Council unusually co-operative in push for funding

Get ready Ottawa. Wake up Queen’s Park. The TTC and the City of Toronto are polishing a pitch for more money — a lot more — and it’s aimed directly at the two levels of government.


Mayor David Miller claimed during the recent municipal election that he would pressure federal and provincial politicians to rebuild the overstrained transit system. Yesterday’s transit meeting was an indication the mayor has managed to corral what is traditionally a fractious city council into making a clear case for winning the TTC billions more dollars over the next decade.


While Miller was not there in person for the board meeting, neither was any real opposition in evidence.


Commissioners got their first look at a gargantuan budget that includes a huge purchase of new streetcars and subway trains, as well as massive repairs to the subway system.


There were no suggestions that the TTC just make do with existing vehicles, cut back on service or try to raise the money some other way than asking for help from senior governments.

Transit staff stressed yesterday that the system’s vehicles are simply too crowded.

Yearly rides taken on the TTC are rivaling numbers not seen for 20 years, but riders are now sardined into about 10 per cent fewer buses and streetcars than were on the roads in 1986.

Thirty-eight TTC routes were deemed officially overcrowded at the end of 2006, and more will be added to the list before extra buses arrive this fall.

There’s been a 15 per cent increase in complaints about crowding, service delays, and passengers being bypassed at stops because there was no room on a vehicle.

If that’s not a stark enough picture, the Scarborough RT has been above capacity for five years running. Perhaps it’s no surprise that few commissioners support giving riders a fare hike this year.

But will those who control tax coffers in Queen’s Park and Parliament Hill buy the case that’s being made by an uncharacteristically cohesive Toronto council? We shall see.

The uncertainty is not stopping transit commissioners from being hopeful.

TTC vice chair Joe Mihevc says there’s a new financial plan to buy modern low-floor light rail vehicles. Officials are busy planning for a dozen new transit corridors throughout the city, where buses or streetcars will be isolated from traffic.

According to Mihevc, this “Transit City” plan has moved up on Toronto’s priority list, ahead of the proposed Spadina subway extension into York Region —now estimated to cost $2.4 billion.