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Toronto transit: Sheppard panel will overwhelmingly endorse LRT over subway options - Toronto Star

March 15, 2012
David Rider
Toronto Star

An expert transit panel will overwhelmingly urge city council to put light rail transit on Sheppard Ave. — a finding dismissed by Mayor Rob Ford without seeing the report to be made public Friday.

The panel members used rigorous analysis to rank each of three options — LRT, a full subway line or building two subway stops to Victoria Park Ave. — keeping in mind the province’s $8.4 billion in promised funding for Toronto transit expansion.

Panel members used nine criteria for each option, giving a score out of five for each. The numbers were tallied, with some criteria given extra weight.

The scores, which will be reflected in the panel’s strong recommendation for LRT on Sheppard, but might not appear in the report itself, are 87.3 per cent for LRT, 59.3 per cent for a subway line and 59.5 per cent for construction of two subway stops, the Star has learned.

A source close to the panel said the report will also recommend that revenue generators such as road tolls be strongly considered to fund region-wide transit expansion.

Ford and his point man on subway financing, Gordon Chong, want any new revenues aimed solely at a Sheppard subway, which was a key promise in Ford’s successful 2010 mayoral campaign.

Panel members include representatives of the provincial Metrolinx transportation agency, the TTC, Toronto CivicAction Alliance, former mayor David Crombie and Chong.

Councillor Maria Augimeri, a TTC board member, said the report should guide councillors when they vote Wednesday on Sheppard’s transit future.

“Finally, councillors will be able to make an informed decision with this non-partisan, apolitical report that has input from a broad strata of City of Toronto players,” Augimeri said.

But Ford told reporters Thursday councillors should ignore the panel that they established Feb. 8 while overturning his transit plan and reviving his predecessor’s banished Transit City.

“The advisory panel is a biased panel, we all know that, we know what they’re going to say,” Ford said in a Sheppard Ave. E. parkette during a pro-subway event. “I listen to the residents, the taxpayers — the people that pay our wages. They’re the boss.”

The mayor said he got there by bus. “I didn’t meet one person that came up to me and said they want streetcars, LRT, above-ground transit. They want subways.”

Chong boycotted the panel’s final meeting Thursday, apparently upset the report will include a 23-page, pro-subway brief only as a hyperlink with the other sources, and not in its entirety as an appendix.

“If every report looked at was appended this thing would be huge — why would only this (report) be an appendix?,” the source said. “Chong is just trying to get a form of his (financing) report before council again.”

Chong did not respond to the Star’s request for comment Thursday.

At City Hall, Ford’s staff and allies continued lobbying councillors to support the construction of two subway stops, even as some privately admitted their push appears to be a lost cause.

The mayor’s office is not writing the business case for private funding of a full Sheppard line that many councillors want to see, and nobody expects Ford’s friends in Ottawa to deliver billions in surprise funding.

When asked if any private funding has been pledged, Ford said: “Get a shovel in the ground and, like I said, the money will flow.”

With files from San Grewal

Measuring transit

The expert panel considering the best transit for Sheppard Ave. used these criteria to compare light rail and subway systems.

• Ridership: Can it meet demands to 2031 and beyond.

• Network connectivity: Does it support better connections to the existing network and improve access.

• Level of service: Does it provide the most benefit to the most people; what’s the door-to-door travel time.

• Economic development: Does it create business opportunities and contribute to the fiscal well-being of the city.

• Equity and accessibility: Can it be used by everyone within a community.

• Environmental sustainability: Does it cause the smallest impact possible to the environment.

• Cost effectiveness and fiscal sustainability: Is it good value for the money and are longer-term operational costs manageable.

• Time frame: How soon can it be built, and a clear answer be given to the province.

• Community impact: Construction timelines and other impacts.

As originally published here: http://www.thestar.com/printarticle/1146793

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