Toronto Will Finance Its Own Streetcars (Updated)

Updated June 26 at 10:15 pm:

Today, Toronto Council voted 36-6 to proceed with funding of the purchase of 204 new streetcars as described in my original post (below the break).

During debate on the proposal, a few items of clarification were brought out that were not in the initial report.

  • The bus midlife refurbishment project has not been completely dropped, but cut back by 70% of the original allocation.  The TTC will perform a trial refurbishment of one bus in 2011 in anticipation of the first of the recently purchased buses reaching its 9th year.  Based on what is found (body condition, etc.), the future funding for this program will be readjusted.  The new fleets are expected to be much more robust than the older generations of buses, but we won’t know for sure until they actually reach the age when rebuilding would normally be expected.
  • The paving project has been cut back by 50%, and is subject to review based on actual conditions.
  • The fire ventillation upgrade program has been cut back by 50%, but this work has also been consolidated with the second entrance program in stations where this is applicable.
  • All other projects (Eglinton bus terminal, station modernization, Collectors’ booth renewal) have been cut by 100%.  The Eglinton terminal may not actually be needed, or at least at the originally planned size, because the number of routes connecting at Eglinton Station will be far lower after the Eglinton LRT is in operation.

From a financial point of view, all of this is a big shuffle.  For the time being, the TTC defers work that was currently planned for funding via City borrowing.  This is replaced in the capital budget with borrowing for the new streetcars.  In parallel, the City will make application to Ottawa for over $600-million worth of projects that would have been financed by the City, and which can be completed within the timeframe to qualify under Ottawa’s rules for “stimulus”.  On a 1/3 share basis, this will yield about $200-million in federal funding.  Additional funding is expected to be available from other non-stimulus programs.

The net effect is that future City spending will be reduced by an amount roughly equal to the funding for the new streetcars.

Furthermore, the TTC will review its capital budgets for the coming years, and it is possible that parts of some deferred projects could reappear based on then-current funding availability and priorities.

This decision is even more important that the original 1972 move by Toronto Council to save the streetcar network.  Not only does this ensure that network’s continued existence, it will expand the fleet and underpin the Transit City routes.  Indeed, a suburban LRT network was the goal behind Streetcars for Toronto’s activism on behalf of the streetcar system.

We’re not quite at the end of a long road, but I would like to share today with the Streetcars for Toronto Committee, some of whom contribute in the comments on this site from time to time:

  • Andrew Biemiller (original chair), John F. Bromley, Mike Filey, Robert Wightman, Howard J. Levine, Chris Prentice, Ros Bobak and Greg Gormick.  (Apologies if I have omitted anyone in the fog of time.)
  • In our work we were strongly supported by former Aldermen Paul Pickett and the late William Kilbourn, as well as by the office of then-mayor David Crombie.

With luck, we will ride new streetcars and even a new line or two before the 40th anniversary of the decision to retain the streetcar network. Continue reading