Rob Ford: Favours subways over streetcars and says he would finance construction using public-sector funding and by selling assets, such as the air rights above stations.
As candidates for the next Mayor of Toronto, to be elected in October of this year, launch their campaigns and discuss their platforms, the issue of the TTC expansion is central. Each candidate, while placing this topic as a priority, has a different take on it. Perhaps the most controversial approach to date has been that of candidate Rocco Rossi. The Globe and Mail reports that, “Mayoral candidate Rocco Rossi vows that, if elected, he would replace the city’s planned light-rail transit network with an expanded subway system, putting $4.5-billion towards public transit over the next decade.” Rossi has previously mentioned intentions of selling Toronto Hydro, which would enable the funding of the TTC expansion project as well as help to pay down the city’s growing debt and free up $450-million annually in debt servicing. Rossi’s plan would include building, on average, two kilometres of track and one new subway station per year over the next decade.
According to the Toronto Star, Rossi said he does not support road tolls as suggested by candidate Sarah Thomson, rather maintains his plan to secure funds through the afore-mention Toronto Hydro sale, air rights, and the selling of other such assets. Other candidates have criticized Rossi’s plans to sell the city’s public utility, arguing that selling off Toronto Hydro would lessen the city’s ability to dictate the pursuit of green-energy initiatives. However Rossi has responded by saying “It is time we thought about selling some of the things we own, but do not need, like Toronto Hydro, to help us buy things we need, but do now own. Like subways.”
Other candidates have taken the following positions (provided in the Toronto Star):
Giorgio Mammoliti: Favours a citywide subway to be funded by public-private partnerships.
Joe Pantalone: Not opposed to subways, but says the city can’t afford to wait to start transit expansion. Light rail lines can happen now, with Transit City.
George Smitherman: Has not revealed a comprehensive transit plan. A rep reached Tuesday said it will be announced in the coming weeks and is expected to include subways.
Sarah Thomson: Would build a city-wide subway system using revenues from $5 rush-hour road tolls on the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway.
Undoubtedly, the methods proposed by the candidates for raising the funds for TTC expansion are all fairly contentious. The public’s opinion on this issue is likely to be highly stimulated given that thousands of individuals ride the subway everyday and thus they have a vested interest in how it is developed. Therefore, the topic of TTC expansion remains a priority in candidate platforms, and will play a significant role in pulling support for and providing victory to the most convincing candidate. This will affect how the transit system develops and, perhaps more importantly, at what cost.