LORINC: Metrolinx goes Kumbaya

Isn’t it strange how the worm can turn during an election?

Mere months ago, David Miller and his supporters took to the TTC’s PA systems to denounce the treachery of Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals and the mandarins at Metrolinx for allegedly killing Transit City.

Fast forward to last Thursday, when Metrolinx’s newly-appointed CEO Bruce McCuaig waded in to the middle of the election debate by affirming, during a speech at the Board of Trade, that his regional transit agency is pressing ahead with the first three LRT projects (Eglinton, Finch and Sheppard, plus the Scarborough RT rebuild) despite the torrent of loose campaign rhetoric about subway schemes.

He reminded the audience that Metrolinx in June placed a $770 million order for 182 light rail vehicles with Bombardier, and that it has also spent $54 million on four as-yet-unnamed boring machines. All the suits understood exactly what he meant: with contracts let and signed, this train has left the station.

Suddenly, it feels — or should feel — kind of good to have Metrolinx and the Pink Palace in the corner of transit advocates, doing that voice of reason thing. Accordingly, mayoral candidate Joe Pantalone’s tune on the subject of Metrolinx seems to have, uh, evolved. When McGuinty ordered the funding delays last March, Pantalone, the official Transit City standard bearer, called the move “shockingly horrible.” On Thursday, he was saying via press release that he “welcomes” McCuaig’s remarks.

Indeed, all Transit City proponents should welcome this announcement, not least Mayor Miller, who maybe didn’t game out the longer-term ramifications of his scorched earth strategy this spring. The fact is that the provincial Liberals, looking nervously at the tone of the city election, and infectious voter outrage that has come with it, could have opted to be much more mealy-mouthed in the heat of our battle. Instead, Ontario transportation minister Kathleen Wynne sent her man down to Bay Street to tell the pooh-bahs at the Board of Trade that she’s not wavering.

With the possibility of a Rob Ford victory next month, Ontario’s much-maligned Liberals have stepped up to protect Miller’s most important legacy as mayor.

Imagine that.

12 comments

  1. Thank god the Liberals are here to save us *rolls eyes*

  2. I expect Torontonians and transit lovers to be just as ungrateful as Paul here in this situation. And why? Because for some reason the politically unsavvy think that political transactions are analogous to personal transactions. They absolutely aren’t. 

    Political transactions are about giving and taking based solely on opportunity. If it’ll tilt opinion in your favour to give, the money flows. When times are tough and you need to trim the faucet, hold backs happen. But none of that has anything to do with the money actually getting out. It’s all posturing.

    John Lorinc quite wisely points out that David Miller’s reaction to the Liberal “cuts” were terribly unsavvy. The money wasn’t gone gone…it was just gone. And the fact that the Mayor has never understood that difference demonstrates why David Miller was never able to create a working relationship with the provincial government.  

  3. I think that which is lost in the entire discussion is that in about five years or less we will have actual new functional transit lines in Toronto, York and on several GO runs.  Since the Spadina subway opened on 1976 and the RT in 85,  little has been done in the GTA to improve transit in the manner the Yonge Subway did in 54 or the first GO line in 67.   We’ve added service mostly incrementally in single station extensions or with GO by adding trains one at a time.  Yes, the Sheppard subway was built, but it’s more of a local subway rather than a inter-neigbourhood line like the Bloor.

    However truncated, Transit City, the GO expansion and York Region’s expansion is significant transit that will affect change

  4. Transit lovers need to get behind TC and see it through.  I hate many aspects of the plan but rails in the ground are rails in the ground.  Can always be extended and operations adjusted to make better in the future, just as the Spadina subway was more or less useless when first constructed and will only reach capacity next decade with the 905 extension.

    Yes I want a DRL, yes I want real light rail, yes I want sleek streetcars on grass medians downtown.  I want a modern fare system, decent BRT in the burbs and subways that branch to Don Mills rather than stubway lines.  I want all of those things.  But most of all I want Toronto to keep laying track because in the end that is what pushes the city forward.  Transit City is still better than nothing, much better.

    Good for Metrolinx to recognize that now is not the time to upset the apple cart.  Onward.

  5. Bruce says: “little has been done in the GTA to improve transit in the manner the Yonge Subway did in 54 or the first GO line in 67”.

    This seems to ignore:
    –subway extension from Keele to Islington, and then Kipling (1968, 1980)
    –subway extension from Woodbine to Warden, and then Kennedy (1968, 1980)
    –Spadina line to Wilson, and then Donwsview (1978, 1996)

    While I agree that the Sheppard line is dismayingly ill-concieved, the other extensions listed above have regional impact.

  6. Ed:

    While those examples were certainly beneficial, I think Bruce’s point was one of the magnitude of going from nothing to something. With absolute respect to you, I’m not sure your examples share the same game-changer status.

    Eglinton looks to be a game-changer as well, as does the shift to a TC LRT network

  7. Ed, Bruce’s comment doesn’t ignore those extensions — he specifically refers to transit expansion post-SRT.

  8. Speaking of how the worm is turning — remember all those “strong mayor” reforms that us progressives were excited about? How are those going to work under a Ford administration? Different when it’s not your guy…

  9. A few points:

    On Metro Morning, McCuaig talked about how Transit City would be completed, while forgetting that nobody has said a word about Jane, Don Mills or the Waterfront. He also completely missed the non-Transit City projects from Waterfront Toronto and the Spadina extension.

    Recently, we have seen the RT with reliability problems, and this will no doubt get worse. Queen’s Park’s decision to defer replacement of the line with LRT until after 2015 may bite them hard, or alternately a lot of TTC resources may go into breathing life into dying technology.

    It’s also worth noting that Metrolinx is supporting the Hurontario LRT in Mississauga, and there is some momentum for a line in Hamilton. Whether this support survives budgetary constraints remains to be seen, but LRT is not just a Toronto issue.

  10. If this comes to a Ford vs. Metrolinx battle, I can see Ford throwing his hands in the air and basically starving the TTC to the point where Metrolinx will simply take it over via provincial legislation.

  11. Steve, one more LRT for your list is Kitchener-Waterloo. It’s yet to get 100% backing – the Region is waiting on the election to do that – but most analysts out here consider it pretty much a go, barring complete voter unrest (unheard of in our area unless there’s some kind of scandal, but it’s been quiet).

  12. Brent said: remember all those “strong mayor” reforms that us progressives were excited about? How are those going to work under a Ford administration?

    I recall saying something similar on Spacing at the time but more “how would you like it if Mel had had that power”. Rob Ford was but an irritant to John Barber in those days…

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