[This item was updated at 10:30 pm on August 28. The additional material starts midway through the post.]
Today, the TTC launched a campaign to inform and survey Torontonians about the potential impact of budget cuts in 2008.
More information is available at the TTC’s website.
Until mid-July, when City Council voted to defer consideration of new taxes until after the Provincial election in October, everything we heard about the TTC was upbeat: service was to improve by leaps and bound, and a network of LRT lines criss-crossing Toronto would be built within 15 years. Even Queen’s Park sounded positive about transit with the Move Ontario 2020 plan providing 2/3 funding for every transit scheme on the GTA.
Everything changed with that deferral, and it wasn’t long until all of that positive news about transit was only a memory. The TTC is trying to turn this around with the “My TTC” campaign in the very brief time between the end of summer holidays (when both the voters and the media start taking issues seriously again) and a special TTC meeting to discuss possible cuts on September 12.
The most important paragraph reads:
We haven’t abandoned our vision for better transit, but riders have to choose. Will we support our transit system so that it is properly-funded and able to meet riders’ needs, or will we accept a TTC with less and less service? It’s a choice we have to make together.
Alas, this paragraph is on the inside of the brochure whose cover gives no hint of the severity of the cuts on the table. As the campaign builts with car cards and print advertising, more people should get the message.
Indeed, more people must get the message. The TTC needs to lay out clearly that there are three possible futures:
More and Better Service Everywhere
Between Transit City and Ridership Growth Strategy, the TTC had long and short term plans showing a bright future for transit. Mid-to-long term there is the LRT network along with, thanks to Queen’s Park, subway extensions to York Region on Spadina and Yonge. Short term, the RGS promissed better service on overcrowded routes, and new loading standards to ensure that more service was added before people were riding on the roof.
Both of these are essential to improving the attractiveness of transit and supporting the Official Plan’s view for the future of Toronto. On a regional level, Toronto needs to show what can be done. Transit in the 905 is a huge challenge, and if we in Toronto can’t make it work, what hope is there in the 905?
The Do Nothing Option
This option is what we will see for Fall 2007. The decision to cancel planned service improvements has already been made, and the 100 new buses poised to roll out on the streets will stay in the garage. (Strictly speaking, the new buses will operate, and 100 older buses will be set aside for better days, but the effect is the same.)
All work on designs and Environmental Assessments for new transit projects will likely grind to a halt. We know that we cannot afford to run the system we have, and there is no point on planning for new lines that would only increase the operating deficit.
The Sky Really Is Falling Option
If this really happens, we will see widespread cutbacks in marginal TTC services, and you can be sure that the list on the TTC’s site is not the end of them. Once we start hacking away at the network, the budget hawks will look for more savings year after year and we will quickly hollow out the system.
One big criticism I have of the TTC’s campaign is that there isn’t a map showing what the network will look like next year if the cuts go through. Readers need to see what the network looks like today, what it might have been next year (service additions) and what it will be if the cuts go through.
They also need to know which services are next on the chopping block. This year’s list contains perennial favourites in Forest Hill and Rosedale, but it also hollows out blocks of the network.
In the block bounded by St. Clair, Bathurst, Lawrence and Bayview, the following services would vanish:
- 5 Avenue Road
- 33 Forest Hill
- 14 Glencairn
- 162 Lawrence Donway
- 74 Mt. Pleasant
- 97 Yonge
- 61 Avenue Road North (evening and weekends)
- 11 Bayview north of Sunnybrook (after 10 pm weekdays, after 7 pm weekends)
- 103 Mt. Pleasant North (off peak service)
This means that there will be no north-south surface route between Bathurst and Bayview except on Mt. Pleasant north of Eglinton, and that only during peak periods.
In the block bounded by Danforth, Broadview, O’Connor and Coxwell, the Broadview bus (which also serves O’Connor) would vanish, and the Mortimer bus would be reduced to a peak only service. Only Cosburn would remain as an east-west link through East York.
[Updates at 10:30 pm on August 27 start here]
Both the Davenport and Dupont buses will be cancelled leaving no east-west service between the Bloor Subway and St. Clair.
The Sheppard Subway will not close, but the surface bus paralleling it will disappear. A wonderful advert for transit: build a subway, but if you don’t live at a stop, sorry, you can walk. That’s what’s happening on Yonge north of Eglinton and on Sheppard where stations are far apart.
Where Do We Go From Here?
There is little doubt that the TTC will vote to do something on September 12, but the question is what, exactly, is on their mind. My own advice is that if cuts must be voted, let them be (a) conditional on the outcome of the funding debate in October and (b) effective far enough in the future that they can be reversed if more money arrives one way or another.
The worst possible outcome is a massive cutback that must first be undone before we see any new services.
There will almost certainly be a fare increase, as any other action would be political suicide for the TTC. I wouldn’t be surprised to see 25 cents on the token rate with corresponding changes in other fares. Roughly speaking, this would bring in $85-million of the $100-million the TTC needs to balance its projected budget, assuming that we don’t drive away much ridership and improve service quality. By the way, the TTC’s projections are unclear about whether that budget includes the Ridership Growth Strategy. This needs to be stated explicitly so we know what the budget we are looking at will actually buy.
People will look at the routes to be cut back or eliminated, and they will say “oh they cost too much, or nobody much rides them”. Well, let’s put that in context.
The Rosedale bus, a route everyone assumes is a total waste of time, picks up almost 79 riders per hour on an all-day basis. This is three times the recently published standard for a local bus route in York Region (25 boardings per vehicle hour), and the minimum required for a YRT route is a paltry 8, about 1/10 of what the TTC’s Rosedale route pulls in today. But it must go. It’s a bus for the rich, or at least a bus for the rich children and their nannies, as many would have us believe. In case you are wondering, the TTC’s system average is only 71 boardings per hour, and so cancelling the Rosedale bus will actually lower the “efficiency” of the system. This is what passes for careful analysis.
Meanwhile, the blatantly political extension of the Dufferin bus to serve the Soccer Stadium at all hours of the day or night, whether anything is happening or not, will continue to operate. It requires two extra peak buses and carries almost nobody, but it’s a pet route of the Deputy Mayor. If we can cancel the office renovations at City Hall, we can cancel the pet bus too.
If you want to see a real money-loser, look at the Airport Rocket. It’s packed, but it recovers only 22% of its operating cost because the customers all get on at one end of the line and off at the other; during some periods the demand is unidirectional. This means that the route expends a lot of resources (bus hours) per rider. Is it on the block? No. Cutting a money-losing service to the airport would be far too embarrassing.
There is no question some TTC routes don’t do as well as others, no matter how you cook the books. We run them because we have policies about network coverage (the maximum distance to a transit stop) and hours of service. Imagine if we closed down all the little-used routes in the off-hours on the assumption that we could save on maintenance by keeping some traffic off them. That’s what networks are all about — there are busy parts, and not so busy parts, including the Sheppard Subway, but together they make a network that people can depend on no matter where or when they travel.
Council must stop hiding behind dreams of a bailout from Queen’s Park. It’s not coming, and it’s time Council woke up to the need for more revenue. We lived in a fool’s paradise through the Lastman and early Miller years with no new taxes and then minimal increases. We have mortgaged the future of the city by spending all of our reserves and now it’s time to pay.
Riders need to let their Councillors hear loud and clear that service improvements are what we need, not service cuts.
I think that it is during times like this that we all need to remain calm. I can still remember the screaming and yelling during the first term of Harris’ PC government and yet the Metro/Megacity region got a well built subway in terms of the physical design built along Sheppard. Now I am hearing of the likelihood of a minority Ontario PC government. As with the progress that has been made with the recent federal minority governments I am confident that an Ontario minority government would have to work harder to please the opposition. Personally I for one believe that fares and taxes should be raised, can’t go wrong there. Unfortunately some people are of the mindset, “to heck with the public sector, where’s my plasma tv?”. I was talking to someone on the GO Train about all the grandiose Ontario transit proposals of the 1980s and I said that the taxpayers basically didn’t feel like paying for them and then the guy I’m talking to gets all into a rant. Well I guess Peterson could have at least not wasted money on SkyDome.
Steve, in responce to my comment you asked, in short, if I ment the city was being too ideological to the left, or too ideological to the right.
My answer is both. It’s not just Miller or Lastman’s fault that we are in this mess. It’s both of them not seeing the reality of the day that has caused these problems. Then again that’s just my two cents.
If I may add to my previous post:
You are correct that the TTC employees should not have to “eat” the cost increases, but are we sure that all the increases are necessary. This is where Management and Union better get together and talk – NOW.
Reason (1): Mel Lastman sold his original “Bad Boy” franchise many years ago, and we saw it go bankrupt a couple of years after. Mayor Mel leaves City Hall and … well you can see the argument.
Reason (2): Air Traffic Controller strike in 1980 in the US. Ronald Regan says “my way or the highway” and it happens.
As to your perception that the TTC employees will bear the burden: I haven’t had a decent wage increase in 5 years, and many friends have to go from one job to another as industry dictates for the same $10 an hour wage. And we don’t go buying tickets to cheer on million dollar baseball, hockey, or football players. So we have realistic expectations as to what it’s like to feel the pinch of the City’s present cutback scheme, let alone what lies in the future.
That said, I can understand why most of your commentators are only looking at the little picture of taxes vs. cuts.
Kevin Reidy said, “When considering property tax increases you cannot just look at the rates without considering the assessed value of the house.”
I have to disagree. Whether I own a $500,000 home in Toronto, Vaughan, or Oshawa, I still own a $500,000 home but will pay different amounts of property tax ($2944.28 in TO, $3754.23 in Vaughan, and $7226.18 in Oshawa, all excluding the education portion which is the same in all three).
For sure, the size of home will vary between the three, but the point is that the carrying costs for the same asset value is vastly different (a larger home in the outlying areas possibly costs more for utilities as well, but the property tax difference is likely the greatest difference).
It could be argued that property values in Toronto are artifically higher than they should be due to the lower tax rate. In theory, a jump in the tax rate would be countered by a drop in values which could equalize each other out resulting in no change in actual revenue collected by the city. However, any change in market value would not be as instantaneous as a change in the tax rate plus the assessed value used to calculate the tax owing has a delay built in to it (current values used are based on assessed values from a couple of years ago) so there would be an immediate upswing in revenue for the city for a year or two before the equalization takes effect.
Mark Dowling wrote, “905ers get the benefit of the City of Toronto’s operating subsidy without contributing directly to it.” — so I guess that contributing INdirectly to it counts for nothing? While it was wrong for the province to download the cost of social assistance, why don’t you go back over the past decade and look at what Toronto’s budget would have looked like if the 905ers had not provided their social assistance pooling during that time.
On another note, Taxguy wrote, “In response to Calvin Henry-Cotnam, the education tax administered and controlled by the province is actually not uniform throughout Ontario.” — Thanks for clarifying that, though in my point, all the areas of the GTA I took a look at and used as an example had the same rate for the education portion.
One of your posters commented on taxes that would have to be paid based on whetre you live. I hear people from the left telling me that Toronto’s taxes are far lower then the 905, and people from the right telling me that Toronto’s taxes are far higher then the 905.
So, I’ve decided to look it up.
For Toronto, the residential rate is 0.5888434%. the multi-residential rate is 2.0881901%. The commercial rate is 2.0881901%. and the industrial rate is 2.3093771%
It’s good to keep track of these real numbers in the tax debate.
In Vaughan, when you add regional and local property taxes it adds up to 0.750846%, more then Toronto while the Commercial rate is 0.906217%, far far less then Toronto, and the industrial rate is 1.031437%, again far less then Toronto.
In Mississauga, the most toronto-like of the 905 GTA municipalities, residental property tax is a shocking 1.002521%, yet the multi-residential rate is only 1.577668%, less then Toronto. Commercial rate here is 2.595117%, and Industrial 2.941159%, both more then Toronto.
Growing ajax has a residential rate of 1.111935%, and a multi-residential rate of 2.075427. Indusry pays 2.512751 and commerse 1.612306%.
Toronto’s taxes stand out, not because they are high or low, but because the residential taxes are so low in comparison to higher commercial and industrial taxes.
Now I look at some figures from Toronto’s own budget documents. 41% of the income from property taxes is from residential taxes, 37% from commercial taxes, and 4% from industrial taxes. 18% comes from multi-residential taxes. What that means is that a 1% hike in residential taxes is equal to a 10% hike in industrial taxes. It’s for this reason that I see it as problematic that Toronto’s residential rate is so low and it’s commercial and industrial rates so high. Frankly, if I was incharge, I’d cut the commercial and industrial rates, and double the residential rate, and lower the multi-residential rate to the new residential rate. That should solve the financial problem, and put our property taxes in line with property taxes in the GTA. The way it’s structured right now is just plain silly.
According to my calculatons, raising Toronto’s residential taxes to 0.9% would solve the entire ‘crisis’ and still leave us with one of the lower rates in the GTA. throw in the .264% education tax and Toronto’s new total tax rate would be 1.164% This would be higher then most of the York Region but lower then Durham.
Steve: Two things are missing from this analysis. First, Toronto has always had a much stronger commercial assessment base and could afford to run the city off of that base. The suburbs didn’t have that luxury and so had higher residential tax rates from the outset, and kept the commercial rates low to attract development.
Second, changing the residential rate overnight would be political suicide. Note that it would hit only the owner-occupied housing, not the rental stock which is taxed as “commercial”. There is a provincially mandated link between raises in the residential and commercial/industrial rates such that the business rates go up at half the rate of any residential increase until such time as the ratio between them is in the same ballpark as it already is in the 905.
Given the screams from the real estate industry about the Land Transfer Tax, something that only hits buyers now and then, I can imagine their reaction to a proposal to make such a substantial (about 50% by your proposal) increase in property taxes. This would hit all home owners every year.
At least an increase in the fare would be a benefit to the TTC whereas a tax increase would be anyone’s guess as to who would benefit from it. Likely the mayor’s office would be the first.
The TTC survey is really lacking, I just finished doing it and it took a hot second of my time. I just can’t face the fact about these route cuts, some of them don’t make any sense whatsoever. A lot of these cuts are where new condos and townhomes are being built and it’s basically asking people to take their cars if there isn’t a service provided and that’s really just what we need, more cars on the roads
Personally, I think that the City’s best option is to raise property taxes and implement the land transfer tax to the extent that is necessary to resolve the city’s budget deficit. After all, it has artificially avoided this problem for several years by emptying its reserves, which are not intended for this purpose. As part of the tax increase, I would implement a sunset clause which repeals part of the tax increase if the province re-uploads social services, as McGuinty has promised, which I believe will calm down the anti-tax zealots sufficiently that they will pass this tax package.
The TTC is nothing more then a tool for the city to beg for bailouts. Thats all that is, and is a joke where no one is laughing. Mel Lastman may of been a complete tool in the issues for a better TTC, but he was fiscally responsible. Tax fairness is also just a tool to play on the petty people who think the TTC’s fare subsidizaton does not matter to them, well when you can’t go no where because the traffic is ten times worse today then yesterday, then you will know. Bottom line is this, after all the happy news about Move Ontario, and Transit City. Now we have all of these service cuts, you wonder why people don’t go to the ballot box to vote anymore, is because nobody cares and nobody thinks we will ever elect the best person for the job.
Ben said “… it would probably make more sense to keep Bathurst North but for Bathurst just have it goto Wilson subway and not to Steeles …”
This is a good suggestion even if the cuts are avoided. Why not cancel #7 north of Wilson, and instead increase the frequency of #160D (Wilson subway – Steeles) to match the present frequency of #7? That would attract riders to bus #160 and Spadina subway, with some relief for the Steeles W and Finch W buses (Steeles W bus is always packed between the subway and Bathurst).
[The following comment has been trimmed to remove lengthy quotes from others. To read the full text, just scroll back through this item.]
My response to this (and several others of like nature in other threads on this blog, as well as several extreme right-wing columnists in the Toronto newspapers) is that it is simplistic to blame union negotiated contracts for the budget shortfall in Toronto. ATU 113 (as well as CUPE Local 2 and IAMAW Lodge 235) have had negotiated contracts with TTC since the inception of TTC. TTC (as is ALL government) is a provider of service not goods (or intellectual properties such as computer programs). To provide services requires PEOPLE to deliver said services.
The basic problem is that the TTC is underfunded by higher levels of government. In a time when the environment is the main talking point of both Provincial and Federal politicians, one would assume that both these levels of government would by rushing to provide sustained operational funding to transit systems across the province and country. But the cynic in me sees that providing operating money does not provide the same kind of photo-op that announcing a new subway extension or new hybrid buses will.
I am truly sorry that Ian feels that he hasn’t “had a decent wage increase in 5 years”. In a past career, during the recession of the 1980’s, I was on a wage freeze for 4 years with only an annual COLA given. My perception of Ian’s comments are that if he can’t have these things, unionized workers shouldn’t get them as well. Sue-Ann Levy had a column in the Sun several weeks ago where she stated that TTC employees should be made to give up their free transportation on the system and pay fares like every other rider. Again this is because her employer doesn’t provide her with free transportation, so why should the TTC provide free transportation to it’s employees. And by the way, I am also unable to afford to buy tickets to sporting events in Toronto. Any tax increase imposed by the City of Toronto will affect me as I own a home within the boundaries of the city.
This afternoon I saw Adam Giambrone at Kennedy Station, he was himself activley handing out the surveys and talking with passengers about the whole situation. It did leave me a bit impressed to see him there and doing something personally.
Seeing him did make me feel a little bit better at the end of a long day, but that was until the driver of my 86E bus could not be bothered to kneel the bus for a rider struggleing to raise a large stroller, or push the “express mode” button on the newly operational Automatic stop announcement system.
192 Airport Rocket: I use this a lot, and it is often crowded. Part of the problem is that the airport has little or no signage pointing arriving passengers to the TTC bus stop. In Terminal 3, the TTC stop is the furthest possible walk, past the hotel buses, taxies, etc.. Why couldn’t TTC get better signage representation in it’s airport?
127 Davenport: I use this bus everyday; it is crowded during peak, and half-full at other times. This route is another good example of TTC pushing away use through cutbacks. In the past 5 years, they’ve cut service twice, where now it is 45 minutes between buses off-peak and no late evening or Sunday service. Without wallet sized schedules they they can post around their home, people will often make the 10 min walk to one of the N-S buses (Ossington, Dufferin, Bathurst). This is a good bus–it goes to two subway stations, and is the only bus to/from Spadina stn. Losing it would be a major downer. How many passengers per hour does it really take to break even? I would think a small loss would be preferable to cutting these routes and losing passengers for good.
Any comments on Sue-Ann Levy’s column in the Sun on Sunday? Specifically, and as per her modus operandi of beating up on the public sector workers, I wonder if you have a rebuttal of her questioning the lack of cuts to the workforce here:
For the full column, go to the Sun.
Ms. Levy shows her ignorance right off the top. The folks who stand on the street corner are non-union supervisory staff. We can argue about whether they serve a useful purpose (they could do a lot more with the right tools), but they are definitely not an example of unionized bloat.
Next we have the station collectors. Not all of them are doing their crosswords and many of them are quite helpful. With the growing use of passes, they have a lot less work to do selling tickets and tokens, but if they were not there, you would have even more expensive station security personnel. Many of the collectors are employees who have moved to that group from other work, typically operators, who can no longer drive for various reasons. They are not paid as much as the operators.
I have my own problems with the TTC’s survey because it is simplistic and could have been much better. Alas, well-meaning transit advocates like myself were not given a chance to have input into the design of the campaign. It’s like the TTC’s website — it’s perfect, isn’t it? There’s the alternate over on the Torontoist website, but it’s not going to have the reach of the “official” survey. To date, there are just over 1600 replies.
As for finding efficiencies, Adam Giambrone really needs to get on message. If he could find efficiencies on the scale we are talking about, and has any idea of doing this in the near future, there is (a) lots of fat and (b) a coming bloodbath in labour relations at the TTC. Giambrone really needs to think about what he is saying when he tries to placate the right-wing press with statements like that. Remember that there are lots of right-wingers on the TTC, and not one of them has stood up to say where the so-called efficiencies might be found in TTC operations.
Don’t forget, we’re not just talking about running the existing system “more efficiently”, we are also talking about substantial expansion in service both in the short and long term. The money to run that has to come from somewhere.
This battle is really not about the TTC, it is about embarrassing David Miller and his allies. The transit system and all of its riders are sideswiped by the knuckle-draggers’ desire to score points in advance of the Provincial election. If they can wound Miller badly enough through funding cuts, they will destroy the city with a Mike Harris budgetary straightjacket. The last thing the right wing wants is for the left wing to actually achieve something meaningful. That’s their agenda, and they don’t care what damage they do in the process.
“This battle is really not about the TTC, it is about embarrassing David Miller and his allies. The transit system and all of its riders are sideswiped by the knuckle-draggers’ desire to score points in advance of the Provincial election. If they can wound Miller badly enough through funding cuts, they will destroy the city with a Mike Harris budgetary straightjacket. The last thing the right wing wants is for the left wing to actually achieve something meaningful. That’s their agenda, and they don’t care what damage they do in the process. ”
Agreed. Given that the TTC commission is stacked with Miller Allies, if it is controlled by Miller Allies, then those opponents of City Council say it is controlled by Miller itself. One of the more reasons why the TTC has to be pried away as a political tool from a highly-partisan City Council. Hence my earlier comment on making the TTC fully independant (but you pointed out some issues with the idea, which is fine)
Despite my right-wing tendencies, I do try to read some left-wing rags from time to time. One that caught my eye was from the Eye magazine asking for council to be populated with some “civilian commissioners”. If I recall correctly, they understand that there would still be “council commissioners” but also mentioned that civilian commissioners would be a valuable tool. Some names were tossed up: James Bow, and I believe yours as well, Steve.
As for coming labour relations: the Union would be best to not publish newspaper ad after newspaper ad trying to inform the public why they deserve a raise. To me that’s bad taste (and it makes a lot of right-wingers very angry with an ad campaign that could be characterized as pig-headed, pardon the language). I won’t say if the union should be entitled to ask for such an increase but it would be better if the public were not sandblasted with it, I will bet my dimes that it would result in a PR backfire in the same way the wildcat strike did last year (even the left leaning Eye laid it on quite thick against the TTC union for that stunt).
I saw part of”The Agenda” last night. Dispite the 30 odd years, I was able to recognize you without too much effort.
I’m glad to see you’re well and still have an absolute grasp of TTC issues.
I’ve always wondered why above ground rail public transit has never been developed utilizing the various hydro high tension wires rights-of-way to add another network of longer distance transit to the golden horseshoe’s infrastructure. Don’t tell me it cannot be done by Queen’s Park!
Steve: Many of the hydro corridors are not as easily adapted for transit as one might think either because of the terrain (unlike trains, hydro corridors don’t worry much about valleys and steep grades), or because they are out of the way and don’t lend themselves to stations. Another more recent problem is that Hydro is very fussy about allowing any other use in their corridors that could conflict either with maintenance requirements or future infrastructure plans.
A parking lot or a bus roadway, for example, can be closed temporarily or moved, but a rail line is a totally different kind of installation. Even if it is underground, it must avoid conflict with Hydro’s own installations. In the design of the Spadina Subway extension, it was discovered that the originally planned location of Highway 7 Station caused a conflict between the tunnel south of the station and a Hydro pylon. This required the entire station to be shifted to a location where the effects on Black Creek were greater. Just crossing a Hydro corridor, let alone running in one, is not as simple as it might appear.