TTC Funding: The Sky Has Not Fallen, Yet

Today (July 30) on CBC’s Metro Morning, Richard Soberman and David Gunn were interviewed about the proposal to close the Sheppard Subway.  In the same broadcast, on the news, we heard a real estate developer whose dreams of selling new condos on Sheppard were threatened by the loss of a significant marketing tool, the subway.

Soberman and Gunn practically fell over each other talking about how crazy the idea is, but sadly, the conversation never went beyond the Sheppard line to the wider issue of TTC service quality.  Even though that subway proposal only represents 10% of the total “savings” to be found in the TTC budget, it gets all of the air time, all of the ink.  Where is the coverage about all the service cuts on bus and streetcar routes?  About the new services that will never see the light of day?

What pains me most is the total absence of anyone “official” from Council talking about how these cuts (a) are a terrible idea and (b) don’t have to happen.  I’m a Miller supporter, but the Mayor has been conspicuously absent along with TTC Chair Adam Giambrone.  This leaves the media field open to doom-and-gloom coverage.

If this goes on very long, the TTC cuts become real, if only in people’s minds, because that’s all we will be hearing.  The great promises of better transit will just be a memory, if that.  Transit City and MoveOntario will just be two more grand announcements of better days for transit that went absolutely nowhere because this city hasn’t got the guts to pay its way.

Next winter, while you wait for a bus that is late and packed, remember all those speeches about “living within our means” and “government waste”.

This is not a question of “if the money can be found” — not finding the money to expand and improve the TTC is really not an option as anyone reading recent studies of the GTA’s transit needs will know.  Building our future transit network needs long-term dedication to funding. 

Often we hear about how Queen’s Park or Ottawa won’t create a dedicated funding stream for transit (or various other municipal services), but Toronto is just as bad.  One year Council will agree to a certain funding level, but the moment some uppity constituent demands lower taxes, the TTC is one of the first to lose its funding.

Being pro-transit isn’t something you do on alternate Thursdays, it’s a full time requirement and needs predictable, long-term revenue to sustain the vision some Councillors profess for transit.

So where is the Mayor?  Where is Adam Giambrone?

We need them to restore a positive view of transit and of what our city can be, and we need them now.

Postscript:  No sooner do I post this in frustration, but the Mayor pops up to tell the Police Board and TTC “make those cuts now, don’t wait until the fall”.  Nothing like confidence to start off my morning.  (July 31)

10 thoughts on “TTC Funding: The Sky Has Not Fallen, Yet

  1. Why is it when Toronto needs money it is called a bailout but when our 905 regions need money it is referred to as investment?

    Steve: Because the people calling it an “investment” live in the 905 and wouldn’t like to admit that they need more money too. I’m looking forward to a time when both the 905 and 416 speak with one voice to Queen’s Park, when the 905 is mature enough in a development sense that the free ride many regions have had courtesy of ongoing expansion just stops.

    The TTC thought itself the greatest transit system on the planet largely on the strength of growth that came from net new population and development of the suburbs. Once Toronto had to actually serve those suburbs, especially ones that didn’t develop with three cars in every garage, the economics of suburbia were not quite so pretty.


  2. To his credit, Adam Giambrone has (or at least had) been talking to the media since the first announcement. The Mayor has been rather silent.

    The Sheppard subway (in my opinion) is getting air time because it’s a major piece of infrastructure. It took $1 billion to complete, not including vehicle cost. In perspective, other routes on the cutting block probably only cost a few million dollars to start service, and this covers mainly the cost of buying buses to run the service, bus stop poles and concrete pads. Also, bus routes are added/changed/replaced etc. all the time, while subway tunnels are fairly fixed in their positions. It’s also the first closure of a section of the subway Toronto has ever seen (this does not include Vincent yard or Lower Bay).


  3. …and THAT’S why I don’t believe Transit City will ever happen! (insert any excuse before the ampersand, the biggest being hot air from our governments.).
    What about the threat of the Provincial Government taking over the TTC, so that a GTTA service may be operated. Would we still have the 416/905 arguments? Or would the rest of the Province balk at funding the GTA’s transit service? Is the solution to be found via BC Transit? Will this satiate London, Hamilton, Ottawa, Kitchener, etc?


  4. On the matter of the Province taking over the TTC, was it just my imagination or was Sorbara careful to specify the possibility of taking over “rail” operations in the GTA? I can’t see GO/GTTa taking over every bus route in the region, but with the subway soon to cross the regional boundary, that sounded off bells for me. Really. Loud. Bells.


  5. And yet I get chastised for saying this city doesn’t have a real Mayor. It’s always nice when my point gets proven for me! 🙂

    Steve: Those of us who support Miller are the most bitterly disappointed when he isn’t out on the ramparts, but we’ll still take him over the alternatives any day.

    My bet is that if John Tory were mayor, he would be spending all of his time in a made-up financial crisis trying to wrest more money from his political opponents at Queen’s Park. Meanwhile, that crisis would be used to gut municipal services so that they could never rise again. That is clearly where the right wing of Council would like to go.


  6. To harp on a theme, we still have the Front St. road folly as a council priority despite not looking at a) the harms to two transit operations and b) what of maybe 10 transit options are available to fight the congestion etc. that the road is supposed to do. And there’s about $50 mill sitting in a reserve fund now.


  7. The fact that the idea of closing the Sheppard Subway getting most of the press coverage is proof that it will be an uphill battle to convince the greater public that Transit City is a good idea.

    I was hoping that the idea of closing an underperforming subway operation down might just kick the public into kicking Sorbara and his subway to Vaughan off the table to make room for a more practical and cost-effective solution, such as LRT.

    I think just the opposite is the result: the public’s obsession that “rapid transit can only mean subways” is alive and well and just got a booster shot from this situation.


  8. . . . .While waiting for a bus southbound on Yonge St, I started to count the number of buses that drove by without stopping to pick up passengers.

    To my surprise I counted at least 25 half empty buses from YRT (york regional transit),about 22 buses from TTC (only 2 of which picked up passengers,the rest were packed like sardines or were express buses(again no pick-up),also about 7 go buses and 7 viva buses . . . . what is the purpose of all these buses if they don’t service the local bus stops. . . .needless to say finally a TTC bus came along,I got on board.

    Wait time = 28 minutes.

    I know this site is about funding but I think more attention should be on service.

    Steve: Actually a lot of posts are about service as well. It’s a question of what topics are brewing when you visit. A 28 minute wait for a bus on Yonge is outrageous, but sadly, this sort of thing is too common. The TTC needs more service, not cutbacks to address a manufactured funding crisis.


  9. Steve can’t argue with you over your assessment of Mr. Tory, he’s looking like a train wreck of epic proportions. I’m glad he isn’t mayor, sadly I too am disillusioned with the existing occupant of that chair. He seems more inclined to tilting at windmills than actually doing his job.

    Politicans of all stripes need to recognize public transit is an essential service. It derives both an economic and a social benefit. Without it a modern city could not function.

    The xenophobic right wing has never seen public transit that way, they see it as a great expense that should be sold off to free enterprise. Their counterparts on the (far) left treat it as a social experiment to tinker with to attempt to change human behaviour at great cost and expense to the taxpayer.

    There has to be someone holding the middle ground that can understand the costs and benefits in both economic and social terms.


  10. Calvin Henry-cotnam said,’the public’s obsession that “rapid transit can only mean subways” is alive and well.’

    I agree with you Calvin but we’ve got to get a real light rail line up and going so the public can see what LRT is. And I mean a line with new sreetcars that run fast and are not necessarily limited to centre reservations (as important as they are). You can’t expect people to get excited about something they’ve never experienced. Lets be grateful they aren’t hoolaring for expressways.

    Steve says he is going to write an article on REAL Light rail. That should be interesting. In the meantime we might just get some ideas from websites on Sacramento or San Diego to name but two.

    As for the Mayor, lets give him some time. The battle isn’t over yet. Not by a long shot! David Miller wants that money and he may well get it yet. Leave the sounding off to Denzill Minen-Wong and his ilk.


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