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2007 06 12
Transit City?
Of the many issues that Torontonians will be paying attention to as the provincial election unfolds, few are as vexed as that of transit funding. There is, in the first place, a concern that public transit in the province is substantially under-developed. But there is, in addition, a further sense shared by many in this city that Toronto transit, in particular, is hard done by.


Some (frequently cited) facts and figures --

o Percentage of TTC operating costs funded by the government of Ontario, in the 1970s: 50 (approximate).

o Percentage of TTC operating costs funded by the government of Ontario, in 2007: 0

o Toronto is more reliant on in its fare box to generate operating revenues than any other major transit system in North America.

The parties have already begun unveiling their policies and platforms. So far, most of these policies have focused on investment in infrastructure (like the money the Liberals set aside in their last budget for the extension of the Spadina subway, or proposed expansions of intercity routes in the PC platform). These investments make for sexy speech topics; it is also the case that if they are made wisely, they may truly improve service. But, given that the TTC’s existing operations are woefully under-funded, and declining in quality, the overwhelming emphasis on infrastructure may be somewhat misplaced.

Moreover, these infrastructure investments - at least the ones that have been discussed thus far - tend to benefit commuters, and residents of smaller municipalities outside the GTA, far more than they help those who live and work in Toronto. This is not to say that these regions shouldn’t have their transit services grow - turf wars on this subject are counter-productive, to say the least. But none of the parties has released an official response to (much less offered to help fund) the City of Toronto’s transit plan, which calls for the construction of several light rail routes along high-density corridors.

(Map shows proposed light rail routes, and is courtesy of TransitCity.ca.)

The silence on this matter is proverbially deafening, and also rather ominous.

There will be, over the next few months, countless town hall meetings, candidate forums, and all manner of debates. It is, I would venture to suggest, our collective responsibility to force politicians from all parties to address not just the state of transportation funding in Ontario, but the funding of transportation in Toronto in particular. Anything less may amount to a dangerous case of willful blindness on our part.
[email this story] Posted by Hamutal Dotan on 06/12 at 06:37 AM

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