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Ford, McGuinty to talk Transit City

by David Rider
Urban Affairs Bureau Chief

Mayor Rob Ford will make the case for killing Transit City directly to Premier Dalton McGuinty Tuesday in their first one-on-one meeting.

Ford and McGuinty are meeting privately for one hour at Queen’s Park after posing for photographers at 9:30 a.m. Insiders say Doug Ford, councillor-elect for Ward 2 and his brother’s right-hand man, will also attend.

Last week, on his first day in office, Ford proclaimed the provincially funded plan to snake light-rail lines to Toronto’s underserved suburbs “over.”

Saying above-ground lines impede car traffic, he campaigned on an alternative that would extend the Sheppard subway to Scarborough Town Centre and convert the aging Scarborough LRT to subway.

Ford said he would use his first meeting with McGuinty to ask the premier to divert $3.1 billion earmarked for Transit City’s first phase to the subway plan. Ontario has so far spent about $130 million on Transit City and signed contracts worth $1.3 billion.

At Queen’s Park Monday, Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne stressed the Liberals “are willing to work with the new mayor and council” on public transit.

Ford is also expected to seek support for making the TTC an essential service and to press Toronto’s demand that the province immediately pay it $53.7 million — half the city’s cost of administering the Ontario Works welfare program in 2010.

Hours later, at 2 p.m., Ford will be ceremonially sworn in as Toronto’s 64th mayor and make a speech at the inaugural meeting of the new council.

Befitting Ford’s unorthodox campaign and populist touch, some traditions will be broken.

Normally, the mayor’s special guest — traditionally a senior legal official, such as Ontario’s chief justice — reads the declaration of office. Because Ford has chosen hockey commentator Don Cherry as his guest, city clerk Ulli Watkiss will read the declaration.

Watkiss was to hang the ceremonial chain of office around Ford’s neck. But, at Ford’s request, Cherry will get that honour.

Cherry told the Star last Friday he didn’t expect to address council. Tradition, however, is that the guest makes a short speech so the outspoken co-host of Hockey Night in Canada’s Coach’s Corner now plans to oblige.

Attendance at the inaugural is by invitation only but city staff note that there will be seating for “a few hundred” in the City Hall rotunda, with the proceedings projected on a wall, and it will be broadcast live on Rogers TV.

With a file from Robert Benzie




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