If you used the subway system on Thursday morning, you might have been surprised to hear the voice of Mayor David Miller greeting you and asking for your help in defending Transit City.

"This is Mayor David Miller. Thanks for choosing the TTC," commuters heard at the Spadina station for the Bloor line, as one example.

"The provincial government is planning to cut promised funding for Transit City in half, putting the entire plan at risk. Call Premier McGuinty and your MPP today and urge them to restore funding to Transit City."

The announcements are expected to continue in heavy rotation until Monday.

In the March 25 provincial budget, the Ontario government of Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty said it would defer about $4 billion in capital funding for Transit City, the plan to build a 120-kilometre network of light-rail transit across Toronto.

This left Miller apoplectic.

About $5.5 billion in work will still be funded. The Sheppard Avenue line is expected to proceed, but the following projects are to face delays:

  • Eglinton Avenue, from Kennedy station to Pearson International Airport
  • Finch Avenue, from the Yonge subway line to Humber College, and east to Don Mills station
  • Scarborough Rapid Transit upgrading and extension
  • Improvements for York Region's VIVA Bus Rapid Transit

However, most of the people running to replace Miller in the Oct. 25 municipal election aren't big Transit City fans, with only Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina), a longtime Miller ally, explicitly voicing support.

The province and Metrolinx, the provincial agency responsible for transportation planning in the Golden Horseshoe, say the projects will eventually be built.

Bicycle lanes

Transportation issues have been a dominant part of the mayoral campaign so far, which kicked off on Jan. 4.

Earlier this week, many candidates voiced their outrage at a city proposal to establish physically-separated bicycle lanes on a portion of University Avenue in the downtown core on a four-month trial basis.

City traffic engineers have said the lanes will have little or no impact on traffic.

Rocco Rossi, the former national director of the Liberal Party, has long staked out a stance of opposing bicycle lanes on major thoroughfares. He called the plan "sheer madness."

Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti (Ward 7, York West) has vowed to remove new bike lanes and wants to impose a tax of $20 to $30 on bicycles. He had offered to support the city's 2010 operating budget if Miller waived the vehicle registration free for seniors -- a voting demographic Mammoliti has been targeting.

Coun. Rob Ford (Ward 2, Etobicoke North) has also come out against the lanes.

Former provincial cabinet minister George Smitherman has called for a timeout on new bicycle lanes.

Publisher Sarah Thomson thinks the protected lane should go down the centre of University Avenue, while Pantalone has generally expressed support for the notion that cycling has to be an essential part of the solution to Toronto's transportation woes.