Hundreds of Toronto transit users were treated to a special holiday treat during their commutes this week. Volunteers with the TTCriders advocacy group sang festive songs at transit stops throughout the city and engaged people to call on Ottawa to invest in new subway trains. Their message was simple: “We want new trains for Christmas!”
Toronto’s aging subway trains on the TTC’s Line 2 are in bad need of replacement, at an estimated cost of $3.2 billion. On top of that, the subway system requires safety upgrades and increased investment to provide more frequent service.
At the end of November, the provincial government announced $758 million to help modernize the Line 2 trains but stipulated that this funding was contingent on matching funding from the city and federal governments. Toronto has committed its part, but Ottawa has yet to make a similar announcement.
TTCriders notes that if the federal government does not commit by early 2024, the cost to replace the trains will increase by at least $90 million. Furthermore, the group says that the TTC could miss the chance to add badly needed sliding safety doors on subway platforms.
The caroling actions were organized to nudge Toronto MPs into action. “Toronto MPs need to hear from us, so they step up and invest in new subway trains,” said TTCriders in a press release.
The TTC’s 2024 budget projects a freeze on transit fares and holds the line on service levels, but this is a far cry from what’s needed. Subway service is only projected to increase by a mere one percent, bringing service to just 83 percent of pre-pandemic levels.
Justin Trudeau, who claims that climate justice is his government’s priority, could greatly improve public transit in Toronto and across the country if he committed to sufficient federal funds for public transit and public transportation, serving both local and intra-city routes. The $32 billion which his government is now expected to spend on the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project (TMX) would be better used to upgrade and expand existing public transit systems, and to build high-speed electric rail which would provide millions of commuters with an environmental sensitive and less expensive option. Such a program could also create and sustain many thousands of well-paid jobs, from skilled trades to operators to administration.
Unfortunately, Trudeau and Co. seem more determined to provide public funding for corporate profit than for people’s needs and climate justice.
Toronto City Council will be voting on the entire city budget, which includes the TTC budget, in mid-February. TTCriders is preparing to mobilize people to intervene directly and call for adequate transit funding.
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