Much air time and print space have been devoted to Wednesday’s TTC meeting (September 12). Which routes will be on the chopping block? What will happen to fares? Does anyone except the riding public actually care, or are the politicians and press too busy scoring political points off of each other?
The Transit Commission has a difficult decision, but hardest one will be this: resist calls for cuts now.
Shirking responsibility? Nonsense. The Transit Commissioners should be advocates for transit, not hatchet men for those who prefer to starve a vital service. The Commission’s job is to avert the destruction of the system.
In July, Council foolishly deferred implementation of new taxes in the vain hope that Queen’s Park would rescue Toronto if only from embarrassment. A quick browse of election literature doesn’t reveal many red faces, and any help is years away.
Even “transit’s friend” the NDP promises a two year fare freeze but is silent on how much it would contribute to new service. 50 percent, but 50 percent of what? Cheap fares are worthless if you can’t get on the service or it doesn’t run when you need it.
After years battling back from the cuts of the 90s, we are on the verge of real improvement with the Ridership Growth Strategy. It’s far from perfect, but it’s the first attempt in decades to actually attract riders with better service. This must not disappear into an interminable round of deferrals.
The Commission has no mandate to implement cuts on Wednesday. They do have a resppnsibility to lay out for Council the options and what will happen if new revenue is not provided. No action that would cut service should be approved until Council’s decision on new revenues — be they taxes or otherwise — is final.
The TTC should:
Approve in principle three scenarios for Council:
- The original plans for expanded service in 2008 adjusted for a late startup (January is impossible but April should be easy to manage).
- A “no change” option preserving the existing level of service.
- A “cuts” option.
Any decision on new fares should also wait for Council’s action. Budgets for the three service options should clearly show how much subsidy is needed for each, and fare increases then become one way to deal with the need for added revenue.
Immediately after the Council session in October, the TTC should formally approve whatever service and fare option is viable under the circumstances. Initiating cuts today prejudges Council and sets us on an anti-transit path.
Council created this mess by refusing to deal with the tax proposals and Council is where the decision on TTC impacts must occur. If the Transit Commissioners really believes in transit serice, not in grandstanding to embarrass the mayor and the premier, then they will be advocates for the best service we can have and will not approve any service cuts until the last possible moment.
The options must be on the table, clear for everyone to see and for Councillors to choose. Transit Commissioners have a duty to argue the best possible case for the TTC, and if there will be cuts, then everyone on Council must have a hand in voting for them.