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TTC wants province to pay twice for streetcars

20090925-torstar.jpg

HANDOUT IMAGE
This rendering shows a proposed TTC streetcar design from Bombardier.

Asking for additional $417M after Ontario has already paid its share

Sep 25, 2009 04:30 AM
Tess Kalinowski
transportation reporter

The TTC is looking for the province to pay an additional one-third of the cost of the new Bombardier streetcars - even though Queen’s Park committed its $417 million share of the $1.2 billion project months ago.

That would be the same third the city agreed to finance at a special council meeting in June; the portion the federal government failed to provide after months of fruitless lobbying by Mayor David Miller.

Toronto transit officials also say it would be helpful if the Ontario government could see its way clear to financing a $345 million garage for those new light rail vehicles.

It’s not that the TTC isn’t grateful for the province’s contributions, but with a $482 million capital shortfall looming in five years, the system needs more cash to maintain and expand the system, said TTC chief general manager Gary Webster.

The car house money alone would go a long way toward covering the shortfall, he said.

“We’re going to go back and talk to the province, as good as they’ve been - and they’ve been very good on funding. But we still have a shortfall. What we don’t want to do is be in a position where we’ve bought a new fleet of cars and we don’t have a car house.”

Miller persuaded city council to salvage the Bombardier deal after Ottawa refused to buy in, by doubling Toronto’s investment in the new downtown streetcar fleet.

The federal government has since granted the city $190 million for about 500 other infrastructure projects, including some at the TTC.

That is supposed to free up municipal funds that could go toward the city’s $834 million share of the streetcars.

TTC chair Adam Giambrone insisted Toronto isn’t pursuing streetcar funding any more aggressively than support for several other projects that could help close the $500 million funding gap.

“We always would welcome funding from the province of any nature, but we are not pursuing (streetcar money) any more aggressively than anything else,” he said. “There are many opportunities over the next five years. At some point that $500 million, which is basically state-of-good-repair funding, has to be met.”

The streetcars and car house are the first of six items in a capital budget report approved by the transit commission yesterday. Other projects still needing funding include the new signalling system on the Yonge subway; replacement subway cars; elevators and Wheel-Trans vehicles; and the cost to implement the inter-regional Presto fare card.

All the projects are already partially paid for, the report says.

Eight months ago, the capital funding gap was $1.5 billion. But the TTC has raised two-thirds of that amount largely by persuading the province to fund a renovation of the Scarborough Rapid Transit system.

The TTC is proposing a $1.5 billion capital budget for 2010, including the first phases of extending the University subway line into York Region, a platform renovation at Union Station and the first line in the Transit City streetcar plan.

But $949 million of that budget will be swallowed up in maintaining the current system. The city funds about $500 million of the TTC’s capital budget, drawing on Toronto’s share of the gas tax.

The capital budget is separate from the TTC’s operating budget, which is expected to fall short by $17.4 million this year, giving rise to speculation about a 2010 fare hike.

That operating gap is being blamed on the popularity of the Metropass.




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