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Trudeau says new Toronto subway cars ‘an ongoing conversation’ as $30B federal transit fund kicks off

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday that there is an “ongoing conversation” about new subway cars for Toronto as applications opened for the federal government’s new 10-year, $30 billion transit fund.

Trudeau made the comments on a visit to a TTC facility that repairs subway cars with Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland today.

“That is an ongoing conversation,” Trudeau said when a worker asked him about funding for new trains.  “We recognize the rolling stock has been expertly maintained for many many years, and there is always a need to make sure that we are increasing capacity, increasing the ability of trains to respond to growing needs.”

Trudeau’s visit marked the opening of applications to the Canada Public Transit Fund. The federal government says it plans to provide $3 billion a year over 10 years in order to fund capital transit projects. The money from the fund isn’t expected to flow before 2026, but applications for projects open Wednesday.

The city has been eagerly awaiting word from Ottawa on whether the federal government will kick in hundreds of millions of dollars needed to purchase new subway trains to replace the aging Line 2 vehicles.

Outgoing TTC CEO Rick Leary warned weeks ago that the need “is very serious” and pointed to the Scarborough RT derailment as an example of what can happen when old infrastructure is refurbished “beyond its useful life.”

Trudeau indicated Wednesday that while there is a conversation about new subway cars, money provided to Toronto through the new fund will not be designated by Ottawa for particular projects.

“It’s not for the federal government to decide what the provinces are going to be spending on,” he said. “We’re there to be a partner on their priorities, as long as they fit within a plan that makes sense. The decisions around that are done much more at the provincial, municipal and regional level.”

Speaking alongside Trudeau, Chow touted the new fund as an “incredible long-term partnership” with the federal government.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Mayor Olivia Chow and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland tour a TTC facility in Toronto Wednesday July 17, 2024.

“Listen to those words: Long-term, permanent and predictable. Should we give them a big round of applause?” Chow said to cheers from the assembled workers.

She said the city will be applying for the federal funding as soon as it opens today and she’s hopeful the city will put in an order for new trains in the fall.

Just two weeks ago, Premier Doug Ford penned a joint statement with the head of UNIFOR calling on the federal government to come to the table with funding to buy the desperately-needed trains.

A Line 2 TTC subway car under repair is pictured at a TTC facility in Toronto Wednesday July 17, 2024.

The money for the new federal transit fund will be divided into three streams: Metro-Region Agreements for Canada’s biggest cities, Baseline Funding for communities of all sizes with existing transportation systems, and Targeted Funding for single-project agreements for communities of all sizes.

The federal government is also tying the plan to its housing goals, looking to fund transit projects around density.

“The focus that we’re doing right now at the federal government is stepping up with the kind of predictable, long-term transit funding that means that partners like the city of Toronto and Olivia Chow can plan for not just a couple of years but for the next decade and beyond,” Trudeau said.

“It’s permanent transit funding that’s going to make it easier to have those longer-term plans that mean not only the certainty that you need, but the certainty for Torontonians that transit is going to meet their needs for decades to come.”

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