Downsview Councillor Maria Augimeri (Ward 9 York-Centre) is the new Toronto Transit Commission Chair. A majority of Toronto City Councillors backed the veteran Councillor’s successful bid during a Council vote last month.
The high-profile position is considered to be one of the most influential in municipal politics. It includes oversight for one of the City’s largest budgets.
“As a Commissioner, I have always worked to stand up for everyday riders, and I am delighted that I can continue to do so in the TTC’s top spot,” said Augimeri.
Councillor Augimeri has served on the TTC for 6 years, bringing to her new role a wealth of experience.
Augimeri says that the recent focus on giant transit projects such as subways and rapid rail has distracted attention from other important priorities.
“I am focused on getting the TTC to provide more service with less crowding” Augimeri explained. “That can only be achieved through increasing our operations, not starving them as we have been for years” she added.
Augimeri revealed plans to sit down with provincial and federal officials to discuss funding. She stresses that one of the best ways for all levels of government to get people and the economy moving is to invest in Toronto’s transit operations.
“Every other sizable transit system in the developed world gets help from its upper levels of government, because they recognize that getting people places faster is one of the best ways to encourage economic growth,” Augimeri said.
Currently, neither the province nor the federal government provide any operating dollars to the TTC, which is unusual for a transit system of Toronto’s size.
The TTC’s funding has been virtually frozen for years, and service has been cut since 2011. In that time ridership has increased to over 500 million rides per year. It is expected that in 2014, rides on the transit system will top 540 million.
“Ridership demand is exploding. Investing in Toronto’s transit will get people to their work, their home and their playtime faster, said Augimeri. She argued that renewed investment will reduce gridlock and produce “huge gains for our economy.”
Today, riders pay the bulk of the cost of operating the TTC– nearly 80%– which is the highest percentage for any transit system in North America.