March 21, 2012
The debate over the fate of transit along Sheppard Avenue will continue for another day as councillors voted Wednesday not to extend a meeting after they failed to come to a final vote by 8 p.m.
The city’s transit future has been at the centre of ongoing tension at city hall as Mayor Rob Ford continues to rally behind the idea of building subways over the plan to build LRT lines across much of the city.
The meeting on the issue will continue Thursday at 9:30 a.m.
Council considered a motion on Wednesday in favour of building an above-ground LRT line along the Sheppard Avenue East corridor.
The meeting was tense, with raised voices, jeers from the gallery and reprimands from Speaker Frances Nunziata throughout the day.
The main issue at Wednesday’s meeting was the same one that has plagued Ford’s push for subways: how to fund the transit line.
The provincial government has pledged $8.4 billion toward transit expansion across Toronto, with $1 billion of that allocated to expansion along Sheppard Avenue.
That $1 billion would only build about two to three subways stops, whereas a report released Friday heralded LRT lines as the best option to get transit to the majority of city residents.
City budget chief Mike Del Grande presented a solution to council to fund the subway line, with a motion that would create a non-residential parking levy for the 2013 budget year.
The levy would generate about $90 million each year, which would be dedicated solely to subway infrastructure.
Coun. Josh Matlow, who is seen as one of the centrist councillors, questioned why Del Grande hasn’t presented this funding plan for the Sheppard Avenue subway sooner, during budget negotiations, or even during his election campaign when he promoted the Sheppard subway extension in his platform.
“Why is this being brought now, at this 11th hour?” Matlow questioned.
Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti, a subway proponent, called out councillors who he said were going to vote against the plan for a subway along Sheppard Avenue, even after they had been presented with the viable funding model they had asked for.
“All that’s gone on here is a bunch of yapping, hypocritical yapping,” Mammoliti said.
Mammoliti suggested that public-private partnerships would help make up any remaining shortfalls once construction started.
He also accused LRT proponents of having another agenda and of promoting a plan that creates a “two-tier” system with the downtown core benefitting at the expense of the suburbs.
“For those who vote against it, the agenda is very clear: it’s anti-car,” he said.
Other revenue-generating ideas include a one-per-cent property tax hike.
But Coun. Joe Mihevc said a subway on Sheppard is not the way to go.
“Even if we had the big bucks, we would not be doing a subway on Sheppard,” he told reporters earlier in the day. “The density is simply not there and won’t be there for several, several generations.”
City council has already voted in favour of building above-ground LRT lines along Eglinton and Finch Avenues.
Near the end of a meeting, a motion made by Josh Colle to extend the meeting to 10 p.m. in hopes of coming to a conclusion was defeated.
A motion by Ford to postpone the meeting until Wednesday, April 4 at 9:30 a.m. was also defeated.
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