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Audit TTC, board of trade urges

Independent look at TTC budget needed, say critics

By Paul Moloney
City Hall Bureau

The city’s auditor general should probe the Toronto Transit Commission’s books to judge whether taxpayers are getting good value, says Toronto Board of Trade president Carol Wilding.

Both transit costs and fares are going up too much, Wilding told members of the city budget committee Monday.

The taxpayer subsidy for transit including WheelTrans is likely to top $500 million in 2010, while fares increased 25 cents a ride on Jan. 3.

“Torontonians don’t feel they’re getting value for money from the TTC,” Wilding said in a presentation on the city’s proposed $9.2 billion budget for 2010.

The board wants Toronto’s auditor general to analyze transit spending not because financial shenanigans are suspected but to provide an impartial assessment, she said. “That’s what they’re there for, so call on them. That’s a resource. Let’s understand what’s going on.”

Wilding said the city could also implement a strict hiring freeze and curb discretionary purchases, but she focused on transit costs in a sometimes testy exchange with city councillors who sit on the budget committee.

Councillor Joe Mihevc tried to get Wilding to agree that transit costs grew because service was increased outside of rush hour.

A Warden Ave. bus running on Sunday night has fewer passengers, earning less fare revenue, than a packed Bathurst bus in a weekday rush hour, Mihevc said.

“The reason why it is not as efficient is because we’ve actually expanded the hours of service in areas of the city and on routes that don’t make as much return from people paying in the fare box,” he said.

Mihevc said in an interview that he was taken aback by the request for the auditor general to probe the TTC.

“This is the first I’ve heard from the board of trade that they want the TTC’s books audited, he said. “Frankly, I’m feeling like this is gang-up-and-pile-on-the-TTC month.”

Mihevc said transit groups in North America have high regard for the TTC.

“Yes we’ve have increased expenses. The union wage rate has gone up if you count benefits as well, fuel prices have gone up, we’ve increased ridership, which means increased costs.

“We’ve introduced a massive amount of new service, more than any time since the 1970s, primarily in off-peak hours. It creates the comprehensive transit system within the city that you need. It’s an investment.”

City council can ask the auditor general to probe any aspect of the city’s services and finances, but such a request is not binding.




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