ON: Mayor Ford Uses TTC Boss as Subway Ally

Mayor Rob Ford is invoking the TTC's charismatic new chief executive officer, Andy Byford, as an ally in his continuing campaign for subway expansion.

On Friday, a day after city council approved building an LRT on Sheppard, Byford repeated that he would have preferred a subway.

It was the same answer he gave city councillors earlier this week when he was asked, hypothetically, whether - if money were no object - he would prefer subways or LRT on Sheppard.

"Although the TTC accepts the decision made by council, I maintain the city does also need to have a sensible debate around a subway provision," Byford told reporters following a breakfast speech to the Toronto Board of Trade.

"Sooner or later we've got to address the subway capacity," he said.

Byford said the discussion was needed "particularly in regard to the downtown relief line," adding that his position isn't political.

Even with new roomier Toronto Rocket trains and a new computerized signalling system, the Yonge subway line can't add the capacity it needs for the long term, he said.

But the mayor has clearly appropriated the new transit chief's position for his own purposes.

On a radio talk show Friday, Ford cited Byford at the top of a list of subway advocates, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who council failed to heed when it chose LRT.

"The bottom line is, council obviously did not listen to Andy Byford, the head of the TTC, didn't listen to the Scarborough MPPs, didn't listen to the people of Scarborough, the taxpayers," Ford said, renewing his pledge to fight the LRT.

Although TTC chair Karen Stintz, who led the LRT vote, admitted Friday she was surprised by Byford's subway answer at council, she dismissed it as a response to a "purely hypothetical question."

Former TTC chief general manager Gary Webster would have given the same answer had he been there, said Stintz. Webster was fired without cause by Ford's allies on the TTC board, for failing to support a subway on Sheppard. The five city councillors who engineered Webster's dismissal were subsequently kicked off the Toronto Transit Commission by city council.

"There's no point in setting Andy up," said Stintz. "We do need more subway capacity in the city."

Byford, a former transit executive in both the London Underground and RailCorp. in Sydney, has pledged to modernize and transform Toronto transit.

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