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A Private TTC Is Not the Better Way

Rumours abound that the McGuinty government and some of Toronto’s mayoral hopefuls want to privatize our TTC. Here are just a few reasons why privatization is not the better way.

Privatization…

  • Does not guarantee government savings
  • Does not mean lower fares
  • Does not improve overall service
  • Is bad for democracy
  • Is bad for workers

Privatization does not guarantee government savings.
Private operators cut costs by firing workers, slashing wages, and cutting service, but companies also add a new cost – profit margin. All mass transit systems – from highways to rail lines – receive government support. The TTC is a world leader in efficiency, receiving just 83 cents in government subsidy per ride. In contrast, York Region’s privatized bus lines are the GTA’s most expensive, getting $4.11 per ride.

Privatization does not mean lower fares.
Private transit embraces the “user pays” model, which means the burden of paying for transit shifts from governments to commuters, who also shoulder the new cost of company profit. Commuters on Highway 407 witnessed a 200% increase in toll prices over four years. The 407 is now one of the most expensive toll roads in North America, and government efforts to stop toll hikes have failed.

Privatization does not improve overall service.
Less “profitable” services such as late night buses or routes to outlying neighborhoods suffer when competition and profit enter the equation. In Melbourne, customer service and system integration plummeted when the sole public operator was replaced by five contractors who saw each other as rivals. Companies bought different vehicles that could not be used on their competitors’ lines. One operator even produced customer maps showing only its half of the train system and not the half run by its competitor.

Privatization is bad for democracy.
Public operators report to elected officials, private operators to shareholders. Information, such as costs to taxpayers, fare prices, and allowable profit margins, are not debated in the halls of government but hidden in secret contracts. The controversial construction of the private rail service from downtown Toronto to Pearson International Airport is shrouded in secrecy; Torontonians do not know the amount of taxpayer dollars being handed over to contractor, SNC-Lavalin, just that it’s “expensive”.

Privatization is bad for workers.
Private contractors cut costs by hurting workers. The privatization of transit in London and Melbourne saw massive worker layoffs and a drop in workers’ wages and benefits with no consequent improvement in service delivery or cheaper fares. These cost-cutting measures hurt all taxpayers as our public services must support our working poor and unemployed.

Toronto deserves a world class, publicly-owned mass transit service that gets all commuters to their destinations on time. Privatization will destroy this vision not build it. There is a better way.