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The Globe and Mail

Ford's transit plan would cost city hundreds of millions of dollars: report

Toronto mayoral candidate Rob Ford arrives at a Mississauga banquet hall on Sept. 19, 2010.

Tim Fraser/tim fraser The Globe and Mail

It would cost hundreds of millions of dollars for the city to replace its streetcar fleet with buses, and the initial savings from not purchasing pricey light-rail vehicles would quickly be eaten up by the added costs of trying to transport more people by bus than train, according to the Toronto Transit Commission's figures.

The estimates fly in the face of mayoral candidate Rob Ford's plans to can Transit City's light rail and rip out the city's existing streetcar tracks in favour of subways and buses: His plan, released in September, pegs this initiative at a net cost of zero: And any net costs of ripping up track or replacing the fleet would be more than covered by savings from not buying new streetcars.

But the TTC estimates - requested by rival campaigns and later confirmed by The Globe - indicate that wouldn't pan out. As well, the city and the province, which is providing much of the funds for Transit City, have already committed to $1.65-billion in contracts. There are cancellation clauses in all of these, but it's not clear how much the city and province would be on the hook for if they backed out.

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"Rob Ford is continuing to play voters for fools," rival candidate George Smitherman said in a statement. "His transit plan means hundreds of millions in waste - it's exactly that kind of waste I'm going to end at City Hall. With Rob Ford's transit system, he'd be the Conductor of the Gravy Train.."

But Adrienne Batra, a spokeswoman for Mr. Ford's campaign, said the statistics don't adequately reflect the candidate's plans.

"In an attempt to show that Transit City is the only option for Toronto, they have made several simplified assumptions which are inconsistent with Rob Ford's transportation plan, thus we don't put much stock in their analysis."

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