Who’s in favor of a public transit boost?

It was made perfectly clear on Friday that it will not be business as usual for transit in Toronto under the new Trudeau federal administration. An announcement was made that the Feds will kick in $840 million for Toronto to spend as they wish on existing or new public transportation initiatives.

A welcome change from the previous administration that constantly dragged its feet on this important issue or loaded funding with pre-conditions that might not have been met guaranteeing that we got nothing, or very little. Now, in the grand scheme of things and given what Toronto really needs is a massive extension of its existing subway infrastructure $840 million is a mere drop in the transportation bucket. But it will allow cash strapped city officials to make some much needed repairs to the existing system that will pay dividends to transit users by making the system a little more efficient.

TTC chairman Andy Byford acknowledged that the funds will be used to make improvements in things such as the aging signal system and the replacing of some aging track as well. Also on the radar is a modernization of the signal system for Line 2 and quite possibly some new subway trains for that line as well. Trudeau acknowledged that the city will be completely responsible for where the money is spent indicating that leaving it in the hands of the experts on the ground in Toronto is preferential to second guessing by federal officials who do not fully understand exactly what Toronto may require.

The Prime Minister made the announcement from the Greenwood Works Yard in the cities East End and has unfortunately taken a little heat, no pun intended, from critics who suggest he would have been better off heading out to the oil patch to show solidarity with western Canadians facing a massive catastrophe in the Fort McMurray fires.   The P.M did go on to say that the funds will be released to the TTC immediately and carried no conditions or strings attached.   This announcement was the first of many to come as the Federal Government has earmarked a further $3.4 billion in transit infrastructure money to be divided among the provinces with a grand total of $1.5 billion heading to the province overall.

The most recent allocation was based on the amount of total TTC ridership which was a welcome departure from the way previous administrations based their funding for transit across the country. Mayor John Tory called it an “unprecedented commitment to Toronto transit”.

The Prime Minister also acknowledged that this was only the first phase of commitment to transit woes in the Big Smoke and that the next installment would be forthcoming at a later date.   Overall a very big boost to the aging and crumbling TTC infrastructure that is currently facing a repair deficit of over $2.7 billion.   Finally, a step in the right direction.

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