Monday, January 10, 2011

A New Mayor, Another TTC Fare Hike: How Predictable

Dear Mayor Rob Ford,

First: Congratulations on your win! Now down to business: Although I have schooled myself to have low expectations when it comes to political promises, I was hoping that you being so far outside the political in-crowd would see things differently enough to replace same-old-same-old band-aids with unique solutions.

Working on the budget now is good. Promising before you even began no property tax increases – when municipalities and regions all around us have 5+% tax increases, way higher than ours ever are – was fiscally imprudent. Falling in line with TTC staff recommendations without even a thought between their saying jump and you jumping is economically imprudent. Saying like your predecessor David Miller that you don’t want to do it sounds as false as when he said it. Yes, the TTC funding seems to be an intractable problem – ever since former Ontario Premier Mike Harris cancelled reliable, practical funding of both operating and capital expenses and combined with unsustainable salary hikes, the TTC has been in freefall. Sure the TTC has put more buses on the roads recently, but given today’s announcement that routes with low numbers at nights or holidays will be axed at those hours, shows that it was an unsustainable feel-good move.

As long as Toronto and fares are expected to be the primary funding, the TTC will never return to its former glory, will never meet commuter needs.

How important is federal and provincial funding? Even that “rabid” right-winger former US President George W. Bush funded subway building in cities throughout USA, and both states and the American federal government fund public transit systems even in places like Detroit where they have to fund most of it. Meanwhile, in Canada other provinces understand the importance of transit funding and capital expansion of subways. I applaud your talk of subways. Subways are the best way to get people out of cars and to get them to work quickly. But we have lost 30 years – yes, three friggin’ decades – in subway building. That means you need to get it through the thick, parochial skulls of our Ontario and federal politicians that they have to step up to the plate and in a very big way, for the longer you put off paying the piper, the bigger the payment will be in the end.

(That is also why I think zero property tax increase is imprudent. We will end up paying too much in 2012, instead of spacing it out affordably.)

I wrote about this funding disparity between Toronto and everywhere else 4 years ago. The numbers may be out of date, but the principle is the same: Unless you get the Harper government and the McGuinty government to chip in mega dollars to make up for decades of neglect, you will never restore the TTC to its former glory, never mind meet the needs of Toronto’s population.

And unless you get the TTC to meet commuter needs, then commute times will continue to grow beyond already current unacceptable levels, and our economy will continue to suffer.

The middle class will continue to leave.

The poor will rob their food and housing budget to pay to get to work.

Our green reputation will be seen for what it is: hot air.

Previous mayors used bombast or sucking up to try to get Ontario’s Premier and Canada’s Prime Minister to take funding TTC operating and capital costs seriously. They failed. Now here you are, like those before, expecting the fare box to meet their shortfall, expecting the band-aid to cover up the amputation. It ain’t going to work. We’ve passed the downward tipping point.

You, Mayor Rob Ford, need to do a Danny Williams. It’s all very well to get tough with managers, but unless you get tough with our Premier and Prime Minister, we will never – never, ever, ever, ever – get a TTC that meets Toronto’s and Canada’s needs. For, let’s face it, we affect Canada’s economy. Whither we go, they go. It’s time they got that.

High fares, piss poor service, pigsty stations, more grunting drivers than drivers who like the public, no Downtown Relief Line, no Eglinton subway/LRT, a mayor who cannot get this urgent message to upper levels of government equals long commute times, fares too expensive for low-income earners, and a city that doesn’t work, that will continue to shed the productive, wealth-producing middle class.

Sincerely,

Shireen,

a Fed-Up Torontonian and almost-former TTC user

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