Will the Real Rick Ducharme Please Stand Up?

Speaking with the refreshing candour of a man not interested in sucking up to the boss, former TTC General Manager Rick Ducharme weighed in on the issue of improving public transit in Toronto and spoke out against a mantra whispered by many a city councillor. In effect, he said, “no new subways.” Instead, he wishes the city would get off its backside and support more private rights of way for streetcars and buses.

“We can talk about plans, we can talk about co-ordination. You can talk about smart cards. All that to me is irrelevant. You need big investments. That stopped over 20 years ago. I don’t really see any political visionary that really would take on the fight to do it.”

Ducharme’s not campaigning for the job. But if he had his way, Toronto wouldn’t build another subway. To him, it’s a waste of money to spend $2 billion on a few kilometres with a handful of stops.

The better, cheaper, faster choice is to hand over lanes of roads to buses and streetcars. With $2 billion, the city and the region could be covered with fast-moving transit vehicles that won’t get caught in traffic and would have a predictable and reliable schedule.

… “Give me a dedicated rights-of-way, and it will work.” …

“You need a political visionary who’s got guts to say: `I’m doing it. I’m not going to listen to the complaints of car drivers.”

Noted transit activist Steve Munro is somewhat incredulous:

Is this the same Rick Ducharme who allowed the Ridership Growth Strategy to be amended to include the Spadina and Sheppard Subway extensions? If he feels that they are such a waste of money, why did he bring forward these schemes and recommend that the TTC endorse them as its top priority for expansion rather than an alternative proposal?

But in the end, Steve welcomes Ducharme into the LRT club — a club populated, interestingly, by Ducharme’s old nemesis, Howard Moscoe:

When the Toronto Star, the former CGM at TTC, and the chief transit rabble-rouser are all singing the same tune, something very strange is going on. Now we need politicians in all regions and at all levels of government who will fight for transit.

David Miller: It’s time you recognized that your constituency is the transit riders of the City of Toronto and started fighting for things that will benefit all of us. Indeed a move away from subway-dominated planning will benefit everyone in the GTA by showing what can be done over a much larger area for far less money. Toronto could lead the way in a transit renaissance, if only the Mayor would actually embrace the role.

3 comments

  1. I’m just curious about what the general consensus on public transit is: Do riders want wider coverage or faster service?

    Subways are brilliant for fast service, especially express lines, unfortunately we’ve only seen ‘local’ subway train service in Toronto. Would the ridership be more satisfied with a medium speed network of buses and streetcars or high-speed lines of local and express subway service?

  2. Yes, because waiting ten minutes for a bus instead of twenty is almost as much of an improvement as having a subway stop appear one km from where you live, and it can be done at less than a tenth of the price.

  3. The public would be very satisfied with a network of “medium speed” network of buses and streetcars. It is refreshing to see people are finally recognizing that you do not need to build subways to have fast, reliable service.
    As a former resident of Ottawa, I can attest that buses in their own ROW can achieve speeds comparable to a subway.

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