Toronto’s transit future: avoiding the Team Ford Disaster | #TOpoli

Next Wednesday, city council will meet to debate the shape public transit will take for the next several decades.
We’ve seen a fair amount of sound and fury regarding the subway / LRT debate. We’ve seen a public servant fired for nothing but spite. We’ve seen public meetings where the facts and evidence have been presented, and we’ve seen public meetings whipped up to lynch-mob levels of anger. We’ve seen lobbying, misinformation, astroturfing and truly mind-boggling levels of bullshit. We’ve listened as the mayor and his brother have taken to the airwaves to push their version of things unchecked by any opposing viewpoints. 
But this isn’t just about subways versus LRT, and it’s not about downtowners versus suburban residents. It’s not about pampered elitists versus second-class citizens. What it comes down to, in essence, is: do you trust Team Ford to get things right on anything, never mind the most important and expensive file in the entire municipal-governance arena? This is going to have financial and infrastructural implications that reverberate for decades. As John Lorinc put it last November, this could be 

the single most expensive infrastructure mistake in Toronto history.

We’ve seen the reports. We’ve heard the evidence. We’ve talked about the recommendations. I’m not going to go through them all here. The state of the debate is neatly summed up, though, by one of the panelists appointed to report on transit options for Sheppard East. Not surprisingly, the panel favours LRT over subways for a variety of reasons: ridership, population growth, density, employment projections, and so on. You know, the kind of things I like to refer to on Twitter as #FactyEvidencyTransitStuff.
And what’s Rob Ford’s reaction? He calls the report “hogwash” and says the panelists are “biased.” I’m sorry, I need to shake my head for a minute. And then borrow a comparison from his brother: how is it that we trust this guy with anything more complicated than a kids’ lemonade stand
As the University of Toronto’s Eric Miller told the Globe:

The mayor has taken a position that he genuinely believes in, but it’s not fact-based. … Anybody is entitled to their own beliefs. They’re not entitled to their own facts.

It’s not exactly a revelation that some of the subway fetishists have a somewhat, um, elastic relationship to the truth. My favourite example is the continued flogging of the “St. Clair Disaster” meme. Much as I hate to reduce things to sound bites and lapel-button slogans, perhaps it’s time to coin a counter-meme: let’s avoid the Team Ford Disaster.
I guess the more fundamental question here is, how do you reach people for whom facts, evidence and logic aren’t part of the discussion? I don’t have an answer for that. Over to you, intertoobz.
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