Sep 16, 2006

TTC improvements waiting on funding promises

The TTC is a one step closer to getting new buses, trains and improved driver security, if the money comes through from Ottawa.

"We all have concerns, but I trust the commitment made by Stephen Harper will be honoured," said TTC chair Howard Moscoe.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced in June that $16.5 billion would become available for municipalities across Canada over the next four years. The money will assist funding for provincial, territorial and municipal infrastructure.

If the money appears, the TTC will acquire 220 buses by fall 2007 and 140 hybrid buses in early 2008.

The city budget advisory committee met Friday morning and also gave preliminary approval for the controversial order of 39 new subway trains from Bombardier. Critics of the deal say that exclusively negotiating with the company was wrong and that a bidding process should have been employed.

A $2.7 million project will see protective barriers installed on buses and street cars to shield drivers. TTC fare-collectors were discouraged by their union from arguing with riders over fare disputes due to an increase in assaults. The increased violence toward TTC staff was one issue behind a wild-cat strike in May 2006.

The dividers will be made to latch open or closed so operators could use their own discretion whether to use them or not.

But the plan to add security cameras to TTC vehicles met with some changes on Friday.

Originally, the added security measure had an estimated cost of $2.8 million, but a study of the system found it to be sub-par. The commission decided it wants an updated system instead, with a cost of $17 million.

The committee approved the original funding request, and is waiting for a decision on the extra expense.

Installation of $2.8 million-worth of the updated surveillance can go ahead early in 2007. The remainder will have to wait for further budget approvals.

Moscoe said the protective measures come from recommendations made by an operator safety committee. He said they will aim to meet all of the recommendations because "our drivers are feeling unsafe."

City council meets at the end of September. All of Friday's decisions by the TTC will have to be approved during the up-coming council meeting.

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