Sprawling transit system key to improving our city: Thomson

[attach]1966[/attach]Building subways will connect residents across Toronto and reduce the cost of running public transportation over the long-term, says mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson.

“We can’t be ruled by that small vision that, ‘Oh we don’t have the money.’ We have to build what’s good for the long-term,” said Thomson, who reiterated her support for an underground transit system while speaking to reporters at an editorial board this afternoon at Town Crier’s offices.

She said streetcars have to be replaced every 30 years and cause more environmental damage than subways, which last up to 100 years with regular maintenance.

“You add those two budgets up, and streetcars end up being much more expensive.”

Subways are a reliable form of transit, which will entice newcomers to stay in the city, Thomson added.

“New immigrants are coming here and then they are moving out within three years.”

Subways will also help bridge the gap between downtown residents and those who live in the outskirts of the city, she said.

“There’s this division growing between the rich and poor, downtown and the outer suburbs. We’ve got to stop that division,” she said.
“If you live in Scarborough, it can take you an hour and a half to get downtown…Transit in the city is such a big part of keeping the Scarboroughs, the Etobicokes – bringing them back into the city.

Thomson plans to fund the subway expansion by adding a rush-hour toll to the Gardiner and Don Valley Parkway, getting funds from the province, and collaborating with developers and businesses.

She said her vision is to one day have Toronto’s transit system pay for itself through ridership and rent from businesses operating along the transit corridor.

Thomson included cost-cutting measures for taxpayers in her platform, saying if elected, she’d do away with the municipal land transfer tax and vehicle registration fee.

On the issue of public consultations, Thomson said the first thing the city should do is talk to residents. She cited the case of the Greenwood and Donlands subways where houses were slotted to be expropriated to build new exits.

“Don’t wait to the last minute. (Donlands) was in the process for eight years. So eight years ago, they should have called a public meeting and said, ‘This is the situation, this is what we have to do. We are going to give you six months to come up with the plans that you want to see.’ ”

The solution the city finally adopted actually came from residents, she said.

“These are the people who will come out but we have to listen. We haven’t listened in so long that people…have disengaged. So how do we reengage them and say we are listening?”

One way, she suggested, is to encourage councillors to hold regular town hall meetings and canvass their neighbourhoods once a week to listen to residents’ concerns.

Thomson said she will be revealing her environmental policy in three or four weeks, but hinted at a couple of proposals, like introducing green bins and split meters in apartment buildings.

She also said she will be making an announcement that “has the Tory name in it in about 11 days.” Her campaign director is John Tory Jr.

His father, frequent mayoral debate moderator John Tory, has not ruled out the possibility of joining the mayoral race.