Planning for Little Growth

A notorious aspect of TTC budgeting is that ridership projections are stated relative to last year’s budget, not relative to last year’s actual riding.

With a system bursting at the seams, everyone is waiting for the new service coming in the fall when the Ridership Growth Strategy finally starts to kick in.  But, wait a minute, the TTC’s plans are not all they seem to be.

We are told that the budget plans a 3% increase in 2007.  That’s relative to the budgetted ridership in 2006, not to the actual ridership, or the ridership we would have achieved without a work stoppage.

In 2006, the TTC planned for 436-million riders, but they actually carried 445-million.  Moreover, the one-day work shutdown cost the system 1.2-million rides, and so the real total for 2006 would have been 446.2-million.  That, certainly, should be the starting point for any projections.

However, the budgetted ridership for 2007 is only 452-to-454-million.  This is only a 1.3-to-1.75 percent increase over the actual figure, adjusted for the work stoppage, in 2006.  With Metropasses selling like hotcakes and gas prices creeping above one dollar/litre, that small increase does not give much headroom for growth.

But, you say, surely the TTC will react to real growth with more service.  It doesn’t work that way.

Once the budget is set, running any additional service (leaving aside whether we have vehicles or operators) inevitably costs money.  The budget gods rule and say you have no more mileage left in your service budget, so don’t even think of running more service.

This is rather like a bakery deciding that they will make 10 cakes a day, rain or shine, workdays or holidays, and that’s all the customers are going to get.  The only difference with the bakery is that it could reasonably hope to make money by having more cakes for sale.  But if the baker is worried he will have too many leftovers on the slow days and stubbornly continues to bake only 10, well, the customers will go to that nice shop down the road.

Looking at the peak service plans, we will have 1437 peak buses in service in November 2007 compared with 1335 in 2006.  The number in April 1990 was 1448, but of course the bus network was smaller then and so we’re really further away from 1990 levels than it appears.

On the streetcar side, the peak in November 2007 will be 206 cars compared with 200 in 2006, a small increase.  In April 1990, the figure was 213 and did not include the Spadina/Harbourfront line.

2008 is supposed to be the year that the new off-peak Ridership Growth Strategy loading standards kick in along with minimum headway levels and restoration of many services slashed in the mid 1990s.  Let’s hope someone finds the money to pay for them and leaves enough headroom in the budget to operate them.

6 thoughts on “Planning for Little Growth

  1. I having been wondering why the TTC does not currently use articulated buses to help absorb ridership growth on high volume routes. I understand that 70% of the cost of operating a bus is the driver. Thus, it would seem that the TTC would be more efficient if it could haul more passengers per driver on high volume routes.

    I have read the TTC has held off buying articulated buses because they used to lack a stainless steel frame (to prolong bus life) and because they may be currently underpowered to handle the extra bus weight.

    But I have seen them in other cities. So, I don’t quite understand the reluctance to use them.

    Steve: The last batch of artics we had were built by Ikarus in Hungary and they were not very well made. Since that era, the TTC has done a lot of work with other large properties to develop robust specifications for buses and these are now incorporated in buses bought today. There are plans to acquire articulated buses starting in 2009.


  2. Can you imagine that last batch of articulated buses on the roads in today’s storm? They would have been pulled before the first snowflake hit the ground — they couldn’t make it up hills (Dufferin at Davenport or Avenue at St. Clair). Kinda comes full circle with our ALRVs not being able to get up Bathurst at St. Clair. Conspiracy?


  3. A year or two ago, I came across a photo of Ottawa’s newer articulated buses in a winter storm. I’ve been on a rear-wheel drive articulated bus as it went down an icy hill and it’s a scary feeling.

    As for the bigger issue of budgeting: just have to mention that annual population growth in Toronto is estimated at 1.9%. That means the TTC is planning for fewer rides per capita compared to this year’s actuals — hardly a step towards building a transit city.


  4. Articulated buses while a great idea, they are not very good in the winter time. I live in Thornhill, and the new VIVA artic buses while well made on the inside, their drive train is the middle set of wheels, and after any snow falls, they very often get stuck trying to get up the CN bridge hill just north of Steeles, causes many slowdowns in service. What the TTC needs to do is to increase their orders of buses and streetcars, we need those vehicles now, not 5 years from now.


  5. Ottawa and Longueil (Montreal South Shore) are usng articulated buses. Montreal has authorized purchases of 202 articulated buses – after field testing a number of models of the last couple of years.


  6. Speaking of bursting at the seams and articulated buses, what about articulated street cars on College during the peak periods? Every morning there are perpetually dozens of people waiting at every stop all the way along college from Lansdowne into the city. Any reason the TTC doesn’t increase capacity on this route? I guess it’s the same story everywhere, though.

    Steve: College/Carlton, King, it’s all the same. Too much demand and not enough service. For years the official counts told us riding wasn’t going up, but what most people didn’t know is that the TTC couldn’t afford to count riders on heavy routes more than every two or three years anyhow. Riding counts never tell us how many people gave up waiting.

    At next week’s Commission meeting, we will hear about some band-aid “solutions” to problems on King, but even those won’t be in place until late in 2008.

    The attitude at the TTC has been “we can’t do anything” for far too long, and we have a big hole to dig out of.

    When I hear about all of the new money for transit, for subway lines that won’t come close to justifying their existence, it makes me sick. We have money for that, but we lose more riders from the regular system every day than new subways will ever attract out of their cars. Nobody ever does all of the math for the so-called environmental agenda, nobody ever figures out the cost of driving people away from transit, or making it so intolerable that they use it as a last resort.


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