The TTC 2014-2023 Capital Budget contains a great deal of streetcar infrastructure work over coming years. Broadly, this can be subdivided into three types of project:
- Catching up with inferior maintenance of past decades to bring the system to a “steady state” condition where each year’s work is commensurate to the scale of the network and industry norms for the lifespan of assets .
- Changes to support the new low floor LRVs including Leslie Barns, conversion to pantograph power collection, and updating other infrastructure such as power supply and track switching.
- System expansion.
Although some of this looks ambitious on paper, the plans are threatened by capital availability at a level well below what is needed. The TTC has other demands on a shrinking capital pool, notably on the subway system. Combined with the City of Toronto’s self-imposed limits on debt levels and taxes and the expiry of various provincial and federal funding programs, there is insufficient capital to maintain the system. The streetcar network takes a hit from this, but the details are not yet known.
I will explore the shortfall in capital funding in the next article of this series. Meanwhile, the plans discussed here should be read in the context that the City Budget, as now written, seeks a reduction in various line items of the TTC’s Capital Budget. How this will fare at Council remains to be seen. The two biggest problems are the lack of details of where cuts will fall and their effect, and the abdication of responsibility for advocacy by TTC Board members and senior management. “We will muddle through somehow” is not an inspiring call to battle.