Stubway, anyone? dont Harp(er) on it.

If you google Toronto Subway Routes you’ll find a lot of hits. In this one, you’ll read that Andy Byford thinks the proposed route is a bad idea. This is the two-stop route using the current LRT. Byford understands that the turns are too tight for normal speeds, and that the two-stop route is a waste of money. And, he understands that going above ground with a subway is stupid: sleet, snow, routinely stop our existing open-cut sections of subway routes. This on those really bad days when you really want subway transit to work. You end up in shuttle buses.

Since this is, admittedly, a bit of a rant, let me list from memory the options we’ve heard discussed regarding improving transit to Scarborough. Roughly in order, and from memory, they were these:

  • Replace the LRT with a long route, nine? stops, going through high density areas.
  • Replace the LRT with a shorter route, fewer stops, going through low density areas – but presumably, areas of wealthier homeowners – who choose to drive.
  • Replace the LRT with a short subway, three? stops.
  • Replace the LRT with a short subway, now two stops?

At this point, our generous (sarcasm intended) Federal Government, in the persons of Stephen Harper and Jim Flaherty, suddenly offered $660Milllion if we would do the two-stop route. Conceivably this could be a three-stop route, unclear.

What is clear is that, imho, Stephen Harper still hates Toronto and Torontonians. This ‘generous’ offer is a brilliant gift of federal taxpayers’ money that will be insufficient to fund the subway we probably don’t need (an LRT would be only 50% full in 2025, some say, have more stops, and go farther.) You can find an analysis of costs and taxes here. We will be some $900Million short, and that’s just an estimate. Why is this anti-Torontonian? With this ‘gift’, Harper has trapped Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, and anyone else with a brain (Andy Byford, for one) into a stubway we’ll have to raise taxes to pay for. We will get the worst of all possible worlds: two or three stops instead of nine, a Sheppard-like empty dinosaur, and many Scarberians not within convenient distance of the new transit line to fill it. So it will lose money throughout all its life, at a higher rate than the mildly subsidized TTC in general. (I say mildly subsidized, because last time I saw real fares and real costs on other subways – New York, Montreal, for example – their fares and costs and subsidies were all significantly higher than the TTC. We are getting a deal.)

Since this is, admittedly, a rant, let me also rave about the Toronto Board of Trade. Excuse me, to the anger of places like Hamilton, it now calls itself the Toronto Region Board of Trade. Here is a pointer to a discussion paper (PDF file) on this. On page 3 you’ll find these words: Most notably we highlighted the $6 billion in lost productivity annually in the Toronto Region and identified 16 dedicated revenue tools, which governments could consider to pay for public transportation investments.

I remember some of these tools, one of which was a parking levy. It was immediately made too complex to implement: it would be necessary to base the levy on property values, for example. Bullflap. Simply charge one dollar per non-residential parking instance. Everyplace downtown. The numbers are staggering. On page 8 of the paper, $1.6Billion could be raised by charging per space per day; I propose charging per parking instance: empty spaces pay nothing, but every parking car gives us a dollar.

I find it fascinating that over a billion dollars per year has never been discussed as an option. Instead we’ll see property tax increases. This is unfair: I don’t use the roads, and already pay the extra levies on plate renewals, for example. Congestion is caused by cars that eventually park, eh? So, to charge for congestion, charge for parking. Simple. And more fair than charging on gasoline: my fuel takes me to a writers’ meeting in Ancaster. I’m not the one you’re cutting off in gridlock every day. You and your co-worker might be.

Given that parking is now probably over $10.00 anyway, those with downtown jobs can afford this little tax. Five bucks a week.

To recap:

Imho, we’re going to build the worst possible solution, in terms of transit value for money. I think we’re locked into this decision by our mayor, our premier, our prime minister, and our finance minister. We’re not going to ask those Toronto Region Board of Trade businesses, who claim there is $6Billion being lost to them through gridlock, to put up a penny. We’re not going to charge directly for the privilege of contributing to gridlock. We’re almost certainly going to raise property taxes – an unwarranted insult for non-commuting seniors who somehow own their homes – for now.

Stubway, anyone?

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