Here’s what happens when we take our eyes off the ball, distracted by loud, braying, bullying baubles.
The [TTC} commission’s board of directors had to call a special meeting just to approve next year’s TTC and Wheel-Trans operating budgets plus a $9.7 billion, 10-year capital commitment, after failing to hold the vote as planned during Monday’s board meeting at city hall so seven city councillors sitting on the board could leave to attend the special council session on Ford’s mayoral future.
When the TTC board finally got to debating the matter Wednesday afternoon – inside a cramped boardroom at the TTC’s Davisville offices – it was also going to have to approve a fare hike to address a shortfall in the 2014 operating budget coming in at $1.6 billion.
Another year, another operating budget shortfall for the TTC. Increased, record ridership further crammed into vehicles as service levels continue to flat line. This should be front page news especially since our mayor continues to claim how he’s turned everything around in this city. However…
Let’s be honest with ourselves here.
We’re not really that concerned about fixing the public transit system in Toronto with this kind of continued approach to funding it. More and more reliance on the farebox to support its operations, per rider subsidy not only falling woefully behind other places more intent on providing better transit alternatives to its residents but even behind its own already woeful standards.
78 cents per rider next year with the proposed fare increases. Compare that to Boston, $1.93. New York City, $1.03. Montreal, $1.16. Philadelphia, $1.95. Chicago, $1.68.
I’m really trying to figure out how Karen Stintz is going to spin this out in a way to help her mayoral bid in 2014. As Mayor Ford’s chair of the TTC, she has overseen changes in service standards that resulted in cuts to actual service, especially along routes with lower ridership levels. No more WheelTrans for dialysis patients. In late 2010 when she took over as chair, the city funded the TTC to the tune of $430 million. This year the TTC is asking for $434 million (the city’s offering $428 million). At best, under her leadership the city’s funding for the TTC will have increased by a measly $4 million over 4 years. At worst? She will have presided over an actual cut in funding from the city. (A serious shout-out to Steve Munro for walking me ever so slowly through the facts and figures.)
And all the while, the fare increases. Oh, the fare increases.
For all her talk about the transit building boom we’re currently experiencing – the Yonge-University-Spadina subway extension, the Eglinton Crosstown – if we can’t figure out how to fund the operational side of them properly, it’s just going to be more lines in a system packed with unhappy riders.
Of course, TTC Chair Stintz can hardly be singled out for blame on the deplorable state of the transit file.
The provincial government probably could’ve gone a lot further in garnering votes from the city if, instead of helping to push along the idiocy of a Scarborough subway extension of the Bloor-Danforth line, it simply announced that it was back in the game of contributing 50% to the annual operating costs of the TTC. Like it used to be, pre-1995. Imagine the ease on the city’s coffers to only have to come up with some $200 million or so this year for the TTC while the province chipped in the other half. And imagine it the year before that. And the one before that. And so on and so on for nearly the past 2 decades.
Somehow the province manages to find $84 million to give to GO Transit but the cupboard remains bare for the TTC. Until Queen’s Park sees fit to address that situation, it really can’t be considered serious about transit or the congestion that is plaguing this region. You simply cannot expect people to get out of their cars and into transit if the transit is expensive and not particularly pleasant or efficient to take.
There’s plenty of blame to go around, obviously, but we can’t lose sight of one important fact. Despite the enormity of all the scandals swirling around him, Mayor Ford has proven to be an even bigger disaster when it comes to public transit in Toronto. Less money, reduced service and higher fares. That’s a veritable trifecta of mismanagement and something we shouldn’t lose sight of amid the mangled wreckage of his time in office.
— remindingly submitted by Cityslikr