The TTC will be seriously challenged by the provincial plans to strengthen Metrolinx as the regional transportation authority.
A more powerful Metrolinx will run GO Transit, and the elected local politicians on the Metrolinx board will be replaced with provincial appointees as it expands long distance commuting in the GTA.
Yesterday Premier Dalton McGuinty announced $9 billion for three new lines to be built in the next seven years: On Eglinton from Pearson airport in Mississauga to Kennedy; on Finch; and in the Region of York.
Where will the money come from to operate these new commuter services which will all operate seriously in the red?
GO Transit carries almost 50 million riders a year, at a deficit of about $5 per rider. (Someone travelling into the downtown from Oakville by GO transit gets $10 in subsidy every day from the province.) York Region Transit carries 10 million riders at a subsidy of $2.50 per rider.
Carrying commuters long distances always operates at a deficit that grows with the length of the ride, and escalates even more if it is by rail rather than by bus.
The fear is when Metrolinx looks for money to run these new services, it will demand it from the one healthy transit system in the GTA, the TTC.
The TTC dwarfs the other transit systems in the GTA in the number of passengers carried, 450 million per year, and its subsidy, roughly 50 cents per rider.
In the past few decades the TTC has found money to run its subways, which serve as an inexpensive and attractive commuter services for people living outside of the city, by cutting streetcar and bus service and by raising fares. The effect has been to reduce the number of local transit riders in the city who get tired of waiting for a streetcar or bus that never seems to come and costs a lot for a short ride.
That’s the worry with a more powerful Metrolinx: Downtown transit will be sacrificed to pay for a regional commuter system.