How can we pay for it?

[attach]6527[/attach]The question of how and when transit expansion in Toronto will be funded was the focal point of a packed town hall meeting in midtown Oct. 22.

“We’re arriving at long last at a critical, but far more intelligent moment,” said Ward 22 councillor Josh Matlow, who hosted the panel discussion on the topic at North Toronto Memorial Community Centre. “Rather than just debate what technology or where transit will go, I think we need to have a conversation about no matter what transit we want, how will we pay for it.”

Revenue tool options such as the ones contained in a city manager report released earlier this month dominated the three-hour town hall.

Former chief city planner Paul Bedford said the city is lagging on developing a cohesive plan, and suggested Toronto explore a variety of alternative methods.

“If we asked people to pay one loonie a day … on all non-residential parking spaces throughout this region, that’s all the Yorkdale and Fairview malls, that [would] generate $1 billion a year forever,” he said as an example.

The panel, which also included transit expert Steve Munro, and representatives from the TTC and Metrolinx also highlighted the need for more money from provincial and federal governments, increased fares and an alternative debt-financing model.

Munro pointed out the TTC’s operating costs rise every year.

[attach]6528[/attach]“There’s a lot of focus on capital construction … but there’s a very substantial need for funding the system we’ve already got,” he said.
While panelists agreed the Greater Toronto and Hamilton region must work together with the city to fund a transit system, shifting political climates are also a constant obstacle, Munro said.

“People get wonderful ideas that last however long they’re in office, and then just as the studies and engineering ramps up, they’re voted out or they leave.”

Attendees expressed similar frustrations over the at-times confusing relationship between the provincial government, transit agency Metrolinx, the TTC and their collective ability to deliver projects on time and on budget. They also bemoaned the announcement that the completion of the Spadina subway extension will be delayed a year.

The panel rounded out the three-hour meeting by providing a quick update on the construction of the incoming LRT lines, and the TTC’s recent recommendations to prioritize a downtown relief line.