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Ten Years Ago this Thursday...

Hard to believe that it has already been ten years since the fatal subway crash at Russell Hill. The Toronto Star has a full retrospective here, and the Globe and Mail’s can be found here and here.

The crash between Dupont and St. Clair West stations highlighted serious problems in the TTC’s management and funding structure. Maintenance that had been deferred for too long came home with a jolt. The crash vaulted TTC General Manager David Gunn to prominence. Six months later, he was sparring with North York mayor Mel Lastman, wondering why Metropolitan Toronto should be spending money expanding its system when it wasn’t spending enough money maintaining the system it had. Gunn’s involvement in the “State of Good Repair” budget for the TTC remains one of the great accomplishments of his tenure. As the Star reports, all but one of the coroner’s multi-million dollar recommendations have been implemented. The Toronto subway today is more reliable and carries more people than it did ten years ago.

And yet, ten years after the disaster, the TTC still struggles with funding, as growth in the GTA is putting more cars on the road and pressuring Toronto buses, subways and streetcars. Major expenses, like the rebuilding of the streetcar fleet, and the unanswered question of the aging Scarborough RT, are coming due, and governments have been slow in responding with the money that’s so desperately needed.

Politicians need to wake up to the needs of urban infrastructure — not just the TTC’s, but the $2 billion deficit that is estimated to exist throughout the nation, including aging water and sewer pipes, bad roads and power plants. Our country may be financially in surplus, but the economic consequences of not keeping up our infrastructure can’t be ignored forever.

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