Politics Toronto

Gardiner East update: a close vote, but one Tory is likely to win (updated)

East Gardiner Vote - June 8
Projected Gardiner East council vote as of Monday, June 8.

(Updated 5:00 PM, June 8)

With Councillors Jon Burnside and Raymond Cho coming out in support of the “Hybrid” option for the Gardiner East, and Councillor John Filion supporting the Removal/Boulevard option, here’s the latest map. Only seven councillors are considered “unknown” in their intentions for this week’s vote; John Tory and pro-expressway advocates only need two more councillors on their side to win a razor thin 23-22 vote. The new map, based on Matt Elliott’s tally (PDF here), is above. Councillor Jim Karygiannis withdrew his support for the “Hybrid” and is asking constituents for their feedback on Twitter.

As Council is divided mostly on suburban-urban lines, It’s worth noting that most Toronto commuters headed downtown take transit; even in the outer areas where transit access is lacking, and travel times long. In every ward completely north of Highway 401, more than 70 percent of weekday AM peak trips to Downtown Toronto are made by public transit – either TTC buses and subways or by GO train. In 39 of 44 wards, a majority of commuters take transit.

In only seven wards do auto commuters have more than 40 percent of the mode share. Only one ward, Ward 32, which includes the affluent Beach(es) neighbourhood, do auto commuters outnumber transit riders in the AM Peak. Good road access, high auto ownership rates and lousy TTC surface routes (the notoriously slow, short-turning 501 Queen Car) are the likely explanations for this anomaly. Downtown, in Wards 20, 27, and 28, at least half the commuters to downtown jobs, schools or institutions take “other” means of transportation; mostly walking or cycling.

Ironically, those councillors most in favour of rebuilding the Gardiner Expressway represent constituents who aren’t using the Gardiner Expressway – or any other road – to get downtown.

I created these two maps with data from the table created by Laurence Lui (Google Drive PDF here). He obtained and disseminated survey data from the 2011 Transportation Tomorrow Survey,  a comprehensive travel survey conducted every five years in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

Downtown AM Peak Mode Share - Transit

Downtown AM Peak Mode Share - Auto

(Previously updated 2:45 PM, June 4)

GEast v3
Projected Gardiner East council vote as of Thursday, June 4.

Next week, Toronto City Council will decide the fate of the Gardiner Expressway between Jarvis Street and the Don Valley Parkway; the decision before council is, simply, whether to demolish the eastern section of the elevated freeway and replace it with an 8-lane urban boulevard similar to University Avenue, or spend additional funds to modify/replace the existing structure, in what is being disingenuously being called the “hybrid” option. This “hybrid” option is what Mayor John Tory is vocally backing.

Yesterday, Matt Elliott, journalist at Metro Toronto, updated his council vote projection on the Gardiner East debate. He found that council is so far 19-15 in favour of the “hybrid” plan to maintain/modify the Gardiner East east of Jarvis Street, with 11 councillors yet undecided, or whom their intentions were unknown. The map above illustrates Elliott’s projections, but with one important update, which I mention below. Most inner city councillors, along with suburban representatives Paul Ainslie, Maria Augimeri, and Shelley Carroll, support the boulevard option; most suburban councillors support the “hybrid” option or are among the undecideds.

The Toronto Star conducted a similar survey yesterday, the results can be found here, and differs somewhat from Elliott’s list. (I chose Elliot’s list to map.) The Star noted that Ward 2 Councillor, Rob Ford, is supporting not the “hybrid” option, but the status quo. Simply repairing the existing structure would be cheapest option in the short-term, but it would make development of waterfront properties, particularly the massive Unilever lands owned by First Gulf, much more difficult. For all intents and purposes, the debate is between the “hybrid” option backed by the mayor and the boulevard option backed by city staff and many prominent Torontonians.

The Star reports that Tory’s political staffers are lobbying undecided councillors this week ahead of next week’s vote, described as the first major test of Tory’s six-month old mayoralty.

Last night, Josh Matlow, centrist councillor for Ward 22, declared his position on his website that’s worth a read. He originally leaned towards the “hybrid” option at the beginning of this term, believing that “removing an existing piece of infrastructure… felt wrong” [italics his]. He also mentioned that he liked the convenience of the continuous connection between the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway, and enjoys the views of the city driving along that section.

But after reading staff reports, having the facts in front of him, Matlow’s position changed. Traffic counts, cost and urban planning considerations, and learning about the facts about the replacement boulevard made him change his mind. In Matlow’s case, feelings and personal convenience were trumped by facts. Refreshing.

There are now ten nine councillors who are undecided or whose intentions are unknown: John Campbell, Anthony Perruzza, John Filion, Jaye Robinson, Jon Burnside, Michael Thompson, Glenn De Baeremaker, Chin Lee, Raymond Cho, and Ron Moeser. Mayor Tory only needs five four of their votes next week for his preferred “hybrid” option to move forward. This afternoon, Jaye Robinson, one of Tory’s closest allies, declared her support for the “hybrid” option.

Sadly, I believe that unless the facts prevail, this is one vote that Tory will win. Most of the above mentioned councillors have been generally supportive of Tory’s agenda up to this point. But as the vote looms, I’ll hold out some hope that more councillors will follow Matlow’s example and make their own minds up with the facts in front of them.

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