Thursday, December 3, 2009

Like A Poor Marksman...

Regular readers of this weblog may recall my post of November 5th, "The TTC: An Un-Fare Perspective," where I expressed my disagreement with the legions of people howling about the then-possible, now-realized Toronto Transit Commission fare increase to $3, effective January 1. I felt then, and still feel now, that the TTC needs to fill its $100-million budget gap somehow. I think Torontonians should count themselves fortunate that the prospect of service cuts is completely off the table - other cities aren't so lucky. St. Louis slashed much of its service a while ago now, a victim of the recession, and the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority is considering service cuts that would cancel outright, or restrict to rush hours only, forty transit routes, including one of its new light-rail lines. The TTC should be applauded for its commitment to maintaining service in a time as challenging as this.

Not everyone is as willing to give the organization a break as I am. Previously, it was limited to newspaper columnists and the Twittering legions, but a new force is entering the fray now - OCAP, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. I know this because yesterday someone representing OCAP left a comment under my November 5th post, attempting to drum up volunteers for flyering in preparation for a Public Action they've got planned for December 12th.

If you're interested in the precise content of their message, check it out through the link above. I won't repost it here. Suffice it to say that they're upset. What irks me, personally, is that it's obvious whoever left the comment didn't actually read my post - I presume they were just trawling for weblogs talking about the TTC fare increase, whatever they might have said, and scattering seeds to see which ones sprout.

I will, however, use this corner of mine to speak in response.

Ideally, fare increases are something that transit agencies would avoid. A long-standing, unchanging fare, if it allows stable funding, helps attract and retain riders, which at the core of it is the reason for a transit agency's existence. The TTC doesn't have that luxury. Ottawa is too busy building up Canada's climate-criminal reputation to care about day-to-day transit operations, and the province isn't doing so hot on the financial front and, as such, can't fund the TTC as lavishly as it did during the 1980s, before Mike Harris showed up on Ontario's doorstep to peddle the Common Sense Revolution. More than 70% of the TTC's operating funds come out of the farebox, and my understanding is that the City of Toronto itself makes up much of the rest.

Not that this seems to matter to OCAP, if their comment's any indication. While they do take shots at Ottawa and Queen's Park for granting "BILLIONS of dollars of public money" in the recent bailouts, they also point the finger of blame at "the bourgeoise socialists affiliated with the NDP on Toronto City Council" - the first time, by the way, I have seen someone use the word "bourgeoise" in seriousness since I finished university.

What's their demand? That "transit be federally funded and affordable for everyone." That, I can get behind. How are they planning to bring this about? With a call to arms of "we should refuse to pay" and a demonstration at City Hall.

OCAP wants to get the federal government to finance affordable transit in Toronto, and they're going to demonstrate in front of City Hall? Obviously they've stumbled onto the same cache of forbidden municipal knowledge that I have. One of the little-known secrets of City Hall is that there is a chamber deep beneath Nathan Phillips Square where Mayor David Miller keeps Rumpelstiltskin chained in adamantium shackles, spinning straw into gold through nights and days. On December 12th, OCAP will expose this source of wealth to the world, and the federal government will have no choice but to grant the TTC its fair share! ...or something.

To be perfectly honest, I have no idea whatsoever what OCAP thinks a demonstration in front of City Hall will accomplish. The federal government doesn't give a shit about Toronto anyway. Why should they? There aren't any Conservative ridings within the City of Toronto, and it's not like we have a federal government so that it can act in the interest of Canadians as a whole.

I agree, this situation sucks. What people don't seem to appreciate is that it could be a hell of a lot worse than it is.

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