THE FASTEST PATH TO NEW TRANSIT? THE PLANS WE’VE ALREADY PAID FOR

Today, David Soknacki released his latest policy paper on gridlock. His second paper – entitled Building Transit for the Future, Now – focuses on long-range transit issues. It builds on Soknacki’s earlier plan to use “Early Bird” free fares and other strategies to make better use of existing transit capacity.

“To get more transit now, the fastest, cheapest route is to stick to the designed, engineered and assessed plans we had before October, 2013,” he said. Soknacki outlined a “transit prime directive,” arguing that politicians shouldn’t interfere with plans that are already designed, funded and environmentally assessed, except to address residential or business concerns on a particular corridor.

With that standard in place, Soknacki supports completion of the Scarborough LRT – “the agreement for which is still in place,” the Finch West LRT, the Sheppard LRT, and the ongoing Eglinton / Eglinton Connects projects as the fastest strategy to spread rapid transit throughout Toronto. “The fastest path to new transit across Toronto is found in the plans we’ve already paid for,” he said.

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On top of Soknacki’s priority list for new work: a Commuter Relief Line. “I would support funding the City’s contribution to a Relief Line with property taxes backing subway debt if necessary. However, I’m the only candidate who’s vocally honest about the need for dedicated taxes to fund new transit and transportation infrastructure, and I believe further negotiation with the province could identify funding sources that are more progressive than property taxes.”

Soknacki also had three proposals to attack other long-term TTC challenges:

  • Transportation Committee / Chief Transportation Officer. Soknacki said that Toronto needs to unify transportation planning – not just at the public service level, but also at Council, “where most of the real indecision and confusion lies.” Soknacki would reorganize Council committees to create a unified transportation committee. For “legal and sentimental” reasons, councillors on the committee would still meet as the Toronto Transit Commission when conducting TTC business. Soknacki would also hire a Chief Transportation Officer, a variation on Stintz’s vague plan for a “so-called transportation ‘czar.’”
  • Accessibility Improvements. Soknacki offered full support to fund backlogged access improvements to TTC stations, using debt if necessary. “Yes, the province downloaded these costs onto the TTC, but their failure to do the right thing shouldn’t stop us from doing the right thing ourselves. Our transit system must be accessible, with or without provincial funding.”
  • Rights-of-Way. Finally, Soknacki proposed a long-range review of all existing rights-of-way to identify best uses for each, be they cycle routes, greenways or potential bus rapid transit routes.

Soknacki’s third paper – Transportation Choice – will speak to issues facing the majority of Toronto commuters who do not use public transit.

SOKNACKI TO POLICE BOARD: HOLD YOUR HORSES

Toronto Mayoral candidate David Soknacki urged caution on the Chair of the Toronto Police Services Board today, arguing that it was “premature” for the Board to begin a selection process for a new Chief of Police only eighty-eight days before a citywide general election.

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“The Board has full jurisdiction over the selection of a Chief, and Chair Alok Mukherjee has full jurisdiction to lead the selection process,” Soknacki said, “but that doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to exercise that authority without sensitivity to the situation at City Hall,” he said.

Soknacki raised three points to explain the need for the Board to hold off until November:

  • Political figures who are briefed on aspects of the process – like, for example, Mayor Rob Ford – could use their influence to “turn every step in the selection process into a circus for political advantage,” he said.
  • Soknacki noted almost half (3 of 7) of the Board’s active membership is made up of sitting councillors, two of whom are running for re-election. “I can’t imagine a productive hiring process where almost half of your Board’s leadership could turn over in less than three months.”
  • While Soknacki is the only major candidate to have called for police budget and operations reforms, “the Board should allow for the possibility that the election debate could still influence the criteria they set for hiring a new Chief.” For example, if winning candidates supported policy changes to limit growth of the police budget, a chief with operational reform experience could be more appropriate than candidates with other skills or strengths.

Soknacki noted that the Chair of the Guelph Police Services Board explicitly cited the ongoing election as a factor in their decision to go slowly on replacing Chief Bryan Larkin, who announced he was leaving Guelph just days ago. “If that logic applies in a smaller city with less political controversy, it’s certainly prudent for Rob Ford’s Toronto in 2014.”

Soknacki also reaffirmed his statement yesterday that regardless of any controversies or differences of opinion, he was thankful for outgoing Chief Bill Blair’s many years of tireless public service.

For more information, please call Senior Communications Advisor Jonathan Scott* at 647-998-8461 or contact him by email at jono.dw.scott@gmail.com.
*Soknacki 2014 spokesperson Supriya Dwivedi is absent today.

Soknacki: I Will Sit On Police Board

(TORONTO) Today, former Council budget chief and mayoral candidate David Soknacki announced that if elected, he would personally lead the process to annually save $65m or more from the City’s police budget of just under $1b. Over four years, over $200m would be freed up for reinvestment in transit, infrastructure repairs and other services.

“I will sit on the Police Board,” Soknacki said. “If we can fix the overheated police budget, we can afford to invest in other priority services again.”

Soknacki pointed to the controversy over Toronto’s wasteful shift model as the first specific policy from his savings plan. “There’s only 24 hours in a day, but we pay for 28 hours of policing through our shift structure,” he said. “Changing that one policy should save $25m or more toward my $65m annual savings target.”

The growing police budget has become an urgent challenge at City Hall, Soknacki’s campaign released charts and graphics yesterday to highlight four specific facts:

  • Seventy cents of every new tax dollar raised in the last five years has gone to the Toronto Police Service budget.
  • The Police Service’s net budget has increased 2.3 times faster than the cost-of-living in the last decade.
  • If police budget growth had simply been held to inflation in the last decade, Toronto would have $180m more budget room this year alone, and $1.4b would have been saved for other priorities over that decade.

“For too long, too many of us have behaved as if rising police budgets are untouchable or unfixable, even though crime rates are falling in most cities,” Soknacki said. “The result: average increases in the police budget of almost $30m while other services struggle for lack of long-term investment.”

The former 3-term Scarborough councillor will release further details of his plan over the next two weeks. He also argued that changes to police policy could actually improve public safety by modernizing the service in advance of a promised strategic review.

“The advice I’ve heard is that tested reforms and proactive bargaining can deliver savings without reducing the frontline police complement by a single officer,” he said.

For more information, please contact Supriya Dwivedi at media@soknacki2014.com or (416) 520-8078.

TTC Already Implementing Soknacki’s Ideas

It’s not enough that David Soknacki’s opponents are borrowing from his solution-rich platform without credit. This morning, the Toronto Transit Commission revealed that it is moving ahead on streetcar-wide proof-of-payment (POP) boarding to improve boarding times – without crediting the only recent source of this pro-rider, pro-driver solution.

Today, a news story detailed TTC CEO Andy Byford’s new plan to allow streetcar-wide rear door boarding of streetcars, paired with increased enforcement to ensure rear-door boarders have proof of payment. Mr. Byford’s plan comes as a recent TTC study confirmed what David Soknacki already knew: boarding times were a major headache for streetcars on congested streetcar lines.

Exactly three weeks earlier, on July 18, Soknacki released his “Real Transit, Immediate Relief” policy paper – found here. The paper was read by over 6,000 readers online over the weekend after its release.” In it, Soknacki committed to broaden proof-of-payment, rear door boarding for streetcars and buses, arguing that

“[O]ther transit systems – like York Region VIVA, OC Transpo and Minneapolis Metro Transit, to name a few – allow passengers to board at the rear of most vehicles to fill as much of every bus or streetcar as possible, as quickly as possible…. [other] cities take the view that efficiency for the whole system outweighs the risk of lost revenue from a small few who cheat the system.”

Soknacki’s plan committed to test system-wide rear-door boarding once elected, beef up ticket enforcement, and then implement it system-wide. The former budget chief made the promise after Soknacki and volunteers spent two months distributing a leaflet proposing “system-wide proof-of-payment boarding” to streetcar riders across Toronto to hear riders’ views on the issue.

For decades, the TTC had resisted broader rear-door boarding because of what one Soknacki transit advisor called “an institutional fear of lost revenue.” That fear held – until the TTC management’s sudden change of heart announced today.

“It matters that my campaign is the source of ideas for so many other candidates, and that it’s now ahead of the curve for solutions for existing City agencies – because there will be new problems in the next four years that will need another right solution, too,” Soknacki said.

“Toronto can choose leadership that respects the value of a well-researched, innovative idea to solve a problem, or voters can once again put their faith in celebrity candidates who don’t care for the duller details of good government,” he said. “I can’t deliver more of the right ideas to Toronto after Election Day unless I actually get your vote on Election Day itself.”

No Cell Service in Subways? Blame Canada’s Wireless “Big Three”

Soknacki: If Elected Mayor, Would File Competition Complaint, Other Sanctions to Deliver Existing City Bid for Service

(TORONTO) Toronto’s TTC riders could have full cell phone access in subway stations and tunnels – but mayoral candidate David Soknacki says “the City of Toronto must stand up for our right to pick a winning bidder” for that to happen.

After a competitive bid, in December 2012, Toronto awarded a tender to bring full cell phone and data service (not just WiFi) to transit riders in underground stations and transit corridors.

It’s a service other global cities – like Hong Kong, Vienna, Budapest, and San Francisco – already offer to build ridership and improve safety. To deliver the service, one firm builds the necessary infrastructure, while other firms allow wireless access for subscribers through that conduit.

But over eighteen months later, there has been little progress on the file in Toronto. It’s not through any fault of the winning bidder, BAI Canada. The lack of progress is because Canada’s major wireless carriers refuse to play ball to allow for subscriber access, perhaps hoping to secure contract rights for themselves. In Montreal, Canada’s largest wireless firms waited out winner of a bid to provide similar services until that deal collapsed; those firms (Rogers, Bell and Telus) then stepped in to offer the same service as a consortium alongside Videotron.

“By denying service to a common carrier that won a competitive bid, Canada’s protected, coddled wireless firms are leaving their own customers and our transit riders in the lurch,” Soknacki said, noting that a Big Three subsidiary participated in the competition to serve as the common carrier, and lost. “Further action is certainly fair to defend Toronto’s interests, and consumer interests,” Soknacki said.

Soknacki committed that if elected Mayor, he would:

  • File a complaint with the Competition Bureau of Canada, seeking an investigation of wireless firm policy in this field in both Toronto and retroactively in Montreal;
  • Ask Council to extend the deadline for BAI’s contract to eliminate any chance that competitors could simply wait out the contract terms to their advantage, and;
  • Penalize any wireless firms that chose not to work with Toronto’s chosen common carrier in any future competition for service contracts with the City of Toronto.