A Better Survey …

Over at the Torontoist blog, there is an alternative to the TTC’s survey.  I had a hand in its construction along with several others.

Although some early commenters are of the “we can’t find anything nice to say about anything school”, the survey attempts to find out what riders’ experience on the TTC is now, what sort of impact the proposed TTC cuts would have, what sort of alternatives to TTC travel people might resort to in the face of service cuts or higher fares.  This is vital info the TTC didn’t bother to ask themselves.

For those who missed the link buried in all of the comments on the first “My TTC Is …” post, there is a map provided by Ian Trider that shows where the proposed cuts are in the network.  That’s something else the TTC didn’t produce.

What we’re still missing, and alas don’t have the raw data for it, is the list of service improvements that were planned but cancelled because of Council’s pig-headedness about the new taxes. 

Transit advocacy is something the TTC and pro-transit Councillors really need to take seriously.  It’s not enough to say “the TTC is the green way” and “I get to work faster than my boss (who drives)”.  The first is almost meaningless in the choices people make about taking transit, and the second is a joke.  You can drive just about anywhere faster than you will get there on the TTC.  [A friend who leans over my shoulder as I write this suggests that the real trick to arriving by transit before the boss is to leave an hour early.]

The authors of this inane copy need some serious lessons in reality.

The TTC is doing a terrible job of showing what might still be if only we get on the right track with new TTC revenues.  Why is this left to the bloggers, to the TTC fans, to the riders who feel they are abandoned by gutless politicians who won’t raise the money needed to pay for all their transit dreams and promises.

10 thoughts on “A Better Survey …

  1. Steve, your help with the survey was invaluable. Thanks again. One of the reasons why I wanted to actually ask people to finish the sentence “My TTC is…” (which I did at the end of the survey) was because I wanted to see how much it differed from the TTC’s own version. So far, the responses have ranged from “dead” to “the reason I’m proud to live in Toronto.” So far, out of the 400 responses we’ve gotten since it went live, nothing like that weird “get to work faster than my boss (who drives)” thing.

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  2. Steve, I loved the revised version of the survey, but my screenreader wouldn’t do it well, so I used my magnifier to do it.

    My TTC is: The ONLY Way I get anywhere!

    Steve: Sorry about the “legibility” problem. The survey is hosted for Torontoist, and its format is probably dictated by the software they are using.

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  3. Frankly, Steve, I’m amazed that the TTC version of the survey didn’t include the questions that you and Joe posed at Torontoist. Little details like modal splits and the relative importance of freezing fares versus expanding service or maintaining a state of good repair might actually be useful to know when it comes time for Toronto City Council and the TTC to sit down and crunch the numbers.

    Unless, that is, they really *wanted* to convey the impression that they would rather have jammed a note in Torontonians’ mailboxes with the gist of “If you ever want to see the Sheppard Line and your local bus service alive again, leave $100-million in unmarked, non-sequentially-numbered twenties and fifties in a bunch of those great blooming orange lawn and garden bags in the middle of Nathan Phillips Square by midnight tomorrow”….

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  4. Even if the TTC used your version of the survey, it would still smack of extortion from the TTC or City Council: “allow us to raise your taxes or transit will never be the same again”.

    As a result, the perception still remains the same: the city is unwilling to make meaningful (albeit symbolic) cuts and make good management choices and opt to shove this fiasco in taxpayer’s faces while crying poor.

    Spacing put together its own opinion on how we should vote: “no to service cuts, yes to new taxes”. But be reminded that in car conscious Toronto, the preferred option is to cut service without raising taxes. With a large portion of the city not using transit, these people would want to know why we are raising taxes for something they would never use?

    I would rather have the TTC show some balls and make no service cuts and go full steam ahead with its plans to increase ridership. Sure it would put the city in a bigger hole, but it also means that either the City, the Province, and the Feds have got to start paying attention.

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  5. Even if the TTC used your version of the survey, it would still smack of extortion from the TTC or City Council: “allow us to raise your taxes or transit will never be the same again”. The whole point is that most taxpayers will get mad at any attempt to raise taxes. Put it front and centre in their faces and you will face a resounding NO.

    As a result, the perception still remains the same: the city is unwilling to make meaningful (albeit symbolic) cuts and make good management choices and opt to shove this fiasco in taxpayer’s faces while crying poor.

    Spacing put together its own opinion on how we should vote: “no to service cuts, yes to new taxes”. But be reminded that in car conscious Toronto, the preferred option is to cut service without raising taxes. With a large portion of the city not using transit, these people would want to know why we are raising taxes for something they would never use?

    I would rather have the TTC show some balls and make no service cuts and go full steam ahead with its plans to increase ridership. Sure it would put the city in a bigger hole, but it also means that either the City, the Province, and the Feds have got to start paying attention. At the same time, some aspects of its operations should be looked at with a fine tooth comb to ensure every cent is squeezed out. Sure, it may not be much, but anything is better than nothing.

    And as a food for thought, check this Toronto Star survey out.

    Steve: The letters to the Star, linked above, cover the map in “solutions” to the problem and echo much of what we have seen on my own site.

    As for fine-tooth combs, the problem is that we are looking for about $100-million for 2008 to be able to run the service that was originally planned. That’s about 10% of the total operating budget. You need to squeeze out some very large pennies to find that kind of money. What is so annoying is that we have been through this exercise over and over again, and the TTC budget details are well known to both the left and right wing members of the City Budget Committee. If that kind of money was there for the taking, we would have heard about it a long time ago.

    People who talk about “efficiency” will never be satisfied, but will use study after study as an excuse not to properly fund anything.

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  6. I have a great idea to shame the politicians – let’s get a bunch of folks together and hold up megaphones and signs outside subway stations (or other busy points) saying, “Help stop the nickel-and-dime-ing of public transit – donate your nickels and dimes to fund the TTC budget shortfall!” Then take all the loose change and hold a press conference at Queen’s Park to call out Dalton. (Ottawa would be fun too, but a waste of time given the Minister’s ignorant laughter.) A nickel or dime is small enough in value so as not to suggest automatic acceptance of a fare or tax increase, and the meager amount of money raised would suggest that the public doesn’t actually have much left to spare. All we need is a good showman to be the face of this endeavor to the media and the politicians. This would also be an opportunity to get the Torontoist version of the survey and the route-cuts map out to the general public.

    If, on the other hand, you blame the TTC for this mess then you can drive them nuts by dropping as many pennies into the fare boxes as possible at every opportunity. This isn’t to pay your fare – instead it would serve to overwhelm the farebox sorting process! Just inform the collector or operator that you’re donating your spare change to help fund the TTC operating shortfall and they probably won’t get mad at you for the pennies.

    It’s time we strongly signalled our disgust with the same old stupid political circus that always develops aroud this issue by creating a media circus of our own. The total rediculousness of either campaign might actually prompt foks to finally start asking the right questions of the appropriate people. It might also prevent our politicians from making any further smart-ass remarks or stupid excuses and start a sober discussion. (But who am I kidding…) Anybody up for it???

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  7. Hi Steve:-

    Your friend by your shoulder has a similar thought process to my own as when I read that piece of tripe on the survey, I almost gagged! I felt too that leaving an hour earlier is the only (better) way to beat the boss.

    The other thought that came to mind is this is sending a message that the boss can afford to drive where the pompous quicker than thou minion on the platform is merely the poor employee. Why wasn’t it the other way around? “I’ll get there quicker than my dumb… employees ’cause I take the better way”. Leadership’s lacking on this one.

    When I did drive, going from Main and Danforth to Bathurst and Dupont took 25 minutes by car, with the walk to and from the vehicle and at least 45 minutes by TTC. The TTC was more direct, by car I had to loop north, then south to get to where I wanted to go. But if I’d left an hour earlier….!

    Mr. D.

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  8. Steve, regarding that article of responses I posted, the way I see it is that at least 15 of the respondents provide responses that you would perceive to be “negative”, ie: cutting transit salaries, cutting transferrable passes (I am in favour of the transferrable passes, btw), cutting metropass parking (also in favour of free metropass parking), cutting streetcars, and cutting service. Some other respondents provide a combination of all three. Of the 28 responses I counted, only 10 make mention of either raising taxes or lobbying hard to the higher levels of government for more cash.

    I am also not asking for the TTC to come up with $100 million. It’s a steep number that cannot be met. However, if the TTC is willing to try to make some meaningful adjustments that will save them some money without making significant service cuts, then hopefully the city will understand and absorb the rest. It could be $5 million of efficiencies. Or maybe $10 million, if we’re lucky. The whole point is that now is not the time to start running around yelling “the sky is falling, the sky is falling” (as all transit advocates are saying).

    The thing here is that as evidenced by the survey, a large portion (if not the majority) of Torontonians do not hold the TTC in such high esteem and do not care if the system is gutted in one way or another. And while some of those respondents may be riders themselves, they are probably thinking that with all the monetary issues surrounding the city and the TTC, maybe the TTC really stands for is “Take The Car”.

    BTW: I am hearing in the grapevine from people within the MTO that there are plans to perform grade separations on Black Creek Drive at Lawrence, Eglinton, and Trethewey as a way to upgrade this stretch of roadway to an expressway akin to the DVP. Talk about carrot and stick.

    Steve: One intriguing point about the rollout of Presto! is that the idea of a non-transferrable pass will die forever, unless they are planning to add photo id to the system. As for Black Creek Drive, it’s so nice to know that Queen’s Park is serious about transit improvements.

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