TTC Budget 2016: Confused Priorities Make For A Confusing Budget (Part I)

Updated Sept. 17, 2015 at 12:35 am: The official text of motions made at the Committee Meeting came in by email just after I posted the original article. They have been appended with comments.

The TTC’s Budget Committee met on September 15, 2015, to consider the ongoing state of the 2016 Operating and 2016-25 Capital Budgets. The reports included:

Rob Ford may not be Mayor of Toronto, but his era left a hangover from which transit (and much else in the city) has yet to recover in the attitude that almost any spending is an affront to taxpayers, and that the first goal of any budget should be to spend as little as possible. That makes for good political showmanship and sound bites, but it is not a truly businesslike managerial approach we should expect from Mayor Tory. What is missing, of course, is any sense of what transit, what Toronto should be, or of the investments the city needs.

The TTC wrestles with a regime that rewards frugality with the possible exception of proposals that provide photo ops for otherwise miserly politicians.

  • The proposed operating subsidy for the TTC in 2016 is flat-lined at its 2015 level of $474-million even though inflation, population growth and full-year operation of 2015 service improvements will add to ongoing costs.
  • Tax-averse politicians love to freeze fares, and even run on this in election campaigns, but are slow to pay the bills when fares don’t make up the needed revenue.
  • The City’s headroom for borrowing will max out against its own debt target that no more than 15% of tax revenue should go to debt costs. This will choke off a significant source of capital funding for routine TTC maintenance which already suffers from low support at the provincial and federal levels.
  • TTC budgets underplay the true need for capital funding by placing projects “below the line” (for which there are now at least three sub-classes of project) in an attempt to make the City’s future borrowing exposure look healthier.

This article discusses the Capital Budget for 2016-25. I will turn to the Operating Budget and related reports in a separate post.

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