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Toronto, build something!: Blizzard

by Christina Blizzard

Stopping, starting, filling in holes, none of that helps transit riders

Pick a line. Any line. And just build it.

That’s what provincial Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne seems to be saying in the wake of Mayor Rob Ford’s announcement he will scrap the ambitious and controversial Transit City plan and build subways.

The province has committed $3.1 billion over the next four-and-a-half years for public transit in Toronto — but Wynne said Thursday it has to be developed as part of a regional plan.

“The money is for transit and if the city of Toronto wants to develop a new plan and they want to do it in conjunction with Metrolinks and with the province, we are open to doing that,” she told reporters.

Of course, there is nothing the province would like better than for Ford to give them an opportunity to opt-out of transit funding.

In the last budget, they slashed $4 billion from the original plan. Facing down a massive deficit of $18.7 billion, returning $3 billion would be a welcome addition to the provincial coffers.

Whatever the outcome, we have to stop this stop-and-start bickering on transit and move ahead with something — anything — so long as it gets this city moving again.

As it is, we keep starting lines, spending money and then filling them in. Let’s show some courage for a change and get something built.

In this city, we only pay lip service to loving transit.

We are a city built around the automobile. We only give up our cars under protest.

Why? Because we don’t have a culture of transit here.

I grew up in London, England, where only the very brave, the very rich, or the very foolish drive.

Commuters take transit because there is a vast network of lines that can get you to and from far-reaching corners of the metropolis efficiently.

(Then again, a great deal of that is above ground and electrified and it grinds to a halt when it snows — as it did last week.)

But London Underground has grown and expanded without the wailing and gnashing of teeth we’ve had here. They keep building. We keep filling in lines.

Subways don’t come cheap.

This city had a good start to transit, but then we lost our nerve.

We want transit — but we don’t want to pay higher fares and we don’t want to pay higher taxes.

In my experience, you value what you pay for.

Transit isn’t a social program and this nonsense of everyone paying the same fare no matter if you’re travelling the entire length of the subway system or just a few stops simply has to stop.

We need zoned fares so those who travel farther pay more.

We also must stop building transit according to political popularity.

Wynne said that’s what Metrolinx was supposed to do.

“It was our attempt to depoliticize some of these decisions and make sure they are based on the evidence, based on the ridership, based on the science of building public transit,” she said.

Bottom line is the TTC isn’t just a transit system for Toronto. It serves the entire GTA — which is why paying more for greater distances at the fare box makes sense.

We also need a wider range of payment options. Right now only a Metropass can be paid for using a debit or credit card.

With the price of tokens these days, that doesn’t make much sense.

Meanwhile, Ford needs to take a step back and save the parts of Transit City that make sense — such as the Eglinton line. Most of it is underground anyway, and it serves part of the city that is chronically short of fast, convenient transit.

If he can save one good line, who knows?

How ironic if his legacy becomes that of the Transit Mayor.