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Deal would mean no TTC hikes, service cuts

Council must maintain subsidy for two years

Toronto Bureau Chief
Thursday, April 6, 2000

Toronto transit riders will not face a fare increase or service cuts for the next two years, thanks to a budget deal brokered yesterday by members of city council.

The deal, expected to be endorsed next week by the council, was worked out by the city’s budget committee and their council colleagues on the Toronto Transit Commission.

“If this clears council, you will be protected against a fare increase next year and we can maintain our existing level of service,” said TTC chairman Howard Moscoe.

In effect, the city pledges to maintain its current subsidy of $149-million to the TTC for the next two years, a commitment that at one point seemed to be in jeopardy. The balance of the TTC’s $764-million annual budget comes from the riders, who finance 80 per cent of the system’s operating costs through ticket purchases.

For its part, the TTC will help the city through its budget crunch by allowing the city to borrow between $5-million and $10-million from a TTC reserve fund this year. That fund, in part, has built up over the past year thanks to a 10-cent-a-ride fare increase imposed last year that will help pay for higher wage costs in the next two years.

The city’s commitment on the $149-million subsidy means a lot to the TTC, since it ensures a multiyear approach to funding its operations.

“We’ve got stability and predictability,” Councillor Brian Ashton told his fellow TTC commissioners at their monthly meeting yesterday. “Before this, we lived with the fear that the subsidy would be reduced.”

Now that the province has dropped its funding support for both operating and capital budgets of municipal transit systems, including the TTC, the costs are borne by transit riders and local taxpayers. In other North American jurisdictions, the senior levels of government share in the cost of new subway cars and expansions of the system.

Yesterday, with an eye to its own wish to purchase 212 new subway cars over the next four years, the TTC commissioners agreed to try to persuade their city council colleagues to approve the immediate purchase of 80 cars.

TTC officials contend that a commitment to buy the subway cars by June — a deadline set by the manufacturer — would save the TTC $20-million and would give a boost to Toronto’s bid to play host to the 2008 Olympic Games.

However, the commissioners recognized that they face an uphill battle to persuade council to spend the money now, given its budget pressures.

“We need the subway cars regardless of the Olympic Games,” TTC general manager Gary Webster told the commissioners, but argued that the purchase of the cars would enhance Toronto’s bid to provide accessible transit for the Games. The newer cars have wider doors that allow wheelchair access.

TTC vice-chairman Rob Davis told his fellow commissioners “we have to wage a bit of a war on this” with other members of council. “But we can make the pitch.”;

Ideally, the TTC hopes to enlist the Olympic bid committee’s support for its campaign. It also wants the Ontario and federal governments to share in car purchase as a pre-Olympic order.

Both senior levels of government have unveiled new funding plans that could, in theory, be used for a variety of infrastructure projects, including public transit.