What A Million Dollars Buys You

I wasn’t going to comment on Marilyn Churley’s paper claiming that each TTC employee contributes $1-million to the local economy, but a remark buried in a long post at Blogto caught my eye. Specifically:

It can be a very useful source of information for pro-transit activists, and helps underscore transit’s importance (which makes sense given Steve Munro and Franz Hartmann were involved in it).

Since I seem to have been “outed” here, and am also thanked for input on page 3 of the report, I need to explain the context.

I cannot speak for Franz Hartmann (of the Toronto Environmental Alliance), but I was approached to review the document when it was in draft form. At that point, it needed a lot of work because of poorly thought out arguments. Some of my input found its way into the final version, some didn’t. I didn’t know the video existed until it appeared online. Finally, I don’t agree with all of the claimed economic benefits of the transit system’s existence — ie things that would simply disappear if there were no transit service.

That said, the problem lies more with the premise, rather than with the calculation. Personally, the TTC saves me a bundle because I can live without a car and my total transportation expense for 2007 was $1098 worth of passes (on subscription), the odd cab fare, and dinner/drinks for friends who provided chauffeur/cartage services.

Many families could not exist without one car given the problems of getting to work in transit-starved suburbia. However, a good transit system can reduce the need for every family to have two or more cars. Alas it won’t reduce road space because the highway system is so overcommitted by demand that any transit gains will only allow backfilling on the roads.

Scale up that sort of benefit across the city, and that’s money in every transit rider’s pocket.

Many of the comments on blogto are extremely one-sided being so directed at the union and the operators. Lousy service is a function of years of underinvestment in transit (new vehicles, more rapid transit) by politicians of every stripe. Lousy service is also caused by mismanagement of what’s there. Yes, some operators take advantage of this by playing games with their schedules, but they are far from the majority of the staff. Political decisions not to buy more buses, to downsize the fleet by 300 vehicles, had nothing to do with the ATU.

For decades, the TTC has claimed that it is powerless to provide better service due to traffic congestion. As reviews of their own vehicle monitoring data have shown here, congestion is only one factor, and the TTC’s solutions, aimed primarily at the core during peak periods, will not solve this problem. Huge gaps in service to the outer ends of lines are caused by bad operating practices in line management.

I agree that Local 113 has overstated its case with Churley’s report, but they don’t deserve the virtiolic remarks aimed at them by many writers. I open this post to comments with trepidation and will tell everyone in advance that I will ruthlessly expunge remarks that don’t address the larger issue of making transit better.