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New wave of transit costs coming

City council faces ‘ugly capital budget’ to cover purchase of new vehicles, repair of aging ones

Wednesday, December 13, 2000

The city needs to invest $300-million to $500-million a year in new buses, subways and streetcars over the next decade, well above current commitments, transit officials warned yesterday.

“This wave is coming, and it is very serious,” Rick Ducharme, chief general manager of the Toronto Transit Commission, said.

The proposed capital budget, to be presented today when the commission meets for its first session of the new city council, will ask councillors to endorse a multi-year strategy for replacement and repair of aging vehicles in the transit fleet.

“Decisions they [councillors] are making now have to reflect where we are going in the future,” Mr. Ducharme said. Given the lead time for purchases of vehicles that cost $2-million to $5-million each, spending decisions made this year or next will not materialize for commuters until three to five years later.

Councillor Brian Ashton, who was tapped by Mayor Mel Lastman to head the TTC for the next 18 months, said that decisions taken during this council’s term will be critical to the future of the system.

“There is a really ugly capital budget coming at us,” he said, noting that the proposed capital budget aims to maintain and improve the existing system, assuming a steady increase in riders of between one and 1.5 per cent a year.

Big-ticket expansion, such as extension of the Yonge Street subway north into York Region, is notably not included in the capital budget. But Mr. Ashton said he hoped that would not stop the TTC from “daring to dream” for the future.

The TTC spends about $250-million a year to maintain the existing system in good working order, not counting $185-million allocated this year for a new Sheppard subway to be completed in 2002.

If the TTC approved the capital budget to be presented today, the transit authority would spend about $500-million a year by 2006, about double the present level.

That is not possible, both Mr. Ducharme and Mr. Ashton agreed, without new funding partnerships with other municipalities in the Toronto region and with the province and the federal governments.

Mr. Ashton, a veteran Scarborough politician with ties to the provincial Tories, said his first goal as TTC chairman “is to establish a new relationship and partnership with the senior levels of government in transit funding.” TTC capital budget

Capital budget projections for proposed vehicle purchases for present and future ridership over the next 10 years in $million: Vehicle

374 new buses                           $240
600 repaired buses                       $60
16 light rail cars                       $51
80 subway cars (dependent on Olympics)  $160

Source: Toronto Transit Commission