There is no question that the City of Toronto cannot continue to finance its operations on the property tax base alone, and while there have been many “productive” discussions between the provincial and federal governments, there have been few solutions to the problem especially when it comes to the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC).
The impact of the budgetary shortfall is already on full display for the TTC. The order for new subway cars required for the Bloor-Danforth line was cancelled, and the Scarborough RT has been closed. The new Tuesday to Thursday work week feels permanent, which means fewer riders going downtown and less ridership revenues.
Quite simply, the city can no longer afford to operate the TTC. Over the years, there has been chatter about the province taking over operations. Now is the time to restart those discussions in earnest.
Once the Yonge-University-Spadina line extended to York Region, the TTC was no longer a local transit system, but rather a provider of transit to the Greater Toronto Area. Metrolinx implemented the Presto card across municipal transit systems so that transit routes could be better integrated. The government has already announced fare integration for GO Transit customers who use the TTC by the end of the year. If Metrolinx ran the TTC, there would be opportunities for zone fares and more fare integration between systems benefitting riders.
The province has an agreement to fund Crosstown operations of the line for a 30-year term, and the same will be true of the Ontario line. It makes sense to pay for the operation of the whole system.
The TTC is one of the city’s most significant budget pressures. This pressure will only intensify next year as the transit union negotiates a new contract.
While at one time there may have been a constituency that argued for local control of the system, those times have changed. The vast majority of TTC riders just want clean, reliable and safe service.
That being said, if Metrolinx were to take over the TTC, the entire board needs to be replaced.
It is unacceptable that no opening date for the Crosstown has been established. The region needs a viable transit system, and the only way for this to happen is for the province to take over the operations.
KAREN STINTZ is a former city councillor and was a chair of the TTC.