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What if we had to cut $100 million from the TTC?

When City Council voted to defer the proposed imposition of land transfer and car registry taxes raising almost $350 million next year, they opened the door to the City of Toronto being forced to cover an expected $500 million deficit in 2008 by property tax increases and spending cuts alone. Mayor Miller, in a half PR-drive, half contingency plan, has ordered all departments to bring forward plans on how to operate on substantially cut budgets. TTC Chairman Adam Giambrone and other TTC commissioners have called an emergency meeting to consider the effects of a possible $100 million cut in the TTC’s budget.

The CBC, and other media outlets are soon going to be awash in apocalyptic speculation, including the closure of the Sheppard subway, a sharp cut in surface transit, plus a 25 cent increase in fares.

These issues are serious, and probably an accurate picture of what would happen if the TTC was forced to slash its budget so, especially considering that TTC’s current service is far below what it should be to serve Torontonians. However, these predictions amount to a worst case scenario, and to his credit, Adam Giambrone is presenting these as such. Between now and when Toronto’s budget is set, any number of things could happen. The province could, for instance, upload a number of services currently paid for from municipal property taxes. The City of Toronto could turn around and decide to impose the taxes it deferred.

There is still plenty of time for city and provincial problems to fix the upcoming shortfall, save current TTC service, and increase funding to ensure there are sufficient transit vehicles to meet demand, but this will take a considerable amount of political will, and that only comes from the public. Even though the news reports are only considering the worst case scenarios, it would be good if voters everywhere who cared about good public transit contact their councillors and their provincial politicians to tell them to give public transit the funding and attention it needs.

(Update: 7:17 p.m.): Steve Munro weighs in. Among the commentary:

“If there is one silver lining in all of this, it is the proposal to close the Sheppard Subway. I really don’t want to see this sort of thing, at least on a 7×24 basis, but finally the citizens and politicians of Toronto will see the folly of this line and how much it costs us every year to operate. The entire RGS plans for next year cost considerably less than the claimed saving from closing this one subway line. All those who dream of a subway to the northern hinterlands please take note.”