TTC Budget Update: More Service, Maybe

Today, the TTC held a special meeting to consider revised budget information in advance of a City Budget Committee meeting later this week.

When the Mayor announced that he did not favour a fare hike in 2011, this cut $24-million from the TTC’s projected revenue for the year.  $16m of that was made up with added City subsidy, and the remaining $8m was left for the TTC to find internally.

The proposed service “reallocation” would have saved $7m to be used for upgraded services elsewhere in the network, but the decision to roll back some of the planned changes reduces the savings to $4m and creates an additional $3m hole.  This brings us to an $11m total requirement.

The TTC has now recalculated its projected revenue based on the higher anticipated riding (487m vs 483m in the original budget) and on a higher anticipated average fare (1.5 cents more per trip).  These combine to add $7m to the projected revenue.

Additional savings will come from:

  • Less overtime ($1m) and less hiring to provide for filling open work (35 positions, no dollar value).  These are related in that shifts with no assigned crews must be operated by spare operators or by overtime.  The combined effect of these “savings” may be that some service will not make it to the streets especially during bad weather when absenteeism tends to be higher and the desirability of overtime lower.
  • Fewer Supervisors ($1m).  Plans to add 17 Supervisors for better on-street route supervision are deferred.
  • Bus operator recertification ($1m).  The planned change in the recertification cycle from 5 to 3 years (so that bus standards match those for rail modes) will not be implemented.
  • Gapping ($1m).  Vacancies will not be filled immediately as they occur, and restructuring of the workforce will be used to take up the slack.
  • Escalator maintenance helpers ($.2m).  This is a program set to begin late in 2011 that would allow more flexibility in the use of trades staff for escalator repairs.
  • 28 capital budget positions are dropped by reducing the scope of the Bus Rebuild Program and deferring the Fare Validation Equipment Project (about which I will write separately).
  • 3 operating budget positions in IT are dropped by not converting contractors to staff and absorbing the workload within the existing complement.

Some of the items above directly affect the rollout of Customer Service initiatives which I will describe in a separate article now in preparation.

A critical paragraph is at the bottom of page 1:

“This process will … permit us to decide in June if we are in a position to recommend adding service in September to address ridership growth consistent with our 2011 projections of 487m customers.”

To put this another way, the statements, often made, that “reallocations” of service effective in May would go “for the greater good” to other routes, may turn out to be a false promise.  If ridership and, especially, revenues stay strong through the next few months, the TTC may feel confident enough to actually improve service in September.  However, what was only last week a sure thing, the deal that gave the “reallocations” a patina of respectability, may already be coming unglued.