No new streetcars, a hit on accessibility? Why a $1.1B Toronto transit funding cut has some feeling 'ill'
'No way' province's funding cut won't have an impact, TTC's chief financial officer says
Transit advocates are calling on the province to reverse a $1.1-billion funding cut that could see the TTC run out of money before it can it can purchase new vehicles next year, and could mean a hit on accessibility projects.
At a board meeting Wednesday, the TTC painted a bleak picture thanks to the province's cancellation of a planned hike in municipalities' share of the gas tax.
The increase amounted to more than $1 billion in revenue for Toronto over the next decade — with much of it slated for TTC repairs.
The transit agency's chief financial officer, Dan Wright, said signing off on the final capital budget after that cut made him feel "ill."
"These is no way you can take $1.1 billion out of our 10-year program and not have an impact on the efficient and effective running of a system — there is just no way," he said, adding that new bus and streetcar purchases in 2020 are now unlikely.
According to previous comments from Mayor John Tory, the revenue source was expected to bring in $24 million this year alone to help maintain the TTC's fleet.
Back in 2017, the former Liberal government announced a doubling of municipalities' share of gas tax revenue — an apparent consolation prize to Toronto after former premier Kathleen Wynne quashed Tory's request for road tolls on its highways.
The two cents per litre on all the gas taxed under the provincial fuel tax to help fund their public transit networks was set to increase to four cents per litre by 2021.
Killing the hike now was a surprise move from the PCs — and it broke a campaign promise.
In a news release this week, TTCriders board member Mike Sullivan said the transit agency had been relying on the funding to boost accessibility for people with disabilities.
"These reckless cuts to our already fund-starved transit system will do harm to our communities," he said.
Over the next 10 years, the extra gas-tax revenue would have gone towards an update to 27 subway stations that aren't fully accessible before 2025 and new Wheel Trans buses, among other projects, the release said.
"The Ford government has broken their promise to honour the planned funding increase to transit agencies across the province in their 2019 provincial budget," the statement continued.
In May 2018, a spokesperson for the Ford campaign told CBC Toronto that municipalities would see no decrease in the money flow and that a PC government would honour the planned increase put in place by the Liberals.
Over the next few months, "the government will consult with municipalities to review the program parameters and identify opportunities for improvement," the province's budget said.
In a statement Wednesday, a spokesperson for Ontario's transportation minister said the government "will continue to support municipalities through the existing gas tax program and make sure it meets the needs of the people of Ontario," adding that it's provided $364 million in gas tax funding to 107 municipalities.
"The people of Ontario can no longer afford the financial mismanagement of the previous government, which left us with a $15 billion deficit. Our government is putting people first and protecting what matters most — services like health care and education," the statement from Mike Winterburn said.
With files from Lauren Pelley