Stintz: Let the excitement begin

The following is an editorial by TTC Chair Karen Stintz, which originally appeared on thestar.com on Tuesday, March 5, 2013.

The following is an editorial by TTC Chair Karen Stintz, which originally appeared on thestar.com on Tuesday, March 5, 2013.

By Karen Stintz

Last Friday (March 1), community leader Dave Meslin made an excellent point about the need to get excited about public transit. He even offered up some creative ideas about how to do this. His theory? If we build excitement for improved transit and what it offers our city, we will find the willingness to pay for it.

While I am confident I am not the person to sit behind a boring machine and draw in the cheering crowds, I can certainly lend my voice to this excitement-building effort. I know that if we build smart transit projects, we will become one city as never before – from downtown to uptown, from the suburbs to the core and from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. Transit will revitalize communities and bring economic prosperity in its tracks. But I must also lend my voice to the growing chorus that a renewed transit system will not appear without new, dedicated funding streams.

Contrary to popular thinking, there is actually much to be excited about already, giving us a sense of what could be. The province has committed $8.4 billion for transit and construction is well underway. The extension of the Spadina Subway from Sheppard to York University and Vaughan is progressing well. Digging has commenced for the Eglinton Crosstown LRT tunnel and contracts will soon be awarded for the LRT lines on Sheppard and Finch. The Union-Pearson link will be finished by 2015.

Within our city, we have new subway cars and we will see new streetcars later this year. Ontario’s Presto payment system will be in place by the Pan Am Games. This new infrastructure is complemented by a service delivered with a greater client focus. Cleaner stations. Better customer service. More efficient and timely information. And wireless access coming soon.

This is all good. Very good, in fact. But it is not enough.

As we look to the (unfunded) future, a consensus has emerged about what needs to be done next: building a subway line to reduce the burden on our overworked, overcrowded system. This relief line will dramatically improve transit for our suburban residents.

But we can do more. Even greater connectivity benefits will be reaped if we extend the Bloor-Danforth line to Scarborough Town Centre. This choice will require a 20-per-cent greater investment than the current plan to replace the RT with an LRT, but in this case, a subway is the smart choice. This leads us back to the funding issue.

Metrolinx will soon release its recommendations about how to match our region’s transit needs with funding. The proposed changes will no doubt stir passionate debate. Many can recall the Free Trade, GST and deficit reduction debates when visionary governments called upon Canadians to build for the future. Today, we are the beneficiaries of that leadership. And today, we need that same determination and unwavering focus from all our political leaders to bring our best transit plans to reality. Let the excitement begin.

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