TTC at 90

September 1, 2011 sees the TTC celebrate its 90th birthday, although “celebrate” may be an overstatement.

Politically, Toronto is so ashamed of public services, of which the TTC is the single largest example, and so afraid to appear to waste “taxpayer dollars” on frivolity, that we’re going to have a birthday, but no cake.  September’s Metropass marks the occasion with a less-than-inspired design, but that’s about it.

I checked with the TTC’s Communications Director, Brad Ross, about this so-low-key-it’s-inaudible celebration, and he confirmed that cost was a concern.  Apparently, the TTC can run posters telling us about the new, but almost invisible, Toronto Rocket trains, but cannot celebrate a milestone in Toronto’s history.

It’s worth remembering that the TTC came to exist because the privately owned Toronto Railway Company refused to invest in system expansion, and let their plant run down for years in advance of a municipal takeover assured by their games.  The depression and WW2 halted municipal expansion plans, but as the suburbs of Toronto exploded, it was the public sector that financed service expansion.  Sadly, this didn’t keep pace, and all those brave words about “transit oriented development” in the 60s gave way to a city where the car is the primary, and often the only choice for travel.

Will the TTC will reach 100 as a reborn, reinvigorated transit system, or as a doddering elder starved and stripped of its best assets?  Will Toronto Council fight to preserve and improve the TTC, or cede control to those who care only for private sector subways and a monorail to the waterfront?  Will Queen’s Park take a real interest in local transit as an essential part of the GTA, or concentrate funding on marquee projects, or simply walk away from transit?

Happy Birthday, TTC, and may you see better days.