I’m going to take a break from the deluge of fungi photos and turn to the news and municipal politics for a moment. Yesterday Toronto mayoral hopeful Rocco Rossi made an announcement that I just have to talk about. Rossi has proposed an tunnel extension of Allen Rd. to the downtown core.
Torontonians know there is a lot of history involved here, going back to the 1960s. In the end, the expressway was never completed. The Ontario Premier at the time, Bill Davis, stopped it. It became the Allen Rd, and it stopped abruptly at Eglinton in such as way as to ensure daily traffic snarls.
The stopping of the expressway represented a significant change of thinking for Toronto. The expressway represented a city made for cars. No expressway represented a city for people. It could be argued that this change in thinking was the genesis of ideas like a network of bike lanes through the city, dedicated transit lanes, and the narrowing of roads.
Rocco Rossi is trying to capitalize on a backlash to a so-called war on cars in Toronto by presenting a grand scheme for a new way to move traffic. Rossi hasn’t been polling well, and perhaps this proposal is a desperate attempt to change that. The tunnel proposal follows on the heels of Rossi’s proposal to introduce recall to Toronto municipal politics.
The good thing about what Rossi is doing is that he is starting to articulate a vision for the city, in a mayoralty race in which this writer doesn’t see a lot of vision at all. I appreciate the idea of introducing a grand scheme the city can rally around. The problem is that building a tunnel for cars from Eglinton to downtown is full of problems. A project like this will cause construction chaos that will make the mess that is the St. Clair transit right-of-way seem smooth. The cost will be astronomical, staggering.
I would like to see some ideas for improving the way the Allen Rd ends, to ease the current chaos, but to suggest that the solution to that problem is to blow a tunnel to downtown is hard to swallow. Sometimes problems need modest solutions. St. Clair had a pretty good street car run with some rush-hour bunching of cars. We ought to have looked for modest solutions at some key intersections instead of blowing up the entire street. I think the same is true here. It’s worthwhile tackling the problem which is the end of the Allen, but let’s focus on the problem.
I think this city needs to grapple with the challenge of making fast solid improvements to our transit network. I don’t think this is the time to think about new ways to funnel cars into the downtown. That doesn’t mean we need to go out of our way to make traffic worse. Some of the decisions of the Miller administration, such as the narrowing of Lansdowne Ave and bike lanes down the middle of Jarvis St are wrong-headed. We need to think about the problem a little differently. Instead of thinking about how to make barriers for cars, we need to think about how to optimize transit and the movement of cars.
Rocco Rossi has recognized that he is in the midst of an election in which there isn’t a lot of vision, and he’s trying to fill that void. I heard Mr. Pantalone the other night on a debate saying we don’t need a new plan for transit, we just need to carry out the one we have. That’s not going to make him mayor. Mr. Ford is a broken record, gravy train, gravy train, gravy train. He’s latched onto the anger folks have around the sense of entitlement many of our councillors have exhibited. Polls suggest that may be enough to win him the election, but I can’t even imagine Ford as being anything like a suitable candidate for mayor. Smitherman has positioned himself as the guy in the centre and the alternative to Ford. Does he have a vision for the City? In the debate the other night, I heard he was going to freeze taxes and freeze spending. What about Sarah Thompson? Can she win this thing? I don’t think it’s going to happen.
If the election were tomorrow, I don’t know which of these characters I might vote for. Maybe it’s time to take a closer look at the fringe candidates. Is the muffin guy running this time around?
- Rossi promises tunnel to link Allen Expressway to downtown (thestar.com)
- Rossi pledges to tunnel Allen under downtown if elected (theglobeandmail.com)
- Rossi has tunnel vision for Toronto (cbc.ca)
- Reality check: Rocco Rossi’s Toronto tunnel (theglobeandmail.com)
- Anger Rob Ford has tapped runs deep (theglobeandmail.com)