Councillors eyeing TTC’s books as city money taken up
Now that the TTC is consuming more than half of the City of Toronto’s already huge $1.4 billion capital budget, how closely are city councillors scrutinizing the TTC’s books?
New budget chief Shelley Carroll has spoken out in past years about more efficiency and accountability at the transit agency, which the city funds through property tax.
Although the TTC has undergone years of cost cutting, I gave Carroll specific examples sent in by Metro readers of what appear to be extravagant spending.
She says that when she first joined the budget committee in 2003, she would have agreed — wholeheartedly — that the huge organization did not watch its expenses enough. “There wasn’t a culture of efficiency in certain areas,” she says. “It’s been a long haul, but we’re certainly getting there now — especially … under the new leadership at the TTC.”
In the past, Carroll says she got the impression that transit officials felt her inquiries about TTC budget items were “somehow out of place.” She recalls, “Every question was like I’d just thrown a big wet fish on the table.”
Now, every year they bring more and more budget details to the city, adding to what were already “big fat, binders,” she says. “They find they bring them over here and a team of people reads every line, so there was a challenge in getting used to that.”
When Toronto’s preliminary capital plan was unveiled last week, many were surprised that 51 per cent of the municipality’s budget must go to pay for the TTC.
Carroll echoes the concern of another councillor, “that we’re a transit system with a little city tacked on the side.”
However, she warns that a more efficient TTC would not miraculously cut that amount — only by a few percentage points.
The TTC has huge, overdue needs because Ottawa and Queen’s Park simply do not supply a fair share of funds.
“When those orders of government abandoned those responsibilities in the TTC,” she says, “what they did was just not buy a single (new transit) vehicle for a decade.”
What about recent money from gas tax?
“The only return to funding of the TTC we’ve seen from both orders of government,” she states, “has always been strings attached. ‘Here’s something — but you can only spend it on this … or that.’ What we used to have was a percentage deal.”