Hamilton's HSR is not the only public transit system in peril. Here in Toronto the TTC is facing a funding shortfall as well.
"The TTC has been asked to chop $848 million from its 2010-2019 capital budget." reports the Star. "The bulk of that, $535 million, would be cut in the first five years. The remaining reductions would be implemented between 2015 and 2019."
As in Hamilton, the way to address it seems to be cut, slash and burn:
(Toronto Transit Commission general manager Gary Webster) worries that the TTC would be forced to buy 270 fewer buses than already planned and eliminate 20 to 30 bus routes.
There would not be enough funding to allow the current Queen 501 route-splitting project to continue, or to allow the Ridership Growth Strategy on streetcars to proceed until 204 replacement streetcars are delivered. As he points out, these cuts would not be consistent with the city's Official Plan, which calls for transit-based intensification along main streets.
Cuts would have a serious impact on maintenance programs such as rebuilding buses at the mid-life point, he says.
"To achieve the level of funding available," Webster writes, "we would need to shrink the transit system, i.e. make it smaller."
A recent RTH poster asked, 'How does transit save people money? Why do we define it as an 'investment'?' Gary Webster cites one of many reasons:
A "downward spiral would begin as ridership would be reduced with poorer service," Webster warns... Webster predicts that ridership would drop to 400 million from 470 million. That would in turn mean "up to 250,000 more people in 200,000 extra cars daily competing for city road space."
I can only wonder what the rest of Toronto's transit commuters will make of the fee increases and service cuts ahead. For many folks, transit is the only option. Living in downtown Toronto I am often beholden to the vagaries and nuances of our supposedly 'world-class' system. For the most part it fails the test.
I recently had to plan a trip to Mel Lastman Square. When I got to the web site I was frustrated by the complete lack of navigational aid available (hint to TTC web developers: a 'plan your trip' link might be useful).
When I did finally work out the route number and schedule, I was dismayed to learn that there were no subways or buses available for my time of travel. Thanks for nothing.
Another problem: I frequently need to travel in a diagonal direction - something the TTC is not designed to do. So I bike it or cab it or I walk. Friends who ride the rocket daily have a litany of complaints from frequent ride throughs and drive bys to a consistent lack of information and respect paid to customers.
Municipal transit is an investment. I'm not going to debate that again in this blog entry: you either get it or you don't. What is clear, though, is that for many riders transit remains an option, one that will be increasingly ruled out as the price increases and the service declines.
If you want to see the impacts of an under-funded transit system, come to Toronto.
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