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TTC, 2 other major transit operators ask for feds to release approved funds in upcoming budget

Along with two other major transit operators, the Toronto Transit Commission is asking the federal government to dole out funds it approved for 2026 this year instead to help pay for current and future service needs.  (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)
Along with two other major transit operators, the Toronto Transit Commission is asking the federal government to dole out funds it approved for 2026 this year instead to help pay for current and future service needs. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

The TTC, along with two major transit operators, is asking the federal government to deliver already-approved funding in its upcoming budget or risk putting transit projects and service in jeopardy.

The Toronto Transit Commission, Société de transport de Montréal and Metro Vancouver's TransLink released their joint federal budget submission Tuesday, calling for help meeting "current priority needs" and planning for future demands.

If the funds aren't delivered in early 2024 and are doled out in 2026 as planned, the operators warn it will put new transit developments "in jeopardy," according to the submission.

"A strong public transit system is fundamental to meeting our affordability and climate action goals," said TTC CEO Rick Leary in the accompanying release.

"With the City of Toronto and Province of Ontario committing hundreds of millions of dollars toward new subway trains for Line 2, we are hoping the Government of Canada will open the PTF [Permanent Transit Fund] early in order for us to start the process of purchasing the new trains."

The TTC said it urgently needs a minimum of 55 new subway trains, which will cost $2.3 billion, to replace the existing fleet on the Bloor-Danforth Line — a line that moves over half a million riders each day and is expected to grow, the submission says. It also needs 25 additional trains, a train maintenance and storage facility for the Yonge-University Line, which will cost another $4.3 billion altogether, it adds.

Altogether, the group also wants the federal government to permanently double a permanent municipality funding stream, the Canadian Communities Building Fund, and establish a forum for all levels of government to develop a "sustainable, long-term" funding model for public transit — something top of mind for the TTC, which has been contending with lower ridership levels since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Latest ask only covers part of expenses, says TTC

New subway trains and facilities are only a sliver of what the TTC said it needs.

The agency said it requires an additional $1.8 to $2.3 billion each year for the next 15 years from all levels of government to address repairs, modernization, capacity improvements and transitioning the bus fleet to zero emissions to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets by 2040.

It's also contending with serving a growing population — Toronto's population is expected to rise from 3.03 million in 2021 to 3.65 million in 2051.

The call for expedited funding is supported by more than just transit operators.

"If federal funding for new subway trains does not materialize soon, riders will experience more delays on the subway," said Shelagh Pizey-Allen, executive director of advocacy group TTC Riders, in a separate news release.

"Transit riders deserve better."

The Department of Finance said it can't speculate on what will and won't be included in the budget. However, in an email to CBC Toronto, the minister's press secretary Katherine Cuplinskas said its economic plan is about building homes faster, making life more affordable and creating more jobs.

"We look forward to unveiling its next steps soon," she said.