How Many People Work For The TTC? (Update 2)

Updated February 21 at 8:20 pm:

I have now assembled data on the TTC workforce going back from 2007 to 1990 and have, I believe, created as good a presentation of this as we are likely to see.  Some readers may not agree.  That’s their option.

There are two problems in going back over a long series of data like this:

  1. There were fundamental changes in the way the TTC reported its staffing over the period 1990-1996.  Some of this arose from structural reorganization, some from changes in accounting practices.  The numbers must be adjusted to place them on an equal footing.
  2. Many people worked on capital projects on a contract basis either directly for the TTC or for companies engaged by them.  This is particularly the case for major design projects such as subways and new buildings.  These people do not show up in TTC headcounts.

I have produced two charts which show the relationship of staff, budget allocation area and riding over the period 1990-2007.  (2008 and 2009 will be added when I dig out details for those years.)

TTC Workforce and Riding 1990-2007

The first chart shows the major groups of employees:

  • Operations:  These departments are responsible for running service and maintaining vehicles and infrastructure.  For 1990-91, the engineering staff are included in this number.
  • Wheel Trans (W/T):  There is an anomalous drop in 1995 which I suspect is an error, but the value used comes from the budget for that year.  The staff reappear in 1996.
  • Administration:  These departments are a separate branch only until 1993.  Thereafter, they are rolled into the respective branches which they support.  The jump in “operations” in 1994 reflects the assignment of most of “administration” to that group.
  • Capital:  Starting in 1992, the engineering staff were reported separately from plant maintenance, and I have assigned them to “capital”.  A few years later, the capital staff for all departments were identified explicitly in the budgets.
  •  Toronto Coach Terminal Inc. (TCTI):  This is the Bay Street bus terminal whose staff were formerly reported separately.  TCTI is all that remains of the old Gray Coach Lines Ltd.

The second chart shows the annual ridership and the ratio of riders to “operations” staff.  A few important points:

  • For the years when “administration” was a separate branch (until 1993), the headcount is included pro-rata in “operations” for the purpose of calculating the ratio.  (The “pro-rata” allocation is based on the apparent redistribution of the admin staff in 1994, a year when nothing else changed much.)
  • Ridership follows a long decline to its nadir in 1996 by which time the TTC had managed to lose 100m riders relative to its high point in 1988.  Reports from the early 90s when management talks about stopping the downward spiral make sobering reading when we consider what actually happened.
  • The ratio of rides to operations staff followed the same trend from 1990-92.  This indicates that riding was falling, but staffing was not on a proportionate basis.  Thereafter, due to staff cuts, the ratio rose until 2,000.  From 2003 onward, both ridership and rides/staff have grown indicating that staff is not increasing as fast as ridership.
  • The ratio of rides to operations staff in 2007 is slightly higher than in 1990.

During this period, new groups were formed to deal with a number of safety issues and transit policing.  Moreover, there was a recognition after the 1995 subway crash at Russell Hill that “state of good repair” needed serious attention.  This corresponds to the point where the capital workforce begins to grow.  More recently, other projects such as the subway extensions, Transit City and station renewal have come into play.

Another issue is the distribution of increases between management and front line staff.  A 2007 TTC report on workforce history gives this breakdown for 1997-2007.  It also includes a description of the additions to salaried positions (broadly speaking management and administration) over the decade.  (The report in question is part of the TTC meeting agenda for September 12, 2007.  However, these appendices are not included with the online version.)

1997-2007 Workforce

1997-2007 Salaried Staff Increases

In the Operations group, the number of salaried staff rose from 1,553 to 1,805, or 16%.  During the same period, the number of hourly-paid staff (union positions, almost all operators and maintenance workers) rose from 6,963 to 8,030, or 15%. 

The proportionate increases in the Capital group were larger (55% in management/admin, 249% in hourly).  Some may argue that “operations” staff and costs are being hidden in the Capital budget.  Some shift may be happening, but I don’t believe that is the entire explanation.  Without a detailed review of TTC staff allocations over many years and the assignment of projects as “operations” or “capital”, this is a very difficult question to answer.  Certainly, it is worthwhile understanding how these numbers evolve for future years’ budgets.

The original material in this post follows the break.  It should be read with care in light of the more detailed figures I have presented above.

Updated February 19 at 1:00 am:  Based on information in a comment from Adam Kretschmann, I am tentatively revising the conclusions of the post below.  It appears that the way in which the TTC reported its staff in 1990 was different from that used today in that a group now reported separately may have been rolled into the total complement in the earlier data.  If this is so, then on an equal reporting basis, the number of TTC staff has grown over the two decades, not stayed flat as I had written earlier.

A number of issues remain to be resolved and I will seek more information from the TTC with whom I had checked my original premise before I posted the article.  As more information comes to light, I will update this article, or rewrite it as appropriate.

Original February 17 post:

In yesterday’s National Post, Peter Kuitenbrouwer, commenting on the City’s budget, made this statement:

The TTC, by far the city’s biggest employer, now has a payroll of about 12,500 people, but transports the same number of riders as it did 20 years ago, when it had 25% fewer employees.  (Full article, typo in quoted text corrected here)

That’s the material of great sound bites, and I have heard this claim in various forms for a few years.  There is only one problem.

It isn’t correct.

In the City Budget Analyst Notes for the TTC, the table on page 17 shows that the total workforce for the “conventional system” approved for 2010 is 10,491, down from 10,587 in 2009.  The Wheeltrans workforce goes up from 462 to 530.  This gives a total workforce of 11,021.

TTC ridership for 2009 was 471m.  It was originally projected to drop to 462m, but may come in over budget as riding is still growing a bit after the recent fare increase.

In 1990, the TTC budgeted for 472m riders, but actually carried only about 460m riders.  The budgeted workforce (averaged over the year taking into account seasonal staff) totalled 10,685 of which 10,315 were in the conventional system and 370 were in Wheeltrans.

Relative to 1990, the conventional system’s workforce is almost unchanged (an increase of  1.7%) even though there are new groups, such as Special Constables, which did not exist 20 years ago.  The growth in Wheeltrans is a direct result of policies aimed at reducing the unfilled call rate for that service and of bringing in house some services that were provided, poorly, by private operators.

Claiming that the TTC has grown to a bloated size makes good copy, but comparison with the actual budget documents tells a different story.

20 thoughts on “How Many People Work For The TTC? (Update 2)

  1. This article makes me pose the question why the TTC says they need to hire more drivers anytime they are asked about increasing service?

    Steve: The workforce and riding fell during the 90s thanks to recessionary riding loss, service cuts and funding slashed by Queen’s Park. The TTC has built up its workforce to 2009 as ridership came back to previous levels. Also, there have been provincial labour law changes in the past two decades that restricted the length of time a driver could work, and this means you need more drivers to provide the same amount of service. I will pursue this further in an update to this post probably over the weekend.

    I am not sure how many of the TTC’s employees are part of the baby-boomers’ age but this can certainly be a reason why the TTC has employed more people than in the 90’s … although knowing their problems managing the system and employees I doubt it.

    Steve: Er, did you read the post? The TTC staff levels are at essentially the same level for 2010 as in the 1990 budget, contrary to the claim in the Post’s article.


  2. Maybe the National Post should use the slogan that was hung on the old (and now defunct) United Press International: “First with the story! First with the correction!” We should expect the Toronto media to report accurately on any aspect of the transportation industry?


  3. It is always easy to attack; much easier than it is to check facts and get fact straight. You were at the TTC meeting yesterday when 4 employees were recognized for preventing 2 suicides. Did you see anything in the press about that? I haven’t, but I do not read all the rags. The National Post is the Sun in real newspaper format; too bad it isn’t a real newspaper. If we are lucky it will fail in bankruptcy and we can be rid of one more useless rag.


  4. The Post’s 12,500 seems to include head office staff. Your 11,021 number seems to exclude head office. The Post implies that head office staff is growing too much: “… of 508 people the TTC hired last year … just 222 were drivers”.

    Steve: The numbers I used are from the City’s Budget Analyst report and this includes all TTC staffing.

    TTC hires people for a variety of non-driving purposes including: Special Constables, Route Supervisors, maintenance workers (vehicles, physical plant, electronic systems, and even occasionally someone to deal with pesky questions from the media).

    Back in 1990, of the total staff of over 10,000, about 7,700 were in “operations” which includes drivers and all fleet and plant maintenance. It also includes many clerical staff, station collectors and other groups who don’t drive vehicles. Wheel Trans accounted for a few hundred more, and the rest are what might loosely be called “head office”. The single largest group within that was Engineering whose function obviously is not to drive anything, but without whom major projects would not happen. I don’t have a departmental breakdown for the 2010 staffing, but if you read the Budget Analyst’s report, you will see that the following changes are proposed for 2010. There is a detailed description of the purpose of these new positions starting on page 26.

    142 positions deleted due to service cuts from the effects of projected lost riding as well as internal rationalization of some programs
    16 positions added for subway station cleaning
    13 positions added for Health & Safety
    5 positions added for attendance management
    5 positions added for route supervision
    6 positions added in Information Technology
    8 positions added for pass vending machine maintenance
    11 positions added for divisional clerical staff
    5 positions added in the CGM’s office, Engineering, Legal & Claims
    Net deletions: 73

    It takes many more people and skills than drivers to run the TTC although drivers are the single largest group. The list above clearly includes “head office” people, and clearly these areas are included in the total staff complement.


  5. Though his nearly-bankrupt fishwrap-producing employer has never let things like facts stand in the way of railing against the socialist conspiracy, let’s be fair to Peter Kuitenbrouwer for a sec here: He’s a sharp urban affairs writer who “gets it” more often then not. Surely there’s got to be an innocent-enough explanation for how 1500 additional employees could appear out of the blue?

    Steve: This urban legend is quoted from time to time by the less well-informed members of Council, and he probably reprinted it without fact checking. It’s not the first time I have heard this sort of remark, but it’s dangerous because such statements become “true” to those who feel the TTC is a total waste of money. Another of the dailies claimed today that the TTC has 15,000 staff. Fact checking is a lost art.

    Something I, who have a far smaller audience, am painfully aware of is the need to attempt to cite accurate information. If I get something wrong, it’s not for want of trying to track down the correct numbers. In this case, I have good files, and looking up 20-year old data was about 5 minutes’ work.


  6. A fact that I have made more than once is that, in 2008, the TTC carried as many passengers as it did in 1988… but that it did so with 300 fewer surface vehicles.

    As I tell the students I talk to: imagine what that means in terms of service quality: the TTC is doing the work it did in 1988, but they’re packing more people into fewer buses and streetcars that are arriving less often. In other words, the quality of service has seriously degraded since 1988, and that is a prime example of how the TTC isn’t subsidized nearly enough.


  7. TTC Website – Operating Statistics

    Total number of TTC employees as of December 31, 2008 – 11,861

    Why do you persist with this sophistry? How can the 10K number be all employees when the budget doc itself inserts the adjective “conventional” in front of the number? The NP, Karen Stinz and the TTC’s own website are not wrong you are.

    Steve: I asked the TTC myself today and they said that the numbers in the budget are correct. “Conventional” is by contrast to “Wheel Trans” which is broken out in its own tables in the City report.

    The “discrepancy” comes because the total number of employees includes those paid for in the capital budgets (system expansion projects etc), but these are not part of the operating budget nor its headcount. In a report in September 2007, there was a detailed breakdown of total TTC staff from 1997 to 2007. This is the period of growth in ridership following the disasterous early 1990s when the TTC lost roughly 100m riders (on a base of 460m) in six years.

    The staffing for each major budgetary area in 2007 was:

    Operating: 9,835
    Wheel Trans: 459
    Capital: 1,123
    Toronto Coach Terminal (Bay Street): 32
    Grand Total: 11,449

    (Note: This report is not available in full on the TTC’s website, only a short covering report. I will scan the full document and post it here on Friday. The report title is “Commission’s Workforce History: 1997 – 2007” and it was presented at the September 12, 2007 Commission Meeting.)

    It appears that at some point in the past 20 years, the TTC started to report the “capital” headcount separately for City budget purposes, likely because the City itself has two budgets.

    In an attempt to restate the 1990 numbers, suppose that the staff reported in the “Engineering and Maintenance” branch are the equivalent group to what is now treated as “capital”. This would reduce the TTC’s average staff in 1990 for “operations” by 1,632 from 10,315 to 8,683. The ratio between 2010 and 1990 then becomes 10,491/8,683 or 1.208.

    Looking this the other way around, if we assume that the “missing” staff between the City budget numbers and those cited by the TTC are the “capital” staff, then there are roughly 1,400 “capital” staff in the current headcount (the difference between the City budget number and the website number you cite). This would mean that the number of capital staff has actually fallen, but that may simply reflect a shift to a greater reliance on contract staff and/or a shift in the amount of work on that branch’s plate at the respective dates.

    The accounting for staff on a comparative basis clearly needs greater clarity. I object to the term “sophistry” because I am attempting to use the “official” information taken directly from City and TTC reports, and cross-checked by me with the TTC. I will pursue this further with them.


  8. Thanks for the research, Steve. I have heard these claims for quite some time, along with contentions that there are hundreds of staff in the marketing and planning departments respectively.

    Another unconfirmed report is that ‘David Gunn reduced management numbers considerably but these have been replaced since — and then some’.

    I have leaned toward believing these but never got around to asking TTC. I guess no one else got around to it either. Thankfully, I don’t recall ever printing them as fact.

    Steve: As you will see in the comment thread, there is some discrepancy in the figures I have used and these need to be sorted out with the TTC. Be careful citing anything one way or the other until this matter is clarified.


  9. Since their were few major project actually underway in 2007, how can it be justified (or truly accurate) to say that 1,200 people were working on capital projects? Looks like there is some game playing going on.

    Steve: Capital projects include major repairs, not just building new lines.


  10. Although strictly a capital item, where do consultants fall in all this? They do get paid by TTC (funding source notwithstanding).

    Steve: They do not count as “staff”. Also, some consultants could be paid from the operating budget depending on the nature of their work.


  11. One interesting thing, people tend to jump on hirings by the TTC, as if the only reason to hire is to add staff. It’s convenient to forget that the TTC has at least one older worker retire every week, they also have staff that quit (for various reasons), or get fired*. Many of these vacant positions need to be filled, and out of 12,000 employees this could be over 100 per year. People then rant that they hired 100 people, when the net total ends up being the same. Often companies use this as a good way to reduce staff, rather then layoffs. For example if you want to eliminate 10 positions, you have 5 guys retire, 4 quit and 2 get fired and you only hire one replacement, it works out too fewer employees, but you still hired someone that week. This applies to the offices as much as it does drivers.

    *No matter how “good” a union is, there are reasons for firing people where they stay fired. There is usually a procedure in the contract to follow for this.

    Steve: To be fair to the TTC’s critics, when they (and the TTC) speak of “new hires”, they mean net new positions, not replacements for staff who leave one way or another.


  12. Simple explanation: Bus drivers represent a large proportion of employees, and traffic is a lot worse than it was 20 years ago, so drivers cover fewer km per hour, so it takes more drivers to deliver the same number of route km.

    Steve: I will update this thread soon. It turns out that the growth in staff relative to 1990 is on the capital side (major repairs and new projects), not on the operating side, but I want to write the full info when I have time to spend on it.


  13. Steve thanks for clearing this up I used the word “sophistry” because I felt that you were being overly dismissive of the parties raising this issue but I appreciate that you were relying on TTC staff for your numbers. I would point out that the number I referenced from the TTC site is a headcount as at Dec 2008 but Ms. Stintz gives 12,411 in this article from the post: –

    While I am going to sound very cynical saying this I believe both the city and the TTC have very strong political incentives to move just about anyone who has touched a wrench to the capital side of the ledger in order to move as much salary as posible away from the legal mandate of balancing the operating budget. An interesting but simple question might be are any operator salaries being paid from the capital budget?


    Steve: The only time an operator’s wages would reasonably be charged to capital would be in a situation where a capital project triggers the need for additional service due to induced congestion, roundabout detours, etc. However, the details in the Service Planning budget reports show that they are paying for this out of their operating service budget, not capital. If we really wanted to get nasty, we would bill developers for the congestion their occupancy of streets causes, not to mention utility projects.

    Another important point about the growth in staff on the capital side: The Russell Hill subway crash exposed the lack of maintenance in TTC facilities and the need to invest more money in aging infrastructure. The point at which the buildup in capital staff complement begins coincides with the emphasis on state of good repair, among other things.


  14. If the goal is to assess the TTC’s headcount for supporting ongoing operations – it’s necessary to include employees who are assigned for heavier ‘repairs’ of existing equipment. After all, if the repairs are not made, the equipment can’t be used.

    (Life extension programs – such as had been planned for the streetcar fleet would be true capital.)

    I suspect that there is some fine, arbitrary, bureaucratic line between maintenance and scheduled heavier maintenance – hence the term ‘game playing’.

    Steve: Yes, but you must also remember that there have been varying amounts of work on subway expansion programs over the years, with a lot of buildup recently for Spadina/Vaughan, preliminary work on Yonge North, Transit City and a number of major overhaul programs for aging subway infrastructure. One issue the TTC faced (like many agencies) was to balance the cost of contract staff (and high markups) versus permanent engineering staff (carrying benefits and some liability for severance). In recent years, the City as a whole has moved to bring “consulting” functions that actually never end back in house, and this bumps the staff complement on the capital side. The problem historically is that there is no data showing how many consultants were working for the TTC in years past.


  15. Just in terms of the post Russell Hill, record, this article states that David Gunn ‘cuts hundreds of jobs and extraneous expenses’ from the TTC. This is borne out in operating stats:

    1995 – 9,459 employees
    1996 – 9,129 employees
    1997 – 9,133 employees

    Steve: What is more interesting is that staff cuts were already well underway in earlier years and the total staff (all flavours) dropped from 10,685 to 9,680 between 1990 and 1995 (I am using numbers from TTC reports and budgets). It was precisely the cutbacks in operational staff at the same time as a bloated management staff grew that brought the system to its knees with the Russell Hill crash.


  16. Steve: This comment has been held in the queue until I had finished with other work on this post. In his questions below, Nick asks about 2010. The data series that I have end in 2008 because the last published Annual Report is for that year and final 2009 info is not yet available.

    There are a number of important questions that need to be asked in order to figure out the truth.

    What is the Inflation/CPI factor compared to today?

    Steve: The CPI for Ontario in 1990 was 78.7. In 2008 it was 113.3. The ratio between these is 1.4.

    How much did we pay in wages in 1990? And in 2010?

    Steve: This question does not make sense in absolute terms (and the specific values are unavailable in any event), but the hourly operator’s wages and benefits are published. For 1990, this was $24.99. In 2008, this was $41.46. The ratio is 1.66.

    How much did we pay in non-wage expenses in 1990? 2010?

    Steve: The data are not available. However, recent TTC budgets confirm that wages plus energy continue to consume about 80% of the budget.

    How much were fares (each) in 1990? 2010?

    Steve: The ticket/token fare in 1990 was $1.00. In 2008 it was $2.25. The ratio is 2.25.

    How much revenue did we get in fares in 1990? 2010?

    Steve: Total revenue (of which almost all is fares) in 1990 was $440.4-million. In 2008, it was $891.8m. The ratio is 2.02.

    How much subsidy did we get from the city and province in 1990? 2010?

    Steve: Total subsidy (split roughly equally between the City and Queen’s Park) in 1990 was $187.9m. In 2008, it was $316.9m. The ratio is 1.69.

    The total subsidy peaked in 1992 at $244.6m, and did not return to this level until 2006. On an inflation adjusted basis, it had not returned to the 1992 level by 2008.

    In 1990, the subsidy was split roughly equally between the City and Queen’s Park. Ontario was absent from the table from 1998 to 2003. From 2004 to 2007, the City carried the lion’s share of the total subsidy. In 2008, the City’s contribution dropped below 50%. In 2010, the City’s contribution will be 100%. Year to year comparisons are hard to do because there have been many one-time deals between various governments.

    I for one would be very interested to see all the numbers.


  17. This is the best info I could find on the TTC’s website. (This is data for 2008.)

    “In 2008, the TTC set an all-time record of 466.7 million rides, surpassing 1988’s record of 463.5 million…”

    “…More than 11,000 employees serve over 460 million customers annually. With nearly 1.5 million passengers on a typical weekday, the TTC has one of the highest per capita ridership rates in North America.”

    Therefore, Steve’s numbers are correct, and ridership has grown compared to 1990 levels, rather than staying the same, while more people are employed by the TTC.

    Steve: The main thing to be careful about is the people who are not part of “operations” staff, but are included in the total staff count by the TTC in their stats. Direct comparison between 1990 and today requires care to ensure “apples-to-apples” values.


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