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Toronto Transit: A Modest Proposal

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posted on Nov, 23 2016 @ 08:53 AM
I don't often reference journalists, as individuals, in my home town Toronto, but Edward Keenan has written a very good article on the transit situation in The Toronto Star, that should be read and pondered by all interested parties.

Here is a telling quote:

It shows the per-rider subsidy of major North American and Canadian transit systems — that is, the amount of money per passenger that the government chips in to fund the system over and above what those passengers pay in fares. Chicago’s is $2.04, Boston’s $2.12, Los Angeles’ $3.00, New York’s $1.52 — and those numbers are in U.S. dollars, so you can bump them up about a third to figure Canadian equivalents. Closer to home, Vancouver’s subsidy is $1.86 per rider, Calgary’s $1.69, York Region’s $4.56. And then there’s Toronto: 90 cents per rider.

Chicago Bus Fare $2.00 + $2.04 (Subs.) + $1.33 (Exchange) = $5.37 (Real cost in Canadian $)

Toronto Bus Fare: $2.90 + $ .90 = $3.80 (Real Cost)

In Chicago a transit rider pays $2.66 (Can.) for a ride versus $2.90 paid by a transit rider in Toronto.

During the last mayoralty election in Toronto, I started a number of threads focusing on the so-called "Smart Track" financing plan put forward by the subsequently elected candidate, John Tory.

This plan, in my stated opinion, would greatly increase the debt load of the city because the Tax Increment Financing aspect of Mr. Tory's plan would not have provided enough tax revenue to enable the city to clear the cost of transit expansion, except over a disproportionately long period of time, as compared to the time it would take the federal and provincial levels of government to clear the cost of their contributions to the project.

I also indicated that the plan fitted in nicely with a trend in government, noted by the Canadian Federation of Municipalities, of downloading costs to tax payers in an overall effort to reduce budget deficits. The Ontario government, quite egregiously, in my view, went so far as to congratulate itself on doing this sort of thing.

Objections to this trend were the cornerstone of the political program of the much maligned incumbent Mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford. Naturally, I was firmly in the Ford camp on this issue, to the point of complete indifference to his roundly criticized and often lampooned personal behavior.

When one looks at transit issues in Toronto, one becomes aware of the impact that positions taken by the province of Ontario and by the federal government of Canada, have on our local situation.

Mr. Keenan's article has the merit of isolating a very telling metric that bears on the transit picture, that is, the amount of subsidy received by the Toronto Transit Commission, to cover operating expenses.

The question becomes, "What are our politicians to do about this situation?" To frame it even more sharply, "What are we citizens to instruct our politicians to do about this situation?"

The tendency nowadays in government, which can be seen in publications of the Canadian Federation of Municipalities, is to increase taxation, increase user fees, invent new taxes, anything but insist that the higher levels of government put more into the municipalities.

By the end of his article, Mr. Keenan seems to suggest, or leaves the implication dangling, that it is time for our local politicians to confront the other levels of government and to demand more money from them.

Of course this needs to be done, but it begs another question, "Where is this money going to come from?"

The vast majority of funds available to any government comes from taxation. Other levels of government will have to increase tax levels through increases in rates or by taxing the hitherto untaxed.

Here we get into issues of tax evasion, tax avoidance, sequestered offshore money and the whole litany of corrupt practices associated with what I call "gubmint".

This is what our politics should be about.

If Toronto's transit problems cannot be solved by addressing those issues, then a much larger question looms, and that is, "Can Canadians afford to run Canada?"

Is this country, because of its immense size, and the immense cost of building and maintaining a national infrastructure, simply too expensive for a nation of thirty three million people to run?

Should we be demanding a subsidy from the Americans in exchange for maintaining their national superstructure?

It can get comical.

During the last mayoral campaign, it became obvious to me that the real Mayor of Toronto is the Premier of the Province of Ontario and that the elected mayor, no matter who that might be, is simply a functionary in the most important questions related to the city and money.

Not to be too conspiratorial, but I believe that this fact is what led to the tremendous animus in the media, directed against the former mayor, Rob Ford, who, faced with the financial problems discussed here, began to kick over the traces and to forget just who was running the show in Toronto.

I think John Tory is a decent enough human being to realize that what were issues for Rob Ford, are issues for him too.

What to do?

It seems to me that it is time for the City of Toronto to remove the insulating layer that isolates the provincial and federal governments from the democratic wrath of the citizens of our great city, whose numbers make up approximately one tenth of the population of the entire country.

My modest proposal is that the City of Toronto refuse, any longer, to participate in the management of the Toronto Transit Commission, and to turn its operation over to either the provincial or the federal government.

This is a notion that comes out of the Mel Lastman school of hardball politics. Mel wanted to take the city out of the province entirely to get greater control over taxes raised in the city.

One way or the other, the province and the federal government must be made to face their responsibilities in Toronto, which, in case you didn't know, is one of the major economic engines of the entire country.

posted on Nov, 23 2016 @ 09:23 AM
So the Province and Fed should fund Toronto's public transit? I live in Gananoque why the hell should I pay extra taxes so you can take a GoTrain to work? How about all the peeps that pay $25+ a day to park use the PT system and put that money into a fund for their fancy new lines.

We don't even have a single bus in my little town! Maybe you wouldn't mind paying for one so I can go bar hopping and hit the casino on a Saturday afternoon.

posted on Nov, 23 2016 @ 09:35 AM
a reply to: Kukri

It would be interesting to compare the per capita government subsidies paid to communities all over the country, including Gananoque with the per capita subsidy paid to Toronto. I don't have the figure but I would bet that many, if not most smaller communities in this country are more heavily subsidized on a per capita basis than Toronto is.

People need to remember that Canada is run on tax money and that a very large percentage of the tax money used to run the country is raised in Toronto. The present state of the city's transit system costs the provincial and federal governments hundreds of millions of dollars in lost tax revenue every year because the system as it is now cannot support the amount of commercial activity that an up to date system would be able to support.

This not just me talking. This kind of thing has been the subject of studies by the Canadian Federation of Municipalities and other institutions. It is in the interest of all Canadians for Toronto to have a transit system adequate to the commercial potential of the city. It will improve life everywhere else by making more tax money available to be spent across the country.
edit on 23-11-2016 by ipsedixit because: (no reason given)

posted on Nov, 23 2016 @ 09:40 AM
a reply to: ipsedixit

Its a pyramid system with the Fed Corp. nearer the top while Provinces Cities and Townships fall into line .Its the Multi-National Corporations that call the shots and use their revolving doors into the political spectrum to get bills / laws and what nots like zoning to ultimately benefit them .We Plebs get some of the crumbs and pay the most for the infrastructure that the Corporations are then subsidized or given tariffs to offset their costs . At the end of the day it may be that the infrastructure is sold off into the private sector .

Mike Hudson's latest on what is really going on .Its Orwellian where the meaning of words and terms are turned upside down in front of our eyes ,and the rhetoric becomes the new normal . I guess they don't mind re-making history books every now and again to keep up with their own spin .

posted on Nov, 23 2016 @ 09:44 AM
a reply to: ipsedixit

As I mentioned we have a casino so technically we probably get a higher subsidy than most. Of course that is from OLG profits not an individual's taxes which makes it an apples and oranges comparison.

ETA: That money gets funneled into municipal works and allows us to have substantially lower property taxes than a lot of communities.

Win,Win. Except at the casino which is why I don't go there to gamble, just the for cheap meals and drinks, hmmm I think it's chicken and rib night tonight.

edit on 11/23/2016 by Kukri because: (no reason given)

posted on Nov, 23 2016 @ 09:50 AM
a reply to: Kukri

The government does have ways of raising money, like OLG, but I think my point, for the country as a whole, is largely true. The most important point is that the inadequacy of the Toronto Transit system costs governments in Canada, at all levels, hundreds of millions of dollars every year. This points to a failure of stewardship at all levels.

It is in everyone's interest, their financial interest, to bring the TTC up to speed.

posted on Nov, 23 2016 @ 09:58 AM
a reply to: the2ofusr1

I'm watching the video now. It looks great. I'm going to have to get this guy's books. (I hope they are available on kindle.)

posted on Nov, 23 2016 @ 11:10 AM
a reply to: ipsedixit

I've read your OP three times and am still somewhat confused.

I guess my overall question would be, why doesn't your local or state government impose a system whereby those who drive to work everyday find themselves having to pay more to do so? We do that in the metro areas of Texas. What they do is they take out lanes of a freeway and dedicate those lanes to HOT/HOV lanes; single passenger cars can access those lanes for a daily fee that gets charged via a transit chipset that is read as they travel along the HOT/HOV lanes. Its basically pay to play. The funds collected are then diverted to the Metro bus and train lines to build out more public transit. As that build out widens and enlarges, there's more riders on the bus and train lines which helps defray the cost of the public transit system.

Its not a perfect system and in the US public transit is plagued with crime problems. But in Toronto, you shouldn't have those type problems so I'd think it would work even better in Toronto.

posted on Nov, 23 2016 @ 02:28 PM
a reply to TonyS:

I think variations on this idea do float through discussions on transit funding, locally. I'm not sure what the practical considerations in doing this are. In essence it amounts to a toll charged to vehicles to enter the city.

I do want to point out that from what I can gather, urban transit in Texas is subsidized to the tune of 66% of the funds required in the sector. Locally raised money only accounts for 44.4% of the funds in the system. The table below lays things out.

A rough calculation of the situation in Toronto, based on the figures in the OP, indicates that only 24% of the total cost of a Toronto transit rider's fare is subsidized from sources outside the transit system itself. There is a substantial difference between the two jurisdictions.

I didn't read the linked .pdf in detail. I'm just giving a cursory response.

It is wild to think that "Cowboy Capitalist" Texas (actually, giving the real credit where it is due, the Federal Transit Administration) subsidizes public transit more than "Socialist" Ontario, but of course, Americans are afflicted with the outlandish notion that things actually have to work. Canadians not so much.
edit on 23-11-2016 by ipsedixit because: (no reason given)

posted on Nov, 24 2016 @ 11:46 AM
Speak of the devil and his mischief . . .

Tory set to announce tolls on the DVP and Gardiner

Toronto Mayor John Tory is set to endorse a controversial introduction of road tolls on the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway to raise $300 million a year for his cash-starved government, the Star has learned.

So now people are going to have to pay to come into the city.

I was talking about this to a friend of mine this morning, a Tibetan lady.

She said "Good".

"In Tibet there are many like that. Everybody own part of the road so you pay and pay and pay to go."

I raised my eyebrows and adopted my plumiest Rosedale accent, the one I reserve for people whom I suspect are my moral and intellectual superiors.

"Tush, tush Tootsie (my nickname for her awkward Tibetan sounding appellation). I think you would be in favor of putting a turnstyle on the sidewalk every fifty feet."

"Maybe every block", she said.

So much for medievalism. Is it really productive?

Clearly this is a policy of desperation.

Don't say you weren't warned Toronto. In thread after thread I told you that Tory was going to be the agent of provincial downloading.

Prepare to be nickel and dimed to death by user fees and new taxes.

Personally, I don't believe this is the way to do things. I think the feds and the province have to get real about the importance of making sure that Toronto runs like a top. There may be short term pain in some quarters of the budgets, but the long term gain will offset it in the long term. If it doesn't we are all sunk anyway.
edit on 24-11-2016 by ipsedixit because: (no reason given)

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