Privatizing the TTC—how could it be any worse than what we’ve got?
I’m gone for the rest of this week, and when I come back we’ll have a brand-spanking-new, totally redesigned—and renamed!—blog to launch in this space. But before I go, I need to point out two items. First, go peek at the very funny separated-at-birth photos of Toronto Mayor David Miller and London Mayor Boris Johnson over on Doug Bell’s blog, Spectator. Second, read Dr. Gridlock’s column in this morning’s Globe, in which he examines the possibility of privatizing part of the TTC, and in which he gets a key component of the logic backwards.
In defence of keeping the TTC publicly owned, he writes that “the TTC—which recovers an almost unheard of 75 per cent of its costs from fares—is already more efficient, and less subsidized, than systems elsewhere that have sought out privatization to cut costs.” Yet this situation is precisely what would make the TTC attractive to private investors: minimal dependence upon subsidy, efficient operations and an endless supply of hostage-like customers. Indeed, in so many ways, existing conditions on the TTC resemble exactly what you’d expect from a privately owned system: expensive, overcrowded and only passably clean—designed to wring as much as possible from every dime dropped into the fare box.
I have never been a supporter of privatization of public transit, but given the current state of affairs, I’m left with two questions. One: Just what benefits do we reap from public ownership at this point in time? And two: What do we have to gain from refusing to at least study private ownership?