Posts Tagged ‘politics’
NOW Toronto‘s Paul Weinberg reports on political controversies in Hamilton over mass transit, something that he notes is related to downtown/suburban tensions as well as to concern by some at the arrival of an increasingly large contingent of Torontonians. Change in Hamilton comes painfully, it seems.
I moved with my wife to the rust belt city in May 2013 after living in Toronto almost all my life, following other younger Torontonians moving here as well because of the cheaper housing. The local realtors’ association cannot say how many former Torontonians are buying up the reasonably priced building stock. The Transportation Tomorrow Survey offers a clue. It reports that more than a third of working Hamiltonians are commuting daily outside this city by car or GO Transit, with about 82 per cent of them headed directly for the GTA.
The migration to Steeltown has picked up to the point that locals complain of recent arrivals infecting the political culture of working-class Steeltown. The current municipal elections have provided flashpoint for that debate over an issue familiar to Torontonians – the car versus light rail transit (LRT).
Brian McHattie, a planner and local councilor since 2004 who is originally from Etobicoke, is running on a progressive platform and has the support of urban activists who want to see more streets like James North in Hamilton. His slogan: A New Mayor For A New Hamilton. To that end he’s released a four-part plan for improving neighbourhoods that he’s dubbed, wait for it, Transit City.
[. . .]
For local activists who have long been fighting uphill battles for two-way, pedestrian-friendly “complete streets” here, McHattie is a bit of a godsend. They see his LRT plan as an opportunity to transform whole swaths of an economically stagnant lower city into neighbourhoods that will attract smart development.
But there’s a major roadblock: the suburban residents on Hamilton Mountain above the Escarpment who find these lower city roads handy for zipping in, out or around Hamilton in their vehicles. That sentiment is often expressed by their political representatives on council who oppose the LRT even with the province potentially willing to pay for it.
NOW Toronto‘s Enzo DiMatteo writes about racism in Toronto, both that directed towards Olivia Chow and that evidenced by continuing support for the Ford brothers.
She has the best grasp of the inner workings of City Hall among the top contenders for mayor. She has the most political experience and the resumé to prove it. In the spring she was the overwhelmingly popular option to save the city from Rob Ford.
But for most Torontonians, Olivia Chow just doesn’t fit the bill, according to public opinion polls. Too stiff. Too scripted. Maybe too Chinese. I know you didn’t want me to go there, Toronto. But the racist attacks have been a little too overt to ignore, haven’t they?
The question of race has certainly dominated the campaign discourse of late.
Chow is reluctant to comment on what effect the fact that she is a visible minority is having on her electoral chances. As she told NOW’s editorial board Monday, October 6, she’ll leave that to the pundits. She always says that when she doesn’t want to answer a question directly.
But much like the anti-gay undercurrent that helped kill George Smitherman’s chances against Ford in 2010, disdain for Chow’s foreigner status may carry more weight than we’d like to admit.
It’s an uncomfortable reality to contemplate for a city whose motto is “diversity our strength.” Maybe we’re not so world-class. Just how did a guy like Rob Ford with a track record of racist and homophobic remarks get elected in the first place anyway?
In 2010, voters knew about his Air Canada Centre tirade. They knew about his AIDS comments. His bigotry was no secret. They knew exactly what they were getting.
Toronto transit expert Steve Munro is critical, at Torontoist, of the latest iteration of the Ford brothers’ plan for more subways as recently presented by Doug Ford. He makes the argument that it’s unworkable, being too expensive for the city as it is likely ever to exist and that cheaper and better alternatives exist.
Ford proposes subways on Eglinton East, Sheppard East, and Finch West. Building these would require Toronto to accept that transit and road networks should be completely separated—transit can’t even be next to traffic lanes, but only under them—regardless of the financial impact this would have on the City’s capital and operating budgets. That is an oddly profligate attitude for a family noted for its parsimony with public spending. Capital expenses may come out of thin air (more about that later), but operating a subway where ridership does not generate substantial revenue—and these subways would not—can only lead to higher costs for the municipal government, or operating cutbacks elsewhere. Toronto already faces an operating deficit with the Vaughan subway extension, and a much larger network of subways will only worsen the problem.
A common question for any transit proposal is, “Where will the riders come from?” Part of Ford’s funding scheme includes taxes from new development spurred by his subways. However, that development depends on new construction in the immediate vicinity of stations, not along whole routes; if the Scarborough subway is any indication, there will be long gaps where would-be riders would have to hop on infrequent surface buses. What Ford’s plan does not tell voters is the kind of city we’d need to build to support his plan—just how much we would need to increase development in order to produce that new tax income. And “higher density” is a phrase many voters dislike almost as much as “higher taxes.”
[. . .]
Overwhelmingly, Doug Ford’s transit platform is about subways and the benefits of moving people underground. In a clear case of subway envy, he compares maps of Toronto with New York, London, and Tokyo, but conveniently forgets that decades ago these were huge cities with a market for rapid transit, while Toronto was still operating horse-drawn streetcars serving a fraction of their population. Those networks arose from the scale and histories of older, denser, larger cities—something that would be very difficult and expensive to duplicate today. Toronto certainly should have a more extensive transit system, but a subway line under every main street is an unattainable, unreasonable goal whose pursuit only distracts us from what we can and should achieve.