Saturday, February 17, 2007

TTC security projects shelved - Toronto Star

TTC security projects shelved
`Feds need to come on board' with more funding, Giambrone says
February 17, 2007
Paul Moloney
city hall bureau

TTC security projects aimed at protecting passengers, employees and preventing a possible terror attack have been shelved by Toronto's budget committee.

Councillors on the committee pulled the funding, arguing Ottawa is not doing enough to help pay for the $5.8 million required for subway cameras and $14.4 million to place cameras on the fleet of 1,500 buses.

"The feds need to come on board," TTC chair Adam Giambrone said yesterday. "That point needs to be very clearly made. They really overlooked Toronto."

The TTC wants to be able to obtain high-quality images so individuals can be identified later if the need arises, Giambrone said, adding that kind of record can be invaluable in investigating a terrorist attack.

"The goal is to get an image of people entering the system," he said.

Transit systems around the world have been boosting security measures in the wake of bombings in London in 2005 and Madrid in 2004. Fifty-six people were killed in London and 191 people died in Madrid. On Thursday the trial for 29 defendants charged in the Madrid train bombings started. This week, an Al Qaeda faction called for attacks on Canada and its oil-production facilities.

In Ottawa, the federal government has introduced the Transit-Secure program to try to prevent what occurred in Madrid and London from happening on Canadian soil.

The first round of funding was announced last November. But officials at the TTC – North America's third-largest transit system – were shocked when it was revealed the agency would receive only $1.4 million of $35 million worth of security-related projects submitted.

At the time, then-TTC chair Howard Moscoe described the federal government's decision as "spit in the eye ... A slap in the face ... Like handing a bum a dime and saying, `Go buy a cup of coffee.'"

Councillors would like to see the federal government cover 75 per cent of the cost and, by shelving the funding yesterday, voiced their dissatisfaction.

Ottawa has indicated it's prepared to take a second look at the TTC's request when a new round of funding opens for the Transit-Secure program, which was announced in mid-2006 and runs to the spring of 2008, said TTC interim chief general manager Gary Webster.

"We will be eligible to submit (a funding request) and we have told them we'll be submitting," Webster said in an interview.

Currently, there are about 1,000 cameras throughout Toronto's subway system, which has 69 stations including those on the Scarborough rapid transit line.

The cameras are located at each collector booth and at security points where problems have developed over the years, Webster said.

The TTC would like to add another 1,500 closed-circuit TV cameras at entrances and exits, stairwells and other locations that TTC security and police believe require greater surveillance.

"We've looked at every station layout, and we've identified where those cameras should be," Webster said.

Giambrone points out that Toronto's security needs aren't as acute as other centres.

"It's a different culture here. We're not the United States. We're not Europe."

While putting the security projects on hold, the budget committee is recommending that the TTC receive $717 million for various capital projects this year. A final decision will be made by city council next month.
I don't understand why the federal government can order Toronto to install metal detectors and baggage searches on the Toronto Island Ferry, but they won't be willing to help pay for security cameras on the TTC. Edmonton Transit System received nearly twice the security funding that we got, though their system ridership is less than 10% of ours (funny how Alberta tends to vote Conservative). Do we need any more proof that the federal government doesn't care about people who live in the traditionally leftist cities?

Every day, I wonder more and more about how much better off we might be if the Greater Golden Horseshoe became a province, or even some sort of city-state.

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