The TTC plans to use a major injection of funding to make vital subway improvements, expand its busiest station and help pay for new vehicles, as part of a plan that the chair of the agency is describing as a “once-in-a-generation” investment in Toronto’s transit system.
A TTC report released Wednesday lays out the agency’s proposal to make use of $4.56 billion expected to be made available over the next decade through the increase to the City Building Fund levy.
The increase, which will be generated by an eight-per-cent property tax hike over the next six years, was championed by Mayor John Tory and approved by council last month. It’s expected to enable the city to borrow a total of $6.6 billion for urgently required transit and housing projects.
The TTC coincidentally released its report hours after a partially derailed subway train caused major service delays on Line 2 (Bloor-Danforth) Wednesday morning. In a statement, TTC Chair Councillor Jaye Robinson said the planned investment would help avoid such incidents in the future.
“As we saw this morning on Line 2, issues with our subway infrastructure can lead to significant delays for riders who rely on our system to get where they need to go,” said Robinson.
“This funding from the City will be used to finance a once-in-a-generation, transformative subway infrastructure program. Investing in critical state of good repair and capacity improvement projects on our core subway lines is the responsible thing to do.”
The 10-year spending plan, which still has to be approved by the TTC board and city council, includes the $4.56 billion from the City Building Fund plus an anticipated $167 million from a one-time incremental increase in federal gas tax funding.
While the plan anticipates fully funding some of the projects over the next decade, most won’t be completed in that time. Beyond 10 years they will require additional, as yet unidentified, funding sources.
The bulk of the money, or $3.09 billion, would go toward “critical subway infrastructure” projects in the form of state of good repair and capacity improvements on Line 1 (Yonge-University-Spadina) and Line 2, as well as the installation of a new automatic train control signalling system on Line 2.
The state of good repair projects include work that is unglamorous but necessary to keep the system running smoothly, such as replacing track, traction power and communication systems, and switches. Some of those assets are more than 65 years old.
A further $500 million would make up the city’s one-third share of previously announced plans to increase capacity at Bloor-Yonge station. The project is expected to cost $1.5 billion and be jointly funded with other levels of government.
The remainder of the increased revenue, some $1.14 billion, would be combined with $474 million reallocated from the previous version of the TTC’s capital plan, for a total of $1.6 billion to help fund approximately one-third of the cost of new subway trains, buses and streetcars over the next ten years.
The TTC’s hope is that the provincial and federal governments will contribute the other two-thirds.
If so, the agency would proceed with buying 62 new subway trains to replace its aging fleet of T1 model trains on Line 2, which are reaching the end of their 30-year design life. Prior to additional funding becoming available, the agency had planned to go with the less desirable option of not immediately replacing the trains, and instead overhauling them and extending their life by 10 years.
The TTC is also hoping to purchase 18 new subway trains to meet expected ridership growth on Line 1, and 60 new streetcars required to meet projected demand until 2026. The report is silent on whether the agency should purchase the extra streetcars from Bombardier, which initially struggled to supply the TTC’s most recent $1-billion order of 204 new cars.
The report anticipates using the new funding to support the purchase of 614 new buses and 232 new Wheel-Trans vehicles.
In a statement, Mayor Tory said he would be “working non-stop to negotiate funding” for new TTC vehicles from the federal and provincial governments.
“We must buy new subway trains, new buses, and new streetcars but we cannot make these purchases alone,” he said.
Tory said that with the proposed additional funding, the 2020 budget would include “the most significant investment in upgrading our transit system in the city’s history.”
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The additional $4.56 billion would be a significant contribution toward the capital work the TTC will require over the next 15 years, which the agency estimates will cost $35.2 billion. But even with the extra money, the portion of the work that is unfunded would only be reduced from about $26.1 billion to $21 billion.
Despite that daunting figure, TTC CEO Rick Leary told the Star he was looking on the bright side.
“There will be more discussions about funding in the future I’m sure. But this is a positive document,” he said of the report, predicting investing in subway repair work especially would “help us improve the quality of our service.”
“We now have the money to address those items on Line 1 and Line 2 to ensure the health and safety of the system going into the future. That’s huge for me,” he said.