Public Transit Fights for Funding: Why Do Senior Governments Sit on Their Hands?

Thu, 2012-02-16 10:50

With public transit so important to the health, economy and quality of life in Toronto you would think that it would rank high as a government funding priority. Yet a quick look at the facts shows that the opposite is true. The TTC has been allowed to wither.

- Between 1991 and 2001 the City of Toronto grew by 9% but transit funding was cut by half in the same time period. Funding cuts led the TTC to cut the bus fleet by 22% and to close two operating garages.

- The TTC is more reliant on revenues from fares than any other transit system in the developed world.

- The TTC is the only major transit system in the developed world to fund regular operations entirely from the property tax base and from fares.

- In Toronto, 80% of the TTC’s operating budget is paid by riders. This compares with 58% in Montreal, 46% in Vancouver, 59% in New York and 52% in Chicago. The Canada-wide average is 62%. In the US, the overall average is 41%.

- Fares have more than doubled since 1990 and ridership has fallen by 10%.

- The Province of Ontario used to provide 50% of the operating costs for the TTC but under the Harris Tories, this was eliminated entirely.

- Capital investment per capita in public transit in Canada, at US$60, is less than half the recent level of investment in Seattle, New York, Denver and San Francisco.

- With ridership expected to rise in 2005 to 422 million, the TTC has still not recovered the riders it lost in the early 1990s. Funding has never been restored.

- But even if the TTC doesn’t recover the riders it once had, population growth is expected to fuel an increase in demand of 28%. Yet commitments to capacity increases only amount to 8%.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Toronto ’s population grew by 9%. But ridership on the TTC grew by 70% from 275 million to 465 million.

During this time period, there was continuous investment in expanding TTC service and keeping fares low. The Yonge subway line was extended north, the Spadina subway and Scarborough LRT lines were built and the Bloor-Danforth line was extended in both directions. The bus fleet grew by 70%.

The lesson – when the TTC is funded and expanded to meet the growing needs of Toronto people will switch to public transit in large numbers – creating more jobs, a vibrant downtown core and a healthier environment. A strong TTC means a strong Toronto.