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Ford cast three votes in favour of LRT strategy

by John Lorinc

As Rob Ford’s fledgling administration presses ahead with an election promise to scrap Transit City in favour of subways, a Globe and Mail analysis of the new mayor’s council record indicates he cast at least three votes in favour of the light-rail strategy, or elements of it, during David Miller’s second term in office.

The details of Mr. Ford’s position - he has also cast votes against elements of the Transit City strategy - come amid a mounting debate about whether the new council should have a say in the decision to abandon the $8.15-billion plan.

The Ontario government wants a full council vote, and incoming TTC chair Karen Stintz promised such a debate by February. But Mr. Ford has said the TTC alone can approve the shift. His officials also claim that Mr. Miller never held a specific debate at council to approve his Transit City strategy.

Herewith, the legislative record:

Fall, 2006: David Miller’s re-election platform includes pledge to build light rail network, dubbed “Transit City,” which builds on previous TTC studies.

March, 2007: Ottawa announces intention to fund GTA transit projects; Federation of Canadian Municipalities launches bid to secure national transit strategy.

March 16, 2007: David Miller and Adam Giambrone launch Transit City plan for 120 kilometres of light rail along seven routes, shifting focus away from subways. Initial cost estimate: $6-billion, with a 15-year build-out and an estimated ridership boost of 75 million commuters.

March 21, 2007: Toronto Transit Commission approves Transit City strategy, without identified funding sources. Estimated cost of Eglinton Crosstown LRT (from Kennedy to Lester B. Pearson): $2.2-billion; Finch West, $835-million; Sheppard East, $555-million.

June 13, 2007: TTC approves Transit City implementation work plan, which calls for an aggressive schedule and shovels in the ground by 2010.

June 14, 2007: TTC launches website, open houses to promote Transit City and new low-floor light rail vehicles.

June 15, 2007: Government of Ontario unveils Move 2020 plan, which offers $17.5-billion in funding for a 52 GTA transit projects, including $11.5-billion for the Transit City lines, to be spent over 12 years. TTC staff is directed to accelerate build-out plan to match provincial timelines.

June 16-19, 2007: City council unanimously adopts a broad climate-change strategy that encompasses a range of measures such as energy retrofits, renewable energy projects and tree planting, as well as a sustainable transportation plan that includes Transit City, among other moves. Mr. Ford votes in favour of the plan.

July 11, 2007: TTC presses ahead with a streamlined environmental assessment and public consultation process for new LRT lines, even though full funding isn’t assured unless the McGuinty Liberals are re-elected in October, 2007.

Nov. 14, 2007: TTC receives staff report confirming that the proposed Transit City lines satisfy range of evaluation criteria and decides to move ahead with first four priority projects - Finch West, Eglinton Crosstown, Sheppard East and the Scarborough Rapid Transit replacement. The report is forwarded to city council and the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority (now Metrolinx).

The report says it is “premature” to draw conclusions about community and political support for Transit City, but notes that TTC staff has received “strong support” from city councillors for Etobicoke-Finch LRT. As well, the report notes, “All City councillors through whose ward the Sheppard East light rail line would pass, have expressed strong support for proceeding with this line.”

December 2007: TTC holds public consultations on new streetcar models.

July 15, 2008: City council approves Sheppard East LRT environmental assessment study (no recorded vote).

November 2008: Metrolinx board approves “Big Move” regional transportation strategy, which includes Transit City plan.

Jan. 28, 2009: During a debate on subway expansion, council votes to ask Metrolinx to prioritize a “downtown relief line” while acknowledging that Transit City remains the “first priority” for the TTC and the City. Mr. Ford votes in favour.

April 1, 2009: Government of Ontario announces funding for first four projects: Finch ($1.2-billion); Eglinton ($4.6-billion) and Scarborough RT ($1.4-billion).

May 15, 2009: Governments of Ontario and Canada announce $950-million for Sheppard East.

June 4, 2009: Ontario’s deputy minister of transportation informs the city by letter that the four lines are regional transit projects, to be built by Metrolinx.

Nov. 30, 2009: City council approves Eglinton LRT environmental assessment study by a 37-1 vote (Ms. Stintz votes in favour; Mr. Ford votes against)

Jan. 26, 2010: City council approves Finch West LRT environmental assessment study by 40-2 vote (Ms. Stintz votes in favour; Mr. Ford votes against)

June 8, 2010: City council approves conversion of Scarborough RT to LRT by a vote of 38-1 (both Mr. Ford and Ms. Stintz vote in favour).

May-June, 2010: Ontario Minister of Environment approves all the LRT environmental assessments.

Special to the Globe and Mail