Public Values

Keep TTC public or face consequences

Canadian and international experiences point to disastrous problems and waste when cities sell off their transit sytems.

Toronto public transit, now underfunded, was created because private companies offered poor service.A coalition of community organizations and unions are working to stave off the possibility that Toronto's historic TTC will be sold off, as candidates in the October 25 election are promising. The TTC is North America's third largest transit system.

"Some Toronto politicians are advocating various forms of TTC privatization, including so-called 'public-private partnerships', reads the Keep It Public website. "Other large cities that have gone the private route are not happy with the outcomes. Privatization has made transit worse in their cities, not better. Taxpayers have lost as well."

The site includes a powerful video narrated by Canadian stage icon Eric Peterson laying out the case. It acknowledges some of the problems that have led to public criticism of the system, but points out that despite its size, the TTC has become the least subsidized transit system in North America thanks to cuts by the Mike Harris Conservative government and inadequate support from the McGuinty Liberals.

One of the interviewees in the video, David Cadman, a Vancouver city councillor, says "It's been tried elsewhere and the results range from disappointment to disaster. Privatization of the British Rail Network in 1996 was not only a financial disaster but a human tragedy as well. The 1999 Patterson train crash was directly linked to cutbacks by the new private operator." It killed 33 people and injured 500.

Similar problems occurred when the London Underground was sold, triggering one of worst financial disasters in history. Auckland, NZ sold to its transit system to private companies, which split the city into zones and charged separate fares, so going from on end of the city to the other costs up to $16. In Vancouver, where the provincial government forced a "public-private partnership" (PPP) onto the city to build the Canada Line linking the airport and downtown, taxpayers and bus riders will be on the hook for decades.

"For 35 years this line is going to draw money from the rest of the transit system," said Cadman. Eighty percent of riders are on buses. So it's the bus rider subsidizing the PPP."

Links and sources
  Keep It Public video
  Toronto mayoral candidates talk transit privatization

Posted: September 23, 2010

  Public services
  Front lines

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