I keep encountering people who say they want subways. That taxpayers want subways. That Toronto deserves subways. That Toronto is a world-class city and needs subways, just like world-class cities like New York and London and Madrid and Moscow have subways. One of the biggest boosters of this want is hizzoner da mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, but the titan of December 2010 is now flailing like a windsock in a hurricane after Toronto City Council voted against his monomaniacally obsessive obsession with a completely underground $8.2 billion Eglinton light rail line, because he seems to be personally offended by the idea of public transit taking up his precious, precious road lanes. For Metro Vancouver, this would be comparable to the Evergreen Line being built underground (and, thus, to only a fraction of the length it'll actually go once it's done) because people in charge find the SkyTrain aesthetically displeasing.
Even after Council repudiated his plan, though, Ford wasn't beat. He did what he's always done and took his case straight to the people... that is, the people who happened to be riding the Scarborough RT at midnight, and afterward the 34 Eglinton East bus, trying to convince as many Scarboroughnians as he could of the rightness of his plan. Note, though, that he confined his midnight ride to the area that the spin machine has decided will be "hard done by" in this, even though Council's plan calls for an extension of the RT once it's converted to LRT - he didn't take his case to the riders of the 36 Finch West bus, which is probably all the best for him, because there he would have had to explain why they didn't deserve rapid transit.
Even so, Ford still has his boosters in council and comment threads, though to be honest I can't rightly apprehend the sort of world that some of them are evidently living in. "world class cities have subways, not LRTs which would freeze in winter and create an eye sore like scarborough has. look to the future," wrote avroe105, because cities like Calgary and Buffalo and Edmonton are well-known for their warm temperatures year-round.
Taxpayers want subways, Ford says. "taxpayers want subways. we don't want streetcars screwing up our roads. all the councillors who don't understand this and voted against our mayor should resign in disgrace. go get em rob - you know your right," says Last Real Canadian, ignoring that the honest debate was never about LRT versus subways - it was about LRT versus nothing. People may want subways, sure, but when that question is posed it usually seems to be posed in a vacuum; never honestly, never in consideration of how much things cost.
Given his midnight ride, I guess Ford is clinging to the notion of his subway because he thinks costs, like Council, is irrelevant. In that respect, Rob, as a member of the Torontonian diaspora, here's what I would want if I still hung my hat south of Steeles. LRT? Subway? No to both - I want a helicopter.
You heard me. I want a helicopter to land outside my apartment every day to fly me to work, and then once my shift is over to pick me up from downtown and fly me back home. Can you imagine how short my commute would be? As for costs... who cares? I want a helicopter! TAXPAYERS WANT HELICOPTERS!
I imagine the ordinary person on the street realistic enough to know that no one's getting a helicopter, but somehow that skepticism breaks down when it comes to subways. Perhaps it's because unlike helicopter commuting, subways in Toronto are already a familiar part of the urban fabric and have been done before; perhaps they only have a vague idea of what's being done regarding subways in the rest of the world. (Here's a hint: New York is the only city in North America that's building a new subway line right now, and Los Angeles is the only other one that has such a thing on the books - but LA is focusing more on its light rail network. Shock! Horror!)
Aside from a handful of outliers, if the question was posed honestly in terms of cost, people served, and so on, I have to wonder how many people would still prefer a subway, given the alternative. Much of the political storm now is being kicked up by the Ford loyalists - what sort of person would invest so much of their self-worth in being on the "winning team," politically, when that team is led by Rob Ford?