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TTC okays capital-budget bulge

Buying now will save money later, supporters say

By Joseph Hall Toronto Star Transportation Reporter

The Toronto Transit Commission has approved a whopping $2.1 billion five-year capital budget that it hopes can forestall a catastrophic funding crisis nearly a decade from now.

But the budget, which still has to be approved by city council, will only fly if the provincial and federal governments pick up some of its costs, TTC officials say.

The budget, which is $722 million more than originally planned, would accelerate the purchase of hundreds of buses and subway cars that won’t be needed until late next decade.

“This is a budget that will help us avoid a crisis much later on,” system chief general manager Rick Ducharme said. “But it will only work if the province and the feds get involved in the game.”

The budget would help the system avoid a huge and likely unaffordable mountain of costs that would kick in around 2008.

That’s when the need to purchase new buses and subway cars will become acute, sending yearly capital expenditures up to about $500 million for several years.

The system’s capital costs, which are more than $400 million this year, were expected to drop well below $300 million between 2001 and 2006, after the completion of the Sheppard subway line.

“Doing it this way, we fill up the valleys with the mountains,” TTC chairman Howard Moscoe said.

“It will also help us to save millions of dollars on the purchase of new subway cars and it will accelerate our ability to to make the system accessible to the disabled.”

By allowing 212 new accessible subway cars to be ordered next year, the budget could save the TTC about $200 million on their price.

Bombardier Inc., which is delivering 156 of the new cars - known as T1s - to the commission, would sell them for about $1.8 million each if the order was placed next March, allowing the company to keep its 400-person Thunder Bay assembly line running. That price would likely rise to more than $2.8 million in 2008.

Moscoe admitted he and his fellow TTC commissioners, who voted unanimously for the budget, will have trouble selling the it to city council.

The province, which used to pay 75 per cent of the TTC’s capital costs, downloaded all transit funding to the city last year after giving the commission $850 million, largely to finish the Sheppard line.