Can the TTC Survive Budget 2012?

Over at Torontoist, I have posted an article about the TTC’s budget presentation of December 6.  Among the issues discussed are:

  • What are the implications if Council were to move to roll back the TTC service cuts planned for January 2012?
  • What will the new loading standards, if they are retained, mean for transit riders?
  • Why is the proposed fare increase disproportionately high for seniors and students, and why is at least 20% of the additional revenue going to subsidize Wheel-Trans rather than maintaining the quality of regular service?
  • When will the SRT conversion to LRT actually happen, and when will the line re-open?  Confusion at the TTC had everyone thinking a seven-year shutdown was in the works.

I plan to add to this post with additional information about the TTC’s budget presentation, but have other things on my plate at the moment including a talk tonight (December 7) at Metro Hall, Room 310, 7 pm for Post Carbon Toronto.

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25 Responses to Can the TTC Survive Budget 2012?

  1. Ed says:

    Gary Webster was on Metro Morning.

    1. He was confused about the timeline of the SRT replacement project. I believe that his bottom line was that accelerated construction and a supplementary (?) east-end carhouse would mean a shutdown of about 3 or 4 years post-Pan-Am-games. SRT would reopen as LRT in 2018 I think he said.

    2. If the service cuts are rolled back, then the TTC is short on buses. The present bus fleet and buses on order is sufficient for the cut-back service, but not non-cut-back service. I presume that the Orion Vs are getting close to retirement. They have been hard-used; on the other hand I hate to imagine Finch East running low-floors.

    Steve: The TTC has enough buses to keep them going until fall 2013, according to Webster’s comments at Budget Committee.

  2. Ed says:

    Sorry, when I say that Webster was confused, I mean to say that he said that when he first heard the question that he was confused in his first reply, which was incorrect (the 7 years downtime or whatever it is). Webster then said that the truth was a three-or-so year shutdown with “good express bus service” as a replacement.

  3. JeffreyM says:

    When does the betting start on how many years past 2019 itll be before the SRT reopens?

  4. W. K. Lis says:

    How many MORE buses and DRIVERS will they need? Weren’t they told to reduce? Isn’t it more expensive to use buses and drivers?

    Steve: I assume you are being ironic here.

  5. Michael says:

    The TTC will survive. It just will carry less people like it did in the 1990′s.

    But survive it will.

    One has to remember that there is only so much road capacity in Toronto, and no matter what the mayor wants, transit is needed and the city will not function without it.

    So it is going to survive, maybe with less riders. But even that will level off at a certain amount, due to limited capacity on streets.

  6. Dennis Rankin says:

    Hi Steve:-

    I loved the ‘Newspeak’ alliteration in your Torontoist article, so so true.

    It is being applied in the TTC as well as the Operators appear to have been instructed to say that vehicles are not running late, they are ‘behind’. Oooookay!

    And it appears that good ole Dougy F is still as out of touch with the City’s transit rider’s needs as his brother has proven to be over and over again. Marvelous leadership isn’t it eh?

    Dennis

  7. George Bell says:

    Somebody needs to organize a reverse boycott of the TTC during rush-hour…

    Something like everyone should attempt to ride the system at exactly 8:45am, ask for a transfer, fumble for change…and at every station get on and get off….until the delays cripple the system…advertise it as a way to show that you would use the system if it didn’t suck so much…make it a monthly thing…first monday of every month the system is totally unusable due to excess demand…only way to fix it is to increase service…

  8. Michael says:

    The really interesting thing about all of this is how, per Torontoist’s article today, the Fords really do care about people and the city. It’s just that they haven’t taken the time to explain that they begin their work with a totally different set of assumptions about cities than a lot of us and go from there, rather than convincing us of those assumptions from the start.

    I’m a lay person so far as the nuts and bolts of economics, trickle-downs effects, etc go, but I get the basic concepts. According to the Fords, it’s not fair for a non-user of service A to subsidize users of that service. Don’t use a city pool in Etobicoke? Why should you be forced to fund it? If you wish to, you’re more than free to write a personal cheque. Lower taxes are equivalent to both greater spending power and greater control over your own spending power. With more money in their pockets, citizens might be able to afford a car, thereby lessening the need for the TTC (congestion aside). TTC riders would rather be kept warm by the extra dollars in their wallet than by the extra bus that everyone in the city, rider or not, might otherwise subsidize.

    Now, how that ideology fits with burying the Crosstown at a huge expense (and, I assume, greater maintenance expense what with stations and tunnels – could you confirm, Steve?) I have no idea, but I can see it at work behind much of 2012′s budget process. What do we do with this fact? Find a way to argue for what we want within Ford’s terms.

    I’d suggest keeping the argument to congestion, congestion, congestion. Hammer the point home that it’s not about making driving less attractive (ie no punitive measures for drivers), it’s about making transit more so. The more drivers on the road, the more clogged they are, and the less that even the most wizardly of traffic engineers can do to fix it. It’s about showing case studies where mixed-use streets have improved the economy and street life in other cities; showing how a little public investment makes things better for everyone. Don’t parade children in front of him to get the sympathy vote; parade economic data, before-and-after pictures, and prosperity reports that will prove to him the value, both on the individual and city-wide level, of higher funding.

    Steve: The Torontoist article is thoughtful and well-written, but I think it lets the Fords off too lightly. If we simply say that they don’t get how government works, we’re almost inviting pity for them. They ran for office, and they need to understand the context they’re in. If they don’t, then they deserve all of the criticism and vitriol that comes their way, not sympathy.

    The problem with a simplistic view that only users should pay for a service is that “user” is too restrictive a concept. Many services provided for the city, including transit, make the city a better place for everyone because of the economic activity — shopping, going to work and school, entertainment and leisure — that would be impossible or unlikely for many people without it. If I can’t get to your store, I can’t shop in it. If I waste hours getting to and from work, that’s time I can’t be doing something else either “family” related, or helping to stimulate the economy somehow. There is of course the congestion argument you make, but we’re unlikely to see congestion reduced by any specific transit improvement as there is such a backlog of demand.

    Finally, I refuse to engage an argument on the basis of the other side’s assumptions, we need to attack the basic principles, not try to recast our lefty positions as pseudo-conservatives. The neo-cons think we’re all out to lunch anyhow, and we should not compromise our positions in the vain hope we might convert them. It’s the moderates in the middle whose support will wrest control of Council from the Fords, and they’re the real audience.

  9. Michael Greason says:

    The tension between left and right – who can best invest the wealth of society is never-ending. The trick of course is to find a balance, and within our western societies we are dealing with a relatively narrow portion of the political spectrum. However, when the society shifts to the right and there are small tax cuts at great expense to social programs, I believe our society is a worse place.

    I remember when Mr. Harris was Premier and we suffered many cuts to our services. One of the events of that era was the Walkerton disaster. I remember two salient comments about that disaster. First, on CBC Radio a CBC reporter said (and I paraphrase, though this is the gist) “No one can say whether the Harris Government is responsible for this tragedy, but something has definitely fallen through the cracks and under the Harris Government the cracks are definitely wider” Second a letter in the Globe read to the effect of “Why are people complaining about Harris Government layoffs of microbiologists responsible for water quality on the Ministry of Environment. Surely with your tax cuts you can hire your own microbiologists”.

    The suggestion that “user pay” is a valid way to run a society is, in my view invalid.

    The incremental passenger in a bus, is a potential driver that is not adding to congestion. The benefit that accrues to the bus passenger who enjoys reasonable fares and adequate service is also enjoyed by car drivers. Similarly, while I do not use swimming pools in Etobicoke, the teen who is engaged in a summer swimming programme in Etobicoke is occupied and provided with a meaningful input in his/her life. That the same teen might be the one who beats up a shopper on Yonge Street for kicks if they were bored, unmotivated and felt abandoned.

    I believe that a mature, compassionate and caring society is better for all of us. When we pay our taxes, we get our money’s worth.

  10. J Lee says:

    I simply lost my word after reading Torontoist and the TTC’s budget presentation. Somebody help Toronto, resignation of Ford would be the best Christmas present.

  11. Benny Cheung says:

    The City of Toronto has to run a balanced budget. If the TTC is spared the cuts, something else like Solid Waste or the Police will be cut. There is only so much tax dollars to spread around.

    We need a mature conversation and be presented with a list of options on how to raise the funds. Can we secure an annual provincial grant if we accept 5 nuclear reactors in Toronto? Can the Billy Bishop Airport be expanded to accomodate RJs? Will hosting US Marines in Toronto do the trick? We have to be creative in finding new revenues and not raise property taxes all the time. Not all options are attractive, but it is a choice adults make all the time.

    We also need to look at whether a flat rate model works or not. Here are just some ideas to look at, not that I am endorsing them. Why can’t we have variable prices throughout the day? For example, ride the Yonge Line at 6:30 AM to 9:30 AM and pay an extra $2. Highway 407 has variable pricing.

    For capital needs, why can’t the TTC charge an improvement fee for every fare sold? For example, every Metropass will be charged an extra $20 so that the money can be funneled into a fund for metro building? Since it takes about 44 rides to break even on a Metropass, an improvement fee of $0.45 can be charged on every ticket.

    Steve: No, actually, it’s not a zero sum game where more for the TTC means less for something else. Solid waste has its own budget and revenue stream, and is self-supporting. The police got an increase, and so if anyone should be making cuts, it’s them. As for variable fares and a Metropass surcharge, let’s put it simply. Fares account for about $1-billion a year in revenue. If we have a surcharge that, in effect, raises this by 10%, then we will raise the princely sum of $100-million. That will barely build you one subway station. $2 extra on the Yonge line? What would you say to all those people who are expected to be at work in “normal” hours? That they should demand $20 a week (after taxes) in higher income?

    Meanwhile, the poor motorists are apoplectic about $60 a year.

    I have no sympathy. Toronto is a rich city and has taxes and tax increases lower than its neighbours. It’s time to pay up to preserve and improve the services we have, not to play games where we pretend that our piggy bank is empty.

  12. David Y says:

    Can I stop paying for jails, since I don’t use them?

  13. Mimmo Briganti says:

    As I recall, an upgrade to ICTS/ART Mark II would have closed the RT for only 9-14 months. So, the Transit City advocates and anti-Fordites really need to shut their traps and look up the meaning of the word “hypocrisy”. An upgrade to a weather-proof non-LIM version of ICTS (Mark III) would have minimized the line’s downtime, and solved the snow/ice reaction rail problems once and for all. The new Kennedy thru platform could have been built and then wyed in later, while temporary service on the current RT platform resumed with Mark III.

    Steve: The original scheme for conversion to Mark II cars did not include the extensive reconstruction at Kennedy Station proposed in the LRT scheme. That said, I had a sense at the time that the TTC was low-balling the time needed to convert for Mark IIs and maximizing their estimate of the shutdown for LRT. One point that subsequently came to light was that even Mark IIs would have needed a rebuild of the Ellesmere underpass, and this was not included in the original short project estimate. Without question, staying with ICTS requires less work than conversion to LRT, but if we’re going to have this debate, we need a thorough, fair comparison of the construction work and project staging for both ICTS and LRT options.

  14. JeffreyM says:

    Steve, a question for you related to the Sheppard LRT/Transit City.

    What’s going to happen with the Transit City vehicles now that the Sheppard line has been shelved? Aren’t the cancellation fees going up exponentially?

    The first vehicle is supposed to be delivered exactly a year from now (Dec 2012) with the second to follow the month after. The remaining 180 vehicles are scheduled for delivery at 2/month starting in July (2013).

    I hadn’t realized they were coming so soon, but I was looking at some of the Sheppard LRT line documentation today and noticed that according the schedule the tracks were supposed to already be laid between Birchmount and Progress and Morningside and the carhouse by the end of this year.

    Steve: I don’t know what arrangements Metrolinx has made with Bombardier, but the cost will be to their account as the Transit City portion of the car order was transferred to them. It’s hard to say what penalties there might actually be as Bombardier has not exactly spent a fortune on this contract so far. Unlike the “legacy” fleet for the TTC, the Transit City cars would be off the shelf Flexity vehicles for which little special engineering work was required.

  15. I have mentioned this many times in person and comments on here.

    How can anyone justify running a bus (169 Huntingwood) with 2 people in them (plus driver)?, this is outside rush hours.

    That same bus could be placed in Mount Pleasant route for Josh Matlow’s seniors.

    Look at the Sheppard stubway….essentially empty outside rush hours.

    Adam Giambrone implemented that most routes in 416 go up to either midnight or 1am-ish. That was a waste. Dufferin and Huntingwood buses should not have the same service.

    You can’t just blanket upgrade all routes. There is a reason why There is no 384 Sheppard West bus and there is let’s say 354.

    Every route needs to be truly looked at individually.

    People also need to stop bitching if a bus/streetcar is a 2-5 minutes late.
    Also, stop waving the bus down, you are supposed to wait AT THE BUS/streetcar STOP not the other way around.

    People want amazing service yet everytime there is a fare increase they all cry about it.

    Stop expecting that the ttc vehicles are there to service you whenever the hell you want it at your front door step.

    We are going to survive 2012.

    Better Passenger manners, Better Management of TTC routes, Firing a lot of the middle management, running the TTC fiscally responsible.

    I am sorry if you have to walk 2,000 metres. I can guarantee you that in 99% of the City of Toronto you have a bus/streetcar/subway within 2,000 metres. Except at a part in south central etobicoke which is industrial.

    The fact that we have 24/7 service people should be thankful.
    Also we have universal fare, it would be a lot more expensive if we had fare by distance (which we should have anyways) for the long distance travellers.

    Also there should be a way to charge 905ers a tax/fee, just like they are when they use the Toronto Public Library.

  16. Miroslav Glavic said,

    “Also there should be a way to charge 905ers a tax/fee”

    Actually, that is already happening. 905ers have to get to the TTC by one of two ways, all of which involves a fee. I am most familiar with York Region, so I’ll use York and the Finch Subway station for actual numbers:

    First, they can drive. That means they have to park and pay a $5 fee at Finch.

    Second, they can take transit where they will have to pay a full extra fare of $5.20 per day (assuming tickets or Presto are used instead of cash). If they are coming from north of Bloomington Road, that will be $7.20. Unlike the TTC fare, that fare represents a lower percentage of the cost of that ride, so they are paying more through their taxes as well (as do those who drive their car). Sure, that fee is not collected by Toronto (unless they are on a route that is contracted to the TTC, then some if it actually is), but it constitutes a fee out of their pocket that potentially lessens reliance on provincial funding that would cost us all (not necessarily a transit subsidy, but perhaps additional road building).

    Whether the current “fees” are sufficient or not is debatable (the free parking after 3 pm will be changing to $2 in the new year). The point is, don’t make suggestions based on the false premise there are no fees now.

  17. Walter says:

    The SRT closed for 7 years – was this and accidental slip up by Gary Webster or deliberate to make a point. Creating an issue about the closure could highlight:

    1. Extending B-D to STC would eliminate any closure.
    2. Making Eglinton Crosstown ICTS would shorten this closure.
    3. Having Sheppard LRT in place may minimize the impacts of the closure.

    Are we sure Mr. Webster was not trying to subtly raise one of these issues.

    Steve: No, Gary just screwed up.

  18. Benny Cheung says:

    I will say to those Yonge riders that it is not sustainable to have so many riders crammed into one line. Soon, no one will be able to reach their destinations due to people falling ill or equipment break down. A $2 surcharge will push people on to the less crowded University Line, the Avenue Road bus and the Yonge bus. The makes the system slightly more balanced than a flat rate model. People make choices all the time. Instead or calling my friends with my day time minutes, I choose the cheaper way to reach them (SMS).

    The only way to build something is to have a surcharge. Would you agree to a tax increase so that Terminal 1 at Pearson International can receive a timely expansion? Everyone benefits from more international connections to a city, yet not everyone flies from Pearson. So, is it unfair that travellers pay more for their Montreal or Ottawa flights to cover the cost of expansion?

    I accept that argument that Torontonians do not wish to pay surcharges. In this case, we need to look at other funding schemes. Singapore had shown that gaming brought economic benefits without an increase in crime. Naha, Okinawa demonstrated that how much development money became available after accepting a USAF base in their city (Futenma Air Base). The city of Tsuruga received massive economic benefits for hosting nuclear reactors. Personally, if someone built all three in Toronto in order to build new metro lines and hold fares stable, I vote yes.

    Steve: The people who ride the Yonge and University lines don’t all get off on their respective sides of Union Station. The whole idea of a surcharge does not make sense from an administrative point of view before I even get to issues with fairness. Riders are jammed onto the subway because GO Transit has done a lousy job of expanding service to the north, and refuses to entertain any role in within-416 travel. This might be fixed in a few decades if we believe GO plans, but meanwhile we should not be sticking it to the YUS riders simply because Queen’s Park has been too cheap to invest massively in GO over the decades.

    As for nuclear reactors, I suspect the feelings about them in Japan have changed since the recent disasters. All the same, I invite you to run for office with this scheme as your platform and see how many people will vote for you. We can’t even get a gas-fired plant in Mississauga, never mind a nuke.

  19. Ben Smith says:

    I know I’ve mentioned this several times, but I just have to bring it up again: Why not get some articulated buses operating already? If we have to reduce our frequency, can we make sure that the buses which aren’t cut are at least a little bigger?

    Steve: The TTC plans to start buying artics. However, if the service cuts go through, they won’t need any new buses for several years thanks to the reduction in peak fleet requirements.

  20. OgtheDim says:

    The mushy middle might win out in the end but the inability of any of our politicians, of all stripes, to deal with tough issues leads me to believe the city will more likely muddle along making little progress.

    Not much vision allowed, it seems. Show some on the left, and you are a commie (QMI seems really afraid of a certain downtown former media person). Show some on the right, and you get turfed by the far right for being soft (John Tory).

    I find it intriguing that Ford in this budget year equated a TTC fare increase with a tax increase but is no longer doing so. More of the John Snobelon create a crisis routine, I suspect.

    Its all enough to make you weep, sometimes.

  21. Robert Wightman says:

    Calvin Henry-Cotnam says:

    Miroslav Glavic said,

    “Also there should be a way to charge 905ers a tax/fee”

    “Actually, that is already happening. 905ers have to get to the TTC by one of two ways, all of which involves a fee. I am most familiar with York Region, so I’ll use York and the Finch Subway station for actual numbers:

    “First, they can drive. That means they have to park and pay a $5 fee at Finch.

    “Second, they can take transit where they will have to pay a full extra fare of $5.20 per day (assuming tickets or Presto are used instead of cash). If they are coming from north of Bloomington Road, that will be $7.20. Unlike the TTC fare, that fare represents a lower percentage of the cost of that ride, so they are paying more through their taxes as well (as do those who drive their car). Sure, that fee is not collected by Toronto (unless they are on a route that is contracted to the TTC, then some if it actually is), but it constitutes a fee out of their pocket that potentially lessens reliance on provincial funding that would cost us all (not necessarily a transit subsidy, but perhaps additional road building).”

    It is true that you are paying more to get downtown but the extra money is not going to the TTC or the City of Toronto. As long as the province does not provide any public subsidy for public transit that I do not believe it is fair to ask residents of the 416 to subsidize the rides of those who live in the 905 and I am a 905er. The York region residents are overloading the subway so that people who get on south of Finch have no hope of getting a seat. Toronto has to spend billions to increase capacity mainly to carry riders who do not support the service through their property taxes.

    The province, possibly through Metrolinx, has to provides financial support for public transit in the GTHA. Until that happens then there should be no fare break from Toronto for people who ride in from the 905. People cannot expect to have the large homes in low density suburbia plus all the amenities of the city without paying for them.

    Pardon my rant but I agree with Miroslav.

  22. Karl Junkin says:

    Queen’s Park has to get more financially involved in operations. The fractious relationship between governments is not an excuse.

  23. hamish wilson says:

    I’ve been trying to raise the degree to which the mobile furnaces [cars] are subsidized, citing an older Minneapolis study indicating a 40% decrease in property taxes if cars/ roads paid their way, and an older Vancouver study showing a $2700 per car per year gifting.

    If some of the Transit Commissioners were actually Commissioners, they would push the City to re-instate the Vehicle Registration Tax and hand over some of it to transit. If we had user pay for our road system/streets to even half the amount to which transit has user pay, wouldn’t we have another billion a year to play with? Wouldn’t that help?

  24. Mark Dowling says:

    “Steve: The TTC plans to start buying artics”

    Interesting. Any staff reports out there discussing that, or is this something you have picked up in direct discussions?

    Steve: This has come up on occasion at Commission meetings. The “Service Efficiency Study” conducted by Accenture concurs with TTC plans to purchase artics.

    “Recommendation 8B: Increase use of articulated buses

    “The TTC should reconsider adding articulated buses to high frequency/high density routes. For high density routes with headways less than 5 minutes, articulated buses have been a growing solution for transit agencies. We understand that in the late 1980s and early 1990s the TTC like many systems had a poor maintenance experience with its articulated buses. Since then, Canadian manufacturer New Flyer (and now Nova) has come out with the articulated buses with a different and successful design that is more winter-worthy. Today Ottawa has approximately 200 in bus rapid transit (BRT) service and Montreal is about to acquire these buses. Other cold-weather cities such as New York and Chicago make extensive use of articulated buses to add significant capacity without adding commensurate operating costs. We support the TTC in its current efforts to acquire articulated buses.” [Service Efficiency Study, November 15, 2011, Page 38, emphasis added]

    As for 905ers – I don’t believe we should tie ourselves up in knots about charging them extra but I do think that for starters any contract with York and the Province for the Richmond Hill TTC extension should include a provision revoking the one on the Spadina Extension which puts TTC on hook for those losses. Toll the Gardiner and DVP solely on the cost to maintain it and the tolling system unless the Province agrees to reuploading, preferably with a tag interoperable with 407ETR (in Ireland even though tolls are operated by different companies those companies are obliged to interoperate so drivers only need one tag). Also: no free parking of private vehicles in municipal buildings (exception only for people like TTC workers whose duty begins and/or ends outside of transit peak) and a per-space parking tax on every single commercial or institutional building in downtown including churches, hospitals and schools if those spaces are available to the public between 0700-1900 Monday-Friday. At present, boulevard commercial parking is $438/year downtown and $332 elsewhere – even half those figures would bring in serious money for non-boulevard parking.

    The Vehicle Registration Tax should have been abolished. It was a poorly aimed tax primarily levied due to ease of collection rather than furtherance of municipal goals, “can pay” overrode “should pay”. It did not impact 905ers (and I suspect 416ers who pride themselves on use of services like Autoshare and Zipcar did so in vehicles registered to 905 addresses), but it did impact 416ers who leave their cars at home during the week (and many of those already pay north of $150/year for residential parking permits already, including for parking on the owner’s own property). Ford’s crime was abolishing it not for effectiveness but ideology in order to reduce the City’s spending power, when instead the right way was to impose a parking tax to raise the same amount as the VRT but which would then impact 905ers and 416ers who fill the highways during peak times.

  25. Kristian says:

    I was recently in Montreal and saw the Nova articulated buses in service there. (They were on a route by my hotel in very frequent weekend service despite carrying next to no passengers.) I can’t speak to their reliability, but anywhere I’ve ridden Nova’s recently they’ve been a smooth and pleasant ride with a unique look which isn’t ugly. One unusual and practical feature I noted was the 1/3-2/3 split in the front door. This made it much easier for the driver to get in and out of an out-of-service vehicle by only moving the larger leaf of the door. It would be interesting if this could be used as an in-service mode to reduce the climate affects from the door opening at stops if the customer demand was not excessive. Perhaps someone more familiar with Montreal and Nova can speak to this.

    I would have to think Nova has sorted out their transmission problems since demonstrator #1000 was roaming around Toronto. Montreal’s hills would demand that. Are there any downsides I should know about with present-day Nova?

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