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Ford's plan to nix light-rail on Finch
offers 'no joy' in North York

Replacing light rail with subways means no relief for local commuters: councillor

by David Nickle

Mayor Rob Ford’s call to stop Transit City construction in its tracks offers no comfort to traffic-clogged residents and businesses along Finch Avenue, according to Ward 8 Councillor Anthony Perruzza.

“There’s no joy up on Finch today,” said Perruzza, whose ward includes Finch from Dufferin Street to Hwy. 400.

Under the Transit City plan originally put forward by former mayor David Miller, Finch would have seen light rail crossing from Yonge Street into Etobicoke. That plan was later modified to have the light rail line meet up with a new subway station at Finch and Keele Street, and it was expected to be completed by 2019.

But on Wednesday, Mayor Rob Ford started his first day in office sending a clear signal that Transit City was over, and he wanted to find a way to use the provincial funding for light rail to build subways in Scarborough instead.

Perruzza, who spent the past four years as a TTC commissioner and was a major supporter of Transit City, said the news signals a major loss for his community.

“I have to tell you, Finch Avenue statistically comes out as one of the largest transit routes in the city,” he said. “It’s heavily used, we added buses, lots of buses on Finch. And a lot of those buses simply get bogged down in traffic because Finch has a lot of traffic on it. There are a number of points on Finch that are basically at gridlock.”

He said Ford’s announcement means no relief for users of Finch.

“If the announcement means that the status quo on Finch continues indefinitely for the next five, 10 or 15 years, that’s unacceptable,” he said. “For a number of us who saw the new line on Finch Avenue as a way to widen Finch, make it work for transit, for cars, for trucks and everyone else - if that is on hold indefinitely, that’s simply unacceptable.”

TTC chief general manager Gary Webster said he would be reporting on the possibility of completing all the Transit City lines as subways, a project that would include the Finch line.

But Perruzza said he didn’t hold out much hope that the provincial government would come on board.

“The math is very easily done - light rail versus subways is roughly a quarter to a third the cost. So you multiply that by three and basically that’s what subways would cost. We’ve had lots of difficulty basically wrestling the $8.4 billion from the provincial government (for Transit City),” he said. “We even wanted a little more because the plan for Finch was originally to start at Yonge Street rather than Keele. The program got downsized a bit. So I don’t know how you multiply that by three and say we’re going to build subways anywhere.”

Ward 7 Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti was named to sit on Ford’s executive committee. He said the death of the Finch LRT was “inevitable knowing what the mayor’s stand was during the election.”

But he said it might be possible to build subways on Finch and down Jane Street, if the private sector is involved.

“What I’m happy about is the mayor is actually looking at public-private partnerships to pay for subways,” said Mammoliti, whose ward includes Finch from Hwy. 400 to the Humber River. “If you can bring that to the table and make that work it would be great. Once you build light rail along a route, you’re never going to get a subway. It’s not going to happen. This is an opportunity for us to get a subway along Finch going out to the airport.”