Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Trans-Toronto Tunnel... WTF?

I can't help but think that one of my greatest qualifications for being a candidate for Mayor of Toronto, back when I was one, is that I very nearly failed Grade 10 math. To be specific, I had a mark of 36 at the midterm and managed to push that up to a 52 for the final report card. Considering some of the, bluntly, insane projects that the frontrunning candidates have been proposing recently in desperate bids to one-up each other and seize ever more newspaper real estate, what's been lost is that little niggling factor known as "reality" - the factor that separates the stellar dreams of science fiction from the stark reality of a world where Mars is still very far away.

I'd thought Rob Ford's proposal to relegate bicycle riders to ravines and hydro corridors, and streetcars to the scrapheap, was ridiculous enough. I didn't have long to wait before someone did him one better. Enter Rocco Rossi, a man who calls himself "visionary" in his own media releases, and his proposal to dig up the corpse of the Spadina Expressway, channel a few lightning bolts into its stitched-up husk, then put it underground again. This coming from the man who, back in May when Rob Ford's auto-erotic campaign was still off in the mists of times yet to come, said that Toronto's goal "has to be a transit system so good that when you wake up in the morning, you reach for your transit pass instead of your car keys."

What a difference a few months, and the rise of an absolutely suburban candidate, makes.

Yes, in a world where Toronto faces a woefully insufficient rapid transit network, a mounting budget crisis, and an unwillingness by politicians to look into the future for solutions rather than the 1950s, Rocco Rossi apparently thinks that one of the greatest problems facing Toronto today is that folks can't drive straight through on a highway from the 401 to the Gardiner. Sure, I know I'm a bit late on this - that's where the every-other-day schedule gets me - but this sort of thing needs to be said again and again.

Just imagine six lanes of traffic rolling through here!

Candidates are judged by many metrics. A key one is whether or not they're already known and popular, which may be one of the reasons that myself and the rest of the fringers never got very much attention in the mainstream media. Since they can't be judged on their actions, voters must instead evaluate them based on their claims and their character. So tell me this - when Rocco Rossi claims that an Allen Expressway tunnelled from Eglinton Avenue West to the Gardiner Expressway, seven kilometers as the crow flies, "will not disrupt a single neighbourhood, street or family home," what does that say about his character? That he thinks Torontonians don't think things through or are happy to swallow creaking fantasies so long as they're car-focused?

Tell me, would it really be an optimal use of Toronto's stretched funds to dig a tunnel that goes south from Eglinton to the Gardiner with absolutely no connections to arteries in between? Because that's what Rossi's implying with his claim of non-disruption. Recall that the Spadina Expressway study would have torn vast swaths out of neighborhoods simply for the off-ramps; does Rossi think his tunnel won't have to face anything similar? Has he never heard of the phenomenon of induced demand? New roads and highways won't solve traffic problems; it'll only encourage them!

Not even the notoriously autophilic Metro Council of the 1960s, the men who were shoving the Spadina Expressway down Toronto's throat regardless of its own opinions, didn't support a tunnelled construction for most of the alignment. Why's that? Perhaps because tunnelling is hideously expensive. If you want a great example, just look at Boston's Big Dig - a megaproject to bury Interstate 93 over 5.6 kilometers through downtown, a project for which planning started in the 1982 and was completed more than twenty years later, with a final cost including interest of $22-billion.

And yet Rossi is, as of this writing, not only plowing ahead full throttle on this magical mystery tunnel but criticizing fellow candidate George Smitherman for formerly supporting tunnels... the tunnel in question being a transit tunnel beneath downtown Ottawa. What kind of fucked-up parallel dimension do these candidates live in where a mode-separated tunnel exclusively for transit - you know, like SUBWAYS - is bad, but a goddamn underground highway that Rocco Rossi invented out of nothing because he's JUST THAT VISIONARY is good? The sheer amount of empty-headed equivocation in this is ridiculous! Protip for the Rossi campaign: this might possibly be a valid criticism if Smitherman has previously supported underground highways.

I mean, I made a consistent effort to not make policy announcements after I'd been drinking. This sounds like something I would have come up with after a few empty bottles of Jagermeister and a bunch of cans of Hurricane High Gravity Lager. Whatever I did come up with under those conditions certainly would have been visionary - depending, of course, on how you define that word.

If this goddamn carnival is the best Toronto can produce for non-fringe candidates, it just makes me even more glad I'm moving to Vancouver.

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