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TTC agrees to cut bill for Catholic youth event

Joseph Hall

The Toronto Transit Commission has absolved the organizers of this summer’s Catholic youth festival of some $3 million worth of demands to provide transit services for an estimated 500,000 pilgrims.

A budding battle between the TTC and World Youth Day officials was resolved yesterday when the commission agreed to reduce its bill for providing transit to the young participants to $6 million from $9 million.

“This is a good news story,” said TTC commissioner Joe Mihevc, who was charged with brokering the deal. “We’re close enough now that we’ve basically got it.”

TTC staff and organizers of the week-long July festival had been at odds for more than a month over a demand that the transit system be guaranteed $9 million to provide participants with appropriate service levels.

Youth Day officials balked, saying they couldn’t commit to a set amount of money until more accurate visitor estimates could be established closer to the actual event. The international festival includes a Downsview Mass to be said by Pope John Paul II.

Saying they needed to set plans in motion months in advance, TTC staff had been insisting festival officials provide them with crowd estimates so the system could marshal the proper number of vehicles and drivers.

Staff had estimated that all-day rush-hour service for half a million people would cost $9 million, including $1 million for a contingency fund and $2 million to cover lost revenues.

The pilgrims, whose official passes would give them unlimited TTC rides, would squeeze out paying customers who would otherwise have used the system, transit staff argued.

But yesterday the commission voted to forgive the contingency and lost revenue expense, Mihevc said.

The transit system will receive about $2.5 million from a federal grant and another $2.5 million from a Youth Day pass fund. Passes for the festival cost up to $140 and the TTC will collect a $5 slice of each, Mihevc says.

The system will also issue a special papal Mass pass, which it hopes will provide up to $1 million in revenue.