Budgets Versus Ridership Growth: Why You Can’t Get On

A few days ago, an interesting list fell into my hands:  all of the service improvements that were planned based on riding growth that have not been implemented this year because of all the wrangling about the budget.

Morning peak improvements:

  • 11 Bayview and 28 Davisville
  • 31 Greenwood — new earlier northbound trip from Eastern Avenue

Midday weekday improvements:

  • 11 Bayview
  • 29 Dufferin
  • 504 King
  • 47 Lansdowne (two improvements)
  • 54 Lawrence East
  • 96 Wilson and 165 Weston Road North

Afternoon peak improvements:

  • 105 Dufferin North 
  • 43 Kennedy (two improvements)
  • 47 Lansdowne
  • 52 Lawrence West
  • 59 Maple Leaf
  • 16 McCowan
  • 190 Scarborough Centre Rocket

Evening weekday improvements:

  • 29 Dufferin
  • 60 Steeles West — later northbound trips on all days to connect with last subway train at Finch Station

Saturday improvements:

  • 191 Highway 27 Rocket — Two earlier morning round trips
  • 123 Shorncliffe and 111 East Mall — daytime
  • 60 Steeles West — daytime
  • 47 Lansdowne — evening

Sunday and Holiday improvements:

  • 34 Eglinton East — afternoon 
  • 47 Lansdowne — evening
  • 16 McCowan — afternoon

The problem here is that the TTC can pass all the motions in likes about service quality and the Ridership Growth Strategy (these improvements all react to existing demand and are not part of the RGS), but the City Budget Committee blocks budget changes that could affect future year subsidy requirements.  This must stop, and there are a number of related actions required:

  • The City should have a process to allow multi-year budgeting so that the TTC can get commitments this year to funding for next year without having to wait as much as a year for it.  This change is in the works, but we have not seen any indication of new procedures yet.  I will be watching the 2007 budget cycle closely.
  • The TTC should budget based on the assumption that it will need to run more service.  Asking for a subsidy that barely keeps existing operations going prevents a serious embrace of RGS by the TTC and the City.
  • TTC staff should report in detail on the actual loading conditions and emerging pressures for additional service on every route.  The so-called financial performance data published each year are a sham because they place supposed financial performance over actual riding conditions and demand.
  • In addition, TTC staff should report on the additional service improvements needed to keep up with improved, less-crowded loading standards for the Ridership Growth Strategy.

The next round in this battle will come likely in April when the 2006 Service Plan is presented to the Commission.