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TTC threatens massive cuts to all services

Changes in the fall: Many routes unprofitable, transit boss says

James Wallace
National Post

Carlo Allegri, National Post

TTC chairman Brian Ashton

The TTC is preparing to make dramatic and unprecedented cuts to bus, streetcar and subway services, the commission’s chairman says.

Staff will review Toronto Transit Commission routes over the summer and announce specific service cuts by the fall, Brian Ashton said yesterday.

Mr. Ashton said the TTC can no longer afford to maintain its extensive transit network — because many routes are unprofitable — without help from Queen’s Park and Ottawa.

“The next year is going to be a watershed year for transit in Toronto,” Mr. Ashton said.

“Instead of tinkering around the edges, we’re looking at changing the way we do business entirely.

“We have to restructure transit in Toronto to reflect the capital dollars available to us.”

This means the TTC will not run a frequent bus service in areas where rider numbers are low; that subway and streetcar services will be cut, particularly between rush hours and that, over time, buses, streetcars and subways will become more crowded, he said.

“It’s not just a question now of shrinking bus routes,” Mr. Ashton said. “We won’t be able to maintain our streetcars or subway service.

“We’ll start shrinking service until you’ll probably have service something like we had in 1965,” he said.

Mr. Ashton said the TTC needs $200-million a year on top of fare revenues over the next five years to maintain current service levels, which is roughly what the City of Toronto now spends.

“This is just to polish your shoes every day,” he said.

The requirement for additional transit funding will jump to $450-million annually over the next six to 10 years to account for ageing trains and streetcars and buses, bridges, subway tracks and other parts of the system, he said.

Mr. Ashton noted the TTC does not have enough money to bring the transit system up to scratch should the city win the 2008 Olympics.

“A diminished TTC is not going to be a very good platform to carry out an Olympic quest,” Mr. Ashton said.

“If we don’t get the Olympics and Mike Harris goes back up to North Bay to fish, we’ve got real problems.”

While both the provincial and federal governments have promised to consider Toronto’s request for transit funding, the TTC cannot wait for money that may never arrive, he said.

“I’m not pointing fingers, I’m just stating realities,” Mr. Ashton said. “What mystifies me is we have a government at Queen’s Park that stylizes itself as a business government.”

“I’m begging Mike Harris to sit down and meet with me,” Mr. Ashton said. “If I can’t prove my case he can walk away with his cheque book.

“If they can prove I’m exaggerating, I’ll resign from the commission.”