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Lastman accuses TTC boss of damaging Olympic bid

Comments on transit ‘evil’: Ashton says city can’t stop every time Mayor has project

James Wallace
National Post

The city’s TTC chairman committed an evil act by trying to further pet projects at the expense of the city’s Olympic bid, the Mayor said yesterday.

Brian Ashton told the National Post this week the Toronto Transit Commission can no longer support its extensive transit network without help from Ottawa and Queen’s Park, and is preparing to dramatically reduce bus, subway and streetcar service by the fall in the absence of funding commitments.

Mr. Ashton added the TTC does not receive enough money to pay for the capital purchases necessary to upgrade the transit system in time for the Olympics, comments that provoked the wrath of the Mayor.

“There’s a lot of people that are taking advantage or will take advantage in order to get their pet projects,” Mr. Lastman said. “This is stupid because what appeared [in the Post] is already being handed out in Lausanne and that is bad, that’s evil,” the Mayor said, referring to the meeting of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations this week in Switzerland.

Mr. Ashton said the $200-million a year the TTC receives from the city will barely maintain existing transit service levels over the next five years, and that $450-million annually will be needed over six to 10 years just to make ends meet.

For commuters, the future holds longer waits for bus, subway and streetcar rides and more crowded conditions, he said.

While other Canadian and U.S. municipalities receive financial aid from senior levels of government, neither Ottawa nor Queen’s Park helps underwrite the cost of running public transit in Ontario.

“We need better transportation, there’s no two ways about it,” the Mayor said. “We’re fighting for better transportation and we’re going to get better transportation.”

Toronto council is in the midst of protracted negotiations with the province over transit funding, but the talks have yielded few tangibles.

“The Premier is going to bend, I’m sure he will bend,” Mr. Lastman said. “But there’s a positive way of wording it and I’d like to see [Mr. Ashton] use the positive way.”

Mr. Ashton said: “If transit in Toronto is an Ashton pet project, I’m proud of it.

“This wasn’t a shot against the Olympics, in fact the Olympics would be a salvation for transit.

“There’s no question in my mind that if we get the Olympics we can build a transit system to support it” because senior levels of government will put funds into the system, Mr. Ashton said.

However, there needs to be an immediate public debate on the future of public transit in Toronto because the fare box alone cannot sustain the system, he said.

“You can’t stop running the city every time the Mayor has a mega project,” Mr. Ashton said. “And you can’t run a city in secret, which is what he does.

“The public needs to know the truth about what’s happening in transit.”