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War on congestion has no champion in Vaughan

by Sony Rai

Rob Ford revealed his now-infamous war-on-the-car-ending transit plan in September.

To make his transit plan a reality, the newly elected mayor is counting on money earmarked for York Region’s Viva Rapid Transit Line (RTL).

Mr. Ford has asked the McGuinty government to kill Viva’s RTL and funnel $790 million to his proposed Sheppard subway line extension to Scarborough.

The Viva RTL plan (Vivanext) will create dedicated bus lanes along Hwy. 7 and Yonge Street. By separating buses from these gridlocked streets, commute times will be reduced by up to 40 per cent.

In the future, buses on the dedicated “rapidways” will be replaced with a light rail transit system.

Public transit will become the quicker and more reliable option while not disrupting car and truck lanes, pre-empting any polarizing “war” in Vaughan.

The previous council sat on its hands when the McGuinty government decided to delay funding for the Viva RTL this summer.

Not only has the plan been delayed, its very existence is being threatened now.

Vaughan and York Region remain silent while Mr. Ford is allowed to decide our public transit future.

The underlying problem in Vaughan is that there is no clear and effective strategy to alleviate traffic congestion.

The last council decided that sprawl was a bigger priority in Vaughan than tackling congestion, thus relegating Vaughan to even further traffic woes in the future.

Recent studies by the OECD, Metrolinx and the Toronto Board of Trade clearly state that traffic congestion is costing the region billions of dollars in lost productivity and leading to commute times that are now longer than those in famously traffic-snarled Los Angeles.

The only viable strategy to reduce traffic congestion is to increase housing density at transit nodes and along transit corridors such as Hwy. 7 and Yonge Street and increase public transit service and connections along those same corridors. This will make public transit quick, reliable and convenient and a viable alternative to the car.

The Viva Rapid Transit Line must become a reality at the same time the new subway extension opens. Any compromise will result in continued traffic woes throughout the city.

The McGuinty government is fearful of coming out strong against Mr. Ford with its popularity low and an election less than a year away.

However, with the recent federal byelection win by Conservative Julian Fantino, the Liberals are even more vulnerable in vote-rich 905.

If Vaughan’s new mayor and council are serious about reducing the traffic congestion that continues to grow unabated each year, they would be speaking out hard against any threat to Vaughan’s transit funding.

By not speaking up about this issue, Vaughan is allowing its future transit strategy to be decided by Toronto.

Council needs to display a collective show of strength of Vaughan’s growing importance and clout in the GTA.

Mr. Ford wants to have his war on the car, let’s begin our own war in Vaughan - a war on traffic congestion.

Sony Rai is an architect who lives in Vaughan. He is a past member of The Citizen’s Community Links panel.