Thursday, March 22, 2012

Toronto City Council (again) backs LRT

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A second day of debate by the Toronto City Council Thursday resulted in the council's affirming more light rail transit (LRT) for Canada's largest city, rejecting Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's preference for subways-only construction.

By a vote of 24-19, the City Council reasserted its belief that a C$1 billion LRT line on Sheppard Ave. was more desirable than the mayor's subway plan.

The vote followed intense verbal back-and-forth Thursday morning, the second day of debate on the matter. The Council adjourned Wednesday night following a filibuster generated by the mayor's supporters on the council, who sought more time to generate support for a plan to finance subway construction through some sort of tax increase.

After sitting quietly throughout council proceedings Wednesday, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford spoke passionately Thursday before the key vote, insisting that Toronto residents "hate these streetcars. You can call them what you want. People want subways, folks. Subways, subways," and adding, "They don't want these damn streetcars clogging up our city."

Elected mayor in October 2010, Ford's campaign in part included a pledge to end an alleged "war on cars," which he said included placing streetcars and LRT on city streets at the expense of automotive traffic.

The mayor Thursday urged the council to defer a decision until after the federal and Ontario provincial budgets are made public, so that either or both might be persuaded to increase support for Toronto rail capital construction. A motion to that effect failed to pass.

Ford has threatened to curtail rail transit expansion of any kind within Toronto, should the council not adjust its tune. But his political clout following the council vote now is in question.

Ontario province has allotted C$8.4 billion toward expanding rail transit in Toronto, but is waiting for a final political decision before disbursing any funds.