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Tory admits he hasn't had time to explore water transportation campaign promise

Last Updated Nov 15, 2017 at 7:20 pm EDT

Toronto Mayor John Tory has admitted that a three-year old campaign promise to explore the city’s waterways as a possible commuting option has fallen to the wayside.

“I will be honest in saying I haven’t really had time to address it in the way I intended it,” he said when asked about his old proposal at a press conference about bike lanes Tuesday.

“I wouldn’t rule out looking at it, but I’m focused for now on getting transit built, resolving important issues that have been around for a decade, like this bike lane issue,” he said.

Back in 2014, then a mayoral candidate, Tory had included the idea to add water transportation as part of a five-point plan to fight gridlock.

The TTC had already considered ferries seven years before, commissioning a report in 2007 to examine the feasibility of shuttling commuters from the Scarborough Bluffs and Humber Bay to downtown Toronto.

“Other places in Canada that run good ferry service are Vancouver, where it goes from downtown to west Vancouver, and Halifax,” former TTC Chair Adam Giambrone told CityNews in a Skype interview Tuesday from New York, where he now works.

“They work generally if you have longer distances and clear areas where you can pick up speed where there’s no traffic along the water.”

That wasn’t the case for Toronto’s inner harbour, but proposed pickup locations did offer ample commuter parking, and the one-way ride would only take about half an hour. The plan was ultimately scrapped because the cost per rider was about 12 times higher than traditional transit, and long term maintenance of ferries was more costly.

Giambrone points out that walkability to the ferry ports is one of the determining factors to its success and feasibility. Toronto’s waterfront has seen a condo boom recent years with thousands more planned for the Portlands in the coming years. While Giambrone doesn’t think enough has changed in the last 10 years to make ferries viable right now, he believes they should still be included in the conversation as the city works to bring transit to new downtown residents, even if just to rule it out.

“Can busses do it? Streetcars? Can we do something like ferries?’ You should ask that as part of the planning so at least you’re confident when you recommend whatever you have that you’ve done a thorough analysis,” he says.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the cost per rider was “about 12 per cent higher than traditional transit.”