TTC union says more money needed for transit in Toronto
TORONTO – The CEO of the TTC, the head of the TTC union and the mayor-elect all agree if people want better transit in Toronto, the other levels of government have to spend more money.
The Amalgamated Transit Union released a report titled “Toronto’s Transit Future” Monday which warns the provincial and federal government that more money is needed to ease the city’s congestion problem before it gets even worse.
“Toronto has an unprecedented transit crisis that is even worse than most people realize,” union president Bob Kinnear said during a press conference Monday morning.
“If we want to improve service—and who doesn’t?—there’s a price tag.”
The report says the city needs to boost the TTC’s yearly subsidy nearly $200-million to $612 million by 2018 and that a five-cent fare increase will only raise about $23-million a year.
Kinnear said ridership is expected to increase by 60 million over the next four years and at least $66 million will be needed to accommodate the additional people.
“Everyone agrees the current level and quality of service is unacceptable,” he said.
TTC CEO Andy Byford said the commission currently receives a “woeful” $0.81 per ride as a subsidy from the city. He said bumping that up to $1 per ride would make a significant impact but would still not be enough.
“To stop the TTC from slowly grinding to a halt, to keep it in a state of good repair, and to expand service, we need assistance on capital funding,” Byford said.
Right now the TTC has a $3-billion hole in its capital expenditure budget.
Some of the union’s recommendations include buying 250 more 40-foot buses, expanded turn restrictions for single-occupant cars, improved signalized intersections, and a restructured fare system to include weekend, 24-hour and quarterly passes.
Mayor-elect John Tory said during a press conference Monday the TTC union’s report was a “constructive contribution” to transit discussion. He said he supports parts of it but wouldn’t say which parts.
WATCH: ATU President Bob Kinnear says that while his members support recommendations the TTC made earlier in the year to improve service, their is currently a crisis and an alarming void in future funding.
His main priority is paying for the ideas.
“It has to be funded, so my priority is to make sure we get the funding and to combine that with an activist chair,” Tory said.
“I’m not only worried about the fact that we’re going to have more riders but I’m worried about the fact that existing riders of the TTC don’t have the reliable service that they expect.”
So how would the city pay for it? Kinnear suggested more revenue could be found by increasing advertising on the TTC and opening more businesses within subway stations.
That being said, more funding will have to come from the provincial and federal government, he said.
But Kinnear admitted it’s difficult to get funding for transit despite the need. He said he wants to “mobilize the city” ahead of the 2015 federal election and urged federal parties to support sustainable funding for the TTC.
“Ottawa: You have a problem. There is a federal election coming soon. It will be a fierce electoral fight and every seat will matter. If Toronto can speak with one voice about transit to all political parties, we will get their attention,” he said.
“It is about time the federal government step up to the plate and make sure we have sustainable funding for the city of Toronto.”
WATCH: Tory details SmartTrack study timeline and short-term improvements
The TTC union’s report also calls for Tory’s SmartTrack plan to be studied as soon as possible.
The proposed line, which is estimated to cost $8 billion, is projected to stretch 53 kilometres, include 22 stops and have the rails electrified from Pearson Airport in the west-end of the city to Unionville in Markham.
As a major election platform, Tory promised SmartTrack would help alleviate TTC overcrowding.
The cost to build and implement the service will be split between the city, the province and the federal government with Toronto’s share financed by a “Tax Increment Financing” model. That model uses a portion of the municipality’s tax revenue from development along the line to pay for construction.
Read a LIVEBLOG of the report announcement from Global News Toronto City Hall Bureau Chief Dave Trafford below.