The only way to improve Toronto’s public transit system is to properly fund it, not break it apart. Jessica Bell is the MPP for University-Rosedale and the NDP Transportation critic. Read her op-ed in the Toronto Sun outlining why the so-called subway upload will make things even worse for commuters.

OPINION: We can’t afford Ford’s Toronto’s subways takeover

We all know the Toronto Transit Commission has issues.

The TTC needs $33 billion over the next 15 years for maintenance so rush-hour delays are the exception, not the expectation. Regional fares need to be integrated so people can travel throughout the GTA without paying double. And then there’s the sardine-overcrowding and the long, frustrating waits.

Doug Ford has been scheming to rip Toronto’s subways away from the TTC – a provincial takeover and TTC breakup, leaving the rest of the TTC and the City of Toronto owning just buses and streetcars.

This will make things even worse for commuters.

Once Doug Ford and his developer friends get their mitts on our transit system, they can manipulate the pricing structure and charge even more to ride the subway. They can set fares independent of TTC buses and streetcars. This means higher costs and less fare integration. It could lead to a pay-by-speed or a pay-by-distance model where families priced out of our downtown core and living in the furthermost reaches of the city are saddled with higher subway fares, further squeezing the family budget. For commuters, Ford’s plan means less coordination between routes, higher costs, and even more crowding.

Doug Ford has already handed over the keys for new stations to developers, allowing them to influence where, when and how new subway stations and train routes are built. This is a big problem because it could lead to stations at a developer’s new shopping mall jumping to the front of the queue while critical transit projects that benefit our city, like the relief line, are ignored.

What’s even worse is that experts describe Ford’s plan to have private developers pay for transit as far-fetched. It’s estimated that a developer would have to build eight to 13 78-storey condos to cover the $500 million cost of adding just one more subway stop to the Scarborough subway extension. That’s just not going to happen. This fanciful scheme could mean nothing will be built.

Let’s face it, Doug Ford is focused on cutting public services. If he takes the TTC’s trains, we can be certain the billions needed to maintain our TTC won’t be provided. The chronic delays, overcrowding and unexplained breakdowns show that our aging subway is already struggling to keep up with how quickly Toronto is growing. And the last time the Conservatives meddled in municipal transit they made deep cuts to operating funding, and public transit has never recovered.

We need to derail Doug Ford’s plan to steal Toronto’s subway. And we need to properly fund transit with the province kicking in 50% of the operating costs. No one voted for higher fares and even more crowded trains. People deserve so much better than this.

– Jessica Bell is the MPP for University-Rosedale and the NDP Transportation critic