Flatlining the TTC

[This item has been expanded on February 5, 2006 with additional information about loading standards in the more section.] 

This item contains a copy, modified into a suitable format for easy downloading, of the TTC staff presentation on January 25, 2006.  This has been adapted from a Power Point file by stripping out all of the photos and converting the remainder to a PDF.  This will allow easy access to the material by readers and very substantially reduces the size of the file.

20060125 TTC Flatlining

Explanatory notes and comments about this presentation are at the end of this item.

Here is the presentation I made at the TTC meeting.  My recommendations have been sent to staff for comment.  The nub of the argument is that TTC needs to provide ongoing projections of the resources needed to handle various scenarios for growth in demand, rather than treating each year’s changes as a big surprise for which there is no room in the budget.

20060125 TTC Budget and Loading Standards

The presentation starts with an explanation of the Service Budget and shows the full-year impact of changes implemented in 2005 that come forward into 2006.  This is an important aspect of TTC planning debates that is often invisible outside of the meetings.  There was a big fight about the Ridership Growth Strategy specifically because implementing any change in year n creates additional budgetary demands in year n+1.  The TTC tends to introduce major changes in September for two reasons:

  • they don’t get budgetary approval early enough to do it sooner, and
  • the impact of the change on the current year’s budget is comparatively small.

Note that the amount of extra service planned to deal with crowding plus ridership growth is less than the full year impact of the 2005 changes.  This shows how little the TTC is planning to actually do in 2006 on these accounts as opposed to the many other pressures that require added service.  Of the 3.2% growth in service, only 1.2% addresses crowding.  (see page 6)

The next section (pages 7 to 11) show the effects of crowding.  Those of us who actually ride the system will recognize them, and it’s telling that Commissioners and Councillors have to be reminded that slowing down service is counterproductive.  The chart on page 12 comes from a survey of factors affecting how people think about transit.  The overwhelming factor affecting a decision to choose transit is service quality.  Fares have an effect, but you have to make a big change in fares (or at least a big perceived change) to overcome the impact of poor service.

The peak period loading standards shown on page 15 are for high-floor vehicles.  In fact, 57 is not a workable standard for low-floor buses and this must be reduced on routes operated with these vehicles.  The Ridership Growth Strategy modifies the standard to give more elbow room.  However, it is impossible to actually improve peak service until the TTC fleet gets bigger. 

Peak Loading Standards for TTC vehicles in 2005 are:

  • High Floor Bus – 57
  • Orion VI Low Floor – 50
  • Orion VII Low Floor – 55
  • New Flyer Low Floor – 52
  • CLRV Streetcar – 74
  • ALRV Streetcar – 108

Off peak standards vary depending on the headway.  Where service is scheduled less often than every 10 minutes, the standard can be anywhere from 20 to 30 percent greater than a seated load.  Less frequent services are supposed to have a seated load on average.

Under RGS, the lower off-peak standard would prevail for all routes regardless of headway.  Anyone who rides the TTC today can tell you that much greater than seated loads are encountered every day throughout the system during off-peak periods.  We are still waiting for a staff presentation on the extent to which this goal is not met by existing services.

The chart on page 17 shows the relationship between annual ridership and the amount of service provided.  The TTC took an important step for a few years (2002-2004) of not overreacting to the riding drop, despite much pressure from the budget hawks, and this left us with the headroom to accommodate a turnaround in demand.  Now, however, the demand growth is outrunning the service and we have neither the capacity to absorb it nor the budget headroom to pay for additional service.

The map on page 21 shows peak period overcrowding projected for fall 2006.  Accommodating this will be tricky given constraints on fleet size.  As we all know, new buses are on order, but the net increase in fleet size won’t really hit until 2007 unless the TTC defers the retirement of some of its vehicles.  Ironically, they have just agreed to decommission over 200 old buses.

For the full version of the Ridership Growth Strategy report, go to http://www.toronto.ca/ttc/pdf/ridership_growth_strategy.pdf