Tory loses way on one-stop sub­way

Ac­tual cost of rail project could run 45 per cent over bud­get

North Toronto Post - - News -

How is John Tory do­ing as mayor of Toronto? He cer­tainly seems like a nice man, per­son­able and well-spo­ken, but I am more in­ter­ested in his job per­for­mance.

His re­cent sup­port for the ex­ten­sion of the sub­way to Scar­bor­ough Town Cen­tre mall is cer­tainly a defin­ing mo­ment. It made very clear how he ap­proaches lead­er­ship, both in terms of the is­sue and the sup­port achieved.

The fi­nal po­si­tion taken by Mr. Tory and en­dorsed by city coun­cil last month was to sup­port a on­estop ex­ten­sion of the sub­way from the Kennedy sta­tion to Scar­bor­ough Town Cen­tre at a cost of some $3.4 bil­lion. That was a con­sid­er­able step down from his orig­i­nal po­si­tion of a three-stop ex­ten­sion and then his com­pro­mise po­si­tion of a on­estop ex­ten­sion plus a 17-stop light rail tran­sit (LRT) sys­tem along Eglin­ton to eastern Scar­bor­ough.

But it is hardly a so­lu­tion to tran­sit is­sues in Scar­bor­ough. Many more tran­sit rid­ers in Scar­bor­ough would be bet­ter served at much less cost by build­ing LRT routes.

Stud­ies show that a sub­way will be op­er­at­ing at about one-third of its ca­pac­ity, it will not be op­er­a­tive for about 10 years, and it will not pro­vide as good ser­vice as an LRT, which would cost a lot less and could be up and run­ning in less than half that time.

And the $3.4 bil­lion cost is bound to rise. A re­cent study on in­fra­struc­ture projects in Canada by Matti Siemi­aty­cki at the Univer­sity of Toronto found that on av­er­age the ac­tual cost of rail projects runs about 45 per cent over bud­get. That would put the cost of the one-stop ex­ten­sion at $5 bil­lion.

Why would Mayor Tory de­cide this was some­thing he should lead on? It prob­a­bly comes down to the fact that in the last elec­tion he promised a sub­way for Scar­bor­ough. Maybe he thought it would bring him votes in the next elec­tion.

His po­si­tion is clearly not in the pub­lic in­ter­est. Any­one in­ter­ested in get­ting a tran­sit sys­tem that serves more peo­ple more quickly for the best cost would never sup­port the one-stop sub­way ex­ten­sion. It seems like a per­fect case of a po­lit­i­cal leader putting a per­sonal in­ter­ests above the pub­lic in­ter­est.

What is sur­pris­ing is that a ma­jor­ity of city coun­cil went along with him in this folly. The de­ci­sion does pro­vide bet­ter tran­sit ser­vice for their con­stituents. But they gen­er­ally are the same coun­cil­lors who fol­lowed Mr. Tory’s lead­er­ship on spend­ing half a bil­lion dol­lars to keep the eastern por­tion of the Gar­diner ex­press­way stand­ing and mak­ing cuts to sev­eral so­cial ser­vices in the re­cent bud­get. This is not pro­gres­sive, fu­ture-think­ing lead­er­ship.

The lead­er­ship the mayor pro­vided on this is­sue is not what the city needs. It hob­bles bet­ter tran­sit rather than de­liv­er­ing it.

There’s another as­pect of Mayor Tory’s be­hav­ior that is of con­cern. He seems to be ev­ery­where, all the time, send­ing out tweets on this or that, hav­ing his pic­ture taken at all sorts of mi­nor pub­lic events. He’s al­ways in the me­dia.

Tony, the weight-lifter at the gym I fre­quent, put it best: “Tory’s like a tow truck driver. He’s ev­ery­where.”

Be­ing seen ev­ery­where pro­vides the il­lu­sion of pro­vid­ing lead­er­ship while he is merely pass­ing by. This kind of pub­lic ex­po­sure is a safe al­ter­na­tive to pro­vid­ing a clear and pro­gres­sive vi­sion on a se­lect num­ber of files im­por­tant to the long-term suc­cess of the city.

There is no short­age of such is­sues: high hous­ing prices, in­creas­ing the num­ber of af­ford­able hous­ing units, city plan­ning or im­proved tran­sit ser­vice.

Mr. Tory clearly is bet­ter for the city than the last mayor, the late Rob Ford. But Toronto needs more.

Look­ing at what Mr. Tory stands for, it makes one ask the ques­tion: how did we get into this mess, and how can we get a mayor who en­sures there is lead­er­ship on the big pub­lic is­sues?

John Tory at an event in sup­port of sub­way ex­pan­sion to Scar­bor­ough

JOHN SEWELL Post City Mag­a­zines’ colum­nist John Sewell is a for­mer mayor of Toronto and the au­thor of a num­ber of ur­ban plan­ning books, in­clud­ing The Shape of the Sub­urbs.

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