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Streetcar driver 'accosted' me, Ford says of run-in with TTC

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford talks to reporters on May 3, 2012.

Fernando Morales/Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail

Toronto's mayor is denying allegations that he drove past the open front doors of a streetcar last week, saying the driver of the transit vehicle "accosted" him after he stopped behind the front doors.

"I didn't drive by the streetcar doors," Rob Ford said. "I went past the back door, the front doors were open … the driver came out and accosted me."

Mr. Ford made the comments to a handful of reporters during an impromptu scrum Tuesday, less than a week after his alleged run-in with the streetcar operator.

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Ontario's Highway Traffic Act says vehicles must stop two metres behind any open door on a streetcar.

Bob Kinnear, the head of the union representing Toronto Transit Commission workers, said the incident took place last Wednesday on Dundas Street near McCaul.

He said Tuesday that, to his knowledge, the mayor's version of events is accurate. But Mr. Kinnear added that the mayor's actions still jeopardized riders' safety because whenever the front doors of a streetcar are open, the back doors are "active," meaning a passenger could step out of the closed doors at any moment.

"It makes no sense to say it's okay to go past the rear doors, even though they can be activated at any time. I don't think anybody would argue that that's a danger to our passengers," Mr. Kinnear said in an interview.

The mayor complained directly to TTC CEO Andy Byford about the behaviour of the driver, who was reminded he is not allowed to leave his seat to speak to motorists. He wasn't disciplined.

The mayor, who wasn't sure the driver recognized him, said he couldn't recall the driver's exact words.

"He [the streetcar driver] says: 'Get behind the bus.' I don't have to get behind the bus, the back door's closed," Mr. Ford said, mistakenly referring to the streetcar as a bus.

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"Now if I'm wrong, if you have to stay behind the bus when the back doors are shut and the front doors are open, I never knew that."

Mr. Ford said he asked Mr. Byford to clarify the rules and his understanding was that when the back door is shut you are allowed to move up.

The mayor also said he wasn't surprised at the province's decision last week to confirm plans to replace the Scarborough RT with light-rail, jeopardizing a key element of TTC Chair Karen Stintz's OneCity transit proposal.

Unveiled last week, the OneCity pitch asks Torontonians to accept a property-tax increase to pay for 170 kilometres of new public-transit lines, the first of which was supposed to be a subway to replace the RT.

Ms. Stintz and Glenn De Baeremaeker, vice-chair of the TTC, are asking council to approve a study of the plan this month that would come back to council in October.

Mr. Ford said the city has changed its mind on transit priorities too many times recently to expect co-operation from Queen's Park.

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"You had David Miller's plan, then you had obviously my plan that came through and then you had council that revised or dismissed my plan and made up their own plan on the fly, then they came out with a fourth plan," the mayor said.

"If you're the province, you're going to say enough's enough. I think that's what they said. Next month, they're going to come out with another plan? I don't blame the province for doing what they did."

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