The city’s budget problems have thrown long-term transit planning into such disorder that even TTC head Gary Webster is having difficulty sorting it out.
At a budget meeting on Tuesday, Mr. Webster said Scarborough’s decrepit SRT line will be down for seven years between 2015 and 2022 while it’s replaced with new cars that will form the eastern leg of the Eglinton-Scarborough line.
He reiterated the point to reporters after the meeting. But he re-emerged from a short huddle with TTC and the mayor’s office staff to correct himself.
“I was wrong,” he said. “It is 2019 that the SRT will be back up and operational.”
It was the first time the TTC has publicly placed a timeline on its plan to overhaul the rickety line, set to be shut down after the Pan-Am Games. Mr. Webster acknowledged that he’s not altogether happy with the scenario.
“We’re going to drive people away from transit, there’s no question,” he said, adding that a fleet of buses will pick up the slack.
Under former mayor David Miller’s Transit City plan, the line was scheduled to be rebuilt by 2015. When Rob Ford came to power last year, he cancelled Transit City and signed a deal with the province to plow most of the funds it had committed to Mr. Miller’s plan into an $8.3-billion crosstown line beneath Eglinton Avenue.
The city still needs $4.2-billion for a subway line along Sheppard Avenue, and is looking to the province, the private sector and an array of development charges for the funds.
The TTC’s budget uncertainty didn’t end there.
Mr. Webster admitted the TTC has only enough buses to last until the fall of 2013 under its current maintenance standards.
Plans to build a dedicated bus lane along Finch Avenue also appear financially shaky. “That will be pretty challenging considering the significant capital constraints that we’ve got,” Mr. Webster said. “We currently don’t have any capital money.”
Councillor Peter Milczyn attempted to inject some certainty into the transit budget with a motion asking city staff to consider guaranteeing city hall’s TTC subsidy for the next two years, while also imposing annual 10-cent fare increases through to 2014.
“Give that direction up front for three years and everybody knows what they’re doing,” Mr. Milczyn said. “The TTC staff can plan properly and the public isn’t on pins and needles wondering about a fare hike.”