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Stintz defends TTC against former manager's criticism

TTC chair Karen Stintz says the system has to expand to meet new transit objectives.

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

Karen Stintz, chair of the Toronto Transit Commission, says keeping the system in good repair is critical, but Toronto's growing transportation needs also require investment to modernize and expand.

Ms. Stintz, also a city councillor, was responding to blunt criticism levelled earlier this week against the TTC by former general manager David Gunn. His remarks, she said, "reflect where his belief system is," and do not take into account the more regional view of transit that has evolved at the TTC or the need to respond to demand and customers' calls for convenience.

Mr. Gunn's comments, made to The Globe and Mail, follow meetings in May with transit officials. Mr. Gunn, who led the TTC from 1995 to 1999 and held top posts at Amtrak and in several major U.S. cities, returned to Toronto at the TTC's invitation.

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"We agreed to disagree on some issues," said Ms. Stintz, recalling a lunchtime meeting she had with Mr. Gunn and TTC general manager Gary Webster.

Mr. Gunn was against an automated card payment system, a plan recently endorsed by transit commissioners, she recalled when asked for examples of how their thinking differed.

In other areas, Ms. Stintz challenged the facts and figures used by the former TTC boss. The planned light rail line on Eglinton Avenue will not cost more than a subway, she said, and his idea of replacing streetcars with articulated buses also would carry costs beyond his estimates.

As for his comments that the stations on the new Spadina line are too expensive, Ms. Stintz had this to say. "It will be on time and on budget after 25 years of planning. When it opens and the trains start running, if the only criticism is the stations are too beautiful, I am willing to live with that."

Bruce McCuaig, head of Metrolinx, the provincial transit agency for the Toronto region, also took issue with Mr. Gunn's claims, but said he has not seen his material or had a chance to discuss his findings with him.

"Mr. Gunn did not reach out to Metrolinx," he said, characterizing the veteran transit leader as "a frank man."

Mr. Gunn described as "nonsense" claims by Metrolinx that the new Eglinton light rail line will be cost-effective and called the agency's decision to use a different gauge from existing TTC lines "one of the dumbest decisions ever."

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Mr. McGuaig said Metrolinx chose a North American standard gauge with an eye to future expansion of the system outside the city. There was no need to be compatible with the TTC's legacy equipment, he said, because the systems would not be connected. "They are going to be separate systems anyway," he said. "We didn't see any value in having a common or interchangeable vehicle."

The TTC storage facilities also are at capacity, he pointed out, and new maintenance buildings were required either way, he added.

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