Transportation

Toronto Transit Also in Jeopardy

By Ben Bull
Published October 28, 2009

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.

Ben Bull lives in downtown Toronto. He's been working on a book of short stories for about 10 years now and hopes to be finished tomorrow. He also has a movie blog.

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By Really? (registered) | Posted October 28, 2009 at 13:12:24

"Queen 501 route-splitting project"

  • Waste of Time & Money, needs to be eliminated.

"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)."

  • They aren't even in sync with GoogleMaps Transit (HSR is though, and it's pretty useful)

"Another problem: I frequently need to travel in a diagonal direction"

-Or across even, at least in North Toronto. Example, I have a friend that lived at Islington & Rexdale, but had to get to work at Sheppard & Vic Park. He had to bus it down to Bloor, Subway it to Yonge/Bloor Stn, transfer onto the Yonge Line to Sheppard, where he had to transfer again onto the Sheppard line to Don Mills, then transfer yet again onto another bus to Vic Park. So it's either Drive 30mins along the 401 right across (which is packed with congestion through North Toronto), or suffer the 1.5hr, 4 transfer Public Trasit Trip.

The TTC may not be perfect, but it funcrtions well, IMO anyway (well, despite that stupid slow-down between Keele & Dundas West). And the 'Rapid' aspect is probably the only thing that makes it functional!

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By raccoon (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2009 at 18:53:32

so less public transit now that were all going to be poor? will we be instead be getting free cars from GM and Chrysler?

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2009 at 19:44:50

Ben >> Gary Webster cites one of many reasons:

A "downward spiral would begin as ridership would be reduced with poorer service,

Not at all. All it would mean is that the TTC would have to phase out routes that were losing money and focus on investments where they could make a profit, likely the routes with the highest population density.

By limiting the amount of resources that go to routes where there is limited customer demand, resources aren't wasted on things that people don't value. Instead, those limited resources can either go back to the taxpayer, or they can be reinvested into transit routes where demand currently outstrips supply.

Businesses operate in this manner and it forces them to invest only where customer demand is strong. In this way, resources are applied in a manner that always delivers the biggest consumer bang for the buck.

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By LL (registered) - website | Posted October 28, 2009 at 23:39:30

Are the rulers of this region really going to commit economic suicide by letting public transit wither?

Or is Metrolinx going to rush in and save the day, taking power away from cities in the process?

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