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.