Readers Comment About Service Quality

I’ve been rather busy this week with various cultural events including the hotdocs festival (more reviews to come), a Jane Jacobs memorial get together (repeated on CP24’s Hour Town on Sunday at 6:00 am and 1:05 am), the launch of spacing magazine’s latest all-transit issue, a spectacular performance of Bach’s B Minor Mass by Tafelmusik, and it’s still not over.

Having a few moments here, I’ll catch up on some of the comments that have accumulated for the week. Continue reading

Service Quality: What Tax Cuts Don’t Give Us

Tonight, I spent the later part of the evening at the Gladstone Hotel at spacing magazine’s latest issue launch, one devoted to transit issues.  You can read all about it at

Let me tell you about my trips to and from the Gladstone.  I arrived at Queen and Spadina on a southbound 510 just in time to see not one, not two, but three 501 Queen cars leave westbound.  Hmmm.  Not a good sign.  As things turned out, the next 501 (actually two of them) did not show up for 25 minutes, and the first car was going only to Roncesvalles.  Fortunately for me, the Gladstone is not in Long Branch.

On the trip home, a bit after midnight, the eastbound 501 showed up reasonably promptly and the trip across Queen was uneventful.  We pulled up to Broadview just behind a 504 King car, the one that should have taken me home.  Did it wait for transfer passengers from the 501?  No.  At least the following 504, about 10 minutes later, was not short turned (this happens regularly late at night when I attempt this route home).

In a way, these are two isolated incidents.  Eastbound service on Queen at Spadina during my long wait was quite regular.  Service on the Dufferin bus seemed to be running smoothly any time I peeked out the door or window from the bar at the Gladstone [please note how this demonstrates my commitment to monitoring the TTC, and the places I will lurk to do so].

But the point is that in both directions, I encountered problems that should not be part of TTC service — a long wait and bunched service one way, and a missed connection thanks to an inconsiderate operator the other way.  We can have the cheapest fares in the world, but if we don’t have reliable service, people will stay in their cars.

Tax Cuts and the Metropass

Today, Ottawa unveiled a expected tax credit for people who buy monthly or annual passes.  Although this will not put more money in the pockets of transit agencies, it will substantally change the break-even point for people who buy passes.

Without the tax credit, a monthly pass costs $99.75, equivalent to 47.5 fares.

On the Monthly Discount Plan, a pass costs $91.50 per month, equivalent to 43.6 fares.

The new tax deduction, at 15.25% reduces these multiples to about 40 and 37 respectively.  This is an important psychological breakthrough when the cost of using a pass falls below the perceived cost of a regular, daily commute.

The TTC needs to proceed on two fronts:

First, a revamped Metropass Discount Program campaign to swing even more riders over to the pass market which has already seen the benefit of a transferrable pass.

Second, a thorough review of service implications especially in the off peak.  We can reasonably expect that most of the marginal growth through shifting riders to passes is in trips they might not have taken otherwise and to pass sharing.

The City of Toronto has to get serious about funding growth in transit services in any time period where vehicles are available to do so.