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Ford softens tone on streetcars, but opposes all-door boarding

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford during council meeting at Toronto city hall on July 10 2014.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has shifted his position on the city's transit options, calling the streetcars he once disdained "pretty efficient" and announcing plans to fund improving the existing system should he be re-elected.

"I'm not a fan of streetcars but when there's a lot of people it moves relatively quick," Mayor Ford said.

In the past, the mayor has decried the city's streetcars saying he "hates" them and calling them "a pain in the rear end." But at his re-election campaign headquarters in Etobicoke on Tuesday, Mayor Ford softened his tone as he laid out more of his platform.

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"As you all know, I believe that subways offer a more efficient way of moving people around," Mayor Ford said.

"But, folks, the facts are the facts. The streetcars are the service we currently offer and I want to make the most of every city service."

The Mayor referred to a list of recommendations from TTC staff that the transit agency's board will be voting on Tuesday that would include changes such as all-door boarding on streetcars and buses, but would also come with a multimillion-dollar per year price tag.

The mayor said he did not support all of the recommendations, but felt some of the ideas would "dramatically, dramatically improve transit" as the city awaits long-term transit projects such as the Scarborough subway and the downtown relief line.

The mayor was in favour of recommendations to establish a network of 10-minute or less wait times on certain bus and streetcar routes and expanding express bus routes. He did not support the plan to allow all-door boarding or to introduce a time-based fare system that would allow riders to travel in any direction on one fare within a two-hour time limit, saying riders would abuse the system.

"How do you define two hours?" Mayor Ford asked.

"A lot of people in this city, 90 per cent I would say, are honest people that will pay their fare. Unfortunately, that 10 per cent do not and that 10 per cent is costing us millions."

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The Mayor pledged to fund the plans he approved of by sussing out savings in the city's existing budget and allocating $30-million towards improving the TTC. According to the staff report, in order to implement all of the changes the TTC would need an extra $19-million in its 2015 operating budget and an increase each year up to $69-million annually by 2018. The report also indicated the TTC would need a $288-million boost to its capital budget, spread across five years.

After outlining his plans for the service recommendations, Mayor Ford was asked about a request made Monday from the city's licensing and standards committee to look into what to do about Toronto's raccoon population. The Mayor said he had "run-in" with a raccoon at his house just the night before.

"There are standoffs. Sometimes they sit in front of my door and they've got the back door covered and the car door and they've got the bins covered. They usually don't travel by themselves. There's usually four or five. We have an issue with them," the mayor said. However, he said he would not be in favour of a city-wide cull of the creatures.

"No. I'm sorry. I can't go out and — how are you going to? No. We have to think of something, a different way."

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