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TTC wants 365 buses for Olympics

$212 million purchase needed if city wins bid

By Paul Moloney
Toronto Star City Hall Bureau

Toronto would have to speed up the purchase of 365 transit buses to have them ready in time should it host the 2008 Olympics, transit officials say.

The Toronto Transit Commission maintains a fleet of 1,500 buses but would need at least 800 more to handle Olympics spectators, TTC chief general manager Rick Ducharme said in a letter to the city.

In addition to the 365 buses costing $212 million, the commission’s Olympics plan proposes keeping 435 older buses past their normal retirement dates. It would also mothball 80 subway cars and bring them out of retirement for the Games.

It’s hoped revenue from Olympics-related advertising on the outside of subway cars will pay to tune them up and leave a profit, TTC chair Howard Moscoe said yesterday.

While Toronto won’t learn until next year whether it has won the Games, the TTC needs to place orders for 150 buses this year to ensure manufacturers can supply them, Moscoe said.

Toronto, Osaka, Beijing, Paris, Istanbul, Seville and Havana have already presented their candidacies for the Games. The bid will be awarded in July, 2001.

“If we don’t get the Olympics, we’ll still need those buses eventually. We’re just advancing the order,” Moscoe said.

City council, in passing the $981 million capital budget for 2000, instructed staff to report on how to pay for the buses.

Mayor Mel Lastman has repeatedly stressed that transit is eating up $456 million - 45 per cent of this year’s capital budget. Big-ticket items are the cost of buying new subway cars and building the Sheppard subway.

Lastman says the provincial government’s withdrawal of funding for transit - leaving property taxpayers to pick up the full shot - is unprecedented in North America.

The situation isn’t tenable for the long term, said Councillor Tom Jakobek, the budget chair.

“I just want to say on this issue, there’s no issue at all. There’s no other senior government in North America that doesn’t provide some capital assistance to transit.”

Toronto’s finances are so lean that it has had to increase borrowing by $64 million this year for the capital budget, 55 per cent of which is to maintain existing facilities, he said.

The city’s debt has shot up by $279 million since 1998 to total almost $1.5 billion, and that situation can’t continue, Jakobek said.