TTC Budget 2011: Service Cuts Definitely, Fare Increase Maybe (Update 6)

Updated January 12, 2011 at 5:30 pm: Today the TTC decided to defer the matter of the proposed service cuts to its meeting on February 2.  I will comment in more detail on both the Operating and Capital budget presentations that were made today (they are not available online).

Meanwhile, details of the service cuts are available.  A few notes about this table (which comes from the TTC):

  • Vehicle reductions:  This is the TTC’s estimate of how many vehicles will be saved, and these numbers won’t always be the same as in the table I produced because of assumptions about interlining.
  • Customers affected:  These are the people who now use the service.  Equivalent to “boardings” used in a calculation below.
  • Customers lost:  This is the TTC’s estimate of the riders who will be lost.  Generally this is much less than the number affected because the TTC assumes people will walk to another route rather than abandoning the system.
  • Boardings/service hour:  For some reason, this appears only for a subset of the cases shown, although you can calculate the values.  If the proposed cut is 2 vehicles for 3 hours, then this is 6 service hours.  Divide that into the number of people affected to get the boardings/hour.  The screenline for cuts is 15 (not 12 as previously reported) boardings/service hour.

The TTC has already noticed one “oops” — the Downsview Park bus on early Saturday evenings carries 267 riders in the three hours between 7 and 10 pm, or almost 90/hour.  Saturday daytime, it carries 176 in the 13 hours from 6 am to 7 pm, or 13.5/hour.  However, it is likely that a good deal of this riding is concentrated later in the day, and it will be easy to get over the screenline by taking this into account.

I will digest this chart with additional calculations in a post tomorrow.

The methodology has a certain prejudice depending on the type of route.  For example, very short routes tend to have a lot of turnover and rack up boardings quickly.  Long routes handle longer trips, and the resources used per boarding are proportionately greater.  This means that a long route has to have a higher average load to meet the boardings/hour criterion and escape cuts.

For routes that don’t do well, this is something of a moot point because they are never going to the cut, but this sort of systemic error in analysis becomes important if, in 2012, the bar is raised to cut more “unproductive” services.

Updated January 11, 2011 at 8:40 pm: The budget reports for tomorrow’s TTC meeting are now available on the TTC’s website.  The Operating Budget is a scanned version of the originally proposed report with manual changes to reflect the absence of a fare increase.

It is worth noting that the original text projected 4 million fewer riders (483m vs 487m), and so the TTC had allowed for the possibility of ridership loss in the face of the fare increase.  If those riders are retained, let alone if ridership goes up more than expected, the “unspecified” revenue or cost saving within the TTC’s budget will come from riders just as, in 2010, the TTC generated a large surplus.

Within the budget itself, an $8m saving comes from halving the workforce assigned to Customer Service initiatives (see page 8 of the linked pdf).

For those who wonder about the components of rising TTC costs, these are broken out in detail in the body of the budget report.

Although the budget recommends cuts to free up $7m for demand-related service improvements, there is no hint of where this might be applied or how much service will result.  Given that this is about half of one percent of the total budget, this is really not a lot of added service spread over the entire system.

The Capital Budget gives more details of the major projects and funding problems faced by the TTC. The budget contains a long discussion of the problems of adding capacity to the Yonge-University-Spadina subway, and it is clear that the TTC still feels it can get 50% more out of the existing infrastructure.  “Existing” may be a misnomer considering the changes needed to achieve this, and we are still waiting for a proper evaluation of the Downtown Relief Line as an alternative to massive spending on the YUS.

The budget discusses the shortfall in available funding in detail, and urges improved support from senior governments.  To that end, the TTC proposes “packages” of projects that could be presented for funding support.  These include:

  • the “legacy” streetcar system ($490m),
  • subway capacity ($1.4b),
  • bus fleet ($607m),
  • accessibility ($356m) and
  • fare collection ($87m).

The budget notes that a key reason for the long term shortfall in available vs required funding is the windup of various federal and provincial funding schemes.  While it is true, to a point, that the gas tax revenue does not fully cover many projects, there is also the basic fact that the TTC’s need for capital investment is growing much faster than inflation due to the concurrent requirements of so much of the system for reconstruction and expansion.

“Subway capacity” in the list above includes only $1m for the Bloor-Yonge expansion project for a study to evaluate whether and how throughput at this station can be increase.  Although this is a small amount, it is a critical part of the overall scheme because if the BY bottleneck is not eliminated, many other expenditures will not be necessary or possible on YUS, and the money will have to be diverted to another project such as the DRL.  The long list of YUS improvements ends with the note:

All of these improvements are needed to address subway capacity requirements before the alternative of building a Downtown Relief Line would be warranted.

This presumes, of course, that the many improvements are (a) feasible and (b) cost effective, issues that have not yet been addressed by TTC management.

The full Capital Budget is a huge document, and I will report in more detail on it after I have a chance to review it.

The Wheel Trans Budget includes a subsidy increase of about 10% over 2010 reflecting a quickly growing level of demand.

Updated January 11, 2011 at 4:15 pm: Karen Stintz, Chair of the TTC, has confirmed that the proposed fare increase will not go forward.  The $24-million it would have raised be will be funded with $16m from the City of Toronto and $8m of internal TTC efficiencies.

This raises the question of whether the $7m worth of service cuts were really needed given that there was an equivalent amount available to help offset the fare hike.

All of this has the feeling of smoke and mirrors, a manufactured crisis, and an avoidance of real decisions about the future of TTC funding and service.

Updated January 11, 2011 at 1:35 pm: The Star reports that the proposed fare increase has been cancelled, and money will be found elsewhere in the City budget to cover the cost.  It appears that the optics of a fare increase that matched the annual value of the just-ended vehicle registration fee were less than palatable to the pols at City Hall.  Mayor Ford was much displeased by the proposal when he spoke to the press yesterday.

Updated January 11, 2011 at 1:10 pm: The Star’s Google Map of the routes affected by service cuts is available here.

Updated January 10, 2011 at 9:30 pm: I have added a table showing in detail the service cuts proposed for March 27, 2011 together with a comparison of the service levels on the affected routes in April 2008 before the Ridership Growth Strategy improvements were implemented.

I will be expanding this article with more information later today (January 10) and as events unfold over the coming week.

[Original article below]

The TTC has announced a proposed fare increase of 10 cents in the adult fare with comparable changes to some other fare classes to be effective February 1, 2011.  Together with this increase, a large number of service cuts to lightly-used periods of operation on many routes will be implemented at the end of March.

Oddly enough, the TTC says that it will take several months to identify routes requiring additional service, but had no trouble finding a three-page list of routes for cutbacks.  We have often heard how the TTC could not improve peak period service due to its vehicle shortage, and it will be interesting to see which routes and periods actually benefit from these cuts.

TTC Announcement Details

2011 Fare Proposal

The fare proposal table linked above shows the proposed fares, the percentage increases for each class of fare, and the fare multiple for each class of pass.

The TTC will meet on Wednesday, January 12 at 9:00 am in Committee Room 2 at City Hall to consider staff presentations on the Operating and Capital budgets.  These budgets, together with any amendments by the Commission, will be forwarded to the City’s Budget Committee for its meeting of Friday, January 14.

City 2011 Operating Budget Presentation

City 2011 Capital Budget Presentation

I will comment on these in more detail in updates, but a few points are worth noting.

Operating budget (see presentation at page 31):

  • TTC’s “conventional system” operating subsidy will fall from about $430-million in the 2010 budget to about $413m in 2011.
  • TTC’s Wheeltrans operating subsidy will rise from $82.7m in the 2010 budget to $91.0m in 2011.
  • Considering that the TTC actually underspent its 2010 allocation by $59m, this is a net increase relative to 2010 actual.

Capital budget (see presentation at pages 37-41):

  • Funding for the new streetcars and associated works (notably the new and renovated carhouses) remains in the TTC’s budget because of commitments already made.  However, it is no secret that Mayor Ford is opposed to continued use of streetcars and spoke during his campaign of phasing them out.  Current budget pressures coupled with a desire to explore possibilities for better capital subsidies at the provincial and federal level may delay and thereby threaten this.
  • There is a $2.3-billion shortfall between the TTC’s currently identified list of capital projects and the known funding available for them.  Which projects will be “in” and which “out”, at least in the short term, should be clarified by the TTC’s budget presentation on January 12.
  • The budget contains no money for Transit City as this is now part of the Metrolinx project portfolio.

At a press statement before today’s budget launch, Mayor Ford spoke strongly about the need for all city departments and agencies to reign in their spending in line with his priorities.

“If they’re unable to manage effectively in the best interest of the taxpayers, then we will have to find new managers that can.”

The full text of the Mayor’s remarks is not yet online.

Ford is unhappy with the proposed fare increase, and was quite clear that he wishes to avoid it.  This puts his Transit Commissioners in an intriguing position.  Do they approve the staff recommendation and go against the Mayor, leaving any dirty work to the Budget Committee and Council, or do they find other cuts to avoid a fare increase?

At a media briefing, City Manager Joseph Pennachetti, was clear that staff at the City and TTC would prefer a clear, multi-year plan for fares so that the TTC would know what revenue they should expect.

If adult fares rise by 10 cents, a typical rider will face $40-50 in additional costs per year.  Oddly enough, this is a good chunk of the saving just extended to motorists who no longer bear the vehicle registration tax of $60 abolished on January 1.

Updated January 10, 2011 at 9:30 pm:

The table linked here details the service cuts to be implemented effective March 27, 2011.  For each affected route and time period, the table shows the level of service as it was in April 2008 before the Ridership Growth Strategy kicked in as well as the service now operating.  Where the 2008 headway is blank, this is a service that was added with RGS.  Otherwise, the service already existed, although in some cases at pitiful headways up to 60 minutes.

2011.03.27 Service Cuts

Note that in some cases I have estimated the number of vehicles saved because only part of a route or a branch is eliminated, and I had to make an educated guess at what would remain.  When the official service change notice is issued by the TTC, I will publish a condensed version of it in my usual manner.

Now that the TTC is abandoning the premise that service is operated at all hours on all routes, we will return to the “service standards” methodology for evaluating whether routes should have additional operating periods.  This methodology purports to establish the customers gained per dollar expended and balances this value between competing service change proposals.

The TTC claims that the value is dimensionless and, therefore, not subject to inflation even though it is self-evident that the amount of service provided per dollar goes down every year and, therefore, the cost of a given addition goes up while the passengers attracted stay the same.  There is a flaw in their methodology that has not yet been publicly acknowledged, and the supposed lack of variation in the screening value is caused by changes in the way it has been calculated.  This will become a major issue in future service planning as the “formula” purports to show what we should do with service.

81 thoughts on “TTC Budget 2011: Service Cuts Definitely, Fare Increase Maybe (Update 6)

  1. I quite honestly like the idea of being able to repond to individual comments in the form of a thread. Too bad you didn’t have this a long time ago but it’s a more than welcome improvement nonetheless.

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