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Lastman plans visit to Ottawa to plead for more transit funds

By Jennifer Lewington, Marissa Nelson

Mayor Mel Lastman plans to lobby Prime Minister Jean Chr�tien directly for federal government aid for public transit. Mr. Lastman hopes to pay a visit to Mr. Chr�tien, whose Liberals were returned to office last Monday with an increased majority, early in 2001, a spokesman for the mayor said yesterday.

The mayor’s push comes as local transit officials renewed their plea yesterday for all levels of government — local, provincial and federal — to invest in transit on a scale needed to accommodate one million more people over the next 30 years.

At a conference, Richard Ducharme, chief general manager for the Toronto Transit Commission, warned that new investment in transit is not necessarily about building new subway lines. To underscore that point, Mr. Ducharme said his advice to Mr. Lastman is to turn down any offer from Ottawa or the province that is predicated on new subways alone.

He estimates that the TTC needs between $3.5-billion and $4-billion over the next 10 years, a level of capital investment that must be approved by the new city council. That investment would pay to replace existing equipment and to maintain the system. Otherwise, he warned, “what you see on the street now won’t be there.”