The TTC Operating Budget presentation on January 31 included TTC Budgets and City Building, an overview of how the need for better service and a rejuvenated fleet are integral to our hopes for achieving the city building goals near and dear to some political hearts.
At this point, the TTC is in the hole by about $33-million for its 2007 subsidy requirement (the difference between what the City budget folks set as the target for the TTC and what they actually need). Given that the TTC is one of the Mayor’s central platform issues, I think we can assume that this problem will vanish sometime over the next three months. A fare increase doesn’t seem to be in the offing, but what is really troubling is that real progress on “Ridership Growth” will not appear until late in 2007 and early 2008.
Remember that the Ridership Growth Strategy is four years old this March and people might justly wonder when some of its promises will appear. Yes, we have the transferrable Metropass and tax deductability that makes passes attractive to a wider base of users, but we are waiting for more service. An important part of RGS is a change in the vehicle loading standards so that a service is deemed to be “at capacity” at a lower load factor than today. This means, in theory, that service will be added before people resort to riding on the roof rather than afterwards.
The one flaw in this premise is that you need vehicles, operators and budget headroom to run more service. Outside of the rush hour, we have vehicles today, but we don’t have operators and more importantly we don’t have budget.
Two charts in the presentation show just how far behind the system has fallen in dealing with pent-up demand.
The Map of Overcrowded Routes shows those that were already overcrowded in late 2006 plus those that are predicted to be overcrowded in early 2007. In this context, “overcrowded” means that the loads exceed the pre-RGS loading standards.
The Chart of Service Vs Demand shows the total service provided in terms of vehicle hours. Obviously, this is a rough surrogate for capacity given that vehicles come in different sizes. Moreover, an hour in which a vehicle has surplus capacity cannot be easily moved to one where there is excess demand without destroying service at lightly loaded times of day and locations. All the same, the chart does show the gap between the amount of service operated and the amount required to catch up with demand.
Note that this chart shows only service additions over the years, not total service. In round numbers, the TTC runs about 120,000 hours of service on surface routes per week beside which the increase of less than 5,000 hours is rather small.
These should put Council on notice. We can play games for months trying to appear “fiscally responsible” in the hope that Queen’s Park and Ottawa will take pity and give us more money. There are two problems with that approach:
- We usually get only a one-year bailout rather than major, meaningful, ongoing support for transit.
- Because we lowball our budget needs for service expansion, we already understate the amount we need.
No doubt, somewhere buried in the TTC budget, there is money to be found. That’s a worthwhile exercise, but it diverts attention from the real need to think on a larger scale, to embrace the idea that we are going to make transit much more attractive to potential customers.
Not ten years from now with a new subway. Not five years from now with new streetcars. Not next year when there may be a handful of spare vehicles left to implement RGS. Right now, today, with this budget.