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The TTC Prepares for a Comeback
Despite political obstacles to good ideas, disappointments in Ottawa, and the usual Queen's Park shenanigans, I have had a modest sense of optimism about the TTC in recent months. First, there is the growing awareness and focus on issues such as gridlock, sprawl, and sustainability. The notion is gaining momentum as an issue of concern for the entire region. I don't drive to work, but from what I read the roads are getting worse -- this can only help keep the issue on the front burner. Next, there is the professional planning taking place at the TTC. They have always impressed me with their sober analysis and political realism. They have recently produced a Ridership Growth Strategy that is a call to action to not only restore the TTC to a good state of health, but also to expand the system to support the city in the coming decades of growth. While the current provincial government entertains a variety of transit investment options, the TTC makes the best business case in terms of cost vs. results. Now, the Harris/Eves government's loyalty to rational business-like decisions has been more mythical than factual, but one can always hope. Third, we are in an election year, both municipally and provincially. In the City of Toronto, nearly all mayoral candidates, and many councillors, represent an improvement -- to greater or lesser degrees -- over the current corruption- and incompetence-stained administration. Provincially, the Tories are on the ropes, and the leading Liberals promise solid support for transit. Finally, there are signs that the city itself is gearing up to take matters into their own hands. If I had been loyally reading the excellent Toronto Transit site, I would have seen James Bow's note linking to a Toronto Star article about the "TTC tax". The city's budget chief is proposing an all-category property tax hike dedicated to funding transit. It would raise $84 million per year. If the city follows through on Councillor Shiner's proposal, and if a new provincial government follows through on its promises, the TTC will be well on its way to finding the funding to implement its Ridership Growth Strategy. The benefits include:
  • Meeting the current system maintenance and capital needs
  • Increased level (frequency) of service
  • Reduced fares
  • Surface LRT systems on major avenues (like the Spadina LRT)
  • Scarborough RT capacity increase
  • Sheppard subway extension
  • York University subway extension
Ridership would be increased, with a higher quality of service and at a lower price. Sounds good. Additionally, the TTC is also suing the federal government for a GST exemption, on the grounds that the TTC and municipalities are organs of the provincial government, and that the federal and provincial governments are not allowed to tax each other. The savings? 7% on everything.

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