blogger Steve Munro fears it will only bring back the cronyism that existed when there was a private TTC board.

“Anyone who wants to apply becomes a politician by virtue of their past record and opinions,” he said.

Changing the composition of the board won’t be the first order of business, but is likely to take place early in the term, said Stintz, whose appointment has not been announced officially.

She could not confirm whether there will be nine councillors appointed to it initially. But if there are non-politicians being lined up by Mayor-elect Rob Ford, Stintz said she’s not aware of them.

Longtime transit commissioner Joe Mihevc (Ward 21, St. Paul’s) said he hopes Ford thinks hard before he makes any decisions on projects like the Sheppard light rail transit (LRT) line, the first of the Transit City routes scheduled for completion.

Ford campaigned on converting Sheppard to a subway that would run to the Scarborough Town Centre. But that would cost about $2.5 billion more than the $1.1 billion budgeted for Sheppard transit, according to TTC numbers.

“Why would we throw away a bird in the hand when the bird in the bush could be a generation away?” Mihevc said.

Converting the SRT to a subway from Kennedy Station to Scarborough Town Centre would cost only about $600 million more than the current plan, which calls for it to be converted to Transit City-style LRT.

It took Mayor David Miller his entire term to get a shovel in the ground to extend the Spadina subway to York Region — and that was before the global economic crisis.

Now money is tighter, Mihevc said. The province, which is providing two-thirds of the Sheppard funding (one-third is coming from Ottawa) and 100 per cent of the funding of the three other Transit City lines, has already deferred half its spending commitment for those lines to the latter half of the coming decade.

The provincial transit funding agency, Metrolinx, met with the Ford transition team for the first time last Friday.

During an earlier briefing with TTC staff, Ford transition advisors asked what it would take for the TTC to stop work on Transit City. But they were referred back to Metrolinx on that matter.




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