This seems like the wrong direction for a government committed to fighting climate change.
The federal government released its 2017 budget on Wednesday. Perhaps most disappointing for Toronto’s transit riders is the cancellation of the public transit tax credit, which offered a 15 per cent tax credit on the price of a Metropass. Ultimately, this will hit the wallets of a lot of Toronto transit riders: about 47 per cent of all TTC rides are taken on a Metropass, and declining sales in the past year have led to a ridership slump in the city.
For monthly Adult Metropass users, the cut amounts to a $263 increased cost in transit—almost the cost of two monthly passes. This will be sour news to monthly pass users, who already swallowed a $4.75 increase this year. The cost of a monthly pass has risen from $120 in 2010 to $146.25 in 2017.
The federal budget did include a commitment for over $20 billion in funding for transit infrastructure in Canada. “This funding will make it possible for Canadian communities to build the new urban transit networks and service extensions that will transform the way that Canadians live, move and work,” it reads.
The budget doesn’t make any specific funding commitments, but it will distribute the money between the provinces based on ridership and population. While this investment is, in and of itself, a good thing, what it will translate to for Toronto and its transit network remains to be seen.
Public transit tax credit will be eliminated on July 1, 2017. Happy Canada Day. pic.twitter.com/B36VV88gpD
— Matt Elliott (@GraphicMatt) March 22, 2017
— Louis Vatrt (@louisv713) March 22, 2017
— Andrew Scheer (@andrewscheer) March 22, 2017
The other serious groaner in the budget—one that probably has Mayor Tory dancing around in his short pants—is a shout-out to SmartTrack:
— Sean Marshall (@Sean_YYZ) March 22, 2017
Ottawa adding 22 LRT stations.
Calgary adding 40KM of LRT track.
Toronto gets SmartTrack.
No funding for Crosstown LRT extension East/West https://t.co/QREUx20sIz
— Peter Fenech (@peterfenech_TO) March 22, 2017
The mention of Tory’s Mystical Train Plan is, to be fair, non-committal, and of the plans listed, it is probably the most likely to be left on the cutting floor—since this is Toronto, after all. But that said, with the transit funding debates in the city being centred around how to bring smart transit investment to Scarborough (the subway extension barely counts as transit), the Liberals are throwing a bone to the transit plan that is the least important, but as the flashy name suggests, perhaps, they aren’t all that interested in getting dragged into direct transit politics with the City.
— Tricia Wood (@pkbwood) March 22, 2017
All in all, it’s not a budget that does much for Toronto transit, other than vague investments in transit more generally. There is no money earmarked for any LRTs, and no specific commitments for funding any other projects, either. In the short term, it will raise costs for Toronto transit riders by hundreds of dollars, but it will remain to be seen what the $20 billion will mean for Toronto’s transit network.