Several documents were discussed at the July 20 TTC meeting, and I have converted them to a format that will be easy to download even for people with relatively slow links. The texts have been scanned as such, cleaned up in Word and then reformatted as PDFs. In a few cases, I have clarified the meaning of some TTC texts for a wider readership.
The July 2007 report and the introduction to the March 2007 proposals make interesting reading as a pair. Although the “crisis” came to light only this week with proposals such as closing the Sheppard Subway, the TTC has been thinking about this for a while. Indeed, in March, they had a $100-million list of cuts ready to go if the City felt particularly stingy about its annual subsidy.
The July report states that TTC management “are hopeful of being on budget for 2007” despite the currently projected year-end deficit. In other words, contrary to the information debated barely a week ago at the regular TTC meeting, the projection now is for a balanced budget.
What caused the change? The TTC had budgetted a reserve to allow for the possibility that they would be ordered to pay the employees’ health care premiums. Following the court decision in favour of the ATU, the benefit was extended only to union members who were covered by the ruling. The remaining reserve for non-union staff, about $4-million, is no longer needed and the projected deficit is reduced accordingly.
Why this option wasn’t reported at the last meeting I don’t know. This would have rendered moot all of the talk about how we were losing so much money by Metropass users not pulling their weight with riding going up and average fares going down.
The options before the Commission are shown along with some of the details behind the numbers. Savings in 2007 are slim because the staff to operate the additional service have, for the most part, already been hired and will have to be paid. A hiring freeze and attrition can absorb them into the workforce for a reduced scale of operation, and we may also save on overtime because we will, for a time, have surplus operators paid straight time for work normally done on an overtime basis.
Three options for fare increases are detailed along with three possible implementation dates. We have already passed the line for a September fare hike, and the earliest we could see one is now November 1. This reduces the available revenue in 2007 to the low end of the projected ranges.
The full year values shown for 2008 do not allow for riding lost through higher fares. How many riders we lose will also be affected by how much service we add or cut, and it is impossible to estimate either effect in isolation. Although this information will form part of the September 12 update to the Commission from staff, it should be worked out as soon as possible and be available in the public feedback sessions planned for the coming weeks.
These texts and charts tell us what the TTC was already contemplating back in March 2007 during the budget debates. The list of options (included in the “Budget Cut Options Reports” above) contains some options that were dropped for the July proposal.
- Cut Blue Night Network ($5M)
- Eliminate Transferability of Metropass ($3m)
- Eliminate Weekly Pass ($3M)
Why do these not surprise me? TTC management has been trying to kill off night service for years, and their antipathy to anything beyond the most basic of passes is well-known. Fortunately, they had the good sense to leave these off of the July list when there are other cuts that produce far greater savings if that’s the route the TTC must take.
The “March 2007 Options” contain a lot of information including:
- The riders affected by cutting “poor performing routes” and the expected lost ridership (17.1-million affected, 1.1-million lost)
- The list of routes and route sections to be completely eliminated
- The list of routes sections to be eliminated for part of the day
It is worth noting that the list here is much longer than 21 routes. The common statements by the TTC about 21 routes are misleading.
The “Candidate Routes for Elimination” is a map showing all of the routes in question, and clearly this has all three sets of routes on it, not just the basic 21.
Some of the proposals are quite absurd and are a direct result of the way that TTC calculates the “profitability” of its routes. I will deal with that in detail in a separate post, but for starters here are some examples:
- 503 Kingston Road Tripper: This route always does poorly in the rankings because it runs only in the peak period and its riding is unidirectional with cars running nearly empty in the off-peak direction. In practice, this route is part of 502, 501 and 504, and if it is eliminated, service on those routes will have to be increased, especially on the 502. The way that 502/503 is operated leaves a great deal to be desired and has contributed to falling ridership on both routes for many years.
- 85 Sheppard East from Yonge to Don Mills: This is the “replacement” surface bus for people who need to access stops between the subway stations. Earth to TTC: When you open a subway with widely-spaced stops, this sort of bus route is part of the cost of doing business.
- 22 Coxwell to Kingston Road on weekend evenings: We might as well abandon service on Kingston Road completely! The daytime 502 runs every 20 minutes, when it gets past Woodbine Loop, and with this proposal, the 22 would only run on weekday evenings. An object lesson in killing off riding and then complaining about unprofitable service.
Also in the March Options we have Attachment B listing routes that received off-peak service improvements as part of the Ridership Growth Strategy in recent years. These would be rolled back as part of the July 2007 package. The map is in “Routes With Offpeak Improvements”.
The scope of the proposed changes is bigger than what the TTC has presented. Indeed, the projected impact of the additional cuts would be to eliminate 15 routes completely, eliminate parts of 45 routes, and eliminate service during some time periods on 85 routes. This would affect nearly 78-million trips (roughly 1/6 of all trips taken on the TTC), and nearly 11-million trips would be lost. Note: Past estimates by the TTC of riding loss have assumed very low attrition rates on the assumption that riders will move to other routes. This probably indicates that many existing services are so poor that they have a disproportionately high number of riders who have no choice but to use the TTC, somehow.
The March Options also lists the many routes where peak service improvements were planned for fall 2007. These have been deferred, and the earliest we can hope to see them is early in 2008 if Council and the TTC come to their senses in the fall. There is no ridership estimate for the improved services.
The map of “Over Capacity Routes” was expected to be almost completely addressed by the 2007 improvements and the TTC, for once, would have caught up with riding on most lines. Since there are few surplus streetcars, major improvements on those lines are impossible at present.
Finally, the “Ridership History” chart shows the huge loss of riding through the 1990s along with the legend “You Are Here” demonstrating that we have climbed back to pre-recession, pre-Harris riding levels. All of this is threatened by the budget cuts.
What galls me particularly is that this material should have been on every Councillor’s desk during the tax debates and should have been in every newspaper. We heard from every shill the real estate industry could come by on the horrors of Land Transfer Tax, but we didn’t hear the alternatives.
The public consultation meetings in each ward need a very simple prop: A map showing which routes would be cut, which won’t be improved, and the ward boundaries. It would be unseemly for staff to provide a list of which Councillors voted against the new taxes, but that’s not hard to find.
Tomorrow, I will turn to the question of the “Poor Performing Routes” and the mysterious absence from those lists of routes whose financial performance, according to the TTC’s own reports, are much worse than those on the chopping block.