What a lot of trouble to replace 30-year-old streetcars. On Friday, Toronto city council approved a historic billion-dollar purchase of new light rail vehicles. That’s good news. And yet the process was torturous, years overdue and managed to further erode the credibility of politicians at the local level and in Ottawa.
The fact is the TTC is very short of trams right now — and riders can feel it. Patronage is growing and we are crowded into vehicles that are breaking down at a worrying rate.
Two streetcars collided Saturday at Spadina Avenue and Queen’s Quay, adding to an already long list of those needing attention from repair crews.
Even as the TTC expects new subway trains to arrive next year, its fleet of buses and streetcars are not up to acceptable standards. We can place the responsibility for this on leaders at city hall, Queen’s Park and Parliament Hill. Decades of ideological bias and poor co-operation hurt Toronto’s transport system through neglect, and the damage persists.
Ironically, it was Ottawa’s overdue entry into transit funding this decade that saddled the TTC with lousy hybrid-electric buses. Newfangled batteries have been so unreliable that some buses just give out mid-route.
And so the TTC nurses along 25-year-old GMC buses because the hybrids can’t be relied upon.
All three levels of government do deserve credit for directing tax dollars to new subway, light rail and GO train lines but the core system used by millions of riders suffers, as if an afterthought.
Our bus and streetcar woes may diminish in less than five years, but it could take much longer to fix worn out subway stations. They are structurally sound but sport a surprising amount of holes in the walls and ceilings.
Now that the city has shifted money around to pay for the new streetcars, will Ottawa’s promised stimulus funds reach Toronto transit riders?
The suburban voters that ride GO Transit have also been let down by political gridlock in the past, but the regional carrier is catching up fast. GO passengers use vehicles and stations that are consistently in better repair than the TTC.
Should urban transit be relegated to sub-par quality — in one of the wealthiest cities on the planet — because ideological differences keep our politicians from doing their jobs?