Heading into part two of the LRT public hearing, it was looking like the best-case result would see the lines to the north and southeast passed, but the west leg held hostage to indecision.
However, I’m happy — and surprised — to report that the vote ended up 9-4 in favour of the whole package, including the controversial Stony Plain Road section.
The councillors remaining opposed were Jane Batty, Karen Leibovici, Linda Sloan and Tony Caterina. Caterina predictably used it to take another shot at the airport closure decision and blamed both votes on blogging — a form of public participation, last I checked.
The surprise result came after a revised administration presentation. Before the presentation, 107 Ave. seemed to have cost savings and political expediency going for it.
Afterward it suddenly had neither, with the $250-million savings becoming $30 million on account of some previously unidentified expropriation east of Groat Rd.
What didn’t change was that the 107th would have added an unnecessary kilometre to the route and continued to give priority to drivers. Unfortunately, some councillors continue to defend this priority.
As someone who voted in Batty’s downtown ward (for Coun. Ben Henderson, mind you), I’m disappointed that she, along with Leibovici, seem more concerned with maintaining space for cars than increasing the total number of people able to travel along the corridor.
Not only is the west LRT expected to see 50,000 daily riders, it’s only expected to divert 10,000 cars from SPR. The key word here is divert: There are alternate routes, and the road network will rebalance itself.
Once the design process begins, there will be enough detail to properly deal with any actual problems that arise. If there’s a better way to handle SPR between 156 and 149 Streets, it can only be found moving forward.
We can only go so far, however, without funding. I’d love to say the province will come through, but the previously pledged $2 billion for transit has all but disappeared.
Meanwhile, Toronto is moving forward, thanks to the Ontario government, which just this year handed over $4.6 billion for a 33-kilometre LRT line and another $3.2 billion for various other extensions to the TTC’s rail system.
This decision means we have the routes. One is practically ready to build, the others might only be a few years behind it. Council should be congratulated for bringing us this far, but without the money it’s just talk.