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.
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.