John Tory was elected as the new mayor of Toronto almost a month ago. Because of his victory, Tory’s ‘SmartTrack’ plan to build a new Regional Express Rail (RER) surface subway line is a go. Mayoral candidate, Ari Goldkind, shared his thoughts on the plan. While he supports SmartTrack and knows Tory has the experience to put it together, Goldkind has concerns of the plan’s costs and routing and says his transit plan, ‘More Than a Map’ is better for the city.
Goldkind, 40, is a defense attorney. He was part of a high-profile case earlier this year where he defended Gordon Stuckless, a convicted sex offender. According to The Toronto Star, Stuckless pled guilty in April for 100 sex-related charges.
Afterwards Goldkind ran for mayor and came fourth in the overall mayoral election. According to the City of Toronto, Goldkind received 3,912 votes. During the election though, Goldkind says many ideas about transit were presented for the city, but all consisted of the same concerns.
“Over the course of the election we heard a number of people talking about their vision for transit in this city,” says Goldkind. “Of greatest concern, of course, is cost, but that must be paired with practicality. Subways, for example, are efficient in moving large numbers of people, but are limited by their route. They also take a very long time to build.”
In SmartTrack’s case, Goldkind says the same concerns apply. “I remain concerned about the cost of the SmartTrack program, mainly because Mr. Tory was never very clear about costs when asked to explain,” says Goldkind. “I am also concerned about certain parts of its routing. It leaves pockets of the city that are desperate for good transit without good transit; that can create problems for everyone.”
Everyone includes the people of Toronto, who, Goldkind says, will be inevitably affected when construction of the RER commences.
“Financially, I expect Torontonians will feel some pain as they absorb the cost of the plan. Whether it comes from city taxes, provincial taxes or federal taxes, ultimately the money comes from you and me,” says Goldkind.
The RER is planned to travel from the Airport Corporate Centre to Union Station and then to Markham, which Goldkind says will cause inconvenience for commuters.
“Construction of any sort of transit system requires road closures, detours and other interruptions,” says Goldkind. “There are no alternate corridors for the amount of people who travel through our city. This can be seen currently on Eglinton, as well as at Union Station where people and cars continue to use the space during construction.”
More Than a Map was Goldkind’s transit vision he promoted through out the election. Goldkind’s website has a detailed description of the plan which proposed to transform Toronto transit over the next 15 years.
“It was based on expert research and planning that was originally done for Mayor Miller’s Transit City project, and focused a great deal on achievable costs and timelines,” says Goldkind.
The idea was to make 12 new rapid transit lines spanning from Scarborough, North York to Etobicoke. “It was far more comprehensive in terms of linking existing and new transit systems, as well as covering the entire city,” says Goldkind.
Ultimately, the total investment would have been $56.65 billion but it would have expected to improve the city’s subway, LRT, and streetcar network by 50 percent. However, Goldkind says he supports Tory and has faith in his personal ability to see the SmartTrack through and keep the costs manageable.
“When all is said and done, Toronto badly needs a transit overhaul,” says Goldkind. “Mr. Tory’s plan seems to offer a good solution for what I would call the first of a few big steps that this city needs to take.”