How the TTC wants to improve bus, streetcar service in Toronto
Watch above: Mark Carcasole reports on the almost $500 million worth of improvements proposed by the TTC.
TORONTO – The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) wants to improve service for its riders but it warns it will have to come at a cost.
A TTC report to be presented at a board meeting on Tuesday proposes to add a myriad of improvements to existing bus, streetcar and subway service at a cost of $19 million in 2015 and an increase each year of up to $69 million in 2018.
The plan would also require a $288 million boost to the capital budget spread across five years.
Some of the enhanced service proposals include implementing all-door boarding and proof-of payment on streetcar routes to speed up service, operating all routes all day and every day across the city, and allowing time-based transfers so riders can use one fare for an unlimited time during a two-hour period.
“We need to find some of that funding from somewhere,” TTC spokesperson Brad Ross said in an interview Monday. “Ultimately it’s either a subsidy, a fare increase, or a combination thereof. That’s basically how our budget is funded and balanced.
“This really improves access to transit across the entire city, seven days a week, equal access for all. These are things that we can do because it’s off-peak service that we’re talking about.”
Mayoral candidate John Tory, however, criticized the report’s timing and the lack of a clear financial plan to pay for the recommendations.
“Coming up with a program involving hundreds of millions of new spending in the middle of the fiscal year, 10 weeks from an election, is just bad planning,” Tory said during a press briefing in front of Union Station Monday.
“I don’t think it’s responsible for the TTC to set priorities this way.”
The TTC expects to bring in approximately $1 billion from fares in 2014 and roughly $500 million more from a city subsidy.
But the commission is constantly trying to keep up with the demands of increasing ridership.
“As your ridership grows, so do your service needs, so the more ridership you have the more service you need to meet that demand,” Ross said. “That fare alone does not cover all of the costs, the costs for the driver, the cost for the fuel, the costs for the maintenance and all the other costs that go along with operating a massive system like the TTC.”
The TTC report indicates the initiatives are “simpler, cheaper, and faster to implement than major rapid transit investments.”
Mayoral candidate Olivia Chow – who has been a champion of increased bus service from the onset of her campaign – welcomed the report Monday, touting it as improvements that can be made right away.
She also detailed how she would pay for the increased service.
“As to some of the details, as to which routes, where are you going to park them, how are you going to build them, the replacement rates, we can work it out and we need to say that that is a priority,” said Chow. “What I do not accept is a ‘no.'”
Chow committed in March to spending $15 million on increasing bus service by 10 per cent during rush hour – just a fraction of what the TTC says it would need to meet the plans laid out in the report.
The TTC is in the initial stages of significant infrastructure improvements as well with the ongoing construction of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, the plan to build an extension of the Bloor-Danforth line into Scarborough, and new streetcars expected to roll out across the city beginning this month.
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The report calls the transit improvements a “short-to-medium term” plan that would come at a “low-cost.”
“Some of the service initiatives, however, can be implemented starting as early as next year, with no need for additional capital assets or rolling stock,” the report reads.
The recommendations will have to reviewed and voted on by city council before they are approved.