Emergency TTC Meeting re Budget Cuts [Updated]

In response to a request from the City, the TTC is holding an emergency meeting on Friday, July 20 at 1:00 pm in Committee Room 1 to discuss possible budget cuts.

Jeff Gray at the Globe reports that the TTC is considering options such as a 25-cent fare hike and closing the Sheppard Subway to save $10-million per year.

Jim Byers in the Star has additional details about the type of cuts we are looking at.

Critics call this fear-mongering, but I believe that it is important that the residents of Toronto and the TTC users understand the position the irresponsible action of Council has created.  The TTC was already having trouble convincing even pro-transit members of Council that they should continue spending to roll out the Ridership Growth Strategy, and with the latest decision, any hope of new services vanishes.

From an activist’s point of view, this is a black day for the TTC.  As I have already written, if the City is going to walk away from supporting the TTC, then the real alternative is higher fares, not service cuts.  Better we have a transit system that people want to use than one that comes a distant fifth in preference after driving, walking, cycling or cabs.

Holding off a fare increase to get us past this crisis is just as irresponsible as the vote to defer a decision on new taxes.  If, in October, Council reverses itself and imposes the new taxes, and if it actually decides to give added funding to the TTC, then the fare increase can be rolled back.  Service cuts drive riders away, and they will not magically reappear the day after service is restored.

A particularly difficult problem lies in recruiting staff for the TTC.  A hiring program ramping up the operator workforce for RGS has been building up to the planned fall service improvements.  If we stop hiring, we won’t be able to improve service until well into 2008 because the TTC will go into attrition mode and will have a backlog of hiring to do just to catch up.  This sort of problem in balancing hiring against various ways in which staff requirements change has hamstrung previous attempts at RGS implementation.

If there is one silver lining in all of this, it is the proposal to close the Sheppard Subway.  I really don’t want to see this sort of thing, at least on a 7×24 basis, but finally the citizens and politicians of Toronto will see the folly of this line and how much it costs us every year to operate.  The entire RGS plans for next year cost considerably less than the claimed saving from closing this one subway line.  All those who dream of a subway to the northern hinterlands please take note.

When plans are made for new line, lobbyists and politicians are quick to claim the need to serve “their” communities, but when it comes time to pay, they are nowhere to be seen.

Suzan Hall, a TTC Commissioner and author of the motion that deferred consideration of the new taxes, deserves to be thoroughly roasted by her constituents.  I will be amused to watch her squirm at Friday’s meeting as she explains how the TTC really doesn’t have to make the cuts now before them.  Will she vote for the service cuts, or will she appeal to some white knight from Queen’s Park who will save us from this madness?

Finally, if the TTC can call an emergency meeting to react to a request for cuts, then Council and the Mayor can find a way to call an emergency meeting to reopen debate on the new taxes.  This is not an issue that should just simmer away through July, August and September while our tribunes bask in the sun.  The decision must be reopened, and for that to happen, the Mayor needs to find a way to get this reconsidered as soon as possible.

Council manages to tie itself in procedural knots, and this is no time to throw up our hands and claim nothing can be done.

Updated 7:00 pm:

In order for Council to re-open debate on anything, they require a 2/3 majority vote.  This would require 8 of the Councillors who voted to defer the issue to change their minds to produce a 30 to 15 outcome, assuming everyone shows up.  The amount of arm twisting needed to make that big a change is quite a feat.

Some people started posting comments that belong in this thread as part of my previous item on this subject.  I am publishing them here to keep the discussion intact.

Sean Marshall wrote:

You might want to separate this into a different thread, but Giambrone is now publicly musing about abandoning the RGS, mothballing the Sheppard Subway and cutting routes like the 26 Dupont and 67 Pharmacy, as well as huge fare hikes and across-the-board cuts.

He says that this is isn’t “a public relations measure ” and is calling an emergency meeting for tomorrow at 1.

I thought we finally were over this, during the dark days of Lastman when every year we were warned of such things as the elimination of Sunday service, big cuts, and big fare increases. Recently, there has been excitement about Transit City, new subway cars, major September route improvements, RGS.  Now we have Adam off the deep end.

Should we really worry? I’m a bit shocked by this, but the TTC’s trick has been doom-and-gloom before.

Steve:  The TTC is in the unenviable position of being a big chunk of the discretionary part of the City’s budget.  When someone wants to cut a lot of money fast, the TTC is first in line because it’s the only thing that can be cut deeply and quickly.  Nobody wants to touch the police, even though they cost more in the City budget, and the other big items are mandated programs.

Dan wrote:

From the looks of things, increasing service, let alone preserving service at their current levels, isn’t going to be happening anytime soon… That is, if this little blurb  [on the CBC site] is at all accurate.

Scary, scary stuff!

Cynthia wrote:

Would love to donate part of my salary to a “TTC Fund” but hey, I need to live, right?

Serge wrote:

Horrible news!

Samuel wrote:

From What I hear.. Today in the news .. that The TTC is forced to cut back and they are having emergency meetings now juut to prepare for the lack of money ready for next year.. Limited ridership Routes like 67 Phramacy, 23 Dupont will be cut off.. The new busses + the increased ridership program will be cut off. The TTC chair also stated that there will be a possible shut down of the Sheppard line. This alarming report was on CP24.

Now After hearing this news, I realized how desprate the city is, and it’s not the Mayor’s fault. It’s the Federal and Provincal governments. They need to realise that Toronto is the biggest city in the country (population) , and basically most of our money used is coming from them. I saw a stat saying that 8% of Toronto tax paying dollars will come back to the City of Toronto.. The rest goes to the provincal and Federal governments, so they can spend it over other regions so the wealth is shared…. Yes I understand we need to share the wealth, but we need to consider helping where most numbers are because yes some Farmers need help on Alberta, but what about a GTA area of 4 Million + trying barely meet a budget every year.

David WS wrote:

The city’s welfare handouts cost a lot more than the TTC. Close the libraries, end subsidized daycare, cancel cultural events, all before you mothball an entire subway line!

Steve:  Actually, a lot of the welfare costs are mandated by Queen’s Park and we have to pay them from our taxes whether we like it or not.  As for daycare, it’s an important part of letting people who would otherwise be trapped at home work, and we need more, not less of it.  Finally for culture, I will be happy to see the end of cultural subsidies the day we stop giving a fortune away to any professional sports franchise that woos a few Councillors and stop giving away valuable public spaces like Dundas Square to the advertising industry.

Ross M. wrote:

I haven’t seen the numbers, but could the city not enter lease arrangements for the public golf courses and ski slopes or sell them outright? I assume these are run as revenue generating ancillary services but perhaps the revenue potential can be increased.

And I thought the land transfer tax was a good idea for generating revenue but they should have introduced it at a lower rate (.25 or .5) and then go up from there.

Steve:  The revenue, now or potential, from these sites is small change in the overall city budget, and we really do need to keep parkland in the city’s hands.  Sell it, and one day it will be full of condos.

As for the transfer tax, at .5 percent it would have brought in only $75-million, nowhere near what we need to address the budget shortfall.  Indeed, this was the one tax within those enabled by Queen’s Park that could bring in substantial revenue.  If they had given Toronto the right to have a sales tax, for example, it could have been charged over a much larger revenue stream at a modest level.

Kevin Reidy wrote:

The new mantra at City Hall is tighten our belts.  Will that hold for councillors pet projects?

For example, will the Dufferin bus rerouting to suposedly serve the soccer stadium at CNE be on the block? 

What about the road closure for various street festivals? (The latest one was last weekend on St. Clair for the Salsa festival.)  Whenever this happens the TTC has to reroute service.  (Usually this is the weekend so vehicles are available but there is a cost involved.)  Will organizers be told that you can have a limited closure but the streetcar or bus must go through?

Steve:  Others who shall remain nameless suggested things like cutting back on immigration to save on welfare expenses.  Aside from the implicit racism of this comment, people get into this country because we need additional workforce and the only way to get it is to import it.  Welfare, I suspect, goes more to the entrenched poor (of which Toronto, unlike many US cities, is lucky to have comparatively few) and to migrants from other parts of Ontario and Canada.  Please don’t barrage me with comments about immigration because this is not an issue that I will debate.

72 thoughts on “Emergency TTC Meeting re Budget Cuts [Updated]

  1. Steve —

    If the Sheppard line closes, is Sheppard – Yonge being renamed ” Sheppard ” once again? Oh and also do you have any idea what would happen with the work currently being done at Museum? I mean that particular project would be a nightmare if stopped now, after all the beams are bare and the platform is partly ripped up.



    Steve: I think that the naming of Sheppard Station is the least of our worries. As for Museum, that’s a capital project, and is partly funded by non-TTC money.


  2. Nice to see that council came up with $1.2 million to purchase the Theatre Passe Muraille and then leasing it back to the theatre group for $2.00 a year. After working 32 years for the TTC I know that the they can waste money just as good if not better than city council. If the TTC needs to cut $100 million they could start with the Station Modernization Program.

    The cost there are exactly $100 million.

    Steve: For what it’s worth, in a worst case scenario the City can sell the TPM building and recover their investment. Station modernization cennot be recouped, although some of the work is required for accessibility and for fire code.


  3. I disagree with Jonathon’s criticism of OC Transpo. Yes, it needs to improve local service in the burbs, but so does EVERY system. In the central area, the service is more than excellent. The CASH fare is $3.00, but ticket fare is $1.90 and a regular monthly pass is $73.00. The cash fare was purposely made high in order to encourage ticket and pass use. Alas, the City floated the idea of a zone system, meaning we too have financial worries. All this means that Toronto is not alone in its Transit woes. And all governments in this country are nothing but hypocritical until they start putting their money where their mouths are over transit/environmental issues.

    And speaking of mental : NOW I hope people realize what a crack-pot Mega Mel Lastman was. He brought Toronto to ruin. Period! It will take decades to recover from his excesses and personal tributes. However, the Councillors on the Commission who vote for such drastic service reductions will rue the day they did so, because it can only bring more ruin. If the city wants to so emulate New York, it is doing a good job of it—the New York of the ’60’s and ’70’s!


  4. Isn’t the construction of the Sheppard Subway a requirement of an OMB order that approved the construction of all the condos in North York Centre, someone should revisit that decision to see how it affects the idea of closing that subway line. Also, ask the planners how this closing affects the massive development proposed for the Canadian Tire lands or the completed New York Towers. I’m sure the loss of the subway seriously affects the traffic studies for those developments.

    Steve: Actually, I think there was some hocus-pocus back when the subway was up for approval. The studies “showed” that the subway was needed to deal with the traffic, and so the subway was approved to bring the development. I don’t believe it makes a bit of difference for much of the new development because the Sheppard line gets most of its riding from transfer traffic off of bus routes, not walk-in trade.

    What infuriates me about the current leadership at City Hall is that they know that the Province is the cause of all their financial hardship but they refuse to call them on it. Why doesn’t Miller clearly articulate to the citizens how unfair it is to maintain all these Provincially-mandated services on the property tax and draft a proposal to upload these services back to the Province. He should be focusing on getting this proposal endorsed by Council and presented to the electorate before the Provincial election to ensure that it becomes a serious election issue. He should then get tough with the Province and threaten to cut funding to all Provincially mandated programs unless a serous discussion occurs by the end of the year. The City should separate all Provincially mandated programs into a separate corporation and bill the Province at-cost for providing them, this would streamline the city’s budgeting by giving all involved a clear understanding of who pays and requires which services.

    Steve: The strategy of the Council group who voted to defer the new taxes is precisely that — to force a discussion of uploading to the Province. Whether this will work or not is another matter, but there is a block of Council who are already trying to pursue that course.

    I don’t understand this business of the city shooting itself in the head because the Province refuses to take responsibility for its own services. The City needs to call the Province on its BS and start playing tough. Lets face it, we have nothing to lose from those bums at Queen’s Park anyway.


  5. Careful about buying in to the obvious intention of Council and the Commission to associate the cutbacks with the failed tax grab. Regardless of your perception of the Province’s role in this fiscal crisis, the land transfer tax was and is absolute lunacy and was very rightly voted down in a rare moment of clarity from Council.

    Steve: I don’t agree with your assessment of the Land Transfer Tax, but do agree that the linkage between it and transit cuts was overplayed in recent media coverage.


  6. I think the movie Field of Dreams said it best, with ‘If you build it, they will come’… not ‘Once they are here, you should build it’.

    That is, we can’t just be waiting for the necessary density for a subway or LRT to magically appear before we build one. Toronto doesn’t have the advantage of centuries of growth like London, Paris, even New York. Even Montreal is at least constrained to the area of their island. People scream about the Sheppard line being a waste of time and money, but consider the alternative. Without the subway, Sheppard East would likely resemble Sheppard West. Now thanks to the subway, however, we’ve got some nice condos going up. At the same time, imagine if the subway was never extended across the 401 to Finch. None of the condo development and density improvements would have happened.

    Mothballing the sheppard line is a silly proposition… It would be like buying a brand new car, driving it for a few months, and then parking it permanently in the garage because you can’t afford the gas and insurance. At least if it continues operating, the city will get some return from the billion dollar investment, even if it costs a bit to keep it going. Otherwise, that’s a lot of money flushed down the toilet, that could surely have gone to better things.


  7. Why is TTC having to look for the money under operations rather than under capital expenditures? Given the magnitude of the cut, how close TTC services already run to the bone, and the timing, there really seems to be only 2 places to find this type of money.

    Capital expenditures and fare increases.

    Steve: Capital expenditures are funded in a completely different way from operations. The money for them comes partly from debt floated by the City and, particularly with recent announcements, in a large part from Queen’s Park and Ottawa. This is not available to fund operations.


  8. Now that some people have got the fury out of their system, what with the name-calling (right vs. left), blame-gaming (was it Lastman? or Harris? or Ottawa? All of the above?) and armchair budgeting (it must be “easy” to find efficiencies), those who feel strongly about supporting our transit system should voice their opinion to their Councillor, the Commissioners, and strongly encourage anyone else they know who supports improved transit and does not want to see any cutbacks to do the same.

    Whether or not this cutback threat is grandstanding, the people who use the TTC have to make it clear that this “solution” is not acceptable, and that Council should get its act together. Speak up now and let them know that we expect better from our municipal leaders. Contact your provincial and federal representatives and let them know that they need to support cities.


  9. Steve

    1. As you rightly point out, we are treating developers like the property market was in the tank. Those developers, who are adding new demands on the water/sewer/hydro/road/transit networks then advertise in the Star that they are near a subway station and are lauded for maybe buying their residents a year’s metropass. Perhaps the threat of closing the subway line will bring some of the developers out of the woodwork with “voluntary” contributions in lieu of the development charges Mel forfeited. A clear message should be sent to downtown developers – no more deals. Development charges get paid in full. No more “community benefits” which might pay for a parkette but don’t pay for a single extra bus or streetcar.

    2. It was unfortunate that while Giambrone was reeling off routes under threat the TTC were refusing to provide recent counts, leaving the media to rely on 2005 numbers.

    3. If there was to be a fare hike, it should not be on cash fare which has risen something like 30% in the last couple of years – not least because of the effect of Metropass. Instead, discounted metropasses should narrow to say $3-5 a month cheaper rather than $8-10 as at present (depending on whether obtained via bulk purchase) and the Metropass itself should break the $100 barrier. The TTC could also consider allowing advertisers to include inserts in MDP mailings.

    4. It is also unfortunate that the Mayor is treating this as my way or the highway. A “strong” Mayor would be holding public meetings *and turning up to them* to face down the “no new taxes ever” people, but he would also be quietly asking the union leaders to show solidarity, not least with the low paid workers who ride the TTC and forgo above CPI wage increases in 2008.

    Steve: I receive advertising in my monthly Metropass mailings, although not very much of it. As for public meetings, they are coming soon to a community centre near you.


  10. Hi Steve.

    I just want to add some comments to this debate of things to do with the TTC.

    1. Have anyone that is currently getting a “free” metropass pay for it. No, I am not saying pay for the whole cost of a pass, no, just some of it, say $50? For those who can afford it (city councillours) pay the whole thing, no free metropass, take away the “perks” a bit.

    I being legally blind and a CNIB client, I get a yearly Free “CNIB METROPASS” (as do all CNIB clients living in Toronto). I wouldn’t mind paying $60 a year for it ((but ONLY if it goes to TTC, not CNIB)), ($5 per month). In Brantford where the blind school is located, CNIB clients pay $1 for bus fare.

    2. Cut back the non-performing routes to say 1 hour service at night (10pm) (I live on the 30 Lambton and it goes to 1 hour service at night 10pm weekdays and Saturdays, 7pm Sundays. LAST bus is 12am 7days a week).

    Have the Sheppard Subway close and the SRT as well at 10pm.

    3. Don’t open the Mt Dennis Division Garage, instead put the excess buses to other divisions that currently have really old buses (Queensway?).

    4. Shut down Rosedale and Summerhill stations, I RARELY see anyone get on them anyways.

    5. The TTC are already losing money with the Weekly passes.

    6. Kill the 40 JUNCTION bus and Extend the 30 LAMBTON to Dundas west having 20 minute headways at all times, 5:30am – 12 am weekdays and Saturdays, 9am-10pm Sundays. The 50 BURNHAMTHROPE already does not run past 10pm 7 days a week, kill it on Sundays.

    Ok, enough for now, I got Rambling…


  11. Steve,

    I have issues with those who call for the city and the TTC to be run “more like private businesses”. It seems these critics fail to appreciate that some municipal services will never be profitable, and that they use complaints about inefficiency at City Hall and the TTC to mask their actual “beef” — their opposition to the idea of taxpayer-funded public transit, municipal housing, etc. The critics need to either recognize that City Hall has these obligations and must pay for them, despite their unprofitability, or be honest by coming out and opposing the obligations themselves.

    On a more transit-related note, has any serious consideration been given to the idea of closing under-used stations on all lines? A previous poster mentioned a few. Bessarion, Summerhill and Museum seem like prime candidates to me. Realistically, how much money could be saved by such a move? Along related lines, the failure of the TTC to implement things like “honour system” fares (as on GO Transit or the Paris Metro) or smart payment systems (such as the one coming online in Boston) was always attributed to the fact that dealing directly with collectors “works”. Would introducing these innovations to Toronto save any money?

    Thanks for the blog and the opportunity to comment.

    Steve: Closing stations saves the cost of crewing the Collector’s Booth, some cleaning and some equipment maintenance such as escalators where they exist. The problem with many of the “small” stations is that they don’t have a lot of facilities to maintain. For example, Summerhill has two stairs from the platform up to street level and that’s it. Museum serves the University and the Avenue Road / Bloor area. I’ve never seen it packed, it’s not Queen Station, but it does get a fair amount of usage. Again, it has minimal facilities to maintain — one escalator and a handful of stairways.

    Bessarion, although it sets new standards for the term “underutilized” is finally to get some development around it. We will see what this does to utilization, but that is definitely a more expensive station to operate and maintain. At the risk of sounding like I’m trotting out my favour topic here, one of the big advantage of LRT lines on the surface is that they don’t have all of that station infrastructure. Yes, there are other tradeoffs, but the whole idea of LRT is to avoid high infrastructure costs.

    The proposed Smart Card system for Toronto will cost over $200-million to implement and will increase ongoing TTC costs by around $20-million annually. When we are so broke that we actually contemplate closing a subway line, spending a lot of money on a fare collection system is an extravagance we do not need.


  12. Hey Steve I just wanted to say one more thing (and thank you very much for replying to my comment). I’m really going to try and restrain myself from going bananas, but even way back in 1994 when I was 11 years old and Bob Rae was trying to plow through his four subway lines (never understood why the media called it that, it was actually three subways and an RT extension!) I couldn’t help but ask, “Gee why won’t they even think of building a subway line under King or Queen.” One statistic that I will never forget is that the King and Queen streetcars carry as many or even more passengers than all of GO Transit! I still remember watching CityPulse coverage of the session Metro council held on which lines they would fund in 1994. In a speech by Mel Lastman, he simply said something along the lines of “Mr. Chairman, the Sheppard subway comes straight out of the bible and I quote, “The lord is my shepherd”. Let us pray for a viable solution.


  13. Can the city run any new services (Transit City, Spadina extension etc.) without an operating subsidity?

    Steve: Spadina, definitely not. The TTC has already projected a deficit for that line. Transit City will probably run at a loss too, but a much lower one on a per-passenger basis. There are very few passengers carried even today at a profit. If we encourage more riding, we have to run more service and that costs more money than the fares bring in most of the time.


  14. I have concerns!

    (1) If you mothball the Sheppard Subway, doesn’t it mean that all the costs to build it were for nothing? That’s a more tragic waste of tax dollars.

    (2) If council cuts TTC service in any way, but refuses not roll back their 9% salary increase, it shows their priorities are for themselves and not the public whom they serve. They have no credibility when it comes to prudent use of our money.

    (3) Lastly, everywhere I turn it seems there is a new 50 storey condo built or pending, on vacant or underutilized land. Doesn’t this generate for the city significant tax revenue that wasn’t there before? So where is it?

    Steve: The Sheppard subway costs about $10-million more per year to operate than the bus services it replaced. Yes, there is an improved quality of service for people in that corridor. The problem is that we cannot afford to provide a similar upgrade for every other major corridor in Toronto. For too long, Councils (aided and abetted by Queen’s Park) have been happy to build lines without any thought for how their operation would be fudned.

    While a rollback of the 9% increase would be a symbolic gesture, it would not solve the larger problem of how to fund the TTC. If Council takes this action, the debate we are having about funding won’t go away, only one of the political footballs that distracts from the main argument here.

    As for the new condos, yes they generate some new revenue, but nowhere near enough to keep up just with inflationary costs in city expenses let along improvements in services.


  15. It’s almost 4 pm on the 20th of July, and I just flipped on CP24 to see counsellor Michael Thompson suggesting that Mr. Munro should (frankly) perhaps be a member of the Toronto Transit Commission… It was good to hear someone giving recognition to the great work you do Steve!

    Steve: Yes, that was rather amusing. I was nominated to the TTC years ago by then-Mayor John Sewell, but we got Jeff Lyons instead who was a more palatable candidate for the powers-that-were. Just as well as, in those days, I don’t think I would really have been up to that sort of position, wild rabble-rouser that I was.

    Today, being on the outside has huge advantages even though it can be frustrating. This blog makes a big difference because I can have my voice heard even if I’m not at the table.


  16. Do you mean to tell us this budget announcement was made yesterday and Toronto has one day to react? The citizens should form a class action suit and sue the city for wasteful practices, mothballing Sheppard being the big one.

    I guess they can sacrifice Sheppard because it’s not downtown, therefore not important! Hey, why not close every second station on the 2 older lines, save a few bucks that way, no?

    To those who refer to Sheppard as the “northern hinterlands”, I say you are foolish if you think the “city core folks” can support all those museums, theatres, sporting events etc. without the patronage of the people north of Eglinton and in the surrounding “905” regions. Get real, Toronto is a big city not the little village you’d like to think it is. Mass transit needs to be extended to the greater Toronto area not stunted.

    Toronto city administrators are either criminally negligent or grossly incompetent. What about all the development on Sheppard because of the subway?

    I never used the TTC until the Sheppard line and won’t again if they close this line.

    Steve: The announcement was appallingly handled because any move like this requires a lot of consultation and debate, not a decision on virtually no notice to anyone concerned in the middle of the summer lull. My reference to “northern hinterlands” was to the York/VCC subway proposal where there is neither demonstrated need for the line and a documented future operating loss that York Region was trying to avoid paying by fobbing it off on Toronto.

    As for little villages, you should have heard some of the Commissioners today talking about their own wards. We need to see the entire city and GTA as one unit, and that means we don’t waste billions on a vanity subway line that drains reosurces from possible projects and service in other parts of the region.


  17. I think Mr. Miller and the rest of the municipal government need to stop talking about Toronto being a world class city immediately. SEPTA just went through a similar situation and threatened extensive service cuts with severe fare increases due to their funding situation. The situation wasn’t the same, but similar and Toronto is certainly not a ‘world class’ city if it seeks to imitate Philadelphia of all places.

    I remember in the time leading up to the opening of the Sheppard subway, the TTC said they were thinking about not opening it (a quote from Howard Moscoe suggesting that the unopened subway line could be used for movie shoots comes to mind) because of the unfunded operating losses, and also thinking about mothballing the Scarborough RT.

    The Scarborough RT appears to have been left unmentioned as a ‘cut’ candidate this time. Perhaps it should be put back on the table as a candidate for shutting down because of the problems associated with maintaining and replacing the aged ICTS technology. The Sheppard subway is new, in good repair, and not a total orphan.

    On the whole, I’m very disappointed that when it looked like Toronto was really going to take some steps towards measurable progress on improving transit and, by extension, quality of life, the politicians not only have to go and ruin all of the planned improvements, but propose going backwards from where we are now.


  18. If it is absolutely necessary to make major cuts to the TTC, the Sheppard subway is the last place that should be cut. It is ridiculous to spend $1 billion on a subway, then close it 5 years later, when it is already carrying reasonable (but not heavy) loads. This would only save $10 million per year anyway, which is very small. Only if the TTC were facing an extremely dire financial situation (read: a deficit of billions of dollars) should it even consider closing a subway line. What should be postponed instead, and subject to reinstatement when/if the taxes are passed, are capital expenditures. The York University extension, station renovations, Transit City, etc.


  19. Well now that according to CBC the meeting is over, and cutting the Sheppard subway is still on the table, even if only the decision is deferred.

    Steve, perhaps you can answer this question I’ve raised in other forums, and can’t get much of a comment on.

    How do they close the subway without having to deal with it being designated an existing higher order transit corridor in the existing official plan, and without going through a 2-year environmental assessment process? Not to mention OMB appeals.

    And even if there is a legal avenue to avoid all this, what is going to stop the developers who are busy developing along this corridor for suing the city, for ignoring their own official plan, and removing the existing higher order transit?

    Steve: I will deal with the debate at today’s meeting in a post, probably tomorrow, as I am still working through all of the comments and there was no earth-shattering decision today.

    A “higher order transit corridor” includes a bus in a reserved lane. You only need an EA if you are going to widen the road to add a reserved lane, not if you are just going to paint some white lines, and the process is soon to be down to 1 year long.

    Developers have no comeback on the City if the transit service is cut as there is no legal agreement anywhere requiring that the City provide service. The fact that the City would destroy its credibility for any future transit schemes is a separate matter.


  20. Dan #46 statement “Even Montreal is at least constrained to the area of their island.” is wrong.

    When the Montreal Metro opened in 1967, it crossed under the St. Lawrence River to Longueuil station and recently expanded 3 stations north to the city of Laval under Riviere des Praries.


  21. I am wondering if the Subway is going to be replaced by an LRT line? If it is, I would imagine it would be possible to rebuild the underground stations to accept LRTs.

    I know many people don’t like the Sheppard Subway, but shutting it down with out a real alternative is a very bad idea. Where are all those commuters going to go; on to the already congested Highway 401?

    This a very bad economic decision, even if the line is not profitable, it is indirectly putting money into the city’s pockets.


  22. If the Mayor wants walk the walk he talks, here’s one interesting option that would raise a lot of revenue for the TTC and be arguably a green measure:
    “Subway proximity tax”.

    It has been a while since I came across any of these figures, but I believe studies concluded that on average, people are willing to walk about 400 meters to get to a transit station. If we put an additional tax on all residents within 400 meters of a main entrance to a subway or surface ROW station, and considering that the densest development is along subway corridors most of the time (Allen excluded), and also make businesses contribute as they’ll be plentiful in the core, that’s a huge pool of revenue right there. Given the uproar of the idea of service cuts, plus that this avoids the same kind of backlash that a farehike might induce, as well as that this would encourage ridership by “forcing” non-users to pay for the system they live close to (which may be enough to get them to actually use it for a change), it could be a win-win, because people who live close to a subway station enjoy a superior convenience in this city that other people do not, and I’d dare say a majority of them are willing to pay to ensure they keep that superior convenience if under the threat of having them taken away (even though the Yonge Line would obviously never go anywhere in a million years).

    That last sentance has got to be a run-on but I’ll take my chances.

    With one 6-month exception, for which I blame my roommate who found the place, every time I moved in the GTA, I was very near a GO Train or TTC Subway station, or both, and that’s no accident. I wouldn’t complain about such a tax, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. This would also be harder for council to vote against, because it would very directly paint any councillor that votes against as anti-transit.

    Steve: One big problem Toronto faces as a legacy of the Harris years is that increases in commercial taxes are subject to many constraints intended to get them to a “fairer level” relative to residential taxes. Rental apartments are classed as commercial, not residential, and are subject to these caps. Toronto would love to go after the business tax base, but it cannot do it as a simple real-estate tax. However, as a land transfer tax when property changes hands, they are fair game.


  23. If I were in charge of the TTC, I’d impliment the 25 cent fare hike, and cut back on late night service (Dupont runs at 1 hour intervals at night, you can cut that without cutting the route) and I’d also do to Sheppard today what they did to University in the 70’s, where I’d end the subway at 9pm or so, and keep it closed on Sundays to cut costs. I’d then tell the city that any remaining deficit is just that, a deficit, and if they don’t like it, that’s just too bad.

    Steve: Alas, the City would say to the TTC, you’re only getting X million dollars, and if you go broke in mid-November, that’s just too bad.


  24. Steve wrote “only need an EA if you are going to widen the road to add a reserved lane, not if you are just going to paint some white lines, and the process is soon to be down to 1 year long.”

    I agree that you don’t need an EA to get the buses back on Sheppard. I’m concerned that you’d need the EA to mothball the subway. The Environmental Assessment Act is nothing if not vague. EAs are necessary for “undertakings”, and while the regulations do define what some of these “undertakings” are, they don’t provide a comprehensive list. Regulation 334 seems to exempt “retiring” “things” from the EA process if the EA process wasn’t required to build them in the first place. So presumably “retiring” “things” that the EA process does apply to, does require an EA.

    If the Minister of Environment decides that completely closing a subway to replace with buses is an undertaking – then that alone would trigger the EA process – which could stretch out well beyond 2 years (as there is no class EA for subways) if the Minister isn’t in a rush. If the Minister wants to play ball, then they simply declare that an EA isn’t necessary if anyone requests one.

    So for the city to close the subway, I think they need to have the Ontario government on their side, or else it could be delayed well into the next decade. But what do I know – I’m not a lawyer. Perhaps we should all apply to the Minister of the Environment, requesting that she order a full EA take place on the closure of the Sheppard Subway.


  25. What the TTC should really cut are some service detours. If a large part of a route is closed, there’s no point in detouring that route, as much of its riders won’t ride it anyways, especially in downtown areas where an alternate route is within walking distance (like the Dundas construction). Also recently, during construction on St.Clair, many buses were diverted, while some need to maintain a connection, buses like the Christie got detoured to another subway station, and it didn’t serve most of its route, so why not just cut it? I’m not sure how much money it will save, but every little bit (should) count…

    (Also, routes with hourly service should be cut at those times if a more frequent service is nearby. I’d rather take that and walk then rely on the hourly service. As well, they should look at the 42 Cummer east of Vic Park off peak, it rarely has a rider, and it’s now being detoured just to serve it’s terminus, a bus loop with almost nothing within a 1km radius).


  26. Is the CHRISTIE bus on the list of scheduled cuts?

    How much of a fare increase would be required so that no cuts are needed?

    Just my 2c … PS — the TTC doesn’t have the guts to close a subway line. The last thing they ever closed (rapid-transit wise) was BAY LOWER, and they took a lot of heat for that. I’d call their bluff on threatening to close the Sheppard subway.

    Steve: No Christie is not on the list. I will be posting all of the details and a commentary here later. Based on the estimate that a 25-cent fare increase would bring in about $45-million, we would need at least at 50-cent increase to fund all of the proposed cuts to existing and planned services.


  27. Re: Comment #63 (Nick). The approach you describe is similar to the one taken by the Toronto District School Board near the end of the Harris/Eve years, and more recently by the Peel District School Board. They couldn’t balance their books, and they ran a deficit in defiance of provincial law.

    The result was that the province stepped in, cancelled the authority of the democratically elected school trustees, and balanced the books themselves through mandatory spending cuts.

    It’s important to note that, constitutionally, municipalities do not exist in Canada. The province of Ontario could, tomorrow, legislate the elimination of all municipalities and handle all operations themselves. Only the patent stupidity of such an action prevents them. Constitutionally, they would be in the right. Municipalities only exist for as long as the provinces let them exist.

    School boards have even less constitutional legitimacy than municipalities, and municipal departments (which is what the TTC is) have even less legitimacy than that. If the TTC were to say that it couldn’t find the spending cuts to balance the books, the response from the city would be to fire the commissioners and make the cuts themselves. If the City were to do the same to the province, it would result in a provincial takeover. Right now, the bulk of the cities’ power lies in political campaigning and shame.


  28. Mothballing the Sheppard line – at least temporarily – is a reasonable enough rationalization of TTC service, but the root of the problem is downloading from the province, pure and simple. Either that, or let the City tax income or sales. The proposed land-transfer tax should be sold as a necessary evil, one that could be avoided if McGuinty uploaded social services and restored pre-Harris transit funding.

    Additionally, have changes in the fare structure been considered? (i.e. zoned fares) Would something like that help? In Vancouver, taking the Skytrain from downtown to Burnaby costs $3.25, which is not unreasonable (it’s valid for two hours). A cash fare (at minimum) increase to $3.00 even seems reasonable regardless.

    Last, the extension to Vaughan should be shelved. Immediately – there is no justification to extend the subway to a low-density industrial park, though there are valid reasons to complete the extension to York. The student aspect aside, the extension would integrate the Jane-Finch corridor more into the city’s mass transit, improving accessibility. The area has sufficient existing density and transit use, I would think, to justify it.

    Steve: Leaving aside the operational complexities, the reintroduction of zone fares (dropped in 1972) would be perceived as a tax on the suburbs because it would affect their riders more than folks who live and work downtown. It would also raise fares disproportionately one a group making takes long, tedious trips by transit who are already predisposed to using a car if possible given the nature of suburban travel. If we must have a fare increase, then everyone should be affected equally.


  29. Hi; First of all this is great, I love this. In all due honesty, I really think that Mr. Giambrone is scaremongering. Not a very nice thing to do.

    If one looks at recent TTC brainwaves, it does seem interesting that all of a sudden, we’re talking cuts. How recently was it that Mr. Giambrone was potentially wanting to use ferries from one end of the GTA to another. This, I think, was a proposed $31M.

    Also, what happened to the Spadina extention?? That’s fallen by the wayside.

    My wish in the provincial election is that someone will realize that TTC is in desperate need of money. With the push on to make Ontario greener, a wise & popular move would be an infux of funds.

    It is interesting that due to the recent proposed taxes being deferred, the TTC cash crunch came up. Gee, is someone jumping on a bandwagon, certainly seems that way!!


  30. Hi Steve.

    I wish the Canadian Taxpayers Federation would but out of the City’s affairs. The city has no choice but to increase its taxes because of downloading from both levels of government. People are happy to pocket any tax cuts that those levels have been able to give by downloading, but loath to accept the fact that services provided by the municipalities still have to be provided and paid for. The assurances that privatization will provide our salvation have worn very thin. Your example of London’s plight in transit bears this out. Closer to home, we have the 407 as very valid example of paying for a great share of the costs and providing an investor return ends up costing its users more in the long run. And, what happened to all of the savings that we were supposed to get when the Department of Highways was privatized?

    Starving Toronto is very short sighted. The economic health of this city helps both the province and the country. This is a clear case of money invested and providing a return on that investment that will provide benefit to Torontonians and people living well beyond the city’s borders.


  31. Re: “Last, the extension to Vaughan should be shelved. Immediately – there is no justification to extend the subway to a low-density industrial park…”

    The irony of the Mayor supporting the Sorbara Subway whilst threatening to close the Sheppard Subway is just too rich. The Sorbara line will have even less ridership than Sheppard, and would also be on the block if this TTC threat were to (will) happen. Mr Miller doesn’t that tell you something?


  32. I take the TTC to and from work every day from northeast Scarborough to the downtown core. I take the Sheppard subway two or three times per week, usually between 8:30 and 9:30 (west to Yonge) and 17:30 to 18:30 (east to Don Mills). At these times, a couple of the cars are sufficiently filled that a number of riders will be left standing.

    Based on this admittedly unscientific observation, it appears that there is in fact quite a number of riders who make use of the Sheppard line, and consequently a large number of riders who would not be well served by shutting down the Sheppard line. If optimization is necessary, perhaps reducing trains in off-peak periods would yield meaningful savings without having such an adverse affect on the level of service.

    I think the Mayor and the TTC chair should provide details and comparisons of the various options, from partial reductions to full shutdown, before loudly and publicly stating that the most drastic action is the one that is necessary. Perhaps that is the right answer, but if it is, there should be no qualms about presenting the facts that support such a decision. If they can’t demonstrate that a range of options has been given serious thought, then they shouldn’t expect much support from their constituents.

    I realize, of course, that the level of ridership described above on the Sheppard line is not sustained through the day. However, I can be practically alone in a car even in the downtown core sections of the Yonge/University line between 11:00 and 15:00 as well. I would be very interested in knowing the levels of ridership that define a route (subway, streetcar or bus) as underutilized, well-utilized, or overcongested.


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