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Editorial: Should Ford have shaken up the public transit status quo?

“Transit City is over, ladies and gentlemen,” Mayor Rob Ford told a packed room on Wednesday - his first day on the job.

Toronto’s new mayor has tentatively left the largest transit expansion in the city’s history dead in its tracks, and potentially cutting the expansion down from 53 kilometres to 14.

The switch to a subway-focused transit expansion after years developing Transit City has its many pitfalls - provincial funding, connectivity, council challenges, and one Ford will personally feel in the future: his new plan has every possibility of alienating a large majority of those who voted him into office - voters in North York, Scarborough and Etobicoke, where the majority of LRT lines would be built.

It should come as no surprise Ford took on Transit City; he repeated as much throughout his mayoral bid.

But this new focus will disenfranchise those residents who would have been served by the Finch, Sheppard, Eglinton and Scarborough LRT projects.

Many residents in the former city of York are feeling abandoned with the halting of the Eglinton LRT. Ward 8 Councillor Anthony Perruzza, a TTC commissioner and supporter of Transit City, feels his area has been slighted with the abandoning of the Finch LRT. And in Etobicoke there is mixed reaction. It is not a stretch to see priority neighbourhoods in north Etobicoke, North York and northeast in Scarborough left wanting transit for decades to come.

At some point, Ford needs to reach out to other sides of city council who would not normally support his mandate. We feel his decision to halt former mayor David Miller’s Transit City plan will further divide council, even those in Ford’s soon-to-be inner circle.

By 2020 hundreds of thousands of people throughout the city would have finally been served with public transit if Transit City were to be completed. Those citizens along the possibly-cancelled LRT routes will surely have something to say come 2014 - the next municipal election - when Ford will also face councillors who will hear about it over the next few years.

Ford ran on a campaign highlighting fiscal responsibility. Canceling existing contracts already signed for Transit City will definitely cost the city millions.

The argument that subways are the preferred public transit option is not at question here; the desperate and immediate need to start expanding transit (that’s already several generations behind) definitely is. Transit City appeared to be that plan.

Council should not only demand a discussion on the issue but undertake serious discussions regarding how they will build the transit system all Torontonians deserve, and deserve in a timely manner.