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2007 to be Toronto's Year of Transit?

That’s the possibility as Toronto City Council considers a $1.4 billion capital budget, of which 51% goes to TTC-related projects. The money under consideration includes funds for replacement buses, additional buses, the completion of a new bus garage, 232 new subway cars and a new signalling system for the subway. The money does not include funds to purchase new LRT vehicles to replace the TTC’s aging streetcar fleet. That $1.5 billion purchase may be spread over 10 years starting in 2010, to ease the financial pain for the city.

But while Councillor Kyle Rae bemoans the pressure these expenses have put on the city’s other capital spending (backlogs now exist on road maintenance and other departments) the fact remains that a significant reason for the TTC’s huge capital bill is the result of its own needs being pushed back by other Toronto capital spending in previous budget years. Councillors have some cause to complain regarding how provincial inaction has left this huge bill for the city to pay, but the fact remains that it has to be paid, and it has to be paid now.

Toronto’s chief financial officer Joseph Pennachetti argues that the city is still in good shape to meet the overall needs of all its programs. The investment in the TTC now will improve quality of service, and allow for some increases and less crowding, although the only way to ensure this is to continue to give investment in the TTC high priority in the years to come.