Transit advocates, TTC workers stage 'Save Our Subway' protest against province's upload plans

The "Don't Steal #OURsubway Day of Action" was organized by the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 — the largest union representing TTC workers — along with the union-connected transit advocacy group TTCriders and the Toronto Labour Council.

Protestors, advocates tried to raise public awareness at 35 subway stations across Toronto

Members of the Steelworkers' Toronto Area Council were at Queen's Park station as part of the day of action. (@USWSTAC/Twitter)

Transit advocates, union members and a handful of politicians protested the planned upload of Toronto's subway network to the province at 35 stations across the city on Friday morning.

The "Don't Steal #OURsubway Day of Action" was organized by the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 — which represents some 11,500 TTC workers — along with the union-connected transit advocacy group TTCriders and the Toronto Labour Council. 

Participants handed out flyers to subway riders in an effort to raise awareness about the impending upload, while ATU Local 113 members wore T-shirts over their uniforms that read "Don't Steal Our Subway" while on the job. 

"Ripping the TTC Subway from the rest of our public transit system will create havoc for riders, add unnecessary bureaucracy to our system and take local control away from city transit planning," said Carlos Santos, president of the union.

Shelagh Pizey-Allen, spokesperson for TTCriders, said the group hopes to encourage transit users to "call the premier, call their MPP and tell them: 'Don't steal our subway, fund it instead."

Last year, the Progressive Conservative provincial government announced that it intends to take over ownership of  Toronto's subway network. The province would control construction of subway infrastructure and maintenance, while the city would keep revenue generated by the subway system.

Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek has argued the upload would allow for a more efficient expansion of the existing network. Earlier this month, the province and city have reached "terms of reference" for negotiations for the upload.

The plan is bitterly opposed by some transit riders, city councillors and the provincial NDP. They argue that the city needs to maintain its control over subways to ensure that it has a say in future development of transit and other infrastructure around subway stations.

Protesters carried an effigy of Ontario Premier Doug Ford outside Queen's Park station. (CBC)

The problem is not that the city owns the subways, critics argue, but that the TTC has been chronically underfunded since the mid-1990s, when former premier Mike Harris's government cut provincial subsidies for the service.

Yurek responded to Friday's protest on social media, calling it "NDP fearmongering."

"A subway upload will get new transit lines built faster," he wrote on Twitter.

For its part, TTCriders says the upload will result in higher fares, poorer service and generally more "chaos" during peak hours.

"There's going to be a loss of accountability if the transit system doesn't stay integrated and in Toronto's hands. Why would an MPP in Parry Sound or Kenora care about investing in our system the way that we need?" said Pizey-Allen.

Push for public awareness campaign

Toronto councillors Josh Matlow and Joe Cressy intend to introduce a motion next week that would see the city launch a public information campaign "regarding the importance of retaining control of Toronto's subways."

The campaign would include ads on TTC vehicles and in stations, as well as a series of public consultations to help residents better understand the consequences of transferring control of the city's subways to the province. 

"Torontonians should also know that with Toronto's subway, the province would gain control of lucrative air rights above stations and adjacent properties, owned and paid for by Torontonians," reads the motion, titled "Save Our Subway: Ensuring Torontonians Know the Facts."

Matlow has also posted an online petition calling for the TTC's subways to remain under the city's ownership. It has garnered more than 3,250 signatures since it was posted on Feb. 15. 


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