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Coun. Ford brings streetcar vs. bus debate back to city council

A pedestrian walking in front of a streetcar in downtown Toronto on Aug. 3, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS. Darren Calabrese.

The Ford family’s battle against streetcars has returned to city hall.

On Thursday, a motion put forth by Coun. Michael Ford to the public works committee asked for a study of the “efficacy of streetcar service versus bus service on Queen.”

“I think it is a study that is worthwhile having,” Coun. Ford said. “What I’m asking is that they just hold off the implementation of the streetcar for two weeks, have an apples to apples study.”

Currently, buses are running along Queen Street for the summer due to multiple construction projects.

The study would look at cost, reliability and traffic volumes of both transit vehicles.

“It’s going to say that one’s better than the other. I have my suspicion, but I want to see a factual report come back to council and look at the benefits of both,” Ford said.

The motion passed by a vote of three to two and will be brought to city council in July.

The TTC says it’s already their practice to look at the efficiency of buses on the route.

“We already look at and measure routes and Queen is no different. We are looking at bus performance on Queen today … so we’re already doing that work,” spokesperson Brad Ross explained.

Ross said one thing they know for sure is that running buses on Queen instead of streetcars comes at a substantial cost.

“What we know is that we need to run more buses than streetcars because the capacity that streetcars carry, buses can’t match,” he explained.

“We also spend an additional $1 million a month to run buses on the route because we need to have more buses, which means we need more operators, which means we need more fuel, so there are costs associated with that.”

The TTC has spent over a billion dollars on new streetcars through its deal with Bombardier. The new streetcars already run on a few high-traffic streets including King and Spadina.

The current plan is to have them eventually replace the current streetcars on Queen.

“This city has invested a billion and a half dollars in streetcars and facilities and infrastructure. They give us greater capacity, there’s less congestion on a street like Queen … and it’s just a more comfortable, conducive ride for that route,” Ross said.

But Coun. Ford said it’s about looking to the future and what’s best for the people of Toronto.

“If we want to be building a 21st Century city and a world-class city, we need to be looking at the best modes of transportation,” he said.

Ford’s uncle, the late Rob Ford, battled against streetcars for years – both during his time as city councillor and as mayor. In 2014, Ford said he wanted to phase out streetcars completely, claiming they were the cause of congestion in the city.

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