A new report from the TTC is being heralded by city officials for its approach to showing how the agency will use billions of dollars from the new city building fund, but some worry it relies too much on unsourced sources to pay for it all.
The report lays out how more than $4.5 billion in revenue, expected from the city building fund, will be spent over the next decade. It addresses spending on priority areas like subway modernization projects, infrastructure upkeep, and addressing capacity issues which includes purchasing new vehicles.
Mayor John Tory said the approach is to lay out every need for the TTC over the next ten years. A straightforward approach detailing how many new vehicles will be needed to keep up with capacity, is the way to do it, he said.
“You have to make the orders before you need them, obviously” said Tory. “I think we’re just being business-like and straightforward here saying this is what we need.”
But several areas in the report rely on the federal and provincial governments to come through for funding.
Some of the funds the city is banking on, like capacity improvements to Yonge-Bloor subway station, have already been promised from other levels of the government. But the report said the city will only contribute roughly $1.1 billion to ordering new subway trains, streetcars, and busses. The remaining two-thirds of that funding, are expected to come from Ottawa and Queen’s Park.
Mayor Tory said said he isn’t in favour of ordering anything without having a funding source lined up.
“But I won’t let us not order this stuff, as has been done by some of the very same people that were here long before I got here” said Tory.
Transit advocate Steve Munro said it was dangerous to have a plan lean so heavily on trusting other governments will come through. He worries it will give federal and provincial politicians the ability to cherry-pick what they what to fund. Munro is also concerned that the city will need to wait for funding commitments before it orders new vehicles.
“The TTC needs 60 more streetcars, it needs 150 more busses” said Munro. “If we’re going to wait for Justin Trudeau and Doug Ford to come to the table with one-third funding for each of those, we will wait a very long time and we won’t have any more vehicles.”
TTC Board member and city councillor Brad Bradford disagrees. “Frankly, I don’t think it’s risky because I think the risk is not making those investments” he said. Bradford is confident other levels of government will see the city’s contributions and come to the table with funding.
By chance, the TTC’s report was released hours after a massive subway outage caused by a subway train derailment, lead to chaos during Wednesday’s commute. Both Mayor Tory and the TTC
Board’s chair, Councillor Jaye Robinson, said in statements that the incident highlighted the need to get on with transit improvements.