August 29, 2014 5:33 pm

Toronto bureaucrats ask province to fund light rail

Watch above:  TTC and city bureaucrats trying to resurrect the Waterfront LRT. Mark Carcasole reports. 

TORONTO – Mayor Rob Ford staked his term on killing plans for light rail transit.

Now, during the twilight of his four years as mayor, after watching councillors rip up an agreement for the province to build and operate a multi-billion-dollar transit network, city bureaucrats are taking matters into their own hands: They’ve appealed to the province to revive an overlooked aspect of the scrapped plan: a waterfront light rail line.

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Toronto Transit Commission CEO Andy Byford and outgoing city manager Joe Pennachetti met with provincial officials in August about securing money for an east-west line along the waterfront, from Exhibition Place to the east bay front near George Brown College.

“Everyone knows that there’s a need to improve transit in the Toronto area and the wider [Toronto and Hamilton region], for that matter,” Byford said in an interview Friday.

“What’s pretty clear is the city cannot bear that burden on its own. So the task force is about making a compelling case to both the province an the feds in Ottawa that we do need help to make Toronto run more effectively.”

The task force’s goals, Byford said, include convincing the province to pay for half of TTC operations and secure funding from the provincial and federal governments for future projects – the waterfront LRT among them.

According to a report in the Globe and Mail the line would include the East Bayfront LRT and the Waterfront West LRT which was part of the aborted Transit City pushed by David Miller.

Rob Ford, who hasn’t released a transit plan as part of his mayoral reelection campaign but has falsely claimed to have secured funding for subways along Sheppard and Finch, has been vocally opposed to light rail transit – or “fancy streetcars” as he has called them in the past.

The other major candidates, Olivia Chow and John Tory, have each said they’d make a downtown relief line a priority; Chow said she’d change the Scarborough subway back to light rail and improve inner suburb bus service; Tory has touted his “SmartTrack” plan which seeks to use already-existing rail line to build above-ground subways across the city.

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