TTC CEO Andy Byford says "visionaries" are needed in key offices to understand the importance of sustainable transit, not just the costs.

Byford made the remarks in a speech at a business lunch at the Toronto Region Board of Trade on Thursday. He did not endorse a candidate in the upcoming October municipal election.

"The budget settlement, our contract negotiations and the future political environment will define our future," Byford said.

He also outlined the TTC's accomplishments in 2013 and priorities in the year ahead. He said that under the leadership of Karen Stintz, who is leaving her TTC chair position to run for mayor, customers have reported the subway is cleaner and the staff seems more engaged.

Byford says a number of new roles have been introduced to streamline activity between the TTC and the government. Five new business groups have also been set up to tackle mega projects in 2014.

Despite these new roles and reported improvements, the agency has major funding concerns to tackle.

Byford says delays are "far too frequent" and the downtown relief line is crucial to the subway line.

The TTC says it needs $9 billion over the next 10 years to keep up with repairs but it is short by $2.3 billion. Byford urged all three levels of government to invest more money in transit to ease the financial burden.

Byford said that, with securing a budget and contract negotiations in the spring, this will be a "year of key moments that could break or make the future of the TTC."

In 2014, customers can expect to see the TTC's fleet of modernized streetcars on Toronto streets.

With a report from CTV Toronto's Ashley Rowe