The TTC Capital Budget contains many projects related to subway fleet, capacity and future operations. Collectively, these projects amount to billions of dollars and many of them are not yet funded.
There are two major problems faced by subway planners:
- Everything has a very long lead time, and plans made today need to balance between overspending on capacity we might not need and underspending that could produce future constraints on service.
- Everything costs a lot of money, and unexpected additions to the budget can crowd out other necessary projects.
Large organizations and projects share issues familiar to many:
- Left hand, right hand. One department plans on the assumption that another project will actually happen in the announced manner and on a definite timescale. Plans change, but co-ordination is less than perfect, and plans go out of sync.
- In for a penny, in for a pound. A project is “sold” politically on the basis of improvements it can bring. However, actually achieving these improvements triggers the need for many follow-on works that are not budgeted. Proponents of the first project in this chain innocently claim that they were simply creating the ability for some future enhancement. Privately the attitude may be that the politicians would never approve something if they knew how much it would actually cost. In a robust economy, the extra funding is always found somewhere, but when times are tight, budget surprises are unwelcome.
Both of these effects can be seen in the TTC’s subway fleet and service plans. Continue reading