Updated June 9 at 12:01 am: During discussion of the preliminary budget at the June 8 TTC meeting, staff repeatedly noted that all estimates are based on current Service Standards which drive the quality of service to be provided in the face of growing demand. This is a troubling state of affairs because we will almost certainly face a proposal to cut service quality by amending the standards as part of the 2012 budget process.
The last thing the TTC needs is a return to a there’s-still-room-on-the-roof planning which is a guarantee for declining customer satisfaction and employee morale, and for strangling ridership growth.
Chair Stintz made reference to the level of rider subsidy and observed that it is uneven across the system. Would new standards be imposed that would trim routes and periods of operation beyond what already happened in May 2011?
The Commission desperately wants to preserve service (one of Rob Ford’s campaign slogans), keep costs down, and yet somehow squeeze much of the cost savings out of “efficiency”. This is simply not possible, especially if Council imposes a cutback in the TTC’s operating subsidy. Combining the known shortfall in the 2012 budget, the likely pressure from wage increases of the now-essential TTC workers, and a potential subsidy cut, there is a gap of over $100-million. A good chunk of this is directly traceable to the short-sighted decision to freeze fares and eliminate the vehicle registration tax in 2011. Another large contribution comes from the expected 1/3 increase in the cost of diesel fuel.
Management has been asked to look at opportunities for staff cutbacks that will not affect service, and this means that any cuts will disproportionately hit support services that make up a small proportion of the total organization. Moreover, even assuming cuts can be found, this is a one-time fix and the cost pressures will return in 2013 and beyond. Options to be reviewed include contracting out and sharing functions with the city. It is unclear whether some Commissioners have grasped the idea that increased crowing on buses is a service cut, or if all they care about is that some transit vehicle wanders by now and then to preserve a fiction of service.
The timetable for finalizing the budget will see a report to Council in September with options for the TTC budget, and a final version, based on Council’s direction, to the TTC board in October.
The original June 8 post follows the break below.