In his announcement last week that he will not seek re-election in 2010, Toronto Mayor David Miller stated that each of his major policy initiatives has been accomplished or is well under way. One of his biggest aims has been to improve transit.
Miller often insisted, as he did in 2007, that the TTC was “a great system for a city of about 1.5 million people, not a city of 2.6 million residents which is the heart of a region of well over five million. It must be expanded.”
He’ll have just over a year to ensure projects such as Transit City, the network of light rail lines across Toronto, take root. There are a lot of other transit challenges during his remaining time in office, not the least of which is finding enough cash to keep the TTC operating amid serious budget constraints.
Miller did make transit a key priority but then, he had to. The transport network in the GTA had been badly neglected for over a decade before he first became mayor in 2003. The Toronto mayor actively developed the relationships with senior governments that helped raise billions of dollars.
Although Miller has been criticized for expanding the city budget too fast, he managed to find support for improving TTC service in a most frugal way — simply adding more buses. Adding vehicles may seem a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many politicians ignore this approach in favour of sexy new subway lines.
The Transit City LRT network also goes against this passion for underground trains — but I feel Miller correctly assessed the past failure of previous governments to build subways, and proposed a surface grid that can be completed faster and cheaper.
It’s going to be tricky for potential mayoral hopefuls to try and upgrade Transit City into a subway network. Where would all the extra money come from, and can Toronto commuters afford to wait?