November 20, 2018 9:22 am
Updated: November 20, 2018 7:53 pm

Low subsidy, lack of dedicated revenue sources hurting Toronto’s transit system: study

A new study by a transit advocacy group says the Toronto Transit Commission is severely underfunded and more needs to be done to expand service.

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The lack of secure funding combined with low subsidy levels, as compared to seven other major cities in North America, are putting Toronto’s transit system at risk, according to a new study released by advocacy group CodeRedTO.

The report, titled Mixed Signals, says the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) has an operating subsidy of 30 per cent, whereas cities like Boston and Houston operate with 70 per cent subsidies, and Los Angeles is nearly at 90 per cent.

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“The most alarming discovery in CodeRedTO’s research has been that while all public transit agencies worldwide contribute to operating expenses via the farebox, the TTC relies on fares for two-thirds of its base operating budget, a level not seen in any other city in North America,” the study states.

READ MORE: TTC rolls out new hybrid buses to bolster transit network

The lack of a designated revenue stream for transit, which almost every other city looked at in the study has for providing stable and predictable funding, is hurting Toronto’s potential for growth, CodeRedTO said.

“Nothing is more crucial than resolving decades of underfunding and poor network design,” CodeRedTO executive director Cameron MacLeod said in a media release.

“Tangible increases to service levels, improvements to passes and fares, and funding to build a more complete network all demand our immediate attention.”

Although the TTC enjoys relatively strong ridership numbers, the report criticizes how the subway system is oversimplified.

VIDEO: Low subsidy, lack of dedicated revenue sources putting Toronto transit at risk. Shallima Maharaj reports.

READ MORE: TTC to purchase 1,000 new buses, refurbish close to 700 vehicles

“Toronto’s local rail network is less complex, with less coverage than many cities,” the study said.

“When contrasted with every other city in the study, it is clear Toronto’s heavy reliance on two very long rail lines is unusual. More complexity allows for greater network connectivity and adaptability.”

The report did note that the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, which will be complete in 2021, will help strengthen Toronto’s network “considerably.”

VIDEO: Work on Metrolinx’s Eglinton-Crosstown line coming along, but some businesses say not fast enough

The report also took aim at the governance structure at Metrolinx, the province’s regional transportation agency, and the TTC board for being heavily politicized.

“Both boards overseeing transit in Toronto are significantly politicized and vulnerable to partisan interference, to a degree not seen in other cities. When combined with inadequate and insecure funding, the vulnerability of the TTC is particularly acute,” the report said.

READ MORE: ‘Not sexy,’ but needed: Funding for TTC repair, improvement projects unveiled

Some of the immediate recommendations to improve Toronto’s transit system include adding a predictable and sustainable revenue stream, prioritizing surface transit lanes as opposed to the underground option and reducing overall cost for monthly passes.

As for long-term goals, it is suggested to better integrate regional fares with a flat-rate, implementing regional network integration and creating city-centred but regionally collaborative governance structures.

“Local transit is starved for operations funding in the GTHA. Better governance could help, but a complex ‘upload’ isn’t the answer,” Patricia Wood, a co-author of the report, said.
“Metrolinx needs to be more accountable to the region, and Toronto should be represented on its board.”
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