David Gunn Returns to Toronto

The Globe and Mail and The Star report that David Gunn will return to Toronto as an unpaid consultant to review and advise on the TTC’s budget problems going into the difficult 2012 year.

I have two articles in the works discussing some of the budgeting issues, the first of which should appear later this evening.

(To my regular readers, sorry that I have not been posting much lately.)

26 thoughts on “David Gunn Returns to Toronto

  1. This could be good for the ttc. I myself have tremendous respect for David Gunn and the work he does. He revamped the ttc and made damn sure that the system was the best it could be. It’s because of him that we are doing the work north of eglinton. I am glad he’s back even if it’s only to audit the ttc. Now the commission is back in trustworthy hands.


  2. I wasn’t around during David Gunn’s time as CGM. What kind of guy are we talking about here? Is he likely to support Ford’s plan or Metrolinx’s plan or something else?

    My two cents…he’ll publish a report, Ford will cherry-pick what he wants out of it and use it as an excuse to do what he wants. The other 95% of the recommendations will be ignored and things will continue to get worse.

    Steve: Gunn will be very focused on making sure the system does not fall apart. That term “State of good repair” we hear so commonly was introduced by him. It will be interesting to see how he reacts to the various rapid transit plans now on the table including their financial viability and their effect on the evolving transit system.


  3. This move is facinating. It would seem that the TTC’s leadership doesn’t feel capable of standing up for themselves so they’re bringing in an ‘unpaid’ consultant to speak on their behalf. Based on his past record, obviously Mr. Gunn will have no problem speaking with as much gusto as Ford, providing a frank and honest assessment of the funding situation if the budget numbers come up short. As a volunteer of sorts it would be rather difficult to credibly criticise him and also rather difficult to fire him because he hasn’t truly been hired.

    I know you don’t agree with all of Mr. Gunn’s decisions during his time in charge here, Steve, and I think I’m entirely on side with you. If anything, I hope that this move at least brings some balance to the theatrics. I don’t think the noise will subside but I do think that Ford and his minions need to face up to a qualified and credible opponent. If they’re going to cry shame when the Left on council takes shots at the city Auditor then they’d better be prepared to accept the same treatment in return if they criticise David Gunn. While I’m sure Mr. Gunn isn’t planning to get into a shouting match/blame game situation, and perhaps that isn’t really what he’s here for, I hardly think he could resist the chance to fire back at Ford & Crew if they call him out.

    Steve: David Gunn and I didn’t agree on everything, but that’s par for the course. The important thing is that we could have civilized discussions without implying that disagreement was a cardinal sin.


  4. I like him, fix things over expanding.

    I remember for one of the Transit City open houses at Forest Hill Memorial Arena, Giambrone was on vacation or something like that. Then Vice-Chair Mihevc was there.

    Since FHMA is at Chaplin/Eglinton area I assume it was for the Eglinton Crosstown (I can’t remember anyways). I asked Mihevc about why are we expanding since we can’t keep maintenance on the system………

    “bla bla bla we won’t expand if we can’t maintain current system…”

    Then Transit City plan came.
    Subway expansion (Spadina & Yonge).

    I have always said that someone needs to stop expansion now until we can afford it. Maintenance should take priority.

    When I let my dog do her business in my backyard, I pick it up every time.
    If I don’t pick up her business then by summer I will have a huge pile of mess.

    my dog = ttc system
    I = TTC staff/commission
    business = maintenance
    huge pile of mess = huge pile of mess.


  5. Wasn’t David Gunn biased toward buses, if I recall?

    Just saying.

    Steve: He didn’t believe in spending money where it was not effective. That said, he was also responsible for the TTC finally starting to build good track again, a repair backlog that will finish over the next three or four years presuming it is funded.

    You may also remember that he refused to attend the official opening of the Sheppard Subway as he considered it a waste of money.


  6. Its doubtful Mr Gunn will get involved in the political shenanigans in any way shape or form… If he is being brought in to consult, he will likely review, write, and report his findings and views as to how the Commission should proceed. I doubt though that there will be any sort of back-and-forth with the mayor, or the current CGM, or Commissioners… I would imagine now that he’s retired, that the majority of his review (it being budgetary) will be conducted in the comfort of his home in Nova Scotia far from the Toronto media, and the City Hall circus… Either way I look forward to seeing what he can produce, a fresh set of eyes with an understanding for how the animal works may yield some good!

    Steve: Gunn really needs to come to Toronto and talk to a variety of people to get a sense of what is going on. There are hard questions that need to be asked about the overall budget and the priority of some projects, not to mention the need for better understanding of how many projects fit together. You don’t deal with that sort of problem sitting in Cape Breton.


  7. “You may also remember that he refused to attend the official opening of the Sheppard Subway as he considered it a waste of money.”

    Applause for David Gunn!

    Sorry, just had to say that.

    From what’s on his wikipedia page, he seems to be a very respectable person.


  8. Steve said: You may also remember that he refused to attend the official opening of the Sheppard Subway as he considered it a waste of money.

    Bwahahahahaha…..I have to find out what he thinks of the magical pixie-dust plan to extend the line now. Steve, is there any chance you can corner him after a meeting, invite him out for a drink or five, and get some off the record quotes from him?

    Steve: By definition “off the record quotes” would not show up here.


  9. Hopefully, David Gunn will not run, fleeing the city screaming “The lunatics are in charge of the asylum”. I just have a feeling he and Ford will not get along….


  10. It is Welcome news to hear that David Gunn is returning to the TTC. He will look at the number and won’t afraid to say cut here or there. He can’t stand Graffiti, last time here he said no vehicle goes into service with graffiti. Lately the back of some buses are discussing with the amount of graffiti. He rode the system daily and spoke with front line worker as much or more than the top managers. He made cuts to management and staff last time round, all of which have been replaced plus some. It’ll be interesting to see what happens this time, I know I wouldn’t want to be staff right now.

    Steve: Actually he missed a few who should have been cut last time out, and it will be interesting to see if he is given any scope for staffing or organizational review. That sort of thing takes a while, and his mandate may be confined to budgetary issues.

    I am sure he would be appalled by the filthy trains that I see regularly, especially on BD, where an out-of-service wash track prevents cars from being cleaned. Every time I hear about “customer service” and then get on a train with caked-on grunge, I know all I need to know about the TTC’s real priorities.


  11. I wasn’t working for the TTC during Mr. Gunn’s tenure (I started under Mr. Ducharme’s reighn), but most of the employees (operators at least) think quite highly of his tenure.

    The rebuild of the GM buses started during his time because of budget constraints that did not allow for the purchase of new vehicles. The rebuild of CLRV and ALRT cars was also started by him. His “State of Good Repair” programme was right for the time (following the tragedy of Russell Hill) and has been allowed to start to diminish since his departure for political reasons (expansion of the system).

    His basic mantra of “if we can’t afford to maintain what we have now, why expand it?” is correct.

    One good thing that may happen from his report is to recommend “cleaning house” of some of the management types who are retrenching themselves into the past. There is a management culture of “if it isn’t the “TTC” way, it’s the wrong way” that wants to go back to the “good old days” when the management ruled with an iron fist and basically told City Hall (or Metro Hall as the case may be) what type of transit system the TTC managers were going to run.

    Unfortunately, Mr. Gunn won’t actually be in charge of the TTC, but we can can hope that Mr. Webster is willing to listen to Mr. Gunn and get some advice on how to resolve the ongoing problems at TTC (employee morale issues, etc.) that are the focus of intense scrutiny right now.


  12. Ironic that Ford may have separately invited Gunn to consult on the city’s operating budget when Gunn is the most likely person to shoot down his Sheppard Subway pet project on the grounds that it is an irresponsible use of operating dollars.


  13. Mr. Gunn was good for the time he was called in. A time of deep budget cuts and lack of repair. This resulted in massive service cuts, and I remember as a teen being on buses at 12 midnight that were packed worse than rush hour. This was all due to the very high fare recovery Gunn insisted on due to the budget pressures.

    We are in a different time now(hopefully) and while Mr. Gunn was good for saving the system. We now need someone who is going to propel this system forward. We have got to talk about expansion, etc. And I don’t think Gunn will do that.


  14. You mentioned how Gunn missed out on a few people who should have been cut but perhaps, had his tenure been longer, he would have gotten around to those individuals. He was very good for Amtrak but he was a bit inclined to throw out the baby with the bath water with regard to certain trains when he was there.


  15. Even though I never started when Mr Gunn was in charge, 99.9% of the front line and maintenence employees really respected him. Mr Gunn knows what to look for when running a transit system, was polite and more importantly never engaged in any sort of politics. The only reason that various agencies either fired him or Mr Gunn left was because of the never ending political interference and disagreements that never got anything done.

    I personally welcome Mr Gunn to audit what is wrong with our transit system. The other thing we should be concerned about is if Mr Ford and the TTC board dismisses Mr Gunn’s recommendations no matter how much they dont like them. Just look at how we paid for so many consultants over the years but never or rarely implemented their recommendations


  16. The comments on Mr. Gunn’s return on this webpage are much more informative in some ways than the actual article I saw in the Globe and Mail. I figured someone who was fired by the Bush Administration couldn’t be all bad and it sounds somewhat reasonable that he’ll put a damper on extending the Sheppard subway. Given the current state Toronto finds itself in, this may be the best chance for the TTC to survive until hopefully a regime change happens.


  17. “He was very good for Amtrak but he was a bit inclined to throw out the baby with the bath water with regard to certain trains when he was there.”

    The same was true at the TTC, and at SEPTA. In both cases he responded to operational funding problems with threats to start shutting down streetcar lines. In Philadelphia’s case three lines closed immediately after he left (one of which has been restored, plans to revive the other two are more or less constantly being deferred), in Toronto it was more of an empty threat at the time, but I wonder if there might be some connection between these comments and the timing of his return. I have to agree that he was good for the TTC, but he does have a definite tendency to focus on state of good repair over ALL else, including basic service delivery.

    Steve: Yes, I worry that he may play to Ford’s anti-streetcar preferences, but we shall see. At least most of the track has been rebuilt and we are not facing a system in terminal stages of disrepair.


  18. Steve, the stories you are reading about Mr. Gunn and his good relations are true!! When he lived in Toronto and was in charge of the TTC at the time , I used to take the first or second subway train every morning from Finch. At Sheppard station, he got on every day and always at the car with the whistle blower. There, he conversed with TTC employees, customers and anybody who was on the car in the morning. To everyone there, he was just “David”. To me, remembering Michael Warren and his limousine, this was quite refreshing. And I don’t think you’ll find many from the current council using the TTC … so how do they have a proper feel of what’s actually going on? Sounds good to me to bring Mr. Gunn in.

    Steve: My favourite story about David Gunn was that before he was interviewed for the job, he arrived a few days early and spent time riding around the system. During the interview, he could rhyme off all the things he had seen that worked, and more importantly the many that didn’t.


  19. A few years ago I explored the transit system in Philadelphia and just by chance learned from one of the trolley bus drivers that David Gunn occasionally rode his route. The driver said that Gunn would not hesitate to tell a rider to take his feet off the seat. Bear in mind this bus went through rough neighbourhoods.


  20. “David Gunn will return to Toronto as an unpaid consultant to review and advise on the TTC’s budget problems going into the difficult 2012 year.”

    Am I being cynical, or does bringing Gunn in as an unpaid sound like window dressing to make the public think transit is a concern by the Ford administration?

    One could say that something with the least cost is “respect for the taxpayer”, but it strikes me that it is avoiding the flack for spending money on a consultant that could end up being ignored.


  21. It sounds like he might not be coming any more

    Steve: The Ford administration must decide whether it wants advice that can help it with identifying places where money can be saved and organizations streamlined even if this may also come with criticism of some of their pet projects.


  22. “I have always said that someone needs to stop expansion now until we can afford it. Maintenance should take priority.”

    The trouble is these days expansion is just about as inevitable and necessary as maintenance. The population of Toronto will be growing and the cost of oil will be rising due to peak oil and/or carbon taxes. The Yonge subway it at capacity and many of the routes that where supposed to be converted to LRT will soon exceed what can be handled by bus.


  23. Quote from this Globe and Mail article:

    “I think they’re wedded to this Sheppard subway public-private partnership idea,” said Mr. Gunn, who talked with Mr. Ford in January. “I’ll tell them it’s a dumb idea, but they won’t want to hear that.”

    As for his record at Amtrak… name the last Amtrak president who wasn’t fired or forced out of the job.


  24. Not to say “I told you so,” but Mr. Gunn is already talking tough and possibly fouling his welcome before even arriving. I am delighted he was so blunt about the Sheppard Subway proposal without even being prompted. I suppose Rob Ford didn’t need any extra help looking like a fool though.


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