Details of the TTC Proposals

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. Continue reading

Much Ado About Very Little (Updated)

As I write this at 10:20 pm, it’s been a long day.  I spent the afternoon at City Hall for the TTC meeting, had a quick dinner, went to a movie (Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes) and then came home to a mountain of accumulated comments on this blog.

The TTC voted today to defer service improvements planned for September including the opening of Mt. Dennis bus garage, to get a pile of additional information, and to launch a series of community meetings to discuss service proposals.

Updated July 21 at 8:30 am

Now that I’m awake, here is a rundown on the discussion and proposals at the July 20 emergency TTC meeting.

By way of introduction, you can listen to a podcast of my interview on Ontario Today that aired just before the meeting.

The TTC has been asked by the City Manager to trim $30-million from its operating deficit in 2007, and at least $100-million from 2008 to flatline the subsidy at the 2007 level.  Various proposals were put forward (you can see the full list in the presentation), but most of these cannot kick in until 2008.  On the table for 2007 were:

  1. Cut poorly performing routes ($1 million)
  2. Cancel service improvements planned for September through December ($2-3 million)
  3. Defer opening of Mt. Dennis Garage ($2 million)
  4. Miscellaneous cost containment (travel, etc.) (amount to be determined)
  5. A fare increase of 10-25 cents effective September 1 ($3-15 million)

Of these, the Commission approved items 2-4. Continue reading

How They Voted — TTC Commissioners and the New Taxes

In the midst of the huge pile of comments I have received (with thanks to the Toronto Star for linking this site to their article), we need to look at just whose vote landed on which side of the debate earlier this week.

On the motion to defer consideration of new taxes until the October Council meeting:

TTC Commissioners in favour:

  • Suzan Hall (Etobicoke North)
  • Peter Milczyn (Etobicoke Lakeshore)
  • Anthony Perruzza (York West)
  • Bill Saundercook (Parkdale-High Park)
  • Michael Thompson (Scarborough Centre)

TTC Commissioners opposed:

  • Sandra Bussin (Beaches- East York)
  • Glenn De Baeremaeker (Scarborough Centre)
  • Adam Giambrone (Davenport)
  • Joe Mihevc (St. Paul’s)

This means that there is a majority of the Commission who were behind the deferral at Council and in whose hands rests the fate of the TTC’s service.  The weak vote, I am sure, is Anthony Perruzza, a junior member nominally one of Miller’s camp, but who jumped ship on the vote at Council.

When I report on the events at the emergency TTC meeting, I will include the voting pattern. 

I can think of a few wards where service cuts make good economic sense — let the authors of this mess explain why their buses don’t run any more.

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. Continue reading

What Driving For the TTC Pays

In response to a comment in the thread about TTC costs, someone claimed that a TTC operator made $75K per year.  The perception of how well paid, or not, an operator is deserves its own thread, and here is a comment I received on the subject from an operator named Gord:

Just a quick comment to correct a little bit of mis-information showing up in this discussion.  Tom B. states that TTC operators earn about $30.00 per hour.  I wish I did.  The actual top rate of pay is $26.58 per hour for an operator with over 30 months on the job.

Doing the basic math shows that $26.58 X 40 X 52 = $55,286.40 annually.  If you factor in the cost of our benefits, pension, etc., I am sure that you can make the argument that we earn more than this but that is not what I actually receive in my pay each week.

Just to set the record straight: I am paid for 8 hours and 53 minutes each weekday BUT my actual workday is 11 hours and 46 minutes long because I work split shifts (swing work in TTC parlance).  I start work at 5:49 am and do not finish until 5:35 pm with 4 hours and 16 minutes between the two pieces of work that I do.

I’m not complaining; I choose my own work and I enjoy what I do (like most TTC operators).  I don’t have weekends off (but get two weekdays off instead) because only the most senior operators can get this work.

In terms of operators/collectors showing up on the Sunshine list, think of how many hours they have had to work to get there. This is because there is a lot more work available than there are operators to do it. In order to provide service, the TTC needs to pay overtime to fill the vacancies.

You are correct to state that recruitment is falling short. There are a lot of trainees who do not make it through training, and there are also a number who do not make it through their first year on the job due to the stress involved.

Working for the TTC isn’t a “9 to 5″ job (unless you drive a night bus).  We’re on the job long before most people even wake up in order to be there when they want to go to work.

I’m sorry about the length of this comment (maybe you could start a new topic on the typical day in the life of a TTC operator).

Steve:  Don’t worry about the length of the comment.  Some of my regular contributors are rather long-winded themselves.  Thanks for filling in this information for others to see.

Just one bit of clarification:  The reason for the oddball amount of time in a day is that an operator is paid for the time actually scheduled for the run plus some basic allowances such as travel time to and from the route if they don’t pick up the bus or streetcar at a garage or carhouse.  Very few operators get exactly 40 hours pay per week because it is impossible to divide up the work that way.

Comments on this post have been closed.  I am not running a site for info on how to apply for jobs at the TTC or pass their screening tests.

Toronto’s Taxes and the TTC

Last night, Toronto Council, by a majority of 23 of 22, deferred a move to levy new taxes on vehicle licences and land transfers until the fall.  This will likely cost the city over $350-million in lost revenue in 2008 toward an expected deficit of $500-million.

This move is all politics and no common sense.

  • Advocates of deferring the vote argue that this will hold Queen’s Park’s feet to the fire and make funding Toronto, specifically uploading social services costs, an election issue.  Please don’t insult our intelligence.  Running on a platform of screwing Toronto is a basic part of Provincial politics.  Maybe John Tory will claim that he will fix the problems of downloading, but like his promises on the gas tax, what does he plan to cut so that he can pay to upload Toronto’s costs?
  • The right wing organized a very strong lobby against these taxes even though the lion’s share of the cost (the land transfer tax) would not apply to most Torontonians.  The same business groups who wanted Queen’s Park to give Toronto more taxing powers screamed like the well-fattened pigs they are when Toronto actually tried to exercise them.
  • Many homeowners think, incorrectly, that Toronto Council and Mayor Miller are responsible for tax hikes due to Market Value Assessment.  In fact, this was a provincial initiative that McGuinty & Co. have done little to redress other than reining in the agency that handles assessments for one year, long enough to get past the election.  Opponents of new taxes are more than happy to take the misguided support this situation creates.
  • Opponents of new taxes want the City to “get its house in order”, but cite only small-change projects and privatization when asked how this would be done.  Although renovations to City Hall (especially to the Mayor’s office) may have brought criticism, and might have been deferred, the total saving is only a few millions on a one-time basis out of a budget much, much larger.  Privatization is a pet project of the business community who want to get their snouts into the municipal trough, and of the anti-labour folks whose solution to every problem is to get rid of the unions.  In case anyone hasn’t been paying attention, the TTC, one of the largest blocks of organized labour in Toronto, is having trouble attracting new employees.  Imagine what would happen with lower wages and poorer working conditions.

On the Mayor’s side, there has been a great reluctance to publicize the impact of a large budget deficit in 2008.  No doubt this is an attempt to take the high road, to avoid accusations of unfounded scare tactics.  Miller likes to be diplomatic, but the city needs to know the truth of what will happen without the new revenues.

The total operating budget is $7.8-billion, and the new taxes would have raised about 5% of that amount.  Let’s see where “sharing the pain” will take us at the TTC.

The TTC will receive just under $250-million from the City this year.  Even without additional service, inflation will push up the total TTC budget of $1.1-billion by $33-to-55-million in 2008 (3-to-5%).  If we add a 5% cut in City funding ($12.5-million), this will leave the TTC with a gap of $46-to-67-million going into 2008 before they even consider additional services such as the Ridership Growth Strategy, additional security staff and improvements in the level of facility maintenance.  A gap of $100-million would not be unreasonable, all things considered, and it could be higher.

Assuming no other cuts in funding sources (beyond the City share), this would translate to a fare increase of 15-20%, possibly more depending on tradeoffs between improving service, keeping ridership healthy and minimizing the impact on fares. 

My preference, even if it comes to this, is to preserve and improve service even if we must increase fares.  Service quality is the single greatest complaint existing riders have about the TTC, and potential new riders will stay in their cars if we don’t offer them a better product.  The worst possible scenario is to keep fares low for sociopolitical reasons while the service declines and the “choice” riders (who also have more political clout) exercise their options.  Driving people away from transit is completely contrary to what politicians of every stripe profess to support.

On the capital side, the ability of the City to borrow for capital maintenance and expansion is directly related to its ability to raise revenue and carry the debt.  Say goodbye to many cherished transit projects unless all responsibility for transit capital funding is taken up by Queen’s Park and Ottawa.  Even then, we will get the projects they want to fund, not the projects we actually need.

I hope that yesterday’s vote was mainly grandstanding by Councillors who will vote for more taxes when they absolutely must, but who want to be seen on the “right” side of the argument for one brief moment.  Tweaking the mayor’s nose on an issue this big may play well in the press, but in the long term it is deeply irresponsible. 

Today, opponents of new taxes bask in the glow of their “reasonable” alternative position.  Tomorrow, as the potholes grow, the community centres close and the buses don’t even have room on the roof, their folly will be revealed for all to see.

Our Not So New Streetcars

When I was digging in my files for the Queen Subway post just below this one, I ran across a report from December 1972 entitled Streetcar Replacement Policy that discussed the implications of the decision on November 7, 1972, to retain the streetcar system.

Late in 1971, the Commission forces establish a set of parameters for new streetcars if the replacement of all or part of the present fleet was to be considered.  These were discussed with Hawkey Siddeley Canada Limited [now part of Bombardier] who advised that they would be interested in the manufacture, and at a price of approximately $173,000 per car.

The report goes on to say that with some simplification of the control system, this price could be reduced by about $22K, and compares these estimates with those for more complex articulated cars proposed for Boston and San Francisco at a cost of about $400K.  Those would turn out to be the ill-fated Boeing cars.  Philadelphia is mentioned as a possible partner with the TTC for new streetcars, and a joint venture with that system is proposed. Continue reading

From The Archives: The Queen Street Streetcar Subway

Today’s Star contains an article beginning a series about the hidden corners of the TTC with a look at the ghost station at Queen and Yonge.  This was built back in the 50s with the Yonge Subway, and passengers crossing between the northbound and southbound platforms walk through an underpass on the platform level of that station. 

Back in 1968, a few years after the original Keele-Woodbine section of the Bloor-Danforth subway had opened, the TTC was thinking about the Queen Street subway.  One proposal floated through the Commission for streetcar subway through downtown operation.  The full report is interesting reading because clearly, in 1968, the TTC was still thinking of new ways to use its streetcars.

The proposal was for a subway from west of Sherbourne to east of Spadina.   Schemes for streetcar subways had been around for a while, and I described an earlier one in a post last year.

The report throws cold water on this scheme saying that it would not materially improve the capacity of the streetcar line, and it is clear their sympathies lie with a full subway scheme.  Things did not change much for decades thereafter.   It is worth noting that in the late 1960s, there were more than 60 cars/hour on Queen Street east of Yonge.  Today, the service is equivalent to 23 cars/hour allowing for the larger size of the ALRVs. Continue reading

One Tiny Correction

In today’s Star, Murray Whyte’s article states that I never worked for the TTC.  That is an error, although one from very long ago.

I worked at the TTC for three years from 1966 to 1969, but decided that it was clear that there were limits to what could be done within the organization especially starting off from a lowly position.  Streetcars for Toronto came along in 1972 launching my activist career.

Analysis of 504 King: Part I – General Observations [Updated]

This post is a summary of the major issues I have seen so far in the CIS data for the King route.  The supporting detailed analyses will follow in separate posts, but I wanted to get the main issues out early so that readers would see where this is going. 

Acknowledgements and Disclaimers

I wish to thank Bob Boutilier and Steve Perron at the TTC for making available the data that allowed this and many other analyses to come.

The opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the position of the TTC.  They provided the data.  I did the analysis, and I am sure that there are changes and improvements that will come to light with feedback, official or otherwise.

For those readers who are ATU 113 members, I want to clearly state that my intent is not to point fingers at anyone, but to provide some of the raw material needed to address how service can be improved.  Although CIS records them, I specifically asked that operator badge numbers not be included in the data I received from the TTC. 

Inevitably, some dubious operating practices, most commonly “soaking” (running early so that your vehicle is near-empty and the operator behind is overworked), are clearly visible in some of the charts, but this is fairly rare.  Indeed, I must ask how two vehicles can be left running nose to tail for hours with no intervention.  The responsibility falls at least as much on line management as on the operators involved.  Other problems are evident and far more common.

Continue reading