Whether the candidates choose to talk about it or not, the next federal election will focus on Toronto's transit problems, according to TTC union boss Bob Kinnear.
"The transit election," as he calls it, will be an effort to get better funding for the TTC.
"We don't have to wait another five or 10 or 15 years to improve transit in Toronto, we can start now," said Kinnear at a press conference Monday morning at city hall.
Kinnear and the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) released 68 recommendations on how to improve public transit in the city. Much of what he's calling for has to do with funding. He said there is no other North American transit system that gets less money for operations than the TTC.
But Kinnear stressed his union was neither for or against SmartTrack, mayor-elect John Tory's plan to add rail lines and stations, mainly along existing GO Transit corridors.
He did raise an issue about which transit body will be responsible for integrating SmartTrack. "When you integrate a new system that is not going to be maintained by the TTC," Kinnear said, "there are serious concerns."
Kinnear said there was a $270-million funding gap in the TTC. He said the problem is worse than people think.
"Toronto has an unprecedented transit crisis," he warned, urging more sustainable funding from the federal government.
"Ottawa, we have a problem. No let me rephrase that. Ottawa, you have a problem."
The union leader said he is urging people to ask the top three party leaders to "tell me about transit."
- Establish a discounted transit pass for low-income riders.
- "All door boarding" during busy times on the TTC vehicles.
- Improve connections on after hours or Blue Night routes.
- Move parking off streets with busy TTC routes.
- Buy more buses.
- More fare evasion enforcement.
- Ban left-hand turns at busy intersections that cause congestion.
- More bus shelters.
- The introduction of two-hour timed passes.
Kinnear's union representing Toronto's 10,000 transit workers.
Andy Byford, the CEO of the TTC, said he agrees with many of the recommendations in the report and in fact work on some of the ideas is already underway.
Byford also agreed funding is crucial.
"The issue, as ever, is: where is the money coming from?" said Byford.