Monday, July 12, 2010

What the heck is Sam Katz doing?

Ever wonder why our illustrious mayor is suddenly big on light rail transit? Don't forget, one of the first things he did on assuming office was to cancel his predecessor's rapid transit plans, and then he grudgingly went ahead with BRT. Now, with BRT half-built, he wants to change gears again and move towards light rail. It seems the Free Press is confused by this too:

If city council endorses Mayor Sam Katz's bizarre insistence that it's light rail or nothing for Winnipeg, there will still be time and opportunity for everyone to come to their senses and reverse course. Unfortunately, however, there is no evidence the mayor and his inner circle are interested in listening to reason. It's damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead -- to where, nobody knows.

The mayor is hanging his hat on a consultant's report that claims light rail is not nearly as expensive as previously thought, and that it offers additional benefits in terms of the environment, community development and mobility. He also has faith the private sector will help finance the project, with aid from a special fund in Ottawa, but it's all just a hope and a prayer at this point.

If history teaches us anything, it's that cost projections for large projects in a faraway future are always wrong; but that's not really the point Mr. Katz and his crew are missing. The issue before council next week, when it votes on the mayor's program, is whether the city is needlessly and foolishly losing time and possibly money for a perfectly good plan for a southwest rapid transit corridor.
Source. Either Katz is a colossal idiot, or he's diabolically clever and is trying to sabotage rapid transit entirely so as to focus on stuff like this. I'll leave it to the reader to decide which.

For what it's worth, I'd love to see light rail transit here, but it seems a lot more realistic to build BRT first (especially since it's partially finished now) and use it as a stepping stone. It seems to be working well in similarly-sized Ottawa.

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