Experts warn Toronto's public transit system is at risk of a 'ridership death spiral'
Toronto's latest budget shortfall has the city slashing services like the TTC, facing a nine per cent service reduction versus pre-pandemic levels, and increasing subway wait times to as much as ten minutes.
A group of researchers and experts from around the Greater Toronto Area are speaking out against service reductions. They've penned a strongly-worded open letter to members of the federal, provincial, and municipal governments, warning of a chain reaction that could bring about the death of effective public transit in the city.
The group behind the letter includes over 100 prominent academics and professionals with expertise in planning, urban design, civil infrastructure, and pretty much every other field related to public transportation planning.
🚨BIG NEWS🚨Over 100 transit and urban researchers from across Toronto signed an open letter to the city, province, and federal government calling for stable funding in the face of dangerous transit operating cuts and deferred maintenance.— Willem Klumpenhouwer (@wklumpen) February 8, 2023
Full letter: https://t.co/m1s3egVz7A pic.twitter.com/ICDuBA3O4Q
And they aren't mincing words, warning governments that "cuts to service are likely to initiate a ridership death spiral in which long wait time and poorer service leads to ridership drops, which in turn lead to further revenue losses and cuts."
The letter goes on to caution that, on the current course, "Canada's largest city is on track to rob current and future Torontonians of a sustainable, equitable, and liveable future."
It's not all just alarm bells, doom, and gloom, as the letter suggests several progressive policies that the group of signees agree could sustain transit service until ridership, and the corresponding revenue stream, can recover to pre-pandemic levels.
The group suggests solutions that can be implemented by each individual level of government, starting at the municipal level with proposed measures like a commercial parking levy, expedited implementation of RapidTO transit right-of-way projects, and scaling down planned expenditures on Gardiner Expressway rehabilitation so funds can be reallocated to transit.
At the provincial level, the group urges Ontario's government to double the amount of gasoline tax revenue dedicated to public transit, fully fund fare integration across GTA transit systems, allow the City to generate revenue through tolls on the DVP and Gardiner Expressway, and begin tolling its own 400 series highways.
Federally, the group asks Ottawa to establish a dedicated funding program for public transit operations and provide funding for transit and affordable housing within an integrated framework.
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