Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Transit and public funding.

The Toronto Star has a little article here about whether the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) should offer free bus and subway fare during smoggy days to encourage drivers to get out of their cars and onto transit. On the face of it, not a horrible idea: but need it really be free? Why not a discount, or free pizza or something? (The pizza thing isn't a total non sequitur, incidentally; as part of their United Way campaigns, TTC workers sell pizza in subway stations periodically. It's from Pizza Pizza, if anybody actually cares.)

There's an odd comment at the end, though:
In the long run, the best way to cut smog would be to ensure TTC service is faster and more reliable. That requires more government money. Once that happens, more drivers might see public transit as "the better way" and leave their cars at home.
The first bit isn't odd, it's just good sense. The TTC is chronically underfunded and slow (compared to, say, Vancouver's transit system, or Pittsburgh's; or even York Region's). The odd bit is the second sentence. You can only have "more" government money if you're actually getting any; but, as far as I know, the TTC is famous (or notorious) as the only entirely user-sponsored transit system in the West. Maybe if they had some government money, things would run better.

And then, of course, there are letters like this one, which completely miss the point. The TTC is losing streetcars and buses because it can't afford to replace them. The only way is to increase fares, which will drive away more riders; and this is the only way because they don't get any government funding. (I'm sure some imbecile is thinking about cutting into the union contracts; but, frankly, management had to sign those things to, and if they were unsustainable, they should never have been signed.)

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