It’s budget time in Toronto, a magical period when abstract numbers get bandied about like essential truths, and political announcements are rife with promises of funding to come.
Take the TTC, which saw a hit to its revenue in 2016 thanks to lower than anticipated ridership. The TTC, which had to trim from its already pulped operating budget thanks to a mayoral edict, and liquidate its cash reserves just to reduce its projected deficit for this year.
That same TTC will receive an $80-million funding boost to its annual subsidy from the city, it was announced this week by Mayor John Tory with a beaming Josh Colle, chair of the TTC, at his side. The money stands as part of a “historic” investment in transit, another glowing example of this mayor’s commitment to get the city moving, say his boosters.
This is all true. If Toronto Council votes in favour this week, the TTC will have received an even higher operating subsidy from city coffers, one even more generous than last year’s record allotment. Never mind whether Toronto should get more of a hand from other levels of government for running one of the largest transit systems on the continent – this is still a lot of money.
But here’s where the sleight of hand comes in: even with all that cash threatening to burst the TTC’s wallet George Costanza-style, you the regular transit taker aren’t likely to see a requisite boost in the form of better service.
The reality is no one or two or even three-time boost to spending is going to create a rush of new service, no matter what elected officials say, not when there’s little guarantee the same funding levels will stay in place for in the future.
If Torontonians want a consistent amount of service befitting a major city's transit system, they need to demand consistent fundings, not one-time payoffs. You get the service you pay for.