Updated February 2, 2011 at 8:10 am:
The staff report regarding proposed service cuts is now online. The “Justification” section is worth repeating here:
The Commission should approve the service eliminations/re-allocations, as described in this report and as detailed in Appendix 1, because ridership is continuing to increase on the TTC and is projected to reach an all-time record-high of 487-million this year, an increase of 10-million customers over 2010. There is a need to add service to accommodate these additional customers, but sufficient funding is not available, so some of this funding must be found by re-allocating resources away from more lightly-used services to other services where better use can be made of the resources.
The process which has been followed in order to identify services for elimination/ re-allocation has been objective, consistent, and data-driven – in order to ensure fair and consistent treatment of all parts of Toronto – and reflects the concerns and input expressed by the public at the Open Houses held on this matter and in correspondence provided to the TTC.
The revised recommendations achieve the best possible balance between saving costs for the purpose of re-allocation to routes in greater need of resources, and retaining services which the public strongly advocated. [Emphasis added]
In other words, these cutbacks are implemented in response to a funding situation. Whether we call this a “reallocation” or a “budget cut”, the effect is the same. There is still no sign that the Commission will address the general issue of “reallocation” as a way to handle riding growth on the busiest parts of the system.
As for the remark about the “objective, consistent and data-driven” process, I must point that detailed data published on this site revealed the TTC had done a poor job of following its own criteria.
[Original post from January 31 below]
The TTC has announced that, after due consideration, not to mention a week of evenings with restless peasants bearing pitchforks and torches, they’ve got the message, sort of. The service cuts proposed for the end of March will be slightly less than originally planned, notably on the many routes where a case can be made that the TTC’s original analysis left a lot to be desired.
The original “standard” by which services were measured was that they must carry at least 15 passengers per vehicle hour to remain in operation. The term “weighted” shows up in some commentaries, but there was no weighting about it. Indeed, a vehicle hour at 6am on Saturday when loading will always be light counted the same as a vehicle hour on a Saturday afternoon which happened to be part of the same period, for calculation purposes, in the TTC’s scheme.
The new “standard” is a bit more subtle. If, during any hour within an analysis period, a route manages to get 15 riders per vehicle, then service for the entire period is kept. This corrects for situations where uneven demands were good at times, bad at others, and it is particularly helpful to longer evaluation periods (daytimes on weekends) when there can be considerable variation over many hours.
If riding is between 10 and 15 per vehicle hour, and the nearest alternate service is more than 600m away, then the service will be preserved.
If a route and period of service doesn’t manage to crest 10 riders per vehicle hour, wave goodbye to that bus.
The whole exercise was rather embarrassing, and it exposed the folly of trying to push through a change in the process for evaluating services on the fly. Rather than bring forward a general discussion of how services might be ranked for cutbacks and the effect of choosing various levels for cutoffs, the new “standards” were implemented and service cuts proposed without any public discussion.
This is all presented as “not a budget cut”, but a reallocation of service to routes that are overcrowded. That’s a nice bit of hot air. Adding service costs money, and you get it either by raising fares, getting more revenue from passengers or other funders, or by making cuts to the operation somewhere else. You may mop the floors less often, or you may cut service. Either way, it’s a budget decision.
Riders whose service is “reallocated” can feel a sense of civic pride in doing their bit for other routes. How, if ever, they will get their service back is anyone’s guess. Far more serious budget problems loom in 2012, and many more riders may find their services “reallocated”. If this really is a one-time budget trick, we can shrug and say “those were the worst of the worst routes” and “I never thought those people in Forest Hill deserved a bus anyhow”. But you can only cut the Forest Hill bus once.
Will politicians at City Hall have the guts to defend services that remain in 2012, or will yet another batch of “poor performers” fall to the budget knife. What route will cease operation so that even longer herds of buses can roam up and down Dufferin Street?
For readers’ convenience, I have recast the list of cuts so that those routes and periods where service has been saved from the Guillotine in 2011 are listed first, and the remainder of the cuts in a separate section below. Rows in the list that are red are those where the proposed cut violated the criteria the TTC claimed to be using.
The TTC’s new and old plans are worth contrasting:
- Originally, 1.3-million trips would have been affected by the cuts annually. The number is now down to 552-thousand.
- The annualized savings, by my calculation, have dropped from $9.33m to $5.23m.
- The cost per rider on the service to be cut has risen from $7.16 to $9.47 showing that those services to be retained are doing comparatively better than those that will disappear.
There’s some budget hocus-pocus going on with the TTC’s original claim of a $7m saving from the cuts. That was a 9-month figure assuming the change went into effect on March 27. About $1m in savings were given up by deferring the change until May 8, and a few million more have already been dedicated to service improvements in January 2011. This doesn’t leave a lot for additional service in fall 2011, let alone for those changes to roll out for a full year in 2012.
While “efficiency” is worth looking for, we seem to have spent a great deal of effort to accomplish very little.