Mayor Rob Ford and Councillor Doug Ford attempted Friday to trash the Eglinton Connects streetscape plan as a “war on the car,” despite a move to ease the impact of the remodel on motorists.
The brothers’ arguments failed to gain traction with council, which voted 26-7 for the plan.
It calls for wider sidewalks, more trees, bike lanes and other amenities, while shrinking through traffic to one lane in each direction between Mount Pleasant and Avenue Rds.
The makeover would take place as the $5 billion Eglinton Crosstown LRT line, now under construction, opens in 2020. The line will run for 19 kilometres in total with 11 kilometres underground.
Council was told the LRT eliminates the need for nine bus routes that now travel on Eglinton to the Yonge subway, opening up more space on the street for cars while encouraging more people to use transit.
However, Mayor Ford said the loss of through-lanes would increase congestion.
“We want traffic flowing,” he said during council debate Friday. “Approving this is only making it worse. This is wrong. Keep it as is.”
Councillor Ford, who said he drives the route frequently, described the plan as anti-car.
“Make no mistake, folks, this is a war on the car. As much as you don’t like to hear this, the auto industry is an important part of the economy. When the auto industry does down, jobs go down.”
Councillor Josh Matlow [Open Josh Matlow’s policard], who represents a stretch of Eglinton, said he agreed that the original plan would have hurt motorists.
Matlow moved to add right-turn lanes in both directions at key intersections between Avenue Rd. and Mt. Pleasant Rd. to avoid blocking the through lane. That change was approved 28-5.
Residents of the central Eglinton area are already heavy transit users and there is an increase in people walking to work in the area, chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat told council.
The LRT, Keesmaat said, “is going to shift more people to be using transit.”
Matlow criticized the Fords for attacking the streetscape plan without suggesting changes to make it better.
“Where was the leadership today?” said Matlow (Ward 22, St. Paul’s). “We need to get away from false and divisive rhetoric about wars on cars and wars on bikes,” he added.
“We need to recognize that Torontonians want to move around our city in a number of different ways and we need to accommodate everyone. Eglinton today is a mess. We need to improve it, but not at the expense of drivers.”