My TTC Is …

[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.

56 thoughts on “My TTC Is …

  1. Interesting to see that the revenue/cost ratio is down to 74%. I remember it being just over 80% in the late nineties. I guess this is the result of the ridership increases we’ve seen over the past several years?

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  2. I participated in the survey and mentioned that if I had to choose one or the other, I’d take fare hikes over service cuts. However, if the TTC still needs to cut, perhaps they could consider reducing Sunday subway service from five minutes to six minutes. That’s something I could still handle, and perhaps the funds saved could save a bus line or two. What do you think?

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  3. I agree with you on the leaflet – the cover does not attract people’s attention at all. It just looks like a standard promotional leaflet of an “aren’t we great!” variety.

    I was handed one this morning by a mute uniformed employee on the Yonge SB platform at Bloor – maybe he should have been calling “get your TTC cutback survey!” or something like the charity kids do. In fact, having the kids that do charity collections with TTC t-shirts might have been a better idea in terms of getting the word out.

    I also saw them hanging on my Yonge subway car but not the one I connected from on the B-D. I would also argue that it would be more important for such surveys to be personally distributed as well as by leaflet hook on the lines under threat…

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  4. Something all voters in Ontario should keep in mind come election day : good, affordable reliable transit service is an essential ingredient in both issues of economic prosperity and environmental protection. There should be huge activism on these issues.

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  5. I’ve lived in the North Toronto block (St. Clair – Lawrence, Bayview – Bathurst) my entire life and used the TTC for much of that time. I have a few comments on some of the routes that are identified for cuts within this area:

    14 Glencairn – this route provides service for the people living on or near Chaplin Cres. to get to and from Davisville station when they aren’t located in walking distance. If the Glencairn bus is scrapped, people are going to drive by default if the don’t live within a reasonable walk from the subway. My family lived on Chaplin at Braemar for a long time and the Glencairn bus was essential, especially in bad weather.

    74 Mt. Pleasant – there was a controversy while I was attending Northern Secondary School about a plan the TTC had to merge it with 103 Nortown East…pardon me, Mt. Pleasant North. That got shelved, but since then the service levels have been cut and this is only the most recent discussion about abandoning the line. I really think that this a good example of a line where the TTC has driven the ridership away over multiple rounds of service cuts since there’s plenty in the area to generate trips for the TTC in addition to the residential population.

    103 Nortown East…pardon me, Mt. Pleasant North. – Mt. Pleasant changes significantly at Eglinton. The street is lined with businesses until just south of Davisville, but north of Eglinton, it becomes entirely residential and the TTC service becomes more of a shuttle for people going between home and the subway, or in the case of students, home and Northern/North Toronto. This kind of service is needed because it can be a very long walk from many parts of the neighbourhood to the high schools or either Eglinton or Lawrence stations. There doesn’t exist much of a destination in terms of business etc. as there is on Mt. Pleasant south of Eglinton, part why I think the TTC is responsible for a large part of the 74 Mt. Pleasant ridership loss since there are things to go to in that neighbourhood.

    97 Yonge – Yonge street and the Yonge Subway change significantly at Eglinton: The subway stations are much further apart starting at Eglinton, and this change needs to be considered in exactly which context the 97 Yonge bus is discussed. It’s easy to write off the Yonge bus south of Eglinton because subway stations are generally never very far away, especially south of Bloor. On the other hand, if you live north of Eglinton near Yonge street the service on the 97 Yonge bus suddenly matters a lot more, especially if you don’t happen to live near one of the major streets where there is a subway station. For example, I measured the walk to both Eglinton and Lawrence stations from home with the car odometer and it’s a mile from here to either. I’ve been at both stations more times than I like to think about scratching my head over the posted timetables wondering where any of the three last scheduled Yonge buses have been. Abandoning the Yonge bus doesn’t make sense north of Eglinton where the frequent subway stops end; modifying it does.

    61 Nortown…pardon me, Avenue Rd. North – the alternative to using the Yonge bus to get to Eglinton station for people in my area, and the only sensible option for people living west of here on the other side of Avenue Rd. The situation is comparable to Mt. Pleasant south of Eglinton in that there are lots of businesses on Avenue Rd. north of Lawrence and that the bus service connects the two neighbourhoods to the subway. Again, I think it’s an example of the TTC pushing away the ridership. I rode the Nortown bus twice a day every day when the service cuts that accompanied the scrapping of the trolley buses took place. The loss of the high performance vehicles compounded the service cuts, and the effect was devastating. Now that the army training centre’s been turned into a Catholic school, the TTC can’t even handle the load of students on 61 Nortown going to Marshall McLuhan and they’re about the only transit market in the area that still bothers tolerating the service.

    I’d like to make one general comment about the neighbourhood: It’s become much more affluent over the last 15 years or so. This means that while most people can afford to drive, not everybody living here can. The area also has a healthy population of younger people in high school – the neighbourhood supports four high schools, Northern, North Toronto, Marshall McLuhan, and Lawrence Park – who are too young to drive. Both groups of people need adequate TTC service. It also means that when the TTC pushes away riders here, they are pushing away mostly choice riders. When they gut service here now, they’re pushing away kids as soon as they become old enough to drive and they’re pushing away wealthy taxpayers with votes and political clout.

    It isn’t the same neighbourhood as it was 15 years ago where the TTC could abandon trolley buses, gut service and tell old aunt Edna in North York to pound sand when she complains about the Nortown bus not showing up, because she doesn’t matter. It isn’t the same nighbourhood it was 10 years ago and the TTC could jack up student fares significantly more than other fares because they are a captive market with no choice but to pay up or pound the pavement, like they did while I was in high school. My point is this: The TTC tells many of the people here in North Toronto to Take The Car at their own risk because many of the people here have the means to do so, and they just might do that.

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  6. You know Steve,

    It’s pretty pathetic that the state of the TTC has gotten to this point. In the minds of politicians, it’s like this: “Let’s push transit to the breaking point and possibly beyond, and see what happens!”

    I can almost see the cuts happening as I’ve lost hope for a better transit future in this city.

    I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking this way, but really, what do we as citizens have to look forward too?

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  7. A map showing the proposed cut would be a great visual tool, to show the impact of the service cuts.

    It’s not much, but I have sent an email to fellow employees at work who use the TTC, and have asked them to forward the link to their friends. People need to understand that their voice is strong, and these councillors will listen if it is loud enough.

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  8. I just took the survey and found it to be wanting, as there are limited questions. There are those who may abandon the TTC, but not drive, but could carpool, bike or even walk, and no question whether overcrowding (but no service cuts) would affect one’s decision to use the TTC.

    The website set up is better, but could certainly use the resources you mentioned, like service maps or say hypothetical trip experiences/times from different parts of the city under status quo, an improved surface system + Transit City, or with cuts.

    I was also expecting a “road show” of consultations throughout the city, but this limited survey appears to be the only means of “consultation” with the public. I fear too many people will miss the message – crowds of commuters in high school auditoria and community halls make better press/television coverage as well – just like how the city bumbled the message about the need for the taxes before surprising so many with the drastic service cut announcements.

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  9. I wonder how much a leaflet like that costs compares to 1 page in Metro & 24 Hours – it might have got far more eyeballs that way and apart from Ed Drass’ column the freesheets tend to be usually more hindrance in the form of litter than help to the TTC.

    James – interested to know if you ticked the “more taxes” box, given that as a K-W resident you likely wouldn’t be paying them either way.

    My suggestion box entry was that I would be happy to forgo the MDP discount over the booth price since the convenience of delivery to the door was enough advantage to sign up for it.

    Steve: For Metro, just wait. It’s coming later this week and it cost the TTC nothing because of their existing agreement with that paper for free lineage. The leaflet is supposed to be a counterpart to a poster campaign, but like all poster campaigns in the subway, that one seems to be running late.

    It is of course provided by a private enterprise company who often manages to get posters up for events when they’re almost over. [Sorry, Mark, I couldn’t resist.]

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  10. This no doubt explains the self-serving blather about how efficient the TTC really is, as published in today’s Toronto Sun by guest columnist Joe (don’t give up your day job) Mihevc.

    Steve: I really get tired of hearing about “efficiency” because that’s code for service cuts to the right wing. Every year you make a cut and it doesn’t hurt too much, they’re back next year asking for more. What ever happened to the “service” side of the question? How good (or bad) is the service? If we make it worse, what is the cost to the city as a whole — longer delays for riders, more cars on the road from people who give up on transit and will never come back, a huge black eye for the future of transit in the GTA just when it looked as if we might actually see some realistic, long-term improvements.

    Those don’t show up on this year’s balance sheet, but we will pay for them in years to come.

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  11. I cannot believe this nightmare is happening.

    I guess the situation is uncertain and projections hang on the outcome of the election, not that either major party has an acceptable position; it will at least give us a clearer view of the future. Hopefully anger will build over time, although it won’t be from this little awareness campaign. Climate change and peak oil are increasingly “mainstream,” and the disconnect between environmentalism and transit will have to change. “Green cars” and “hybrids” indeed. Maybe that will be the key to intense public outrage, hopefully not too late.

    Steve: The purpose of this little campaign is to light fires under members of City Council so that they will understand that just cutting the TTC because it doesn’t hurt politically is not a good strategy. Moreover, waiting for handouts from Queen’s Park is a mug’s game. They are always too little, and they come in multi-year programs where most of the money is at the end of the next mandate. Fix problems now? Please, we’ve got an election to win.

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  12. All these cuts are nonsense. Toronto is not Detroit. Our city is growing and booming. There is no justification for decreasing service.

    I filled in the survey already. It is not worded strongly enough to force people to think. Asking the City of Toronto to raise taxes is too simple of a solution. There is one taxpayer and three level of governments. It is the province who underfunds transit, so why should cities be footing the bill? Why should I as a taxpayer pay more taxes while Ontario is running a surplus?

    If I could rewrite the survey, I would have added some additional questions.

    Should the TTC install slot machines and video lottery terminals on its property to raise the necessary money? The cost to treat problem gamblers would be uploaded to the Government of Ontario.
    Should the TTC adopt a non binding resolution calling the Government of Ontario to apologize for previous underfunding? This will set the stage for proper funding in the future. The questions should get people to think. It will also send a message to Mr. McGuinty that enough is enough.

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  13. Along with the map, I wish the TTC had included estimates of (a) the number of cars each option puts on/takes off the road and (b) the net increase/decrease in greenhouse gas emissions. It’s not my TTC, it’s our TTC, and these changes would have a significant impact on the city as a whole even for those who don’t take the affected routes.

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  14. Benny Cheung asked:

    “Why should I as a taxpayer pay more taxes while Ontario is running a surplus?”

    Kevin’s answer:

    Because taxes are frequently a good thing since they discourage the behaviour that is being taxed.

    For example, suppose Toronto were to introduce a “congestion charge” tax of $10 which increased to $50 when the Air Quality Index goes over 25. This would have the effect of substantially improving the air quality in Toronto, saving a lot of people from serious health problems and premature death.

    Taxes have two effects: they raise money for governments and they discourage the behaviour taxed. People tend to focus on the “raise money for governments” part and not think so much about the “discourage the behaviour taxed” effect.

    Steve: At the risk of sounding somewhat right-of-centre, I have to point out that nobody is trying to discourage people from buying and selling real estate, or from owning automobiles. The proposed Land Transfer Tax as well as the Vehicle Registration Fee are intended to obtain funds that will pay to provide services society as a whole will benefit from.

    In the midst of all of the debate about whether these taxes are appropriate, it is worth remembering that Toronto was placed in a straightjacket by Queen’s Park who limited the sort of new taxes the city could levy. The ones we really want — sales taxes — are explicitly forbidden, and we have to make do with what’s available.

    Finally, without question, the point of a sales tax is not to encourage people to shop less.

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  15. Do any of the express routes make money (they are double fare)? I’d like to see the expansion of the express network in order to draw in more fares.

    Also, I would like to see private competition allowed. If someone wants to set up a bus route along Yonge Street after the TTC eliminates the 97 bus, they should be allowed to. No government funding would be provided to private route operators.

    I think there is a market for private express services, particularly at rush hour. This would help reduce the needed capacity at peak times for the TTC.

    Steve: The TTC claims that its express routes make money with the premium fare, but they don’t allow for the fact that these lines consume peak vehicles from the fleet that could be used elsewhere. The capital cost of those vehicles and associated infrastructure (garage space, etc) are not factored into the equation.

    This is a similar problem that would face a private operator — owning a bus that would be used for only a few hours each day. Of course, the private company could buy or lease the bus and write that cost off against revenues assuming that there’s enough left over after paying to run the bus to count as potential profit. The TTC cannot do this.

    As for reducing peak demand, the capacity of a subway train is roughly 1,000 people (more at crush load, but the lower value is more appropriate for comparison purposes. To hold these on buses would require a lot of buses around 18/hour if you allow standees, more if not. Realistically, any express trip will be at least an hour (round trip) and the number of buses needed would be substantial.

    There may be a niche market for express buses, but this really defies the very intent of a transit system — to serve everyone at the same price. A huge irony of the proposed cuts is that the only service remaining on Mt. Pleasant south of Eglinton will be a premium fare express bus.

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  16. Count me among those disappointed with the survey layout. I filled mine out online yesterday. When you see that laundry list of routes slated for elimination and reduction, the reality does hit you hard. Then you scroll down to “What can I do?” and think to yourself ‘yeah, here is where I can make a difference’…only to see a paltry 6 questions that boils down to ‘pick your poison’. Number 7 gives you a chance to comment but only in 40 words or less. #8-9 is just statistical input. I think the TTC missed out on an opportunity for better 2-way communication with it’s customers on this one. As it stands, this awareness campaign just makes you feel like a big loser for not driving a car.

    P.S. I voted for taxes & fare hike even though I already pay a double fare. I don’t want to even think how nightmarish the system will be to ride if they cut all those routes.

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  17. We should not be thinking in the line of “They (the politicians) must fund it for us”, but rather “How much we (the taxpayers) are willing to pay for transit, and in which form”.

    I would support a reasonable increase in the provincial tax rate for transit funding. I also support the proposed extra vehicle registration fee (which is not a major expense). Do not favour the extra land transfer tax (it is a dent on the resale value of the houses) or a general increase in the property tax rates (it is disconnected from the person’s income), but can live with those if the majority wants so.

    Service cuts should be the last resort. But even if we have to go there, some of the proposed cuts are plain stupid as they leave large areas without any service.

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  18. As I agree with Steve that a fare increase is the best of a poor bunch of options, I selected “Drive” for “what would you do if service was reduced”, and “Continue using the TTC” for “what would you do if fares were raised”.

    I figure “Drive” is the answer that would most scare politicians. Unless they were the old guard who still revere Sam Cass — then they’d cheer.

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  19. Steve wrote, “The ones we really want — sales taxes — are explicitly forbidden, and we have to make do with what’s available.”

    After being re-elected with a four year term, Miller and Council must have really lost their gonads if they couldn’t raise property taxes. While the budget “crisis” is also attributable to downloaded social assistance costs that should be taken back by the province, I would like to know how much more the City of Toronto would have in their budget if they increased residential property taxes 27.5%

    That sounds like a big hike, and it is, but it represents the increase in Toronto’s property tax rate to bring it to being the same as the second lowest municipality in the GTA (Vaughan). That’s right, residential properties in Toronto are taxed at 0.5888434% while Vaughan residential properties are taxed at 0.750846%. These are the property tax rates with the education portion removed, as this is the same across the GTA (I believe across the province, but I haven’t checked).

    The point is, that after years of holding property taxes down to make political gains, the time was now, at the start of a long mandate (read: voters have short memories) to raise residential property taxes to be in line with where they should be. You cannot hold a rubber band forever while it stretches more and more – at some point it will snap and you want to be in the best location when it does or it’s going to hit you pretty bad. I suspect there will be a lot of politicians in the path of this rubber band when it does finally snap!

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  20. Just a thought: on money-losing, point-to-point services, what’s to stop the TTC charging more than one token per trip? For example, how about three or four tokens on the airport express?

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  21. I’d like to address what we can call the “Rosedale bus” question, with the caveat that this is all hypothetical since Council is going to pass both revenue tools in October, since it’s exceedingly unlikely 23 councillors will be in the mood to explain to their constituents why their buses are gone, libraries closed, etc. etc. But anyway, speaking hypothetically:

    I grew up in Rosedale, pretty far from the station, and was largely dependent on the 82 bus for basic transport until I left for university. It’s a great service, even after being reduced to 20 minute frequencies from the former 10.

    Its (quite respectable) boarding numbers notwithstanding, what people forget about a route like that (and the 33, 61, and other affluent-area routes) is the implicit message that cutting back on it sends: that the TTC considers itself a service of last resort, and that the more choice in travel options citizens have the less service they will get.

    Could most people living in Rosedale over the age of 16 drive if they wanted to? Sure. But lots of them don’t; try riding the 82 at rush hour and counting the suits. One of the reason Toronto works is that, to an extent unique in North America outside New York, transit is not something people take simply because they have no other option. Cutting service in affluent neighbourhoods would hack away at that very positive trait, and send us that much further down the road toward a US-style bare bones transit system.

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  22. As a TTC operator, I find that this campaign is extremely one-sided. There is no “positive” response to any of the questions. They are all tilted towards select from “pay more” or “service reductions/elimination”. This is fear mongering and scare tactics taken to the extreme.

    These pamphlets were the topic of many discussions between operators so far this week. I work out of Birchmount Division and can say that the routes listed for our division are leaving me scratching my head.

    For example: eliminate 135 Gerrard and 69 Warden South (clockwise via Birchmount) leaving NO northbound service on Warden Ave. from Kingston Rd. to St. Clair (Warden Station). There is currently a major housing development being built on Warden Ave. just north of Danforth Rd. (former site of Centennial College and Becker Milk Dairy). There are also a large number of apartment buildings on the west side of Warden Ave. north of Danforth Rd. The new housing project has signs up that say “Minutes to TTC Subway”. This would now become 20 minutes by bus or 10 – 15 minutes walking!

    This is the type of “slash and burn” I would have expected if the TTC were to be privatized – not by the City of Toronto as a way of promoting “Green” solutions!

    Of the other routes listed that I am familiar with: 8 Broadview, 167 Pharmacy North, 83 Jones, 62 Mortimer, 67 Pharmacy, 24A Victoria Park, 91 Woodbine; the elimination/reduction of services will, in my opinion, hurt the working poor, senior citizens, high school students the most. I am sure that this is the case for most of the other roures listed.

    I honestly hope that TTC riders make this a major issue with their local city councillor as well as the TTC commissioners. Once started, service cuts/eliminations/reductions will become the standard method of reducing the City’s budget. We will have a gutted and dying transit sytem in very short order.

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  23. 1) Property Tax Increases

    When considering property tax increases you cannot just look at the rates without considering the assessed value of the house. (Property taxes are calculated by multiplying the rate times the assessed value.) If an “average” house in Toronto has a higher assessed value than an “average” house in the “905” then taxes could be higher despite a lower rate. It is not related at all to ability to pay.

    Consider teachers: Due to provincial control of global board budgets there isn’t a lot of difference among teachers’ salaries from board to board. If you teach in Toronto and want to live reasonably close to your school then you are going to be living in Toronto and paying Toronto prices for housing. However your salary isn’t that much different from a teacher in the 905 who may pay a lot less for housing.

    2) Route Cuts

    Before considering abandonning certain routes let’s consider altering certain ones. Steve has often mentioned the extension to the Dufferin bus as an example of something being done for political reasons. Are there other instances where routes have been altered at the behest of local politicians? A couple I wonder about are the Islingon South and Royal York South routes. Both have been changed from around the block looping at Lakeshore Blvd. to running several blocks along the Lakeshore before looping.

    3) Fare increases

    If a token is to go up by 25 cents as Steve mentioned in the post then other tickets should go up by 25 cents as well. (The current practice is to apply the same percentage increase to other fares.)

    Steve: All fares would go up proportionately. I mentioned tokens only as an example.

    4) Operating practices

    In another post Steve mentioned operating Transit Malls during closures for street festilvals. The organizers may not like it but too bad! If our transit improvements for this fall have been scrubbed and our libraries and community centres aren’t going to be open as much then it isn’t too much to ask that these groups make some accommodation as well.

    There might be some other practices that the TTC does as a service or an accoommodation to the city or its departments. These may have to go by the wayside or if they are to continue at least be subject to an open debate at a Commission or City Council meeting.

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  24. What a BS survey — total propapanda. Since when does the TTC consult with the public and take its ideas seriously?

    The TTC is way too political, and something needs to be done to put this kind of BS to rest once and for all. It’s so transparent that even a child could see through it.

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  25. One point to remember is that it isn’t just 416ers who use the TTC, but only 416ers pay the incoming taxes. 905ers get the benefit of the City of Toronto’s operating subsidy without contributing directly to it.

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  26. First time writing to the comments page.

    I also agree with Steve, Michelle and all others who questioned the design of the survey. This is a missed opportunity to provide a public participation process that would allow transit users of the TTC to really have their say. In this layout, we have very few options to provide our input and likely some users who really need service improvements instead of cuts may hardly be heard. I remember attending the citizens’ summit in early November with suggestions of how can make public transit work better in the GTA. A great experience, though is there a way to prevent these constraints we hear today?

    I have yet to fill the survey noticing that there are some limitations to my opinion, and I wish there was some clarification regarding what else is being considered for service reduction (e.g. the Ridership Growth Strategy such as transferable weekly passes or even some of the already established service increases over the years). The latter option would cause more difficulty for riders in an already over-burdened and overcrowded system in some parts of the City, particularly in the inner-suburbs (North York, Scarborough, Etobicoke) where one of the priorities for improvements are considered.

    A major point in hand about the proposed cuts to certain TTC routes in the inner-suburbs:

    Certain parts of Scarborough for example would really feel the pinch according to the routes being proposed for reduction or elimination.
    – This include much of the routes restructured since the opening of the Sheppard Subway – 10 Van Horne (up to Victoria Park in North York), 224 Victoria Park North, 169 Huntingwood, 139 Finch East (runs parallel with 39 Finch East until diverting to Don Mills Station), and 167 Pharmacy North; – As well, some services in the north and east portions – 130 Middlefield (becomes peak hours only), 132 Milner, 42 Cummer (east of Kennedy).
    – A potential result, more people would have to walk longer to get a bus, and in a area where they declare that services be improved. Maybe less transfers could be a suggestion.

    In North York, its focused mainly on the TTC routes contracted into York Region that are in question: 105 Dufferin North, 107 Keele North (except 107B via Chesswood during peak hours), 160 Bathurst North, and again 224 Victoria Park North. Also add the 165 Weston Rd North route on Sunday evenings (north of Finch) where up to Highway 7 its mostly industrial parks before reaching a residential area. Could we figure that operating savings could be greatly saved by ending these contracted services north of Steeles?

    107 Keele North – is noted in the cost/revenue ratio has the lowest of all the TTC routes (except the figures reflect for South of Steeles or York University only). YRT’s stats north of Steeles for the same route reflect a little differently. Important fact is that between Downsview Station and YorkU, the route competes with the VIVA Orange – which obviously have less stops (pick up only northbound until YorkU and vice-versa). If it is cut, then YRT would likely have to create its own route on Keele St, north of YorkU and Steeles, with a transfer onto VIVA Orange for those heading to Downsview, like the other 3 YRT routes that currently meet at YorkU.

    105 Dufferin North – This route serves the section of Wilson Heights Blvd from Downsview Station, before going north on Dufferin into York Region where the built environment is virtually all single dwelling homes. On Sunday, this route runs every hour, each direction. Cutting this one would lead to alternate options for York Region Transit users north of Steeles, and also affect people along Wilson Heights Blvd who would have to then walk longer to the nearby 104 Faywood (and go to Wilson Station).

    160 Bathurst North – The route competes now with the YRT 88 Bathurst which goes the length of Bathurst St in Richmond Hill and Thornhill and connects Finch Station via Steeles and Yonge. I have been on this bus several times and ridership have been light much of the time.

    224 Victoria Park North – this route goes into Markham via Woodbine Avenue north of Steeles. Wonder whether some of the users do use the bus where the VIVA Pink takes people right to Finch Station to save a transfer during peak hours, and the VIVA Green is about to be reduced to peak-hours only service between McCowan Rd and Don Mills Station. South of Steeles, the 24 Victoria Park goes directly to Victoria Park Station, and its a long way.

    I feel a suggestion maybe considered to avoid all these cuts is restructuring some routes in order to make it more reliable and in a way where ridership would not decline due to overcrowding, longer walks, or increase fares (which I do believe is likely). As well, the suggestion from James of having Sunday/Holiday service frequency in the subway reduced from 5 to 6 minutes, really could be 7 minutes maybe could cut some of the operating burden, maybe late evenings too, though again, how to do that without impacting current ridership.

    I feel really tied up on this and wonder whether public transit in Toronto could stay reliable instead of having users being caught in the middle of a political debate with hardly much to say.

    Steve: One point I should have made earlier about service cuts on the subway. The big cost of running the subway is just having it open. A change from a 5 to a 6 minute headway will knock off a few trains, but will save peanuts in the total operation. You will still need to crew all of the stations and will have all of the supervisory and maintenance staff. Owning a subway is a very expensive proposition as we have found on Sheppard.

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  27. I boycotted the survey. I didn’t even look at this. To me, this is another one of those “stunts” from the TTC and for that matter, the City, in a woefully executed attempt to wrest more money from the Province. And during a time in which we Ontarians are supposed to go to the polls in less than 2 months time, this campaign seems to be a tool in an effort to influence the election. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but the whole entire idea left a bad taste on my mouth.

    It has given me the impression that the TTC is no longer able to manage its own destiny (no surprise given the substantially poor management at the Commission these days) and it is now nothing more than a tool for Miller’s election antics. Especially when he also has to justify increasing councillor salaries and annual expenses.

    These recent events have led me to wonder if there is any way to extract the TTC from the clutches of City Council and have it run as an independent, non-partisan entity….. Oh the dreaming…..

    In the meantime, I have already decided on voting PC in the next election. McGuinty and his Fiberals do not deserve my vote and I trust that Tory will impose some level of accountability on a dysfunctional City Council, and for that matter, the TTC management. I also trust that Tory is the anti-Harris, that he would not submit to the neo-conservatism that plagued this province for almost a decade.

    Steve: Actually, the biggest problem is that the survey is so lacklustre, so unwilling to try to actually scare people, so meek. If anything, it shows that Mayor Miller & Co. are not willing to fight tooth and nail to save the TTC.

    As for making it an independent entity, there is no such thing. It will be run by Tory hacks or Liberal hacks depending on who is in power, and it won’t take long before cushy contracts are awarded on favourable terms to “friendly” comopanies. The last time the TTC was a so-called independent entity was embarrassing, but I can’t talk about it here lest I be sued by the affected parties. Let’s just say that Council made the TTC effectively a committee with no “citizen” members with good reason.

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  28. In regards to property tax rates, I have to agree with Kevin Reid. It is important to keep in mind that a $600 000 house in downtown Toronto will buy you a lot less than in York Region. Also keep in mind that commercial tax rates are far higher in Toronto than the 905 and that services can be delivered at a lower cost in an urban environment. It would be more interesting to see how much the average property tax payment is throughout different regions of the GTA, as opposed to simply comparing rates. With that being said, I would be willing to accept a small property tax increase and the land transfer tax if it meant mantaining city services.

    I wonder, does the city have the power to charge different property tax rates in different areas of the city? I ask this because while a 905 level tax rate would be unreasonable in the urban areas of Toronto, it would make far more sense in the suburban areas of the 416. Not only are property values closer to the 905 in these areas, but the cost of delivering city services is probably also similar.

    In response to Calvin Henry-Cotnam, the education tax administered and controlled by the province is actually not uniform throughout Ontario. Toronto has one of the highest education tax rates, second only to Thunder Bay if I recall correctly.

    Steve: The assessed value of a property is determined by a provincial agency and is supposed to be based on “market value” with fair and comparable values province wide. Whether you have a tiny condo in downtown Toronto, or a mansion in a small town, $600,000 in assessed value should be the same everywhere. Of course, in downtown Toronto, you probably get far more and better municipal services.

    The city can set different tax rates for different classes of property (residential, commercial, industrial) but it cannot set different rates for different locations. Market Value Assessment is supposed to take care of the discrepancy between property values from one location to another.

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  29. I did the survey and clicked off all three options, fare hike, taxes, and service cuts.

    I think the TTC has not looked at their proposed cuts logically. Almost all of these cuts leave alternative routes in place, even if you have to walk for 15 minutes, after your walk you connect to transit. This is not true, however, for the disabled community and routes like 26 Dupont. Without that route, there would be no accessible connection to the 29 Dufferin route, and as a result a large portion of the city becomes inaccessible. Routes 97 and 30 also cause these problems but on a lesser extent. I would offset these losses by reducing Sheppard Subway to 3 trains in peak, 2 trains off peak, and closing the subway after 8pm Monday though Saturday, and closing it all day Sunday. Closing it Saturday is also debatable.

    I know that a lot of people would like to sit around and say “if the city and province give us the cash we need then we can…” The reality is that is not going to happen. The province is not going to give a penny of their surplus to the TTC, and the City can’t even cover the basics due to years of ideological mismanagement. There is no other money, and we have to accept the consequences of that.

    Steve: By “ideological mismanagement” do you mean a city that is unduly generous with its unions and refuses to contract out services, or a city that artificially avoids tax increases by spending every penny of reserves and leaving the future problems for someone else to work out?

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  30. …which is an excellent reason to impose road tolls, which are the great unmentioned revenue tool, since apparently the sky will immediately fall, and at least three horsemen of the apocalypse will appear, if drivers have to pay a loonie to use the DVP.

    Funny…the sky is still standing up in Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and of course New York.

    Tolls also have the advantage of being a rational tax in the sense that by contributing to transit/roads drivers would be paying to improve congestion.

    Steve: I can’t help myself here. By “improving congestion” do you mean packing even more cars into an already overcrowded road? Hmmm … I vaguely remember some announcements about HOV lanes.

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  31. Re: Mark’s latest comment, its true that 905ers also use the TTC… however, I would imagine most of the 905ers use the subway to get downtown, then maybe take a bus or streetcar to their final destination. It seems that most of the routes on the chopping block are more residential-style routes that wouldn’t affect the 905ers. So it seems only those who contribute to the subsidy are going to lose out with the coming service cuts.

    And on a side note… interesting that the TTC can talk about cutting service on these ‘low performing’ routes, but they can run a trial 101 Parc Downsview Park route in the summer that has at most 5 people on it at most times during the week.

    Steve: Shhssssshhh! You’re not supposed to mention routes like that!

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  32. A number of posters here have said that higher fares would cause people to drive. I wonder about this; I think most car owners already drive. Higher transit fares serve as a tax on people without enough money to own a car, i.e. a tax on the poor. I’ve said this before but I would prefer the province brought in a $10 charge to see your family doctor and used the funds to funds for subsidies to public transit and low income housing. Free health care is great, but a lot of it goes to people who could afford to pay a bit of money for it. Cheap transit and housing would go to those people who can’t.

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  33. Steve, in a lot of the vox pop media clips I’ve seen, many people have cited the transferable pass as an easy cut and a waste of money. I’m curious if there has been any market research done on who actually uses it? If we know that most people getting the “free ride” would have driven, then it’s a net gain because one more car is off the rode for somebody who wouldn’t be otherwise persuaded to ride the TTC.

    This also begs the question: other than this “pretend” survey, does the TTC actually engage in market research on a regular basis? It seems many decisions are made on speculative or observational data rather than real numbers.

    Steve: The TTC used to do regular market research, but it was eliminated many years ago as part of budget cuts. Internally, it was seen as a frill by many and easily expendible. One big problem with this type of thing, of course, is that you have to ask meaningful questions and be prepared to get answers you don’t want to hear. The TTC is the world’s greatest transit system, so why ask people who obviously don’t know what they are talking about how it could be improved.

    The whole discussion of the gains and losses is, as you point out, entirely focussed on the TTC’s budget, not the savings that lie elsewhere by keeping people off of the road and attracting more riders to transit.

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  34. Hi Steve!

    I live on one of the proposed cut routes, the 30 LAMBTON, it is actually a well used route during the day till around 10pm, it kinda dies, well with 1 hour service after 10pm weekdays / Saturday 7pm Sundays, I don’t wonder why.

    For a lot of people with disabilities and seniors, the 30 is the ONLY access to a accessible subway station (Kipling) I live in the Maybelle/Dundas community, the only option for us is the 30 LAMBTON, the 50 Burnhamthorpe is NOT accessible nor is Islington Station.

    The route to Kipling Station is really dangerous to travel and it is at least a 20 minute walk for most of us, there is a large amount of blind visually impaired in this area as well since it is the home of a organization for the blind (NOT cnib).

    Apparently the 30 will only be cut on High Park avenue, so it could share the loop at Runnymede loop with the the 40 JUNCTION.

    Steve: Although there is nothing specific about this, the reference to cutting service on High Park suggests a merger of the 40 and 30 into a single route. It makes no sense at all to introduce a new transfer at, say, Runnymede Loop.

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  35. Much as I know how popular this idea will be, I suggest that TTC Management approach the Union about the future. Service cuts will eventually costs jobs, and I cannot see retirements and the like covering the losses.

    Such partnerships have proven beneficial to other (private) companies facing serious financial crisis, and sometimes the Union actually wins in the long-term. Forgoing a wage increase that is higher than the rate of inflation, setting aside COLAs, perhaps even renegotiating some of the more expensive clauses in the existing contract. Management structure would also have to be addressed, again with the goal of maintaining what the TTC has, and aiming for a better future.

    Short term pain for everybody’s gain if successful, if not, then at least I won’t feel so bad when I have to cough up another 25 cents at the fare box when I know that everybody is making a contribution to maintain the Transit status quo.

    Steve: The problem with this sort of proposal is that inevitably people want employees to take cuts and provide more service. The current TTC budget shortfall would require a drop in labour costs of somewhere around 15%. Expansion of the system would increase the deficit. Should we expect staff to take lower wages every time we want to subsidize some upstart suburb with its own subway line?

    Every year, there are cost increases that run ahead of inflation in areas such as materials and energy costs. Should the employees have to “eat” these increases with offsetting wage reductions?

    The political decision is made to run a transit system, and that has a cost. Either we bear it through taxes or fares. Asking staff to take lower pay is at best a one-time fix because costs will keep going up year after year, and at worst a recipe for destruction of morale and labour stability.

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  36. In response to Tom B:

    I started using the TTC to get to work last year, and choose to leave my car at home. There are many other people at my office building who do the same thing (about a third of the bus empties out at our office in the morning), and these include lawyers, directors and other people with high-profile jobs. Most have the option to drive (and on some occasions there are people who do, myself included), but the point is that we are choosing to use the TTC on a regular basis.

    I can guarantee you that if service on the 43 gets any worse or even more crowded, a lot of these people will just start driving to work. In fact, I already commented in another post that we are slowly but surely starting to see this trend at our office. Don’t kid yourself – a large percentage of people who use the TTC have other options, and will most likely use them if the TTC starts to gut services.

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  37. Regarding Tom B’s suggestion that a $10 charge be made to see a doctor. First OHIP is in the domain of the (apparently) cash flush province, recalling that Ernie Eves had us believe we had tons of cash before the Dalton Gang took over.

    Secondly, the same people that can’t afford an extra quarter for the TTC would be the ones most hurt by an additional health care surcharge. Before someone chimes in that we could have “free” clinics for the poor, we’d be well on the road to 2 tier healthcare, which is one boat that doesn’t float. That would be like the premium services the TTC offers to places like the Beach (or is that Beaches?), Avenue Road and Mt. Pleasant. Those are the same folks with high valued real estate that wouldn’t want to ante up a little more in property tax, but can well afford the premium transit service without having the “great unwashed” on the bus.

    Another post mentions killing off the contracted services into York Region. A lot of that service is provided to get people that live here in Toronto to employment in York Region. Those employers located outside the city due to the tax advantages the ‘burbs offered, without regard as to how people are supposed to get there. Killing those services could strand those people, many of whom are in low end jobs.

    Since the thread is really about the survey, I can only characterize it as a pathetic attempt to manipulate people. Sadly that also sums up the methods to date that City Hall has communicated with the public the state of the city’s finances on both sides of the debate!

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  38. Steve, I agree, if this survey really is a political tool to buy support for Miller’s tax plan, a map would scare the crap out of people in the affected areas once it becomes obvious how much of the surface system they are proposing to dismantle.

    Made a few errors, revised the map. Here.

    Steve: The TTC could have produced this map, but no, they would rather waste their time talking about “efficiency”.

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  39. 1. Transit Lifestyle

    Matt C. has hit the nail on the head. Unlike many American Cities, we have many riders (I am one) who have alternatives to transit and yet choose The Better Way because, well it is The Better Way. It is astounding to me that our politicians are prepared to let that legacy expire based on short sighted squabbles about which level of government will pay what taxes. McGinty continues to fiddle while Toronto “burns” and our short sighted council refuses to do anything to help by refusing to raise taxes.

    Christopher Hume in the Star hit the nail on the head when he said that we cannot have European services and American tax rates. We need to choose which we want. My vote is for the European services and the corresponding taxes. This issue is somewhat complicated by the downloading/uploading issues with the province, but in the meantime the City Council has to accept some responsibility to minimise the damage.

    2. Property Tax Rates – The misunderstanding about Property Tax Rates continues to frustrate me. I support Kevin Reidy’s analysis and would make a few further points. Property tax (absent the downloaded social services/soft costs) are supposed to pay for services – the police, the fire department, sewers, snow removal, libraries etc. The cost of these are roughly the same in both 416 and 905 and an average homeowner should pay roughly the same dollar value in taxes for these services. The mil rate (multiplier rate) is set by taking the whole cost of the services to the community and dividing by the assessment base. When the assessment base is higher (in 416) the necessary multiplier is lower than in a corresponding municipality where the assessment base is lower and therefore the multiplier must be higher. If both calculations produce roughly the same dollar tax load for a similar residence, then neither municipality has a higher or lower rate.

    Having said that, the Lastman tax freeze and low tax increase regime was a mistake at a time when the City was facing challenges. Property tax increases are now part of the solution.

    The corollary to this analysis is the unfair provincial education tax. The multiplier rate has been set at an equal level across the province without respect to the education expense in any area or the market value of real estate which tends to rise with density of the community. A “sensible” two bedroom townhouse in Toronto with a market value of $400,000 would pay double the education tax of a semi-detached – or perhaps even a detached house with a market value of $200,000 in parts of the province outside the GTA or other major city. This is despite the fact that the money per child spent on education is the same in both regions. The Province has turned the whole idea of property taxes on its head by fixing the multiplier rate regardless of market value. A fair system would be one where the education expenditure in 416 was divided by the total 416 assessment base and the multiplier was set accordingly. This would result in a lower multiplier and a reduction in the amount of Toronto (and GTA) wealth transferred to the rest of the Province. The resulting available tax room could be assumed by the City which could increase the “services” part of the Property Tax accordingly.

    Steve: And of course, all those lies we were told about amalgamation and market value assessment didn’t take into account the distortions that Queen’s Park kept in the system. The tax headroom that Toronto was supposed to get never actually materialized.

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  40. With the reality that Toronto needs more money and that the province cannot get it to us fast enough, I am all for increased fares and property taxes. However, I do not like the idea of creating new taxes, since no other municipality has that power. Many people will end up living north of Steeles rather than south just to avoid these taxes. If other municipalities could create new taxes, then living north of Steeles would just mean you would pay different municipal taxes.

    I also believe this ‘doomsday’ list will not see reality in full, even if council choses to cancel these taxes. I believe we will see modifications and cutbacks, but nowhere near as great as this is suggesting. For example let’s look at Bathurst. Currently the Bathurst bus goes from Bathurst station to Steeles (with rush hour branching to Wilson station). The Bathurst North bus goes from the Promenade Mall to Wilson Station. If the Toronto does not get the money it needs/wants, it would probably make more sense to keep Bathurst North but for Bathurst just have it goto Wilson subway and not to Steeles, requiring passengers to transfer if they wish to pass Wilson on Bathurst. It is clear that this corridor does not have enough passengers to warrant two bus routes, and this change seems more effective since most people living on Bathurst north of the 401 would probably want to goto Wilson station rather than down to Bathurst station. I believe it is likely we would see changes like this rather than full route terminations.

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