London’s ‘Superbug City’ Asks: How Did We Get Here?

Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford made his campaign promise of reducing Toronto’s bus- and subway-only transit lines a central point of his platform. He said he would lower the price of fares to make…

London's 'Superbug City' Asks: How Did We Get Here?

Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford made his campaign promise of reducing Toronto’s bus- and subway-only transit lines a central point of his platform.

He said he would lower the price of fares to make them simpler and fairer for everyday riders. He also promised to cut fares so people would pay less for more to better connect public transit to jobs, neighborhoods and to for entrepreneurs and businesses.

But new reports reveal that Toronto’s new subway system and the improvements it has wrought to the TTC have done little to substantially reduce London’s sky-high rates of garbage, and the Toronto residents who have to pay the price for that cost haven’t much saved either.

“The subway is really packed, and, apparently, so is the trash. It’s full there all the time,” was how Toronto resident Anne Bidwell described her experience when her neighbours threw in the garbage. Bidwell has lived on Lawrence Avenue in Toronto for 37 years, the report says.

The City of Toronto said last week it will spend about $2 million over the next two years to clean and truck garbage off-street and off-board for residents who don’t have their own garbage or recycling trucks. The City is contracting for these companies to pick up trash from private properties, freeing up members of the public who want to remove their own garbage for free.

“Trash collection has greatly improved in the city, and there is now an exceptionally high level of public receptacle use,” a report commissioned by the city’s chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat to evaluate the scheme says.

The report concludes that the contractor provides a level of service that meets or exceeds that of a private waste company that may charge more. In addition, the outsourcing program is the least disruptive of all cleanup methods. And its efficacy at reducing waste seems “endemic, and probably has done little or nothing to reduce London’s high rate of garbage dumping, so far.”

The most comprehensive study of the program found that 71 per cent of London’s street garbage remains on street for three to four days a week, almost double the 27 per cent of the average German city.

London’s rate of street garbage from the private sector in a typical day was double that in Germany. The same day’s average London street litter was six times as high as the German equivalent.

“Although some ratepayers report they are saving money because of the publicly-owned service, more still have found the cost of the contractor service to be greater than they would have spent in the past,” the study says.

The report also said the study demonstrates that for a population of 1.4 million, rather than 80,000 vehicles, 100,000 tons of waste is transported using 154 garbage trucks.

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