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TTC asks council for more cash from taxes

Paul Moloney

The Toronto Transit Commission faces a whopping $50 million increase in its operating costs this year because of higher wages and fuel prices and the cost of expanding service, budget documents say.

Wages and other employee costs are up $23.3 million, service enhancements cost an extra $10 million, the fuel bill is $7 million more and various other costs are up $10 million, say documents obtained by The Star.

TTC staff want city council to increase their subsidy by $30 million to $174 million, which would require a property tax hike of 3.1 per cent if not made up for elsewhere.

A 10-cent fare increase would generate an extra $20 million annually, but TTC commissioner and Councillor Joe Mihevc (Ward 21, St. Paul’s) said he and other commissioners say they will fight any such move.

Mihevc said ridership slips every time there’s a fare hike and that adds to traffic congestion and air pollution.

“The wisest policy move to make, if the city can afford it, is to absorb it in the property tax,” he said yesterday.

Mihevc added growing ridership - expected to hit 420 million next year, up from 410 million in 2000 - creates pressure to expand the system.

If council refuses to inject more tax dollars into transit, then suburban bus routes will be axed and on the remaining routes “you’ll see - in the former city of Toronto predominantly - everything running packed,” said Councillor David Miller a TTC member.

City council decided that fares should pay 80 per cent of costs, but they already cover 81 per cent, said Miller (Ward 13, Parkdale-High Park).

Councillor David Shiner (Ward 24, Willowdale), chair of the budget committee, said a fare hike is likely, but may not be controversial. “Fuel costs are exorbitant. People know that.”

The operating budget is separate from the $200 million a year in TTC seeks in capital funds for new buses, streetcars and other equipment.

Councillor Howard Moscoe, a longtime TTC commissioner, is urging the city to bring in special levies on commercial construction projects to fund the capital needs. “And it’s justified because new development brings a need for more transit services.”

But Miller said the only long-term answer is for the provincial government to return to funding transit by handing over a share of fuel taxes.

Council’s budget committee is to examine the TTC’s numbers on Friday.