Top of the Season

As I write this late on Christmas Eve, there is still no snow on the roads outside of my window.  Even so, my small tree is aglow with lights, and I’m looking forward to much good food and company for the following week.

Best wishes to all!

Why Is The TTC Budget Up By So Much In 2010? (Updated)

Updated December 25, 2009 at 11:40 pm:  Most of the links from this article were not working because I saved the files under different names than I used in the links.  Sorry about that.  This has been fixed.

In a previous article, I looked at the revenue side of the TTC’s budget where, despite an 11% increase in fares, the total revenue only goes up about 4%. Now I will turn to the expense side of the budget.

The material in this article is abstracted from a presentation (not available online) given by TTC staff at the December 16, 2009, Commission meeting. The overview report is available.

Total expenses will rise from $1.298-billion (probably 2009) to $1.380-billion, or $82-million, a 6.3% increase. This comes from many separate increases, some of which have net new staff attached to them. Unfortunately, the TTC gives the dollar increase for each factor, but does not break out the 2009 numbers for comparison. For example, two areas might both see $3-million increases, but we don’t know how much was spent on each of them in 2009 and so lack a frame of reference. (The reason we cannot simply look at the 2009 budget and financial reports is that the breakdown of the 2010 budget is on a different basis.)

A striking point in a number of these items is the sense that the TTC is making up for reductions in maintenance forces that have compromised the quality and even the safety of the system. Individually these are small, but from past experience, I must ask what other “cost containment” effects have yet to be reported or acknowledged.

Many of the increases this year are, no doubt, justified but the absence of any analysis or review of existing spending offers a target for budget hawks when the TTC seeks a higher subsidy at Council.

The TTC produced an outlook to 2013, but it is almost meaningless because it presumes no ridership growth (462-million rides every year for the next four years), no change in fare structure, and a rise in expenses from $1.380 to $1.629-billion (about 6% per year even with a flatlined operation). This is not credible, and discussion of future transit funding, service and fares must be based on better information than this.

Whether the Commission chose to have “frank discussions” (to use diplomatic language) in private and keep the dirty laundry out of public view, or simply were buffaloed by the material staff presented, I don’t know. Toronto, and transit generally, are ill served by the lack of full and comprehensible information.

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