April Fools!

Here was my April Fools joke. I ran it in a couple of transit mailing lists I belonged to. People got a chuckle out of it.

Thestar.com > GTA
Apr 1, 2002. 10:00 AM

Province’s Return to Full Funding Embarrasses TTC With Riches

Jake Pirololfs
Transit Bureau

The surprise announcement this morning that the provincial government would return to the pre-1996 formula for funding public transit caught many TTC commissioners off guard. But it was a surprise that had them delighted, and their delight only grew as the funds were transferred.

Before 1996, Queen’s Park paid for half of the operating subsidies for public transit agencies across the province. Capital costs were completely subsidized, with the province picking up 75% of the tab. As part of municipal downloading, however, the province left all transit funding to the municipalities. The TTC, with the province’s biggest fleet, was hardest hit.

Under the new formula, the TTC’s operating subsidy is doubled. The City had budgeted $150 million next year, and the province will match that dollar for dollar, giving the TTC $300 million in total to work with, effective immediately. The TTC’s farebox recovery will drop from 82% to 73%, which is still higher than the 68% farebox recovery the TTC maintained early in the 1990s.

The province will also increase the TTC’s capital budget. Previously agreeing to pay just $65 million for the next fiscal year, the province will match the city’s commitment 3-1, with a grant of $270 million.

“It’s everything I ever wanted and more!” enthused Toronto mayor Mel Lastman, jumping up and down and waving his hands. “We’ll finally be able to turn the TTC into the greatest transit system in the world! Say hello to the subway, Vaughan!”

The new funding was totally unexpected, and has left transit commissioners scrambling to figure out what to do with it.

“Back in 1992, we had a quarter of a billion dollars to work with,” said councillor Brian Ashton, who chairs the TTC board. “Now we have just $150 million. That’s $100 million worth of cuts, but our ridership has remained pretty steady. Our buses and streetcars are carrying more people much more efficiently, so we’re frankly not sure where to put all this extra money.”

His fellow councillors had a few ideas. “Restore all services that were cut on Feb 18, 1996, for starters,” said fellow councillor Howard Moscoe. “Then increase service throughout the city. You shouldn’t wait more than ten minutes for a streetcar at any time of the day or night. Rush hour should extend from, 9 to 5 seven days a week. And, after that, we can get into some serious perks.” At which point he showed off several new gold necklaces he’d just bought.

TTC commissioner Rick Ducharme cautioned that some of the money had to be channelled into maintaining and rebuilding the current system. “We need to go beyond a state of good repair. We need to achieve a state of perfection. The trains have to be rock solid and the stations have to sparkle. I’m telling the committee that we need to coat our subway cars with a layer of diamond. That will stop the scratchiti artists! Coat the stations too! And add more security! With Tasers! And guard dogs! Damn kids!” He then took a phone call and shouted, “No, Mr. Gunn, you can’t have your job back!”

Councillor David Miller speculated that the money could be used to make the system more accessible. “The connections between our subways and the surface network could do with improvement. People have to walk too far. Nobody should have to lift a leg on the TTC. We’re in the business of moving people, and we’ll do it even if we have to hire fork lifts.”

Whatever will be decided, the decision will come at a special meeting of city council which has been called for tomorrow. Mayor Lastman was typically effusive. “It’s going to be great! It’s going to be great! It’s going to be just like Christmas in July— er— April!”

Budget Chief David Shiner had no comment but to lie on the floor of his office and gurgle.

Erin and I spent last night listening to Erin on the radio. Weird, that. And really, really cool! Erin had been interviewed for the Arts Today a week ago, and today her interview was on the air as part of the first day of National Poetry Month. You can still listen to this interview online until 9 pm today, Eastern Standard Time. She was there with Laura Lush and Jim Slaminski and got to talk about her poetry and how the poems came to be. Then, on Between the Covers, a sample of those poems was read.

Between the Covers is repeated 2:30 pm EST (3:00 in Newfoundland) on the CBC Radio One program Richardson’s Roundup, so the poems should be read today, if you’re interested. And, failing that, they are still right here.

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