TTC’s future looms as mayoral issue

Mayoral candidates for this fall’s municipal election appear eager to make changes at the Toronto Transit Commission.

All candidates – particularly because of the recent creation of a TTC citizens’ advisory committee – have opinions about making the TTC a less expensive more efficient service. Recently, MPP David Caplan said the TTC should become an essential service. Mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson agrees in part; she wants to see TTC ticket sales privatized.

“Managed competition actually makes the public sector more efficient and more effective,” she said. “It also makes the public sector who is providing it now say ‘OK, we’re charging too much… (and) do we really need 10 people to change a light bulb? Maybe we just need one.’”

One of her opponents in the race for the mayor’s chair, Georgio Mammoliti, wants the TTC to become a provincial responsibility.

“I firmly believe that the TTC should be handed over to the province completely … Public transportation is much more than just a city issue now … because of the corridors that we need to connect in the GTA,” he said.

Both candidates have the city’s financial status in mind. Thomson believes that the TTC can make a profit and work more efficiently. She looks to places such as Hong Kong with its profitable transit system.

“The idea of generating revenue is so foreign to (TTC) … They keep needing more and more funding from the government, and the government is getting more and more into debt,” she said.

Bruce Budd, who sits on the board of Transit Ontario, doesn’t believe those changes would make much of a difference.

“It would cause an enormous disruption in the whole bargaining process… You would have the possibility of more strikes and more disruptions, rather than fewer disruptions for a very small potential gain in costs… and that can result in a real loss of quality,” he said.

Mammoliti believes that subsidies are a fact of life when it comes to pubic transit, and that because the GTA requires an amalgamated service, the responsibility for service should be borne by the entire GTA.

“Mississauga, Vaughan, Pickering have a huge role to play in the future of public transportation and it’s not going work with separate municipalities doing their own thing with the public transportation,” he said.

Budd and Mammoliti fear that privatizing parts of the TTC generates more problems that it solves.

“The first thing that will happen is that the fares will go up,” he said.

Thomson doesn’t like the idea of the TTC as an essential service, while Mammoliti believes it could help to curb strikes.

“When you talk about effecting the livelihoods of individuals … you become an essential service and when you shut down and cripple the city in effect what you’re saying to the people is stay home for a little while because we’re going to make sure you can’t get to work and that does not work for a city,” he said.