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Scarborough line could go: TTC chief

Budget cutting threatens routes, Ducharme warns

Joseph Hall

The Toronto Transit Commission must consider cutting big-ticket items like the Scarborough rapid transit line if the city makes good on threatened budget cuts, says the TTC’s chief general manager.

The six-station line, along with dozens of bus routes and several streetcar lines, are in jeopardy by a city budget committee request that the TTC chop more than $400 million from its five-year capital budget, Rick Ducharme said yesterday.

“If you’re going to take that amount of money, we’re not talking about wiping expansion off the table. You’re looking at cutting a way deeper,” he said.

“If we need $1.5 billion just to keep the service levels we have now with some very modest growth, and they want to cut $400 million. This is serious stuff.”

Ducharme has asked the city for $1.5 billion in capital funding over the next five years, the bulk of which would be spent to replace hundreds of old subway cars and buses and to upgrade the streetcar fleet. Last month, the city’s budget committee asked him to look at cutting his request by almost a third.

Ducharme said the system would either have to shrink significantly or lower its safety standards by cancelling or postponing basic upkeep.

And we will never jeopardize … safety, not while I’m here,” he said.

Ducharme said the TTC has budgeted $150 million to $200 million a year to keep the system’s basic tunnel, track, signal and station infrastructure safe, and the $400 million in cuts would have to come from proposed vehicle purchases.

“Most of our money is in replacement vehicles and there’s no magic. You have to dig right into that and say you can no longer afford some of that replacement cost,” he said.

“It’s a total refocus on our vision.”

That new vision, if forced on the TTC, might include the end of the Scarborough line and several streetcar routes, Ducharme conceded. The SRT, which opened in 1985, carries about 25,000 people on an average weekday.

“If you’re told you can’t buy vehicles, you have to keep reducing the fleet,” Ducharme said. “And if people think I can do that without affecting the service, I don’t know where they’re coming from.”

Ducharme said the TTC is already considering the cancellation of dozens

of marginal bus routes to deal with a potential operating budget shortfall.

Budget chief says transit request ‘padded’

However, city budget chief David Shiner said the TTC has “padded” its budget and Ducharme is using “scare tactics” to get more money than he needs from the city.

Shiner said the TTC has enjoyed huge capital support for upgrading its facilities since a lethal 1995 subway accident revealed serious infrastructure flaws. And, he said, the TTC can make do with its current fleet, much of which has already been upgraded, for the time being.

Councillor Lorenzo Berardinetti (Ward 37, Scarborough Centre) said any move to cut the SRT would be “stupid.”

“It’s a vital connection to Scarborough City Centre and other parts of Scarborough and so much has been invested in making it work,” he said.

The province traditionally picked up 75 per cent of the TTC’s capital costs, but will cease to be involved in the system after an $829 million downloading package runs out this year.