For crying out loud, let’s just get s**t done!

Traffic

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Transit makes for a great election topic, but then once the election is over it becomes an endless series of meetings and consultations between all three levels of government, resulting in very little actual progress.

People need access now. In all directions and in many different ways. We need to travel every day of the week, every hour of the day. The citizens of this town need efficient transit that includes reliable, high-density rail based systems, as well as an upgraded 21st-century TTC, intelligent road management, and far more alternatives for pedestrians and cyclists.

Solutions to our types of problems have already been implemented in many dozens of major cities around the world, especially in Europe and in the U.S. – including cities that get snow and cold temperatures in the winter, just like us. The precedents are there. The learning has been done. We do not have to start from absolute scratch, but instead we can observe what others have done and build upon it. We must stop always looking inward, squabbling, politicking, and start taking note of how quickly we’re being outpaced by other more advanced transit cities.

The point is not only can it be done, not only should it be done, it has to be done, just as it has elsewhere. To not learn from other cities’ experiences would be foolish, and to not keep pace with other cities’ development would be dangerous. New commercial investment, tourist dollars, conventions and events go to the cities that show promise, that demonstrate a global presence and that function well. We have to stop taking Toronto for granted. When a city’s arteries are clear and healthy, there is much greater potential for increased prosperity.

So enough talk.

If we want it done, we have to pay for it. We cannot have it both ways. We cannot, as a community, complain about inadequate transit and at the same time complain that it costs too much. If you don’t want to vote for me because I say this out loud, then by all means don’t. But what I am saying here is true, like it or not. And I’m tired of watching the big name candidates tell the same lie over and over. They’re not the ones getting crunched in like a sardine on the streetcar or subway. They’re not the ones forced to sit in their cars on the DVP or Gardiner at 8:00 a.m. or 2:00 p.m. or 6:00 p.m., feeling like a moron going nowhere. But this is how you and I have to exist. Not by choice, but because we have places to go. And as Mr. Tory has found out himself way too often recently, any way you choose to travel can easily make you embarrassingly late.

The concept of money is all relative. Perhaps those people who express concern at the prospect of paying $2 to travel into the city on the DVP or Gardiner picture the same gridlock after the tolls have been implemented as we have now. But the idea behind tolls is not to make people pay for the privilege of sitting in a traffic jam, but instead to make it easier to get to work, through better lane assignments, preventative maintenance, other more practical alternatives to cars and fewer cars on the highways. If you are crawling home from work on a packed parking lot of a highway, you’re already paying more in gas than the toll I am proposing. Not to mention the stress on your body and the imposition into your time. A toll will actually be cheaper than what we have now. From day one onwards.

The bottom line here, as weird as it sounds, by deprioritizing the car, we can actually make driving and all other types of travel easier and faster in this city.

In other words, motorists, you are never actually stuck in traffic, you are traffic. Frankly if you want to live in a city that functions well, you have to pay for it. You do, I do, your neighbour does.

Politicians – federal, provincial and municipal – will all dangle the transit carrot in front of us, only to yank it away again in favour of pet projects like power plants and showcase buildings. It’s an eternal tease, a guaranteed political lever. It’s total BS.

So enough now.

I am a political outsider, not a career politician.  I have a day job. I cannot make every event and kiss every baby the way Olivia Chow can. I have no granddaughter to place in every single picture the way John Tory does. I have no pension or inheritance that I can use while I run for Mayor. I live midtown and I travel by transit downtown. I have a car, and I am a driver. I understand the realities of driving, and that I should pay my fair share to use the road.

I pay my own way – I always have. I pay taxes, and I know that as taxpayers we should get what we pay for. No-one likes to be taxed, but when the taxes we pay turn into jobs, sales opportunities and a better quality of life, then we see a return on our tax investment: tangible proof of money well spent. How does electing a politician who is part of the machine and has wasted your money for decades possibly make you believe that “this time” things will be different? An outsider is needed.

The history of Toronto is that of a tough town designed for commerce, trade and self-sufficiency. We have grown from a busy shipping port to the largest economic engine of Canada, a major centre of culture and multiculturalism, as well as being the fourth largest city in North America.

Politicians may be comfortable just talking about it, but I want to do more than talk. I want to do what all the Torontonians I have spoken to want:  just get it done.

So the bottom line is this, Toronto: if we want progress, we have to pay for it. We cannot, and will not get s**t done until we finally admit it to ourselves, and elect somebody who’s running on the truth about transit.

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