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.