On the eve of Earth Day, nearly 400 citizens and community leaders filled Toronto’s council chambers to celebrate the launch of the Public Transit Coalition. The coalition calls on the McGuinty government to properly fund the TTC, keep its promise to build the Transit City Light Rail plan, and commit to keeping the TTC publicly owned.
In March, the McGuinty government backed away from its long-held promise to pitch in $9 billion to build Transit City. Transit City features construction of eight new Light Rail Transit lines to Toronto’s outer neighbourhoods, like Scarborough, Jane-Finch, Eglinton, and more. But without funding much of that work could stop, leaving commuters facing more delays.
One of the speakers at the launch was Barbara Stone, president of the Weston-Mt. Dennis Community Association. Stone expressed frustration that the Eglinton Crosstown line, which has been under discussion since the mid-1980s and was slated to run the approximately thirty-three kilometres between Kennedy Station and Pearson Airport, might never come to fruition. Building and operating the route has the potential to revitalize her neighbourhood and many others by creating good jobs, encouraging an influx of new customers to local businesses, and improving access to the city’s core.
Another speaker, Ashwin Balamohan from Scarborough East, outlined the inequality of today’s transit system. While the wealthier populations of Toronto are—at least generally speaking—adequately served by the city’s existing public transit routes, lower-income communities located further from the downtown core face long commutes and restricted job access, which in turn leads to a sense of political disengagement. “The provincial government needs to be shown that you can’t divide Torontonians against each other,” said Balamohan, to vigorous applause. These sentiments were echoed by Mayor David Miller, whose cameo appearance closed the event.
Getting funding restored for the Transit City Light Rail Plan is one of three key demands of the Public Transit Coalition. Supporters of the pledge want to see the province contribute its fair share of operating funding to the TTC, about $220 million per year. The Coalition is also calling for the TTC to remain a public service and avoid foolishly going down the road of selling off or privatizing portions of their public transit system – which some mayoral candidates have been threatening to do. The introduction of private transit in other cities – like Melbourne and London – has proven to be disastrous for commuters and workers alike.
The Public Transit Coalition is a non-partisan alliance of community and environmental organizations, labour unions, and transit riders. The Toronto & York Region Labour Council has been a member of the coalition since its inception early this year.
The Coalition is asking all Torontonians who support public transit to sign a pledge that reads: “I agree that the TTC must be kept public, be properly funded by all levels of Government, and that the Transit City Light Rail Plan be completed by 2020.” The Public Transit Coalition is also calling on current City Councillors, MPPs, and other elected officials to sign the pledge.
You can take action and help save transit by signing the pledge, and asking fellow commuters and your elected official to sign the pledge. The coalition is encouraging supporters to flier at transit stops in the coming weeks to encourage commuters to join the campaign.
For more information about the Public Transit Coalition contact Jessica Bell, firstname.lastname@example.org 416 937 0076.