In a move sure to appeal to some municipal voters, the Ontario NDP announced this morning that if it is elected this fall it will substantially ease one major burden cities—and especially Toronto—have been wrestling with: transit operating costs. As we are repeatedly told by the TTC and many frustrated city councillors, our transit system is chronically underfunded, having to rely on the fare box of an exceptionally high percentage of its revenues. Toronto, infamously, gets no stable, ongoing transit funding from the province, and has to depend more heavily on the revenues passenger fares bring in than almost all of the world’s large cities.
The NDP proposes to reverse this state of affairs (one that dates back to Harris-era downloading) by having the province pay for 50 per cent of municipal transit operating costs. The caveat: cities would need to promise to freeze fares for four years. This, in part, ensures the NDP would be able to take credit for sparing transit riders’ pocketbooks, and it would also ensure that the financial relief cities experience does, in fact, go to transit (as opposed to the province picking up the tab, but cities deciding to spend the money elsewhere and jack transit fares up anyway).