TTC Operating & Capital Budgets For 2008

The covering reports for the 2008 budgets are now available on the TTC’s website, although as usual there are severe formatting problems and the tables don’t display at all.  Once I have “real” reports, I will scan and publish the pictures here.

The TTC is supposed to be converting to PDF format.  Given that their IT Strategic Plan [sic] (also on the agenda for November 14) includes items that are six years old and counting, my guess is that we will see PDFs only after a multi-gazillion-dollar website redesign.

In the Operating Budget, we learn that the TTC is a bit shy of cash for next year, $13.6-million to be exact, to which must be added the cost of any contract settlement.  The annualized cost of a 1% increase in wages is about $8-million according to the report, although I have problems with this statement.  It implies that total wage costs for unionized staff are $800-million before any benefits are added, and before the cost of materials, fuel, power, fixed plant operations and, oh yes, those pesky non-union managerial staff.  I will return to this once I have a chance to review the detailed budget figures.

Ridership is growing, and is forecast to rise to 464-million next year.  However, we also learn than this year’s projected ridership, 454-million, is about 10-million high because the TTC overestimated Metropass usage.  Poof!  Ten million rides gone from the 2007 projection.  This may be the first time the TTC has lost rideship due to an accounting error.

An ironic side effect is, of course, that with fewer notional “riders”, the revenue per rider has gone up without the TTC lifting a finger (well maybe a few fingers to dip the quill pen into the inkpot).

Try telling people jammed onto the subway that there are really 10-million less of them.

The Ridership Growth Strategy kicks in next fall along with, if we are lucky, improvements to get service simply back to the TTC’s own standards early in 2008.  There has been no definitive announcement on the timing of this change, although February had been mentioned by some at TTC.

The story in the Capital Budget is much darker.  As I reported a few weeks ago, the TTC will scrape by in 2008 within the City’s budget target but future years are grim without major increases in subsidy from any government willing to lend a hand.  There is no funding in place for the proposed new streetcar order, and this needs to be sorted out by next spring if the procurement process is to continue on schedule.  This is only the first of several major unfunded projects.

(There is a followup report on the streetcar project listed on tomorrow’s Supplementary Agenda, but the report is not yet online.)

As the TTC rightly points out, we are in the “unusual” (their term) or “ludicrous” (my term) position of having a $1.5-billion shortfall in the base capital budget while, simultaneously, the Spadina/York Subway extension us fully funded.  If anyone says “the cupboard is bare”, we know where to look.  Anyone who feigns surprise that this extension has elbowed other projects off of the table deserves a dunce’s cap (in TTC colours of course).

Meanwhile, both the new streetcar procurement and Transit City are getting more expensive as cost estimates are refined.  This is not making friends among Councillors who want so badly to be pro-transit, but who are sideswiped by the TTC’s inability to price their projects.

Finally, there is a long report about Transit City laying out the rationale for the choice of lines and in particular the selection of Sheppard East, Etobicoke-Finch and Eglinton-Crosstown as the candidates for the first three Environmental Assessments.  There isn’t much here that we haven’t seen before, and some of the discussions about how to fit new LRT lines onto streets echo the comments in earlier posts on this site.  Transit City was designed to fit with known planning goals and to serve those communities with reasonable expectation of demand.  This is, of course, totally contrary to good transit system design where lobbying and political favouritism win out over, dare I say it, common sense.

Where’s My Streetcar? (Updated)

Today, TTC Chair Adam Giambrone gave a press conference at noon at 1900 Yonge Street about the Transit City Electronic Customer Communications Plan and the Next Bus Arrival Project.

A report on this subject will be discussed at tomorrow’s Commission meeting, and it went online this morning after the original version of this item was posted.

At the risk of prejudging the announcement, I can’t help thinking this is another wonderful example of millions of dollars worth of technology being used in place of the basics: running frequent, well-managed transit service.

The report addresses several related projects:

Next Bus Arrival

This system, to be integrated with both the City’s new standard street furniture program and with the TTC website, will provide estimated arrival times of approaching vehicles.  A critical part of such an undertaking will be accurate knowledge of a vehicle’s position and movement along a route, and in turn this depends on converting the antiquated vehicle monitoring system now in use (CIS) to use GPS data rather than “signposts”.  (For more information about how CIS works, please refer to this article.)

Also needed will be information about the alleged destination of the vehicle.  In the case of buses, this could be obtained if the code for the current route sign display were available to the monitoring system, although keeping CIS in sync with the frequent updates to the database in bus signs would be a challenge.   For streetcars, there is no way to know what sign is set by the operator, and drivers would have to key in a destination code to the CIS unit for each trip (and every time they are short turned).  I doubt that this information would be reliable and a next car display would proudly announce a car to Long Branch that was in fact turning at Shaw Street.

My real concern about this system, aside from the dubious value of building it at all when there are far worse problems with service quality and management, is that the TTC will undertake a typical design that works only when everything runs as it should.

The pilot will involve 12 bus stops, and I will bet that they will be on a sleepy route such as Bayview that was the testbed for the on board stop announcement system.  Figuring out when the next Queen car will show up and where it is going is a much bigger challenge.

The total project cost is $5.2-million, but it is not clear whether this is just for the central system and additional costs both for shelter-based equipment and on-vehicle system changes will be add-ons to the project.

E Commerce

The TTC is planning to contract with an external agency for online sale of passes.  This project has a budget of $1.2-million, but there is no detail about what this covers.

TTC Website

Evaluation of responses to the Request for Proposals is now underway and approval of a vendor is expected in January 2008.  The new site should be rolled out in “late spring 2008”.

Wheel-Trans Remote Trip Booking

The ability to make, inquire about and cancel bookings via the Internet should be available in February 2008.  It is unclear whether this is a real-time booking system, or simply a portal allowing users to queue up emails to Wheel Trans staff.  Further clarification is needed.

I will update this page based on whatever presentations or discussions occur at Wednesday’s TTC meeting.

Analysis of 501 Queen: Part III — Monday, December 4, 2006

December 4 was an odd day.  The weather was uneventful, and service on the nearby King route was well-behaved (see the analysis of 504 King).  CIS Control seemed to adopt an unusual strategy to “managing” the Queen service to the point that short turning must be described as “aggressive” if not “pre-emptive”.

  • Most of the “Humber” service actually short-turned at Roncesvalles.
  • Many of the cars on both branches short-turned at Woodbine Loop.
  • There is little evidence of serious traffic congestion or major delays in the charts, but ragged headways and bunched cars were common.  

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