A gloomy forecast for Toronto transit got even worse Tuesday morning when TTC manager Gary Webster revealed the city is on the hook for $65 million thanks to Mayor Ford's decision to cancel Transit City. The number is $16 million more than previously reported.
Webster dropped the $65-million figure at a budget committee meeting at City Hall Tuesday morning. Where exactly it comes from is unclear. While he suggested he had been told that number by provincial transportation agency Metrolinx, the most recent figure the agency released was $49 million. That was considered an estimate however. A spokesperson from the agency maintains the final amount has yet to be determined.
"The total cost impact of the changes to the original (Transit City) plan has not yet been determined," wrote Vanessa Thomas of Metrolinx in an email. "Therefore an invoice for the sunk costs related to changes to the original plan has not been submitted to the City of Toronto."
TTC spokesperson Brad Ross would not confirm where Webster got the new number, but suggested the TTC manager was accurate. "If that's what he said, then go with that," said Ross.
The multi-million dollar debt to Metrolinx is the result of Rob Ford's decision to scrap the David Miller-era Transit City plan, which would have seen a network of above-ground light rail lines built along Sheppard, Finch, and Eglinton Ave, and the current route of the Scarborough RT. Ford moved instead to bury the Eglinton line and build a Sheppard subway, and in doing so agreed to pay Metrolinx for all the preliminary planning work already completed on Transit City.
The mayor's critics are outraged that the sizeable invoice the city is expecting from Metrolinx appears nowhere in the 2012 budget currently being debated at City Hall.
"The mayor clearly does not want the public to know that he's cost us $65 million for the death of Transit City, and he's not replaced it with anything," said Councillor Joe Mihevc.
Metrolinx says there is no timeline for when the city will be presented with a bill.
News of the inflated cancellation costs comes as the TTC is facing serious financial pressure. The commission's board is considering making ends meet by raising fares every year for the next four years and simultaneously reducing service levels. Meanwhile the TTC is facing at least a $700 million capital budget shortfall over the next ten years.
To make matters worse for Ford, the Sheppard subway project that was to replace Transit City appears to have stalled. On Monday Gordon Chong, the man Ford appointed to recruit investment for the $4.2-billion project, told media that at most, the private sector could contribute 30 per cent of the cost, and the rest would have to come from government sources. Chong also said he would need $10 million more from the city and another year to come up with final plans.
Mihevc believes the Sheppard subway is doomed.
"It's dead. And the mayor has made sure it will be a very expensive funeral," he said.
The Ford administration has defended killing Transit City by saying that voters elected the mayor to build subways, not surface routes.
"In poll after poll after poll, people in this city want subways," said Councillor Doug Ford, the mayor's brother, Tuesday. "The mandate was very clear in the election."