The City of Toronto has studied burning garbage — apparently candidate Stephen LeDrew has not
I’ve been on about this on the blog (check it out at eyeweekly.com/election2006) but the vast influence of my internet audience has not yet altered the terms of the election debate, so I figured I’d commit this to paper, too:

Stephen LeDrew, alongside many, many conservative-ish council candidates, keeps proposing that we should “investigate” or “take a look at” or “study” burning our garbage rather than buying the Green Lane landfill (or any other landfill). Here’s LeDrew, for example, in a press release from last week: “I will commit to diverting 80 per cent of waste from landfill and exploring clean and cost-effective waste-to-energy solutions for the remaining 20 per cent.”

(Nota bene: “waste to energy,” “advanced thermal technology” and “gasification” are all words that mean incineration, just so we all know what we’re talking about.)

It sounds so reasonable when they suggest we should study this option. Who wouldn’t want to investigate all the options? Why is David Miller such a closed-minded hard head that he’s against investigating possible solutions? Right?

Except that, as Geoff Rathbone, director of policy and planning with the city’s works department, confirms, we have already studied and explored waste-to-energy solutions, and in fact we’re continuing to do the groundwork required to build such a facility.

To wit: the city convened a committee made up of experts on waste management and local citizens and activists to study all available options for diverting waste from landfill way back in February 2003. That group (whose name is longer than a Rex Murphy adjective — the New and Emerging Technologies, Policies and Practices Advisory Group, for the record) met for nearly two years, at no small cost to the city, and studied all the new technologies on the market. Their final report is available online at http://www.tinyurl.com/y6lqnj.

As a result of their work, Toronto is conducting an Environmental Assessment on various technologies — including incineration — with an eye to building a test facility. Just this week, the city ran a bunch of
advertisements announcing public hearings as part of that EA process (see http://www.toronto.ca/ceat for hearing dates and a comments form). This is all work that is required before building a waste-to-energy facility.

In other words, not only have we studied incineration, but we’re taking the necessary steps to build incinerators.

Maybe some candidates haven’t explored all the options, but the city has. And if they want to build an incinerator, they shouldn’t hide behind words like “look into it.”

Taking a page from Spacing
Last week in this space, I had a bit of a laugh at Jane Pitfield’s blog. Over the weekend, the story got even weirder. Turns out her posting from Oct. 7 — taking the wind out of some Miller spending proposals — was plagiarized almost directly from a post by John Lorinc on Spacing magazine’s excellent election blog (www.spacing.ca/votes). Further investigation revealed that another post seemed to have been lifted from a story by Anthony Reinhart from The Globe and Mail.

Matt Blackett of Spacing writes, “‘There hasn’t always been a clear plan of what to do with my blog,’ [Pitfield] said. ‘I have a young man looking after it. But I will talk to someone at our office right away.'”

The entire blog has since been removed.

On a related technology note, one of the interesting developments in this campaign has been the emergence of the blog as a form of coverage. In addition to ours and Spacing’s, there’s also Rob Granatstein’s X Marks the T-dot from the Toronto Sun, where I found the LeDrew quote about garbage above (surf over to www. blog.canoe.ca/cityvote and praise the lord Sue-Ann Levy hasn’t figured out how to use the internet yet) and Marc Weisblott’s Campaign Bubble from The Globe and Mail (www.theglobeandmail.com/blogs/campaignbubble).

Meet the next mayor
Both Christopher Hume of the Toronto Star and John Barber of The Globe and Mail have very recently proposed the idea of introducing political parties to Toronto politics.

We suspect they mean party as in have-a-membership-card-and-toe-the-line. But Eye Weekly already has plans to introduce a
political party (as in pass-the-beer-and-hit-the-dancefloor) to this election, and it’s scheduled to take place one week before election day.

The Political Party, presented with our friends at Spacing magazine, will feature speeches and interviews with Jane Pitfield and David Miller and then give you an opportunity to talk to them yourself while the drinks flow and the live music plays.

It takes place at Revival (783 College) on Monday, Nov. 6. Musical guests announced Oct. 19 at http://www.eyeweekly.com/election2006. Admission is free.

Originally published in Eye Weekly on October 19, 2006. 

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One week before election day, Eye Weekly and Spacing magazine give you a chance to meet Jane Pitfield and David Miller

Three years ago, David Miller rode his broom into the mayor of Toronto’s office on a wave of optimism inspired by his clear-thinking, neighbourhood-minded campaign. Back then, the ballot-box question (as political strategists put it) was, “what kind of city do you want to live in?” Miller’s answer – cities are for people, not airplanes; city hall should invite citizens not lobbyists – carried the day.

As we head back to the polls at the end of Miller’s first term in office, the relevant question comes in two parts: do you think Miller has adequately delivered on his promise of a cleaner (metaphorically and physically) city? And if not, do you think it is possible that Jane Pitfield, Miller’s only serious opponent, could do a better job?

Readers of Eye Weekly and Spacing magazine will get a chance to see the candidates up close to attempt to get answers to those questions on Nov. 6 at Revival in Little Italy, at an event billed The Political Party. There, Jane Pitfield and David Miller will outline competing visions for Toronto’s public spaces, addressing the issues ranging from transit to the waterfront to the spread of advertising in civic squares. Following their speeches, the candidates will face questions from a panel of Eye Weekly and Spacing contributors. And after that, there’ll be live music by New York–Toronto glam rockers Hot One (featuring Toronto’s Emm Gryner and Shudder to Think veteran Nathan Larson) as the candidates mingle with the crowd. It’s a unique opportunity to pin the candidates down in the final week of the race.

But about those questions:

There’s a vocal cadre of Miller’s long-time supporters who feel a palpable sense of disappointment in his first term as mayor. This sentiment was neatly summed up in stories in Toronto Life and The Globe and Mail in October (both stories were titled “Miller’s Crossing,” of course). Toronto Life writer Philip Preville put it, “As his first term comes to a close, however, it’s clear that he never quite delivered on the broad promise he embodied: that he could inspire the city with a clear vision for the future. It’s not that he hasn’t done anything; it’s just that, as mayor, he’s proven to be a visionary plumber.”

In an interview with Eye Weekly last week on a southbound subway car from Downsview, Miller says he’s puzzled by that perception. “I’ve done pretty much what I said I would. I think people put their hopes in me, and I’m very proud of that, but it’s not just about me, it’s about Toronto. And I think people share my frustration that Toronto can’t succeed the way it should until we’ve dealt with the leftovers from the Harris era, the downloading and the lack of funding. [Another] thing is, that’s not what people tell me on the street: people tell me all the time that they’re happy, keep it up – that’s the response I’m getting on the street.”

Even so, he defends his baby-steps, nuts-and-bolts approach against those who would have him focus on more transformative mega-projects.

“It’s not how you build a city and it wasn’t my vision of building a city three years ago – you don’t build monuments. You build a city neighbourhood by neighbourhood. It’s an incremental thing, and it should be,” he says. “Cities are organic, and that’s why things like the community safety plan work, because it’s about neighbourhoods and about investing in young people in neighbourhoods. That’s why Clean and Beautiful works: it’s about bringing neighbourhoods together – the businesses, the people, the city – to make the neighbourhood a more livable place, to make the public space more livable. And that’s my philosophy on how you build a city, that way. Not by monuments like Mel Lastman Square but by doing real change in real neighbourhoods with real people.”

And indeed there are no monuments in his platform this time. Miller is promising slow, surface-route growth on transit with more ambitious additions if the province will invest; his community-safety plan involves a tiny increase in investment in an existing program; he’s refused to seriously discuss taking down the Gardiner Expressway because it would be too expensive; his garbage plan involves purchasing a landfill so we can take our time and “control our own destiny.”

By contrast, Jane Pitfield is promising massive change: she wants to begin construction on subway tunnels, adding a new stop to the system every year for the next two and a half decades; she’d cancel the purchase of the landfill and speed up the process of building an incinerator (she says a six-year environmental assessment process is too long); she’d hire more police officers, sell off surplus land for development as affordable housing and hold a referendum on tearing down the Gardiner (which she says should stay, since it provides “the best view of the lake”). And all this while freezing taxes.

The biggest stumbling block – even for those who like Pitfield’s vision – is that she hasn’t adequately explained how she’ll pay for all of these promises. Her responses tend to assume an investment by the provincial and federal governments that experience tells us is unlikely to be there.

And further, in a related concern, it’s unclear whether Pitfield has the organizational and management skills to lead the city.

Throughout her campaign, Pitfield has been forced to backtrack: after announcing she’d sell Toronto Hydro, she had to clarify that she hadn’t meant it; she’s had to explain why she supported the St. Clair streetcar right-of-way and now promises to cancel it; she voted for the purchase of the Green Lane landfill by mistake. If she can’t operate the voting equipment in council chamber, the thinking goes, how can she manage the entire council and bureaucracy?

I didn’t have the opportunity to put these questions to Pitfield because, in a week and a half of back and forth negotiations, her campaign team was unable to secure me a 10-minute phone interview with the candidate (after asking – during our third conversation – how Eye Weekly is spelled, staffer Leslie Stafford suggested I might attend a debate and try to scrum Pitfield afterward).

But the question was addressed, in a way, during a televised debate earlier in the campaign. “How – h-h-how can you be mayor?” Vanessa Lu of the Toronto Star asked. After pausing, as if stunned by the audacity of the question, Pitfield answered, “I can be mayor because I have the ability – I have the heart to lead this city, and on most issues I am very decisive.”

Torontonians will have the chance to meet both candidates on Monday and make their own assessment.

Originally published November 2, 2006 in Eye Weekly

The thing about election debates is that they’re not so much actual debates, in the sense of a presentation of the logical positions on an issue, as they are shouting matches made up of alternating (or overlapping) monologue. These dust-ups give us little information about issues but do give us a sense of the character of the candidates. Or so I’ve heard. My observations on three debates from the last week follow:

Radically condensed interpretive summary of the Sun TV debate Oct. 20
Moderator 1: What about that Gardiner Expressway?

David Miller: Well, it’d be nice to get rid of it, but it’s way too expensive. So we’ll keep it.

Jane Pitfield: We should keep it.

Stephen LeDrew: It’s time someone had the guts to say it: we’ll keep it.

Pitfield: Miller has a secret agenda. He’s going to tear down the Gardiner.

All three candidates: [Savage screaming, biting and kicking.]

LeDrew: Miller has done NOTHING AT ALL!

Miller: I replaced some buses.

LeDrew: If you’d forget about the streetcar right-of-way, maybe you could replace some buses!

Pitfield: That streetcar ROW sucks!

Miller: Then why did you vote for it?

Pitfield: It seemed like a better idea before. It sucks!

Moderator 1: Isn’t that a flip-flop?

Pitfield: I never flip-flop.

Moderator 2: Pitfield, you want to build subways. How you gonna pay for that?

Pitfield: Some senior government pixie dust, a dash of private sector magic and, woah, look at that shiny object.

Miller: We can’t afford subways.

LeDrew: You’ll never build any subways.

Miller: We’re building a subway.

LeDrew: Miller has done NOTHING AT ALL!!!

Miller: I housed the homeless.

LeDrew: Nyah nyah nyah. NOTHING!

All three candidates: [Gouging and rabbit punching. Hair pulling.]

Roll credits.

Citytv Toronto Star debate, Oct. 23
This one was slightly less of a cage match than the Sun TV debate, but it still managed to be unhelpful to anyone but political junkies.

Actual, non-interpretive transcript of the most memorable moment:

Miller: Councillor Pitfield, it’s very interesting. It’s almost like everything I say, you oppose. If I were to say today it was Sunday, you would say it was Monday. And you’d phone up a week later and say it was Tuesday.

[Audience laughter.]

Pitfield: Well, maybe it is.

[Audience falls dead silent for two or three seconds.]

Miller: Wow. [Pauses. Audience starts to laugh again.] I hope not. I’d be very surprised.

LeDrew: I’m not going to get into that last part, what day it is. I know what day it is.

[Audience laughter.]

Pitfield: So do I.

LeDrew was swinging wildly all night — “You could have had a turnip in office and got the same results” — but the mayor, keeping both arms up and jabbing selectively, managed to keep out of the way of the roundhouses. I did think LeDrew landed a glancing blow with this one: “If David Miller had been mayor in 1954, we wouldn’t have any subway line at all.”

For his part, Miller looked like he was the only one who knew what he was talking about and stuck it to Jane Pitfield in a way that risked making him look like a bully. His setting the record straight on the fact that the city is conducting an Environmental Assessment that includes incineration was a welcome correction to the record, but his “Just say yes, Jane” insistence that Pitfield acknowledge he was telling the truth came across as patronizing.

Hart House, Oct. 23
Homeless fringe candidate Kevin Clarke nearly stole the show for the first scheduled hour of proceedings (see http://www.eyeweekly.com/election2006 for a full account of his antics).

When the event finally got underway, Miller had the crowd in the palm of his hand as he lectured about how tuition has gone up by a factor of 10 since he was in law school and outlined his youth jobs programs.

Pitfield appeared matronly, saying her four kids keep her in touch with youth issues and advising the crowd blandly that the city really benefits from having so many educational institutions.

The real story was LeDrew, who proved once again that he’s been given too much credit as a candidate. Asked about affordable housing, he talked about TTC fares and his own experience of living with his brother when he was in college. When members of the group Stolen From Africa heckled him, he shouted out, “Are you on the payroll too?” — an apparent reference to (apparently groundless) allegations last week that two black youth had been paid to attend a mayoral press conference. Even among schoolchildren, LeDrew appeared out of his depth.

Verdict after three debates

Television debates are terrible places to discuss issues. Don’t pick Pitfield as your improv partner, or ask her to organize your calendar. Miller still isn’t setting hearts-a-thumping, but may be the only presentable candidate, still. LeWho?

Originally published in Eye Weekly October 26, 2006. 

Senator Jerry Grafstein — known in the media as The Man Who Brought The Rolling Stones to Toronto (quite a feat, considering they’d only been here a couple dozen times before, and, of course, recorded a live album here in 1977, and then used Toronto as their regular rehearsal space for about two decades) — is thinking about grappling David Miller for the mayor’s chair.

“If I can’t find a viable candidate by Sept. 27, I will seriously consider it,” the SARSstock senator said at a Toronto International Film Festival party, as reported in the Toronto Sun on Sept. 12. “My wife, Carole, has been telling me to stop complaining and do something. I think I would win. A lot of people feel this way.”

Well, hello, snowflake. Welcome to hell.

You want to beat Miller? I’ll tell you how to beat Miller: he pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours — oh no, wait, that’s how you beat Al Capone. You want to beat David Miller? You’re on your own.

And I do mean on your own, since virtually every heavy-hitting political operative in the city, including Mel Lastman’s former fundraising guru Ralph Lean, has signed on to Miller’s re-election campaign. Maybe Grafstein (who, showing his unerring political instincts, backed John Nunziata in the 2003 mayoral race) can call on his buddies Warren Kinsella (who backed John Tory) and Dennis Mills (who was busy preparing to have his ass handed to him in the 2004 federal election by Jack Layton) and build on the momentum they have going after their anti-terrorist “We Are Not Afraid” day this past June. Remember that? No? Oh. Maybe Grafstein ain’t the man for the job after all.

But if you are crazy enough to run, Jerry, I do have one piece of advice: whatever you do, don’t kick off your maybe, maybe-not attempt to dethrone David the Goliath by saying something asinine like “I have lived here since 1955 and it’s in the worst shape I have ever seen it. It’s dirty and it’s not safe.” D’oh! You already said that? See, the thing is that by every conceivable standard of measurement, Toronto is safer than it’s been in decades, while litter is down by 40 per cent and Toronto is in the midst of a cultural renaissance (both street level and elite: uTOpia, meet Opera House), to boot. So the doom-and-gloom might be a hard sell.

But whatever the message, it’s going to be a hard slog trying to knock off the mayor anyway. Just ask Jane Pitfield, who’s resorted to begging the media not to discount her chances just yet. According to the Star last week, Pitfield unveiled her pledge to cut the fat at city hall in a press conference, saying, “Don’t prejudge and don’t underestimate me, because the best is yet to come. I have been waiting with relish for these nine months.” Coupled with the National Post clipping hanging in her campaign office window (next to the classy, handwritten “For Rent after November 15” sign) that says she likes herself a hot dog, supporters might be tempted to request that she put down the relish and the rest of the condiments and start running for mayor.

If you were to stake out Pitfield’s office (or live directly across the street, as your correspondent does), you’d have plenty of time to read the two — count ’em! Two! — lukewarm newspaper clippings posted in the window, since the office has never been unlocked or staffed as far as I can tell. Add to this the fact that her second campaign manager has just quit to “concentrate on his business” (replaced by admitted political neophyte Judy Paradi) and you start to wonder whether Pitfield is serious about running a legitimate campaign. Not that a legitimate campaign would put forward panhandling as a serious campaign issue. And not that a legitimate campaign would have spent nine months waiting with relish to get started.

A legitimate campaign would have started in January and relentlessly hammered away throughout the summer. That’s how Miller himself knocked off shoe-in Barbara Hall and establishment man John Tory back in 2003 (no one thought Miller had a chance until he pulled ahead in September).

A legitimate campaign would try to attack Miller from the centre, to appeal to both those who’d never vote for him and those who voted for him last time but are disappointed. A legitimate campaign would — fairly or unfairly — hammer Miller, who promised to clean up city hall, for untendered contracts at the TTC, a lack of progress on the waterfront and his ally Joe Pantalone’s tendency to have members of his family on the city payroll. A serious contender would also deliver something big and positive as the central plank in her campaign, rather than focusing on cutting spending. And a serious contender would not allow the mayor to turn the Conservative government’s recent bolstering of the island airport into a political whipping post — a contender would hold it up as evidence of the mayor’s inability to deliver on the one key issue of his last campaign.

Dennis Mills, whose name keeps getting batted around as a late-entry possibility, isn’t the guy, since he created the nefarious, airport-expanding Toronto Port Authority in the first place. Julian Fantino, who declined to enter the race, wouldn’t have been right, and the dirty war he and Miller would have fought — which Miller would have won — would have made everyone look ugly. Now it looks like Pitfield and Grafstein probably aren’t up to the job, either. It’s a pity. We could use a real race for mayor, if for no other reason than to get the important issues facing the city aired out. There’s still time to register. Any other snowflakes wanna brave the heat?

Originally published in Eye Weekly September 14, 2006. 

Surface solutions
As our subway turns 50, eye talks to the best and brightest to talk about how to make the TTC work between now and 2054

To mark the 50th anniversary of Toronto’s subway system this week, eye gathered a panel of transit experts, one of whom happens to also be our mayor, to talk about the state of public transit in Toronto and to imagine what we could do in the next 50 years.

DAVID MILLER is the mayor and the commissioner of the Toronto Transit Commission. During his campaign, he said “transit is not part of the solution, it’s the whole solution.”

GORD PERKS is eye’s Enviro columnist and a campaigner for the Toronto Environmental Alliance. He also serves as spokesman for the Rocket Riders, a transit riders activist group.

It is said that STEVE MUNRO know more about transit than anyone, ever. He was Chair of the Streetcars for Toronto Committee in the 1970s and is currently a member of the Rocket Riders.

The discussion was moderated by eye associate editor, EDWARD KEENAN.

KEENAN: When I talk to regular people, what I hear is that they would like to see a subway line on Queen Street and a subway along Dundas and one along Eglinton and another one along Lawrence and one running out to the airport…. People seem to be dreaming about subways.

PERKS: Fifty years and $100 billion dollars later….

MILLER: I think you need an interconnected system of rapid transit. Right now, we’ve got a hub-and-spoke system. So in both the short and long term, the bus is critical. But we have to be innovative with it and find ways to make it the equivalent of rapid transit. I think there are some places we should expand the subway. And there are places where we can do a pretty good job using the streetcar.

MAKING THE CITY TRANSIT-FRIENDLY
PERKS: One of the places where the vision is there but not spoken out loud is in Toronto’s Official Plan. It calls for rapid, high-volume avenues or transit corridors. Maybe it’s bus lanes, maybe it’s signal priority. But the thing that makes that so interesting is that it’s not just a matter of putting transit on the street, it’s a matter of changing those streets. We’re looking at St. Clair right now, and there’s a wonderful link going on between street beautification and improvement and at the same time improving the transit corridor. These things go hand in hand. One of the interesting little pieces that needs to be pulled out of the whole puzzle is that we’re now looking at communities like Malvern in Scarborough and saying part of the reason there’s a really fractured community is that the services aren’t there. And one of those services is a transit system. If you don’t have a transit system, if you don’t have a street life; you have a city that’s hostile.

MUNRO: The important thing about St. Clair is that it’s had a street life basically since the street has existed. And so enhancing the streetcar service on St. Clair is building on something that’s there. When I think of the slide that’s shown as part of the Official Plan presentation that shows a streetcar sitting eastbound on Eglinton at Kingston Road with sort of medium-rise, built-to-the-lot-line residential blocks lining Eglinton, that’s not the Eglinton I know in Scarborough. In Scarborough, you have strip commercial on all four corners, and that stuff isn’t going to get bulldozed in the next 10 years. So the suburbs have a huge, built infrastructure that is not going to go away and that is totally opposite to what we’re looking for in the Official Plan and is very hostile to pedestrians and, in being hostile to pedestrians, is hostile to transit.

A RAPID TRANSIT CORRIDOR CUTS THROUGH MY NEIGHBOURHOOD
KEENAN: But the suburbs do exist.

MILLER: First of all, you have to start now with the bus. That’s why our Ridership Growth Strategy is important. The buses are going to provide better service and a more reasonable cost, especially for passes. But a longer-run, maybe medium-term goal is that the development has to happen so that you can support rapid transit or something akin to rapid transit. What I’d like to see in the next year or so is a transportation plan that sets out how we’re going to do this. If that means having rapid bus service in the Hydro corridor, then let’s start building it. If it means taking a lane of Eglinton and making it a bus-only road all the way from across the Don Valley east to the border of Toronto, then let’s do that, that’s what we need. What people have said to me during Listening to Toronto is that people is Scarborough who ride buses are desperate for better service. I found people who are commuting who take two buses in Scarborough, the RT and the subway and then take another bus to work somewhere in Etobicoke. That’s not a rational way to get around the city. So we need more links. And in the short term it’s going to come by bus. I personally think we should keep pushing the rapid transit streetcar network and we should have reserved rights of way wherever possible.

DOWN WITH SUBWAYS
MUNRO: We seem to be perfectly happy to talk about subway expansion, such as the Sheppard line, or the York University line as an “investment.” Everybody knows the Sheppard line loses millions of dollars, but it may eventually prove to be a good investment in terms of redeveloping Sheppard Avenue. I don’t understand why we’re willing to do that with subway lines, but we’re not willing to do it with surface transit. We run the absolute minimum surface transit we can get away with. If we’re not willing to make investments in small pieces that we can gradually connect together in a larger network, we are never going to have anything more than those three spokes. Yet we’ve built a subway line that has set new records for low station use.

MILLER: But you build a subway line for 100 years, right? It’s hard to get people’s heads around running an empty bus. Three or four years from now, there’ll be a really successful bus route there. But it’s hard. I think the way we lead is by starting to have the infrastructure that gets people around the city quickly by transit, and a lot of it’s buses. There are some places where we can add a little bit on the subway — I think York University would be a pretty justified subway route for a whole range of reasons.

PERKS: But just put it on the scales. The York University subway: a billion and a half dollars. Call it a 40-year investment, because you’re going to have to keep reinvesting to maintain it. If you take that same billion and a half dollars and imagine buying a fleet of buses that you’re going to have to replace once through that longer term, and you put aside a little extra operating subsidy while that builds up ridership, the same way we talk about doing with subways. You put things on the scales and at the end of the day, for that billion and a half, where do you have more transit ridership? The back of my envelope tells me that even if every single person in Toronto who currently goes to York University by car were to go on the subway, you’d pick up 5,000 or 10,000 new riders a day. I’m convinced that if you spent the same money flooding Scarborough with bus transit, for the same money you’d get 500,000 new riders.

MILLER: Transit is going to work if there’s a lot of it. And there’s not a lot of it in some neighbourhoods because they’ve been built for cars. One way to get around that is by providing excellent service, and that means in some parts of the city having a tolerance for lower ridership, but it also means providing them with something akin to rapid transit. That’s why people like these busways. I think, 50 years from now, if you say we’re going to need rapid transit corridors across the GTA, some of them may well be the rail tracks, how are we going to incorporate those into the system? I don’t have an answer, I’m just throwing out how to draft a 50-year plan, how are we going to use buses rapidly? And how are we going expand the streetcar network? Because rapid transit is right there ready to go if we can produce a way to make it work on the street. And a network is what is required, because if people know there’s a network, and lots of it, they’ll take it rather than drive. That could start with an express bus across the hydro corridor.

URBAN RAIL
MUNRO: The other line which never gets looked at is the Durham [railway] line, that goes from Agincourt down right across parallel to Front Street and out to Mississauga.

MILLER: The railway corridors have to be part of the solution. I think the railways are prepared to listen for the first time in 20 years. To go back to my point, you need a network, and that’s an incredible asset to have a corridor running across the city. And there aren’t very many. There’s the railway corridors and a couple of hydro corridors.

MUNRO: They’re talking about fare integration for the Richmond Hill system, and that is small change compared to what happens if you start thinking of the rail network as another layer of rapid transit. So that the GO train or whatever you want to call it runs every 10 minutes. Imagine what happens if you have 10-minute service on the GO train. Suddenly, you just walk out on the Lakeshore sorridor and the next train comes along.

MILLER: That’s what’s exciting. The GO train could be a suburban-urban service. In between suburban rail and urban subway, but accessible for people like the subway. The problem is we’ve outgrown where there’s good service by a long shot and we haven’t yet come up with a strategy to address the whole region. Part of it is connecting things. And maybe it’s not always a subway, maybe it’s the streetcar, bus, rapid transit, whatever.

PERKS: The other thing to think about is money — how do you set your priorities? My view is, you start with whatever gets you the most riders for your dollars, and that is not providing high-order transit to the 905 area. There are some things you may want to do, where you’ve already got these GO trains sitting there. You may want to dramatically increase their frequency so they stop being rush-hour-only services. But for my money, simply improving the service in the areas where we’ve lost riders over the last decade primarily in the city of Toronto. You’re getting riders at 40 or 50 cents a pop rather than $10 a pop.

KEENAN: Well let’s talk about funding. What about the billion dollars that’s been reported in the newspapers.

MILLER: If what’s rumoured is accurate, it is in fact $667 million from federal and provincial governments over five years. Which is $130 million per year to the city for the TTC. By way of comparison, the TTC capital budget over the next couple of years averages well over $300 million. So, it’s very good news that the federal government will be investing in public transit and sees it as its job. That’s excellent news.

PERKS: Just today we had 17 city councillors out in the subway stations across the city collecting petitions to go the province to return to the fare share deal we had under Bill Davis, David Peterson and Bob Rae. If we’d had that finding formula in place, instead of the $130 million they’re talking about, this year we would have got something on the order of $350 million. So, they’re somewhere between a third and half-way to where we have to be just to get back to the deal we had, a deal that helped transit grow for 20 years before 1999. So we’re not even in the ballpark. And that’s to keep transit at its current levels.

MUNRO: One of the things that we’ve lost in the last 10 years because of funding cutbacks is that we’ve boxed ourselves into a situation where now we’re desperate to find every penny just to keep the lights on. And what happens when you do that, is you stop thinking about what’s going to happen 50 years from now, having to focus on what’s going to happen 10 years from now instead. And when there is a debate, it boils down to which one subway line can we afford to build, rather than what are we going to do with transit overall, how can we change the face of the city if there was a significant improvement overall in transit.

PLANNED CROWDEDNESS
MILLER: Service has been run, in the past few years, to meet funding pressures. The result is that they deliberatley run the streetcars and buses to be incredibly crowded. You can see the results. Operating funding matters just as much. That’s what Steve’s talking about, running the system at a decent level of serivce. You’ve got to have subways, you’ve got to have streetcars, you’ve got to have buses, but you’ve also got to run them. And I think that the political challenge right now is to get the other orders of government to recognize that they have an interest in operating funding as well as capital. We have to find a way to ensure that happens because the challenges won’t be met without that and without maybe some creative thinking about fares as well.

KEENAN: In an ideal world, if the funding we need to implement the plan we’ve just laid out — an integrated network involving the railways, the hydro corridors, the busways, extended streetcar avenues — came through, how do we start now?

MILLER: We start with ridership growth. We start expanding the streetcar system with links, then you start with busways. I think somewhere in there, you do need to look at the subway network. We could do that relatively quickly along the hydro corridors. The first one could go from the Downsview subway to York, because we know there’s a lot of bus traffic. So we do that and that’ll be an easy learning session about what works and and what doesn’t, parts of it have to be on roads, parts of it through the hydro corridor.

SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF
PERKS: You do have to look at the planning, but the thing you should do tomorrow — assuming we’re not continuing another decade of destroying the transit system by underfunding it — is you run some of the buses that you have off peak hours. Look at having better discounts on passes. You look at simple things, and this is the beauty of the Ridership Growth Strategy. A plan that says there are some things you can do for less than a dollar a new rider. The risk with the big plans — the Greater Toronto Authority and the Hydro corridors and the subways — the risk with that stuff is we forget the bread and butter, and that’s the lesson we should have learned from the 1990s. We forgot about the basic issues and built a subway instead.

MILLER: Really what we’re talking about is instead of the TTC setting standards for how crowded you can run the bus so that you make a profit, setting standards of service that serve the community.

PERKS: All of this depends on whether senior levels of government are willing to believe in public transit again.

KEENAN: And if they don’t?

PERKS: Then we get 44 councillors out gathering petitions. Toronto without the Yonge subway would have a 50-lane highway running down the middle of it. In other words, it’s Detroit. So whatever it is you value about Toronto, if you want to defend that, you have to become part of a political movement. It’s astonishing to me that the federal government is not as good as George W. Bush on funding public transit.

MILLER: They’re not senior levels of government, they’re other orders of government. But he’s right that it’s in their interests too. Toronto is successful and we fund the other orders of government to some extent. If we’re not successful economically, they’re not going to be successful. So self-interest says they have to do something. And they will. We know they’re making an announcement, the only question is, is it enough? And if it’s not enough, then we’re going to have to get radical. The people of Toronto will demand it.

——————————————————————————–

TTC Timeline
1834
-City of Toronto established.

1849
-Williams Omnibus Bus Line founded by Burt Williams, local cabinetmaker and undertaker. Stagecoaches shuttle passengers along Yonge between St. Lawrence Market and Yorkville for sixpence a ride. Trip takes 10 minutes. Omnibuses are expanded to accommodate 10 passengers as popularity increases.

1861
-Toronto’s first street railway franchise –Toronto Street Railway Company — licensed for operation. Founder Alexander Easton employs crews to lay down track along Yonge and King Sts. from City Hall to St. Lawrence Hall. Easton uses an unusual 4ft. 10-7/8in wide track gauge that the TTC would later claim was used to ensure that steam engines wouldn’t use the tracks, but others claim was selected to improve handling for both streetcars and wagons that also used the tracks. From 1861 to 1891, ridership balloons from 2,000 to 55,000.

1891
-City of Toronto orders the Toronto Street Railway Company to surrender ownership to them, without first providing a purchasing offer. The TSRC responds by removing its streetcars from service. The case goes to arbitration with TSRC eventually settling for $1.4 million buyout. City Hall gets cold feet and instead offers a 30-year franchise to the newly-formed Toronto Railway Company (run by railroad baron and Canadian Northern founder William Mackenzie), which assumes control in September, 1891. Under Mackenzie’s leadership, the TRC maintains the five-cent fare, introduces free transfers and reduced fares for children and students.

1892
-First electric streetcar begins running on Church.

1894
-Final horse-driven streetcar is decommissioned.

1894-1920
– Mackenzie’s railroad empire begins to unravel and the TRC falls on hard times. The City of Toronto buys up acres of land in the surrounding villages and orders the TRC to service them. The cash-strapped TRC refuses, claiming their initial contract only requires them to provide service within the Toronto boundaries as of 1894. The City of Toronto opts to provide streetcar service to its new boroughs itself under the Toronto Civic Railways name. New lines along Danforth, Gerrard E., Bloor W., St. Clair and Lansdowne are built. The TCR craftily adopts the TRC’s 4ft. 10-7/8in track gauge, foreshadowing their eventual takeover of Toronto’s transit system. Travel in Toronto at this point is chaotic, as the City absorbs a number of smaller transit operators when it expands its borders. The newly-acquired transit systems still collect their own fares, meaning that a passenger could pay anywhere from 2 to 15 cents in order to get across town.

1920
-Province of Ontario creates the Toronto Transportation Commission (TTC).

1921
-TRC’s contract expires.
-TTC takes ownership of nine existing transit operations and amalgamates them, installing a single standard fare across all its routes.
-Buses debut on the Humberside route.
-First batch of 575 “Peter Whitt” streetcars (the boxy tan-and-red ones) are introduced into service.

1921-1953
-TTC adds 35 new routes and extends 20 existing ones. 23 suburban routes are added on a cost-per-service basis. Public transit thrives during the war years, and city revenues from gas rationing are diverted into the Toronto subway project.

1922
-Electric trolleys begin operation.

1925
-Electric trolleys are phased out.

1927
-All streetcar service in Toronto is handled by the TTC.
-TTC founds inter-city bus service, Gray Coach Lines.

1929
-Stock market crash results in a loss of 20 per cent of TTC ridership.

1938
-First of 745 Presidents’ Conference Committee (PCC) streetcars enter service. The cars, with their rounded corners and art-deco design, cars are dubbed “Red Rockets.”

1939-1945
-TTC experiences a record number of passengers during World War II. Women are employed as drivers, conductors and maintenance workers for the first time.

1947
-Electric trolley service resumes.

1949
-Construction on the Yonge subway line begins.

1953
-Public transit is identified by Metro Toronto as an essential service

1954
-Province of Ontario amalgamates Toronto and its twelve suburbs into the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto, effective January 1.
-Canada’s first subway begins operation, running along Yonge from Eglinton to Union Station using a fleet of 57-foot-long English-built steel Gloucester cars, painted a bright red.
-Toronto Transportation Committee re-named Toronto Transit Commission and placed under jurisdiction of the newly founded Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto. The TTC becomes Toronto’s sole public transportation provider.

1962
-75-foot-long Canadian-designed aluminum Hawker subway cars are introduced, affectionately dubbed the “steel eel.”

1963
-University subway line opens, running from St. George to Union.
-Last Peter Whitt streetcars are retired from active service.

1966
-Bloor/Danforth subway line opens, running from Keele to Woodbine.

1968
-Bloor/Danforth subway is extended east to Warden and west to Islington.

1970
-TTC introduces senior citizens fares.

1972
-TTC records its final year of operational profit.
-Public opposition to the Spadina Expressway convinces the TTC that streetcars are essential to public transit in Toronto (streetcar routes had been shrinking as the TTC was forced to compete with the popularity of private automobiles).

1973
-Yonge subway line is extended north to York Mills.
-Fare zone system, which required additional fares from riders traveling to and from the suburbs, is eliminated.

1974
-Yonge subway line is extended north again, this time to Finch.

1975
-Exact cash fares are introduced.
-Private contractor using modified vans establishes the Wheel-Trans system.

1978
-Spadina subway line opens, running from St. George to Wilson.

1979
– Canadian Light Rail Vehicles (CLRV) , the current streetcar model, enter service. Maximum capacity (or ‘crush capacity’) is 132 passengers.

1980
-TTC establishes the monthly unlimited-ride Metropass.
-Bloor/Danforth subway is extended east to Kennedy and west to Kipling.

1985
-Scarborough Rapid Transit (SRT), running from Kennedy to McCowan, launches.

1987
-North York Centre subway station opens.
-TTC introduces the Blue Night service network.

1988
-Articulated Light Rail Vehicles (ALRV) enter service. These elongated streetcars with their accordion-like midsection are able to hold a maximum of 205 passengers.
-TTC takes over full operation of Wheel-Trans.
-TTC ridership reaches a record 463.5 million annual customer trips.

1989
-First fleet of clean(er)-burning CNG (compressed natural gas) buses enter service.

1990
-Community bus services for seniors and the disabled are introduced.
-Harbourfront streetcar launches, running from Union Station to Queens Quay/Spadina.
-TTC sells Gray Coach Lines.
-Last of the original Gloucester subway cars are decommissioned.

1993
-Electric trolley service is again discontinued.

1994
-GTA weekly passes, valid on TTC and suburban transit services, are introduced.

1995
-Last remaining original Red Rocket streetcars are retired from active service.
-First fatal subway accident in TTC history occurs in August between Dupont and St. Clair stations. Driver error and failure of safety equipment are cited as causes.

1996
-Downsview, Bloor-Yonge and Union Station become fully-accessible subway stations.
-Lift-equipped buses enter service.
-Spadina line extends service north to Downsview.

1997
-Spadina streetcar line, connecting Spadina station to Union, opens for business July 27 after a 31-year absence.

1998
-First low-floor fully-accessible buses enter service.

2000
-Harbourfront streetcar extends west from Spadina to the Exhibition grounds.

2002
-Sheppard subway opens, connecting Sheppard-Yonge to Don Mills.

Originally published in Eye Weekly on March 25, 2004.

David Miller thinks more, calculates less

One week before election day, David Miller is lecturing on the topic of “Beauty and the aesthetic city” to a packed Gladstone Hotel crowd as part of the Trampoline Hall lecture series. He’s part of a panel that includes urban-planning guru Jane Jacobs, novelist Nino Ricci and playwright Daniel MacIvor.

The rules of the night laid down by host Misha Glouberman preclude normal campaign discussion — topics such as the MFP scandal and the island airport are off-limits — so Miller is talking more big picture: about the frustrations caused by viewing a city that is “becoming” as a thing just to consume, about why it’s important that the city’s residents be thought of as citizens rather than as taxpayers, about the importance of the kind of thinking about the city that inspired the builders of the Beaches water-
filtration plant to construct one of the most beautiful buildings in the city.

There are a few things remarkable about the event. There’s the capacity crowd (several hundred people who waited an hour in the rain were turned away because of space restrictions) and its makeup (the serious-glasses-and-purposely-unkempt-hair gallery crowd that isn’t normally involved in electoral politics). There’s a rare lecture by Jane Jacobs on whether Toronto is a city in decline. And there’s the sight of a politician able to speak without notes about the city as a place where people live rather than a place where things are built and wealth is created and spent.

Most remarkable of all is that, when Miller gets around to talking about the stirrings of “a movement,” when he says that his goal in three years is for citizens to look back and say “‘Holy shit! We’d forgotten what we could do together as citizens,'” when he talks about a new sense of hope stirring in the city, when he articulates his view of the job by saying “I think being mayor is not about what I can do for you, but about what we can create together,” cheers swell up that drown out follow-up questions. Millermania has taken over this normally aloof crowd.

After six years as the self-proclaimed “leader of the opposition” during Mel Lastman’s regime, Miller’s looking to replace him.

His resume is impressive: Harvard economics, U of T law, a few years of practice with a big law firm (Aird & Berlis) and then an impressive nine years at Metro and City Halls. His career as a councillor, which once prompted antagonist-in-chief Mel Lastman to stand up in the council chamber and shout “You’ll never be mayor of this city… because you say dumb and stupid things,” has a few important highlights.

He was largely responsible for killing the proposal to bury Toronto’s garbage in the Adams Mine. After the deal had been approved by council, Miller uncovered a legal loophole that would have cost the city millions of dollars and used the liability argument to stop the risky dump in its tracks.

He and right-wing councillor Bas Balkissoon stumbled across the MFP computer-leasing deal, and well before the word “integrity” was common currency among Toronto politicians, Miller pushed relentlessly for the inquiry that has made public the extent of the backroom dealing at City Hall.

As TTC commissioner, he oversaw the development of the ridership program that has been adopted as a platform plank by all the other major candidates.

When Miller sat down with eye back in August, when he still looked like a longshot for the mayor’s job, we talked about more concrete issues than he’d discuss at the Gladstone.

Miller says his plan to cancel the island airport deal is tied to his impression that we’ve got a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to develop the waterfront, and by extension, it shows his dedication to neighbourhoods. By now his island airport and waterfront plans are well known. But equally important in his mind is an issue he owns due to his involvement in exposing the MFP scandal: cleaning up the culture of city politics.

“I think we’ve all seen that City Hall over the last few years has become a place where if you’re an insider or a crony, you get your needs met; if you’re a citizen, a resident of a neighbourhood, you don’t,” Miller says. He wants an ethics commissioner, audits of city processes and a lobbyist registry. But he also thinks leadership style is essential. “Right now, the culture basically is, ‘What the hell does the mayor want? We’re going to go run around and say that that’s our opinion, even if it isn’t.’ That’s an issue of leadership.” He wants citizens and city staff alike to be more involved in advising and operating the government.

In harnessing council, he thinks wielding a mandate and an intimate knowledge of council are equally important. “Mel’s style was intimidation and threats. Those are useful tools,” he says, revealing an impressive equanimity. “But I think if you have a clear mandate, that’s the best way to get people onside … one of the advantages I have is that a lot of [the current] council will be re-elected. I know the people, I have a strong working relationship with them, I know what I can get their vote on, what I can’t. And I know how to do it.”

He supports expanding the subway system, wants to lower metropass rates and further co-operate with GO Transit. He’d expand bike trails to form a safe network throughout the city and has an interesting but, he admits, far-off proposal to have dedicated transit and bike lanes separate from automobile traffic.

He’d focus on reducing the amount of garbage we produce, is against incineration and admits we may have to landfill small amounts of residual waste somewhere in Ontario.

Addressing the multi-faceted problem of homelessness, he thinks we need to build more supportive housing for those in need of medical or psychiatric help, light a fire under the Let’s Build program to get more affordable and special-needs housing built and bring back some form of rent control.

He’s against restrictions on utility-pole postering, but says graffiti is vandalism. While he supports sex workers who work from home through classified ads, he’s in favour of policing street prostitution. However, he says the police are a little too focused on sex and not enough on guns.

All in all, quite sensible and reasonable (though perhaps not as gung-ho pro-sex as we’d like). He’s an intelligent man with a brilliant record as a city councillor who talked to eye eloquently (often answering hypothetical questions, usually a big politico no-no) without pitching us slogans or trying to be our pal or steering the conversation towards his stump speech.

The key to Millermania, though, seems to be that he addresses possibilities rather than problems, talks about city-building rather than budget management. Miller’s Toronto seems like it might be an exciting place to live.

Originally published in Eye Weekly on November 6, 2003.