Some of you may have read Geoff Nixon’s article in the Saturday Globe and Mail Toronto Section about the 33 Forest Hill bus route. The piece gives a good overview of the issues, and that’s not just because I am quoted in it.
The list of “poor performers” comes out each year as part of the Service Plan, and this is a very dangerous document. Why? Because it gives politicians whose grasp of complexity may be tenuous something easy to understand: an index, a hit list for budget cuts. Indeed, a few members of Council complained that the TTC should just cut the routes on this list, save scads of money, and quit griping about funding problems. Amusingly, few if any “poor performers” happened to be in their wards.
Where does this list come from?
First off, it is important to recognize that if a route doesn’t have many riders, there is no formula that is going to hide the situation on a purely financial basis. But routes don’t just exist for financial reasons. There are many other criteria including:
- geographic isolation (how hard or far is it to walk to another route)
- special traffic generators like schools, hospitals or industrial areas
- network role (does this route segment bridge two areas of acceptable performance, or is the route part of the 24-hour Blue Night Network)
Two sets of data are published every year by the TTC.
One lists the alleged cost and revenue for each route along with other operating stats such as riding count, peak vehicle requirements and vehicle mileage. [Gentle reader: The TTC and the street railway industry before it have used miles as long as anyone can remember.]
The other lists various routes or route segments that do not make the grade at certain times of the day. The measuring stick used here is different than in the overall list for reasons I will explain shortly.