Fellow citizens and members of the press – thank you for being here. And thank you to the fox and fiddle for making room for us on this beautiful morning. I am Sarah Thomson and I am running for Mayor of Toronto.
I believe we live in a great city.
We have a diverse cultural framework that defines Toronto.
We have sports teams, theatres, major corporations, and a beautiful network of parks and ravines that run right into our downtown core.
Yet even with all this, we are falling behind other world-class cities.
Our politicians, lacking true leadership, blame the downloading of services from the province years ago, for all of Toronto’s shortcomings.
I am not a career politician, or a backroom political operator.
I believe it is time to turn Toronto into a strong and independent city.
It is time to take ownership and responsibility for our city, and to move Toronto forward.
I believe a great city depends on a complete subway system -- it is our key to a strong and dynamic future, but it has fallen prey to budgetary impotence and political trepidation.
To compete on the world stage we must inspire people to shake off their cynicism … to imagine a Toronto where the people are engaged in the process of government, to imagine a Toronto that leads innovation on the world stage, a Toronto where civic pride replaces apathy, where everyone can travel quickly and easily around the city, and where gridlock becomes a thing of the past.
Think of the great city builders of our past like Mayor Robert Saunders who championed our first subway line on Yonge Street.
Or Jane Jacobs who said “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”
The people of Toronto want a reliable and expanded subway system. But our Municipal Government isn’t listening.
Instead they are backing a cheaper alternative – the LRT or streetcar system.
Streetcars add to road congestion, they are outside and exposed to the elements – especially winter elements – and who today truly wants to wait outside in our freezing cold Toronto winters?
Not to mention that even the most elegant streetcar system does little to beautify neighbourhoods.
Surface transit, simply put, cannot match a subway system for capacity or speed.
Subways move more people per hour and are unencumbered by outside surface traffic.
LRT and streetcar networks have a short shelf life when compared to subways.
While surface networks appear cheaper to build, they only have a 30 year life span and must be completely rebuilt three times in order to match the 90 year life of a subway system.
I am proposing to complete Toronto’s subway system.
The subway system is the key to solving our growing problems with gridlock and traffic management.
A true city-wide subway system will provide those who work and live in Toronto with an environmentally-friendly alternative to their cars.
A completed subway system will relieve the demands from our already overburdened surface routes.
A true city-wide subway system will enhance Toronto’s appeal and encourage business to invest in our city.
A complete subway system will open up neighbourhoods in need of economic development and greater access to public transit.
It will allow riders from every area to conveniently travel to all of the city’s cultural festivals, our airport and artistic hotspots around the city.
This is a significant commitment. It will require significant funding
But to move Toronto forward we must first get our own house in order. As Mayor, my top priority will be to bring fiscal order and responsibility to city government.
I’m talking about true fiscal responsibility, not the so-called responsibility where the Mayor seems to find a hundred million dollars in an old suit one day.
Infrastructure funding for expanding our subway system can’t all come from the provincial, federal, or even the municipal governments.
We must, as a city and as citizens, decide that we want to move Toronto forward, that we want a city-wide subway system reaching out to the airport in the west, through Scarborough to the east, and up to Steeles and York University in the north.
Working with early TTC maps and density plans, I have estimated the needed expansion to be approximately 58 kilometres of subway system with some above ground and some underground.
In addition to redirecting funds currently allocated for LRT construction, I will work with Metrolinx and the provincial government to increase their participation in Toronto’s transit development.
There are many ways to build and finance a city-wide subway system.
But I do not believe that running cap in hand to other levels of government, and giving away ownership and autonomy is the best option for Toronto.
We must find a way to become the city that can once again stand strong on our own.
My first subway construction priority will be to transform the proposed above-ground Eglinton cross-town line from a partial surface route to a proper subway line.
This will relieve the pressure from the surface of Eglinton Avenue, making travel safer for pedestrians, cars, and cyclists.
I am calling on Mayor Miller and City Council to suspend construction on the Eglinton LRT line pending the outcome of the current election.
To start construction on the proposed LRT system would be irresponsible and costly to undo.
Construction cost estimates, based on forming a public-private-partnership to help finance, build and maintain a subway line are approximately $200 million per kilometre and to build 33 km of the Eglinton cross-town as a subway it would come in at $6.6 billion.
The province has committed $4.6 billion towards the Eglinton project, leaving $2 billion of financing that we will need to finish the project.
After speaking with people from both government and private sector, I believe that comprehensive financing, design, construction and maintenance arrangements will reduce the overall costs of the subway system to the taxpayers.
Companies like SNC Lavalin, Skanska, and McNally International build subway systems across the planet.
They have the tools, expertise, innovation, and experience needed to do the work at a competitive cost.
I will move to secure finance partners interested in revenue sharing or long-term lease arrangements.
I also propose that we place a usage toll on our two city highways.
From Monday to Friday, during peak hours, a reasonable fee will be charged to vehicles that use our overcrowded highways.
For example, we could generate between $400 million and $500 million per year on the Gardiner and Don Valley Parkway with a $5 toll, based on 2006 traffic counts.
I want to make my promise for the road tolls absolutely clear.
Once the tolls have paid for their own infrastructure and ongoing maintenance, one hundred percent of the funds will be devoted to our subway construction and expansion priorities.
The tolls will not go into the general coffers of the city to be spent at the leisure of Council.
As part of the toll implementation, I would establish an automatic sunset clause to their authority.
This limit would cease toll collection once the subway expansion is complete.
Road tolls provide more than a financial benefit. They would make some of our drivers reconsider using their cars every day in favour of using public transit.
The first step in reducing congestion and increasing public transit use is to change people’s habits.
For everything there is a cost, but I believe that Toronto’s future rests on building a city wide subway system.
The population of Toronto is expected to increase from 2.4 million to well over three-and-a-quarter million within the next decade and the success of our economy to carry this expanded population will depend heavily on the systems we put in place today.
I believe the economic vitality of Toronto is directly connected to the efficiency and effectiveness of our transit system.
The expansion of our subway network is an essential long-term strategy to economic growth.
As Mayor, I will bring long-term thinking, fiscal order and responsibility to our city government. I will open the city to innovation, and complete Toronto’s subway system. These will be my first steps in restoring Toronto to its position as one of the greatest cities in the world.
Great cities build great subways and great subways build great cities.
I believe the people of Toronto need to be heard.
The people of Toronto want a subway system and I plan to deliver it to them.
Sarah Thomson, Mayoral Candidate – City of Toronto, 2010 Election