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TTC Perplexed by Ridership Drop,

TTC Perplexed by Ridership Drop, Says Toronto Star

Really, the explanation as to why the TTC’s ridership is dropping isn’t so hard to understand. If the ridership figures matched employment growth through the late 1990s, the TTC should expect 430 million riders this year. Unfortunately, their initial estimates of 418 million have had to be slashed further, to 412 million. This despite the fact that the agencies surrounding Toronto have seen substantial ridership increases. York Region Transit has pushed up ridership because the region has gotten serious about public transit. Toronto just doesn’t have the money.

For all the good that GMs David Gunn and Rick Ducharme have done for the TTC, for all the heroic efforts of the TTC’s drivers, planners and committee members, the fact remains that TTC service is substantially worse now than it was ten years ago.

Remember, back in 1990, the TTC was subsidized to the tune of $250 million annually. That’s a quarter of a billion dollars. Now the TTC gets just $150 million, a 40% drop. The $100 million loss has resulted in substantial service cuts and substantial increases in fares. It used to be that you could stop at any bus stop in Toronto and expect to wait no longer than ten minutes before a bus or a streetcar would arrive. It used to be that service went very close to your homes, very late at night, and you weren’t pressed together like sardines, even though the TTC was carrying 60 million more passengers than it does now.

The TTC’s service levels still have not returned to what they were in February 1996 when the Province of Ontario backed out of its operating subsidy for the TTC, forcing the system to make the worst cuts of its history. For the “privilege” of less frequent, more uncomfortable service, we pay substantially more. We’re looking at possible $100 Metropasses and $2.50 cash fares. To the casual user, for whom transit is less convenient and less comfortable and less cost-effective, the lure of alternate forms of transportation becomes nearly irresistable.

The solution to the TTC’s problems doesn’t require rocket science; it requires money. The TTC needs at least $200 million next year in order to maintain the service and fare levels that it now has. If our governments (especially the provincial and federal governments) were serious about reducing auto-dependency and pollution, they’d give the TTC much more than that.

At the very least, our governments should restore the TTC’s annual operating subsidy to $250 million per year, what it was in 1990 before this whole mess started. In 2002 dollars, this would still be substantially less than the 1990 subsidy, but it would allow the TTC to operate more buses and streetcars in Toronto, making room for passengers, improving the system’s convenience, and reducing fares.

It is the only thing that will bring the passengers back.

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