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New TTC chief has growth on his mind

Ducharme also hopes to attract more GTA riders

By Paul Moloney
Toronto Star City Hall Bureau
Thursday, July 22, 1999

Rick Ducharme takes over the top job at the Toronto Transit Commission with a mandate to look at expanding the system and securing provincial and federal cash to solve its financial woes.

The GO Transit manager, whose appointment as chief general manager of the TTC was formally announced yesterday, said the system needs to capture riders from the burgeoning urban regions of Greater Toronto.

“For us to assume the GTA can grow by a couple million people and we can sit back with the existing system, I think we’re being very foolish,” he told reporters at city hall.

Ducharme, 51, is a 23-year GO Transit veteran, with six years at its helm. He plans to continue predecessor David Gunn’s program of high-level maintenance of the system.

But he pointed out TTC ridership has plummeted to about 390 million riders a year from 465 million a decade ago, in a region that is growing quickly.

“The development is occurring across (Toronto’s) boundaries and we have to re-assess how we try to grab some of those people and put them back on the TTC.”

Ducharme said he will study whether the Sheppard subway line, being built from Yonge St. to Don Mills Rd., should be extended east to the Scarborough Town Centre.

That review is supported by Mayor Mel Lastman and TTC chair Howard Moscoe.

“I do think it should be extended and it should go right to the Scarborough Town Centre, which was the (original) intent,” Lastman said, adding he supports Ducharme’s appointment.

Moscoe said he agrees with the goal of attracting suburban riders and one way to do that quickly is to add commuter parking at Downsview and Wilson subway stations.

Ducharme said he will take another look at shelved plans for a subway along Eglinton Ave. W. and extension of the Spadina line from Downsview north to York University.

“If you want a healthy city, you can’t ignore the infrastructure. It has to be built,” he said.

Moscoe (North York Spadina) said the province must be persuaded to return to its traditional role of helping to pay for transit projects.

Moscoe believes Ducharme can assist on that front because he has worked closely with provincial officials in his years with the GO system.

The TTC chief oversees an organization of about 10,000 employees that carries 1.3 million riders a day and has a budget of $745 million a year.

Ducharme is being hired on a five-year contract that pays an annual salary of $153,000.