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TTC pension could fund subways

Investment could help construction

Province’s action spurred idea

KEVIN MCGRAN
TRANSPORTATION REPORTER

The TTC is willing to invest its own pension money to help the city expand transit service, the transit authority’s boss said yesterday.

“Why not?” said chief general manager Rick Ducharme. “If (other pension funds are) willing to, why wouldn’t we? We invest just like they do.

“If you got the return guaranteed in the form of security from the government, why not?”

Ducharme was reacting to an announcement Wednesday from the Ontario government that Queen’s Park would begin to woo pension fund operators to help it raise money for much-needed public infrastructure.

The province plans to raise capital for new subway lines, schools and hospitals, and guarantee the investments through its “ReNew Ontario” program.

Building a subway to York University and completing the Sheppard subway line to Scarborough Town Centre are projects that would fit the program. Each would cost between $1 billion and $2 billion.

Some big pension funds, such as the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS) and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, have made long-term investments in public infrastructure overseas.

The Dalton McGuinty Liberals want to tap that resource to spur infrastructure renewal.

“We’re watching this closely,” said Ducharme. “Pension funds are pension funds.”

The TTC pension fund is valued at just under $3 billion, so it couldn’t take on a subway project by itself, said Vince Rodo, vice-president of the fund and the TTC’s general secretary.

But Rodo said he’s had discussions with the government about the program, and more are planned.

“It’s a nice thing,” said Rodo. “Our plan helps build a project that would be of great benefit.

“We are interested if the risk and returns are appropriate.”

While Ducharme has opposed public-private partnerships, fearing a drive for profits would mean service cuts, he said the current Liberal plan is different.

“It truly is taking public money — employees’ money — (for) something you want to build rather than having the private sector make all the money.”




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