In between the World Cup, the Stanley Cup (does anyone even care?), strikes, resignations and other scandals, the Ontario Minister of Transportation announced a $3.4-billion, five-year plan to invest in highways. Remember that as you read what follows.
The TTC and the City of Toronto are in a horrible mess on their capital budget planning. WHen the 2006-2010 budget was approved, the City was facing a funding shortfall of $319-million over five years, mostly in 2009-2010. This is troubling, but manageable. The tooth fairy, not to mention one or two elections, will shake loose funding and the problem would go away.
However, in Ontario’s budget announcement, they neglected to trumpet the fact that major changes were happening in transit capital subsidy programs. The Ontario Transit Vehicle Program was cancelled and it was replaced with the much smaller Vehicle Funding Program. Here is the impact of the change:
- No funding to rebuild buses
- No funding for ridership growth buses
- No funding for the premium cost of hybrid buses
- No funding for streetcar, subway or RT rebuilding or purchase
- A probable $50-million cap on bus replacement funding under the new program
The combined effect of all of these cuts is to add a further $392-million to the unfunded portion of the TTC’s capital budget. Now the hole is $711-million.
But wait … there’s more. The TTC hasn’t been able to include some projects in its budget projections because of political interference, and some projects (such as the impact of fast-growing ridership) are not accounted for. Specifically, the following items are not in the existing 2006-2010 plans.
- New LRT cars and carhouse
- Bus fleet growth to accommodate 3% ridership increase rate
- Resignalling of the south end of the Yonge subway
These three items add a further $507-million bringing the total to $1.218-billion over five years, about a third of what Ontario will spend on highways during the same period.
Oh yes, you have probably noticed that there is no Spadina subway (or any other new line for that matter). Hmmm … the cost of the subway is roughly equal to the shortfall for everything else. Maybe we can do a trade.
Queen’s Park makes some fine statements about smart growth, about encouraging the use of transit, about moving to compact urban forms, but they don’t pay their bills. Indeed, we are about to get a regional transit authority just at a time when nobody has any money for anything.
The next time Dalton McGuinty talks about his commitments, remember that he likes roads a lot more than transit.
PS: Maybe York University should go into the toll highway business?