TTC 2012: Cuts, Cuts and More Cuts (Updated)

Updated Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 12:00 noon:

Toronto’s Executive Committee at its marathon meeting of September 19-20, moved that “City Council receive the following Recommendations”:

2m. TTC: Consider rolling back some of the service improvements implemented under the Ridership Growth Strategy, including changes to the crowding standard. Also consider reducing/eliminating the Blue Night Network or making it a premium service by raising fares.

2n. TTC: Review service levels of support activities to conventional transit.

2o. TTC – Wheel Trans: With conventional transit becoming significantly more accessible, the role and service levels should be continuously reviewed. Consider potentially developing individual plans for riders to use conventional services for their needs, relying less on Wheel-Trans.

While this motion indicates that Executive may want to save the all-night services, an action already taken by the TTC itself, this motion also removes the idea of rolling back service standards to pre-RGS levels.  Given that the TTC has just approved such an action, and has the right to do so independently of Council, it is unclear just what the policy of the two bodies would be.

The original article from September 14 follows the break below.

On Friday, September 16, the TTC will discuss proposed changes to its 2012 budgets to bring Operating, Wheel-Trans and Capital spending within the funding available from the City of Toronto and other governments.

“Available” is the key word here because, in the setting of an artificially created budget “crisis”, what the City chooses to spend on transit is not the same as what it can afford to spend.  What will actually happen for 2012 won’t be known until Council finalizes its budget in February, and after the political situation at Queen’s Park is settled in October 6th’s election.

TTC staff made several recommendations to the Commission, and significant changes are unlikely at this stage.  The real debates will happen elsewhere.

Once again, the TTC proposes:

… the development of a multi-year fare, service, subsidy strategy in conjunction with the City of Toronto, taking into consideration appropriate targets for ridership levels, service initiatives and revenue/cost ratios

Every year, budget, fares and service levels are addressed in a crisis atmosphere with no sense of the City’s overall goals for its transit system.  The cost of providing service will continue to grow whatever standards we set unless these are so Draconian that they trigger a downward spiral in riding and service.  The City, the TTC and riders must accept that whatever “efficiencies” are implemented, these are one-time changes that cannot be repeated in future years.  At the very least, a projection of future costs and system performance are essential to informed debate about transit funding.  Whether we will actually have this debate, or simply wait for another budget “crisis” to repeat the 2012 process, remains to be seen.

TTC Operating and Wheel Trans Budget Amendments

TTC Capital Budget Amendments

Operating Budget Proposals

TTC ridership will grow beyond 500-million for the first time in its history in 2012, even allowing for the effects of a proposed fare increase and service cuts.  Operating subsidy from the City will fall in 2012 from $429m to $383m.  If the same allocation of Provincial gas tax revenue is applied in 2012 as in 2011, then $90m of that City subsidy will be covered from Queen’s Park.

In the preliminary budget (June 2011), total operating expenses of $1.507-billion were projected, with revenues of $1.039b (mostly fares).  The combined effect of the City cutback and projected cost increases left an $85m hole in the budget.  The proposed amendments address that gap.

Diesel Fuel

The projected increase in diesel fuel pricing is now expected to be lower than originally thought, and this shaves $15m from operating expenses.

Staff Reductions

The TTC plans to reduce staff in several areas, although the details are not included in the public report.  This will lower costs by $14m in 2012 and $16 in future years for the reduction of 212 positions.  (This is equivalent to $75k per year, per position, including benefits.)

Service Standards

Loading standards will be rolled back to 2003 levels.  For peak period service, the target loads will be 10% higher than they are today, and this will cause more crowding especially on busy routes.  (On routes with wider headways, the incremental effect of removing one bus is greater, and even the new loading standards would be violated if service were cut.)  About 50 routes will be affected.  The diminishing returns available through this tactic are shown clearly by the gross and net savings.

Gross operating cost saving        $9.2m
Ridership loss                      1.9m
Fare revenue lost                  $3.7m
Net operating cost saving          $5.5m

Off peak standards which, in theory, mean that everyone should get a seat, will go back to allowing 20% of riders to stand on routes with headways of 10 minutes or better.  It’s no secret that many routes already breach this standard, and we are likely to see much worse actual service on many routes than the advertised “standard”.  The projected effect of these changes is:

Gross operating cost saving        $11.7m
Ridership loss                       1.8m
Fare revenue lost                  $ 3.5m
Net operating cost saving          $ 8.2m

The total saving is expected to be $14m, and will reduce the operating staff level by 171.

Notable by its absence is the more general discussion of Service Standards.  This is relevant on several counts.

  • The cutbacks early in 2011 were based on a newly created standard that a route should carry at least 15 riders per vehicle hour to justify its existence.
  • Although the existing standards include a walking distance criterion for evaluating new routes, this was ignored in the 2011 service cuts when large gaps in the route network were created, notably late on Sunday evenings.
  • The criteria that would be used to justify reintroduction of service, indeed the entire concept that new or reactivated service might be required in future years, have been ignored.


The recently awarded new contract for advertising will bring $5m more in 2012 than originally expected.


  • Improved employee attendance and associated overtime: $5m
  • Increased gapping (not filling vacant positions as soon as possible): $2m
  • Non-labour expenses (promotional campaigns, contracted security service and others): $2m
  • Benefits (updated cost estimate): $2m
  • Other (including elimination of a one-time provision for a property settlement that is no longer required): $5m

These changes bring a total of $64m in savings leaving a gap of $21m to be filled by other means.

Metropass Riding and Off-Peak Growth

Of the projected 15m new rides in 2012, 3.3m of these are due to the increasing use of Metropasses (more rides are taken for each pass purchased).  These rides are mainly taken in off-peak periods, and the TTC proposes not to add any service as it receives no marginal revenue for them.

How the TTC will distinguish between individual fare ridership growth on routes, and growth due to the “freeloading” pass users is a mystery.  Possibly a separate, overcrowded section will be reserved on buses and streetcars for passholders.

Accident Claims

On May 12, 2011, the Ontario Budget exempted all public transit organizations from no-fault insurance.  This will save the TTC “several millions”, according to the preliminary budget, but the effect will occur gradually as the mix of settlements shifts from accidents prior to May 12 to those which occurred after the exemption was in place.  No allowance has been made in the 2012 estimates for this benefit pending actual experience and cost data.

Night Service

The TTC report is silent on the issue of the Blue Night Network, although a proposed elimination of service has been discussed at length in the press.  This scheme arose as one of many suggestions in the “Core Service Review” now underway at the City.  The lack of detailed analysis of this proposal by the City or of a rebuttal from the TTC is troubling.  Retention of night service is mainly discussed as one of social benefit for shift workers on lower incomes rather than in the wider context of the value of transit service.

According to the Toronto Star, the night routes are used by about 12,000 riders per day.  This service is provided by 42 buses and 7 streetcars, a total of 49 vehicles.  The night services operate from 2 to 5 am, or three hours per day.  That gives us a total of 147 vehicle hours.

If we use the current TTC productivity standard for marginal routes (15 riders per vehicle hour), we would expect to see about 2,200 riders on the night routes, but we actually have over 5 times that number.  Obviously route performance figures vary with the subway replacement services doing much better than some other lines, but the numbers suggest that at least part of the night services are justified by the standards used for the rest of the day.

Clearly there is an assumption that night services cannot be justified, and the City (or their consultant) didn’t bother looking further to compare these with the system as a whole.

Proposals Not Adopted

The TTC reviewed several other possible changes, but staff rejected them.  These are worth noting if only because budget hawks may attempt to hack away even more deeply at service than the staff proposals.

  • Metropass transferability:  Staff estimate that about $5m would be added to revenues if this option were eliminated, but the offsetting concern is that re-activating the photo-id requirement would lead to conflicts with front-line staff.  Also, there’s the obvious point that Presto fare cards are transferable, and with the TTC moving to that fare medium, a return to photo ids for Metropasses would be a short-lived benefit.
  • Poor-performing routes:  If the productivity measure were changed from 15 riders per vehicle hour to 30, cuts beyond those implemented in May 2011 would occur.  This would affect about 80 routes with a net saving of $20.9m.  (Note that the night services, taken as a group, would still perform better than this standard.)
  • Hourly headways:  The maximum policy headway now is 30 minutes.  Hourly headways have been tried in the past, but in practice they attract very little riding as it is simpler to take an alternate route or mode, or not travel at all, than to wait for an hourly bus that may or may not be on schedule.

Fare Increase

A 10-cent increase on the basic fare (4% on the token rate of $2.50) would bring about $30m in revenue if it were implemented in January.  This option will be considered later in the budgeting process once the will of Council, and their desire to override the Mayor’s preference for a continued fare freeze, are known.

Ironically, City Executive Committee will consider a report on Monday, September 19, which proposes a policy that all “user fees” be indexed to inflation and automatically rise each year.  Although the authority to approve the specifics of an increase would remain with the TTC, it would be City policy that such an increase should occur.

Contracting Out

The TTC is reviewing the possibility of contracting out various services many of which are performed by unionized trade staff.  There is no provision in the budget for any saving son this account because the extent of the saving and the timeframe for implementation are not yet known.  500 or more positions may be affected.

Wheel Trans Budget Proposals

Unlike the regular TTC system, Wheel Trans receives far less of its revenue from fares and is far more seriously affected by cuts in subsidies and extraordinary increases in operating costs.

In the June 2011 Preliminary Budget, the projected shortfall was $16m on a total of $103.6m in expenses.  Over half of the shortfall was a direct result in the City’s subsidy cutback by $9.1m.

The most contentious change proposed for Wheel Trans is that ambulatory dialysis patients would no longer be carried.  This change affects patients whose ability to walk more than a short distance, especially after treatment, may be limited.

The staff report claims that the Advisory Committee on Accessible Transportation (ACAT) supports this position.  I will be intrigued to see whether they confirm this when challenged by those who will lose the service.  Minutes of ACAT’s meetings suggest that there is a concern that other patients (e.g. chemotherapy) would ask for similar Wheel Trans eligibility, but it is unclear what ACAT’s position is as there is no record of an actual decision on this point.

The TTC is attempting to get special funding from Queen’s Park to cover this cost, but considering that there is no Provincial subsidy for Wheel Trans today, it’s an odd concept that dialysis patients would be made a special case.

This change, if implemented, will reduce Wheel Trans costs by $5m.  Other changes would yield a total of $3m.  This leaves $8m still to be found.

If this were done through service cutbacks, the unaccommodated trip rate would rise to 18%, and Wheel Trans would lose about half a million rides.  Combined with the dialysis proposal, Wheel-Trans would lose over 1/5 of its riding.

In a City and Province where increased accessibility is a matter of law and long-standing practice, such a move would be atrocious policy.  This is not “gravy”.

Capital Budget and 10 Year Forecast

Capital funding for the TTC comes from a variety of sources (see Appendix B in the report), but many of these are at or close to their sunset dates.  Much funding is tied to specific projects, and with the Metrolinx takeover of the Eglinton project, “Toronto” funding is not even on the TTC’s books.

As I have discussed before, there is a large ongoing need for capital funding just to keep aging infrastructure and equipment up-to-date.  The original investment in the subway system is wearing out, and this produces a jump in yearly renewal costs relative to historic spending levels.

In order to address the shortfall, the TTC proposes several changes in their current and future capital program.

Bus Purchases

With the change in Service Standards, the TTC will not need as large a fleet.  134 buses that were to be purchased mainly in 2013-14 have been deleted from the budget.  This change eliminates the need to store a “bulge” in the bus fleet that would exist due to service growth before new rapid transit lines open and displace or reduce existing bus routes.  The combined savings are $73m.

Subway Car Purchases

A proposal to buy 10 additional TR trainsets as an add-on to the current order will not proceed.  This also eliminates (or at least defers) many other projects related to subway capacity including yard expansion and new storage north of Finch Station.  Within the budget this saves $343m, although some of this will eventually reappear in future proposals.

The scheme to buy more TR sets was intended to allow continuous production at Thunder Bay and a better price than would be obtained for a completely new order.  However, growth plans for the subway are unsettled both due to funding problems, and because of the complex interaction of yard and line capacity, signalling and fleet size.

I have written before about the lack of coherent planning by the TTC for various aspects of the subway system, and I hope that this deferral signals that a comprehensive, integrated review will now take place.  Fragmentary planning has led to the “one more thing” style of budgeting that makes 10-year projections worthless.

Bloor Danforth Automatic Train Control

Conversion of the BD line to ATC was originally proposed to begin in 2016 in part to address rising demand and the limitations of the existing signals.  However, the Eglinton line is now projected to divert riding from BD to the extent that service can operate within existing constraints.  Therefore an early conversion to ATC has been dropped from the budget at a saving of $150m (within the 10 year projection).

What that cost estimate did not include was the need to retrofit the T1 fleet with ATC gear (or to prematurely retire these cars), to purchase more subway trains for increased capacity and to provide the yard space for storage and maintenance of a larger fleet.

LRV Purchase

The order for new cars will be reduced from 204 to 189, a number considered sufficient for demand to 2021.  The future need for more cars will re-examined toward the end of the delivery period should circumstances change.

Part of this reduction relates to maximum policy headways and the effect of larger cars on the frequency of service.  The TTC has jettisoned its previous commitment to avoid very wide headways without any discussion or details of the specific effects on service.

The TTC also plans to ask Bombardier about changing the payment schedule under the contract to defer payments into later years.  In effect, the TTC would have Bombardier finance the project hoping that improved future funding will catch up with payment requirements.

The total saving from dropping 15 cars is $82m.  However, not all of this shows up in the 2012-21 projection for City funding because:

  • $11.2m is applicable to the 2011 budget (progress payments based on the original order size)
  • Of the $70.8m remaining, 1/3 is paid for by Queen’s Park

Other Projects

Some other projects have been rescheduled or adjusted to take account of changed circumstances:

  • Fire Ventillation Upgrades ($39.2m):  Some work has been deferred beyond 2021
  • Collector Booth Renewals ($8m):  Requirements for collectors’ booths will change with the implementation of Presto fare cards.
  • Paving ($50m):  Some paving work has been deferred beyond 2021.  There will be some offsetting increase in the Operating budget for repairs pending completion of this work.
  • Bus Rebuilds ($1.3m additional):  Some 2011 work has been deferred beyond 2011 and therefore now appears in the current projections.
  • Garage Subsurface Remediation ($5.6m additional):  New work required.
  • Revenue Operations Facility ($2m additional):  Updated cost projection.

These changes do not eliminate the TTC’s capital problems, and funding issues will be back on the table in 2013.  Without new sources of capital revenue, the TTC will not be able to sustain even its revised Capital program.  Among the affected projects is the Ashbridges Bay Carhouse, but this is only one of a long list.

What is missing from the budget report is a consolidated project list showing what is funded, what is not, and the degree to which projects are linked (i.e. funding project “A” requires that one also fund “B” and “C”).  As things stand, one must read both the Preliminary Budget and the proposed amendments, not to mention be familiar with many details that appear only in the budget books.  Those books have not yet been published for the 2012 cycle.

TTC Capital Planning has survived for past years on one-time project funding, project deferrals, and a lot of creative accounting.  In a few large projects, we are now seeing schemes to offload financing and assets to other governments or companies, or (with Presto) to pay for future capital costs from operating savings that may or may not actually  materialize.  The fundamental problem is that transit infrastructure in Toronto costs a lot of money to own, maintain and renew, and the regional value of these assets is not reflected in Provincial funding policy.

Some day, Metrolinx may actually deliver its “Investment Strategy”, and this must include proper capital and operating funding for local transit systems including the TTC.

69 thoughts on “TTC 2012: Cuts, Cuts and More Cuts (Updated)

  1. Steve, like you I am a little astonished by the breadth and depth of these cuts, which if implemented will take the TTC from a ‘treading water’ situation — just keeping up with demand — to seriously falling behind at best or entering a downward spiral at worst. It’s particularly notable that on the capital side we are talking *only* about the investments necessary to keep using the network the city already has, not actual expansion, and even those requirements aren’t fully funded. This financial model is simply insufficient.

    I find the Ashbridges inclusion on the list of unfunded projects confusing, since as you note it is an essential appendage of the LRV order (or so the TTC tells us, having spent a while now dismissing any alternatives to the very large carhouse project), which the Commission and City have made no move to cancel. It would seem to me much too late to do so in any case — hard to imagine the Fords adding a dismantling of the streetcar system to their list of controversial projects just now. So with all that said, what on Earth could be ‘Plan B’ for accommodating the new streetcars if Ashbridges can’t be funded, or constructed in time for 2013? Jury-rig Harvey Shops somehow? Stack ’em up in loops and tunnels overnight? I certainly hope Webster and co. are thinking about these issues right now, since the likelihood of the Fords ponying up a few hundred million for Ashbridges, or using their dwindling political capital to get the same amount out of Queen’s Park, seems vanishingly small.


  2. Never mind, we’ll just use H6s to fill the trains gap. Can we call the Nigerians back and say “we’ve got some lovely H4s you might like instead”?

    Steve: Actually, they have a surplus of T1s because the original fleet plans assumed a pooling of equipment between the two lines. Once the T1s became “BD only”, there were too many of them. The entire fleet plan including signalling, capacity and carhouse space needs to be redone.


  3. It’s terrific to see the numbers presented this way, and the intelligent analysis of what they mean.

    On the basis of the numbers, though, I do think there is a case for relaxing the off-peak service standards. If TTC can save $11.7 million at a loss of just 1.8 million riders, this means we are paying $6.50 to serve each one of these “marginal” riders! Even after subtracting the marginal fare revenue, the implicit subsidy to run this service is very large. (Admittedly, there are presumably some additional riders who benefit by getting a direct off-peak route, rather than an indirect and more time-consuming one.)

    The point is that if the overall subsidy is going to be cut, it would be probably better to reduce this very expensive off-peak service rather than, say, increasing the fare, which will discourage ridership a lot more, and which will contribute to traffic congestion a lot too.

    Steve: I am very suspicious of the relatively low estimate of lost riding for the off peak when we know that the proportion of choice riders is higher than in the peak. Also the headway widenings will probably much more severe in their effect on wait times, and that’s a big component of the “attractiveness” of transit.


  4. The TTC did a report on Blue Night service a couple years ago. According to that report, Blue Night network routes are not held to a min standard in terms of revenue or ridership. They are based on providing a basic level of overnight service to within a 15 min walk or most residents in the TTC service area.

    Routes are only added when a specific number of people are beyond a 15 min walk of a Blue Night route. It has to do with a certain number of people per km or something like that.

    These cuts take us right back to the 1990’s. And I would be surprised to see ridership continue to increase. Instead we will probably see another plummet of ridership as we did in the 1990’s, because so many TTC riders are choice riders. And like before they will not stand for crowding on buses and trains, when they have a car they can use.

    What I am upset about is not seeing the TTC come up with creative route rationalization and schedule adjustments to save money, without impacting service. Just in my area alone I can name two or three routes that could be done to not only save money by requiring less buses, but actually improve service for riders.


  5. With regards to the changes to bus purchases, did anyone bother to bring up the fact that the Scarborough RT is going to be shut down for about 3 years starting in 2015?

    Steve: Ah, but the Spadina subway extension will open freeing up a bunch of buses now running to Wilson and Downsview Stations.


  6. I can’t believe they’d suggest that we increase crowding on already over-crowded buses by running them less frequently. If the bus is already filled to capacity, how will having to wait longer for the next bus help???

    This is being done to save a grand total of $14-million in the 2012 operating budget. And they plan to get $30-million by raising fares 10 cents.

    Why not simply raise fares by 15 cents instead, and not turn the buses into sardine cans?

    That would also be an impact on the capital budget as well in terms of future bus purchases … though that doesn’t kick in until 2013.


  7. Streetcar fleet size: this is leading to precisely the scenario that we feared when the TTC decided to replace the CLRVs with streetcars twice as long. It was easy for them to say at the time that headways would be maintained, but it was clear (based on how the TTC calculates service levels) that this wouldn’t be sustainable in the face of budgetary constraints and/or a transit-unfriendly City Hall. Now I am worried that a Flexity running at 10-minute headways and only half-full will be considered to be “gravy”. Maybe this will be helped by the fact that the next municipal election will be only a year away by the time the Flexitys start to enter service.

    I agree with Michael #2’s comment — if service can be sped up or made more efficient, not only are there cost savings, but it makes the service more attractive to riders. This reminds me of what I have read of the Zurich approach in the 1970s, where cost-conscious politicians and voters rejected a costly rapid transit proposal, so the transit agency implemented numerous adjustments to the surface network (scheduling; signal priority; stop rationalization; ROWs, etc.) to make the streetcars and buses operate more efficiently. It can be done incrementally rather than all in one shot, and presumably at comparatively lower cost. I would add three points:

    (1) this approach seems to be exactly what the mayor was voted in on — reducing the City’s costs by making the City run more efficiently and cost-effectively, not by cutting the services entirely;
    (2) increasing headways and crowding levels will accomplish the opposite by slowing down service;
    (3) yet another call to better monitor bus and streetcar routes to free up the capacity currently wasted by bunching of vehicles.

    I didn’t see any comment on platform edge doors within the staff report. Is this because they are below-the-line costs and therefore cannot be deferred/abandoned for savings on the capital budget? There is a line saying “state of good repair / safety” (is “safety” a recent consolidation with SOGR?) but I didn’t see any breakdown of what that represents. If it is strictly things like maintenance of vehicles and infrastructure, fine, but I know you have said that TTC has tried to hide PEDs under SOGR.

    Steve: The PED project was put on hold as part of the preliminary June 2011 version of the budget which appears as part of the current report. Overall, there are many related subway projects that must be reviewed together for reasonableness and combined cost rather than having each part of the TTC plan them in isolation.


  8. @Michael S

    Dividing the savings of a service cut by the projected marginal loss in ridership is tempting, but it completely ignores the background benefit to other existing riders, and even non-riders. We could very easily apply the same logic to a whole host of public services, from the essential to the mundane: emergency rooms, firefighters, streetlights, public elevators… the “marginal cost” per user of these services during their off-peak usage would be astronomical relative to the average. I would venture that as a society we would say that’s a crude measure, because we collectively agree these are good things to have available all the time at a minimum or even satisfactory standard, even if it’s “just in case I need it.”

    This also applies to transit. A user may only ride an off-peak service once a month, but if it’s reliable enough that can make the difference between a household owning a second car or not. As Steve has pointed out, an off-peak ride one direction often pairs with a peak trip the other way; so you should really add the cost of the peak trip to the $6.50 and divide by two for some of the marginal riders of off-peak service. There are more extreme examples too; I know people who might buy a car if the Blue Night services were cut, even if they can count on one hand the number of times they have ridden the night bus. It’s there just in case they miss the last train/regular bus. Same goes for the bike racks on buses. I only ever use them if I get a flat, but just knowing I can lets me bike with a lot more freedom and if my destination is secure, I don’t need to carry a lock either.


  9. Steve:

    I don’t agree with your headline. It should be “TTC 2012 – Stupid, Stupid and more Stupid” I passed a “private sector” business today with an A Board out front. On one side was an advertisement for the hair care provided therein. On the other it said “Rob Ford 42% approval rating – the consequence of being a jerk”.

    We are finally making some progress in public transit in Toronto. The RGS is actually working and within the 416, at least, we are providing transit at a somewhat acceptable level, There are still lots of improvements still necessary, but the sun is definitely shining over the horizon.

    To back off at this time is unthinkable.

    What we all have to understand is that this has nothing to do with “gravy” or even “efficiencies” This is about a hatred of government and government services by the current Mayor. People like me – “downtown elites” (though I am not particularly well off) are actively mocked and degraded. The poor simply get in the way. They are ignored and potentially deprived of essential services. This is not right. While I plead guilty to being a socialist – or at least a social democrat – I challenge the Ford Nation to ask if any of them supposedly believe in “Do unto others as we would have them do unto us”. If they say they do, they are not doing so by their actions. Whether you believe in social democracy or are a believer – what Ford wants to do is unacceptable.

    I am prepared to pay more tax – a lot more tax. Remember that roughly a third of our tax bills are dedicated to the (unfair) Provincial Education Tax. That means that, for the average taxpayer, a 20% tax increase means only 35 – 50 dollars a month. This may not be desirable, but it is better than eviscerating our City.

    The Province needs to step up to the plate as well. The unfair education tax needs to be revised and the City could step into that Tax Headroom. The Province also needs to commit serious money to Public Transit Capital and Operating Budgets.


  10. I have a MetroPass. I don’t commute. I have a car. I am a choice rider – and love riding the bus streetcar or subway. I have a MetroPass because I love the TTC and believe in transit. If I was deprived of efficient transit and decided to dedicate my 100 dollars plus each month to gas, parking and taxis, would the TTC understand that this was a net loss of revenue. I probably don’t make a “profit” on my MetroPass each month. (it would probably be cheaper to buy tokens, but a pain in the neck and less of a commitment to the TTC – which I love.)

    I love my MetroPass and don’t want to give it up. I also love the TTC and don’t share the vision of Karen Stintz and Rob Ford.

    PS: I have banished hate from my life. I don’t hate anyone and will not give in to temptation. Rob Ford is a test from God which I will withstand.

    Steve: I imagine Doug Ford as a serpent bearing an apple, and Rob as a dim-witted Adam (not yet equipped with fig leaf) who actually believes the snake oil stories about tax freezes and gravy.


  11. The TTC should cancel or reduce the 60 new buses on order for 2012 (CD NG Orion Vii’s), that would more than cover the rest of the shortfall. If the TTC wants to replace the last of the GM buses they’d only need to purchase about 20 new bus.

    Steve: There are penalty payments associated with cancelling a contract already in the works. That’s why they are dropping future purchase plans from the budget.


  12. Michael S says “On the basis of the numbers, though, I do think there is a case for relaxing the off-peak service standards. If TTC can save $11.7 million at a loss of just 1.8 million riders, this means we are paying $6.50 to serve each one of these “marginal” riders!”

    On the other hand, there are all the fixed costs that are driven largely by peak requirements, such as the size of the fleets and all the infrastructure, that is now going unused. Wouldn’t it be better to make more use of these assets by providing well-used off-peak service? The alternative is like owning a car, paying insurance, then not driving it because gas is too expensive. Doesn’t make much sense.

    Steve: The $6.50 figure only makes sense if you accept that these cuts will lose comparatively few riders.


  13. IMO, I’m sure 120 Calvington would be gone and turn into a branch of 41 since it has 300 less people using that route.

    Steve: I am not quite sure what you’re driving at here. Once upon a time, service on Calvington was provided by a branch of 41 Keele.

    Let’s say the 169 Huntingwood can go back to the 1996 levels since people do not use it on midday since I heard the ridership is plummeting low. For the Artics they can handle some busy routes in the system including some that was part of the now-cancelled Transit City.

    One question is, if TTC buys 30/35ft buses for the Community Bus (Orion IIs need replacement), small and low ridership routes, my guess would be ElDorado National or Orion (hence they have the 07.502s or 07.503s). They can handle easy crush loads in small areas since Davenport closed.

    Steve: The number of vehicles needed to cover the “small and low ridership routes” is a very small part of the total fleet. Moreover, the cost of operating the vehicle does not change much just by shortening it. This may address a small chunk of capital costs, but very little on the operating side.


  14. I have to wonder how much the TTC could save my changing the off-peak loading standards on the Subway? Does the Sheppard line really need to run every 5’30 minutes at 12:30am. I would think 11 minute service would do the trick?

    Steve: Very infrequent subway service on Sheppard would make the average wait time quite long and contribute substantially to trip lengths. Actually, there are far more staff manning the stations and providing backup support for emergency repairs than are driving the trains. That’s a major extra cost in operating a line underground. The last time the TTC tried to widen subway headways, the result was some very long waits because they are generally unable to maintain regular train spacing. On a scheduled 7 minute headway on BD, gaps of over 10 minutes were common. This is, of course, a management problem to some extent, and we face the same issue on surface routes where bunching wastes capacity and provides much worse than advertised service.


  15. Toronto is a growing city in terms of population and business activities. It would be absurd to cut services. More people means more buses needed, more police officers needed and more doctors for example. Do we really want to be like Flint MI where there are few buses running on desserted streets? They have no traffic jams anywhere.

    The TTC really needs to generate some additional revenues other than fares. The cost structure will remain high even with privitization. Looking at Air Canada, their cabin crews are still paid the highest in North America. This is a legacy from the state owned era. This is after the cabin crew’s benefits were slashed during bankruptcy. Personally, a higher cost structure is not a big issue as long as safety is maintained. Private operators tend to cut corners in maintanence.

    There is a place for gaming in the TTC. Michael Gaughan Airport Slots has operated slot machines in the McCarran International Airport for many years. This has provided the airport with revenues to make landing fees low for everyone. This is why Southwest Airlines and Jetblue serve there as oppose to Pearson International.

    A slot machine can generate up to $1 million per year in revenues. With a 92% payout ratio, taxes and the like, the TTC can easily recieve $50000 per machine per year. That’s $5 million if we put 100 of them at Downsview Station. Hiking fares will hit some people harder than others. Gaming is a choice and entertainment. What is the harm of someone dropping $10 at a machine while waiting for a bus? The TTC, OLG and charities benefit from it. The person receive some entertainment while waiting for a bus.


  16. Steve said: “Ah, but the Spadina subway extension will open freeing up a bunch of buses now running to Wilson and Downsview Stations.”

    True, but I had the impression that the original plan also relied on the buses that would have been freed up by the completion of the Sheppard LRT. Since that’s not going to happen and the Sheppard subway certainly won’t be done in time, if ever, “plan b” would have been to use buses that were purchased for service improvements and delay those improvements until the RT reopened.

    Steve: In the original Transit City Plan, the SRT was going to be rebuilt, one way or another, much sooner, and that’s why it depended on the Sheppard corridor buses. Now that the SRT work has been pushed beyond 2015, the buses from the Spadina corridor will be available.


  17. Why can’t streetcars be coupled together and then a POP system implemented? That would allow half the drivers to be cut off the system as planned but no decrease in capacity?

    Is that not the whole real benefit of operating rail infrastructure? The ability to couple vehicles together. I know that all lines cannot operate them but why can’t routes like Spadina from Bloor to King operate with coupled cars?

    The King Streetcar is another one…Queen can work too?

    This is such a golden opportunity to reduce costs of operators and a small decrease in frequency but an the same capacity remains… I wish Rob Ford or somebody on council was smart enough to put forward this proposition…It can be done quickly.

    Steve: It’s one thing to have a single articulated vehicle where the operator can get to any point inside the vehicle without going outside. However, the same would not be true of coupled CLRVs. Some retrofitting would definitely be required to provide video surveillance of the doors for safety purposes. Also the CLRVs while capable of running MU, do not have couplers and retrofitting these to vehicles with a relatively short remaining life would be a substantial expenditure. “Quickly” is not a word I would use to describe the necessary vehicle changes.

    Finally, running coupled pairs would double the headway on routes, many of which already have spotty service. Short turns would have particularly bad effects as it would impossible to split a train and send half of it through to the end of the line without an operator on the second car.

    In the long run articulated buses would increase capacity without increasing labour (Replace 45ft with 60ft per run).

    Steve: The TTC plans to buy artics in the future, but that’s several years away considering that proposed bus purchases have been deferred.

    These are ideas that can reduce costs without completely obliterating service…

    Finally…why can’t TTC workers take a 5% wage cut? I’m sure that alone would make a lot of these problems go away! At the end of the day…if city departments really wanted to, they can solve many of these problems by not being selfish in their own wages…

    Steve: A 5% wage cut would save the TTC approximately $50-million per year, and would only address the problem for less than one year. What would you propose for 2013, 2014? You cannot freeze costs forever. A similar problem applies to changes in service standards. At some point, you can change the standard all you like, but you won’t fit any more passengers on the buses, and will actively drive away transit riders. That is not the goal for a transit system unless you don’t plan to ever use it yourself.


  18. If $5 million is being “lost” in revenue due to transferrable passes, how much less would there be in revenue because people actually like that convenience and go onto the system?

    As for the argument thing, as a person who was twice kicked off buses because I put the # on my pass wrong (even though I did what a supervisor said I should), I fear things will just get worse.

    The convenience horse has bolted on that one. But I guess when your staff who don’t have somebody question your use of the system it’s hard to see that.


  19. When it comes to replacing certain bus routes with a possible new branch… would the same work with the streetcar lines?

    A Dundas car could have one eastbound 505 … and an eastbound 505(a) that could turn north at bay and wind up at a different point…and then head back…

    that could, in essence, free up the headways between cars no? since a route may be served by two cars….i guess like 501/502 on queen….or am i way off base here

    Steve: You presume that there is actually surplus capacity on existing routes to shuffle service around like this. That’s not true. Another problem with branching is that short turns would create very large gaps in service beyond the branch point. For an example of the problems of maintaining a branched route, you need only look at the 501 Humber and Long Branch services, and the irregular headways on Queen.

    Yes, you are way off base.


  20. I was of the understanding that the CLRV couplers were simply put into storage and the only thing required to enable them again after re-mounting was restoration of the console buttons for operating them. (The cable harness used to link cars coupled with the emergency drawbars is essentially just a replication of the coupler’s electrical pins.) Wasn’t there also exploration of semi-permanent drawbars at one point?

    Coupled cars would really only be a benefit on Spadina where the traffic signal timing causes runs to bunch up into pairs a lot though. (Of course the new longer cars would appear there sooner anyway.) IIRC the main nail-in-the-coffin to this proposal is that the doors on each car cannot be operated solely from the lead car’s panel, in other words there would still need to be an operator present in every car unless the electronics were modified beyond their original capabilities. Either way this is never going to happen now, although I think we’ll be seeing the CLRVs kept around much longer than originally planned.

    Steve: Fixed drawbars don’t have any electrical connections. I’m not sure those old couplers are still around 30 years after the cars were built. As you said, the circuits built into the cars do not contemplate one-man operation or any sort of supervision of the second car from the first one.


  21. There is really only one way to fix this, make the TTC an independent body, the city then contracts the TTC to provide transit service. The TTC then gets so much from the city as a condition of the contract, then raises it’s own revenue from fares and advertising. The contract has as a condition, that a certain level of service be provided, say for example all city residents are within X metres of service, that is provided at least once every 1/2 hour, with a maximum loading standard. The TTC is then free to provide that service by the best means possible, even if it’s a passenger powered swan boat.


  22. I know fixed drawbars don’t have electrical connections. Obviously there would have been a cable added. But we agree that is a moot point anyway.

    You’d be surprised what the TTC has hiding in storage. There were G-car subway trucks inside Lansdowne Garage just before the building was demolished and aluminum car-number plates lying around in the bus yard that had been removed from retired H4 subway cars for some unimaginable reason. You’d also be amazed at the things I’d seen in the attic of the Coxwell Garage when I had access during Habitat for Humanity’s workspace lease. Whether through planning or ignorance, the TTC has plenty of hidden relics on their property. You just have to know where to look.


  23. Having moved closer to downtown in May, I’m one of the lucky ones, as I have options – the Dundas or Carlton streetcars (though operations with the turn-backs at College Loop lately have been a clusterf**k in the AM peak), I can bike in (cold-weather cycling is starting to look like a more attractive idea), or I can go buy a car, but really I don’t want the expense and aggrevation of that. I guess motor-scooters are an idea as well, but I think they’re silly and wasteful.

    But again, I’m one of the lucky ones, having reasonable financial means, a permanent downtown job, and I am healthy and able-bodied. I used to travel everyday in the suburbs on buses and subways and I don’t miss it at all. Many routes such as the 84 and 96/165 are still inadequate in meeting today’s needs, never mind those a year or two from now.

    But to all those cross-town and suburban commuters out there in what’s left of “Ford Nation”, don’t worry, one day the Sheppard Subway will solve all your problems, so remember that when more buses pass with doors closed.


  24. Steve, do you have information on which commissioners voted to support the service cuts?

    Steve: Only Maria Augimeri opposed the service cuts.


  25. I really enjoyed Brent’s comment:

    “(1) this approach seems to be exactly what the mayor was voted in on — reducing the City’s costs by making the City run more efficiently and cost-effectively, not by cutting the services entirely”

    Of course, Ford’s promise was something different, and not so carefully worded:

    “I will assure you services will not be cut, I will guarantee it,” Ford told reporters last October. “Services are not being effected. Guaranteed.” [Source: Toronto Sun]

    I can hear the sheep bleating “Four legs good. Two legs better.”


  26. Some good ideas floating here. If the street cars we have now had fully automatic couplers. Two or more street cars could couple and uncouple on route right in the streets. This would be good say on King or Queen when the westbounds approach Yonge St, they could couple up in pairs. That way they might get through traffic easier, ie two or more cars would by default make it through the traffic light.

    Driver stays with the trailing car but hands over door controls to front driver, and basically he’s idle until they are through downtown and the cars can separate again. So for example a 508 and a 504 can be one unit through downtown. Or two 504’s until Dufferin to the Humber etc.

    Technically this kind of fully automatic coupler does exist and in use some places, which couples in seconds with nobody leaving their seats.

    Steve: In other words, you want cars to run in bunches by design, just so that you can couple them to run through congested areas. Really this is grasping at straws.


  27. Are the results of the commissioners voting on the TTC published somewhere? Would like to bookmark that for reference come election time in 3 years. Who are the brown-noses who voted for the TTC cuts?

    Steve: Only Maria Augimeri opposed the service cuts.


  28. The Province of Ontario should provide 50% of the transit subsidy to the public transit agencies in Ontario, but at a cost to the municipalities.

    The cost: representation on the agencies and commissions.

    In the case of the TTC, that would mean almost 50% of the commissioners, or at least 4 out of the 9 commissioners (or 5 out of 10, if the number of commissioners is increased). That would mean resignations and replacement by people selected by the province.

    Steve: I hate to point out this, but if the province pays 50% of the subsidy, that’s about 1/6 of the cost of the TTC. The riders pay 2/3, and maybe they should have a say too. Instead we are likely to see the usual political hacks and consultants appointed as “citizen” members.


  29. Ah, when the Fords got the TTC declared an essential service, did they mean an overcrowed and infrequent essential “service”? Also, if TTC service is less frequent and is more crowded, how many people will return to driving their cars thereby actually escalating the “War on the Car” by increasing the amount of traffic? I’m sure none of the TTC councillors (bar possibly Augimeri) nor the Fords have thought about this at all, opting instead for facile 10% across-the-board cuts. It’s all so appalling.


  30. As I shared on Dragon’s Den, all passenger flow is wrong. Added to this is, if safety is in place in a simple fashion, then too, all train flow is wrong as well. Station Skipping can be implemented, such that leaving Kennedy Station, it only takes 4 stops and voila, you are downtown. Stations become numbered off, 1,2,3, 1,2,3, 1,2, 3, 1, 2,3. Train leaves Kennedy and picks up at all the 1’s first, then picks up at all the 2,’s next, then picks up at all the 3’s next. Only during rush hour say 1 1/2 hours. Your new guaranteed travel time Kennedy to Y/B is 14.56 minutes, formula based. Increased Capacity is the trick to balancing your books. And creating a fast, reliable, safe and attactive service.
    1. Safety first
    2. Fix passenger flow for Yonge and Bloor
    3. Fix train flow
    4. While your at it, fix bus flow, ONE WAY REVERSIBLE EXPRESS BUSES down every major street with traffic signalling priority, with the advantage of everystop in the other direction. Note the unique part of “reversible”. Now you also have the best of both worlds, Everystop in one direction which is better than the old Transit City Plan, with the effectiveness of EXPRESS BUSING in the other direction.
    5. Fix highway flow TOO, which will be aired on the Second Chance Dragon’s Den Show, in a few weeks, and create a SUPER EXPRESS HIGHWAY, with optional tolls. And now you have 3 sets of highways going to work on the 401 and 3 sets of highway to go home on.
    THIS EXPRESS NEW HIGHWAY, now funds transit expansion!
    What I am saying transit advocates is innovation states, that all flows are not running optimally, and TTC nor other transit agencies have figured out how to make their people flow, bus flow or train flow operate faster.

    SPEED IS EVERYTHING TO DO WITH REVENUE AND CAPACITY. Speed is only achieveable with creative innovative solutions to make people, buses and trains go faster.
    Over time these big solutions will become tested.

    Steve: Skip stopping does not increase the capacity of the line, only the number of trains needed to operate it. Constraints remain at Kennedy and Yonge where all trains must stop. Also, your model assumes that everyone wants to go to Yonge only, while in fact there is considerable demand between intermediate stations. Your model has no way that someone from a “2” station can get to a “3” or “1” station.


  31. I suppose these new cuts will be made the same lame way the recent ones were. That is, based upon a ONE day check FIVE years ago! Great. The TTC has no clue what is going on out there. Never mind the possible 10 cent increase. Go for 25 cents with a GUARANTEE of improved service. Said guarantee to be backed up by the resignation of the Chief General Manager. Such improved service would include Time Expired Transfers. The oft stated reason for not having these transfers is supposed loss of revenue. 25 cents ought to more than cover that. This would have the further benefit of reducing fare disputes which was said to be the primary reason Metropasses were made transferable.

    Steve: The TTC has not even published a list of the possible service cuts, and seems to be trying to avoid the problems caused when people actually knew what the effects would be.


  32. Since the TTC is an essential service just how much can they cut it before it goes against the legislation?

    I doubt they can make any sort of reckless cutbacks in terms of service without someone stepping in saying it’s essential therefore you cannot cut it all that much.

    What does essential services legislation and the related designation do to prevent drastic cuts?

    Steve: “Essential service” only has to do with labour negotiations, not the service provided by an agency. In other words, if there is one bus or a thousand on the street, they are all driven and maintained by “essential” workers, but the number of buses is not dictated by the legislation.


  33. The viscious cycle effects will be interesting:
    – As crowding rises, percieved service quality drops
    – As service quality drops, ridership will fall
    – As ridership falls, number of cars on the road will rise
    – As number of cars on the road rises, congestion worsens
    – As congestion worsens, all traffic’s average speed declines, including buses
    – As average bus speeds decline, more buses become necessary to maintain the same service frequency, involving higher cost to provide a slower ride
    – As the ride gets slower, perceived service quality drops
    – repeat cycle

    Is this really that complicated?


  34. Sounds like there isn’t much distinction between “essential” and ‘essentially useless’ (as in legislation, not the service). The TTC could be reduced to ONE employee tomorrow and the lone poor guy wouldn’t be able to do a damned thing about it. Nor us, I suppose.


  35. Councillor Di Giorgio is telling me he didn’t vote against it, thinks the cuts are nonsensical, but had to leave meeting before it came to vote …

    Odd …

    Steve: Thanks for that correction. He was there for part of the meeting, and didn’t voice any opposition.


  36. Steve says:
    “Loading standards will be rolled back to 2003 levels.”

    I remember how horrible service was in 2003. Thinking about going through that nightmare again 5 days a week makes me not want to ride the TTC anymore.


  37. I am sorry, but it is high time TTC Commission members were regular users of transit, and not just to ride the subway to City Hall.

    If they had to rely on transit, then you would see a different tune.
    People who have no interest in being on transit for more than a work trip, have bus business sitting on a Transit Commission.


  38. In a City and Province where increased accessibility is a matter of law and long-standing practice
    In terms of accessibility, yes the TTC has increased Wheeltrans funding and eased restrictions on who is eligible.

    -If the streetcar system was replaced by accessible buses, accessibility would be achieved earlier. And I really wonder if the streetcar system will be accessible in 2018. Some of Toronto’s streets aren’t very wide… accessibility might require removing one lane (e.g. some of Toronto’s streets just don’t have any room left). Which means more traffic and slower service. Of course the politicians that micromanage the TTC aren’t going to think past the next election cycle.
    -Station accessibility used to be planned for 2022. Then 2024. According the new plan, it is now 2025.
    -If the TTC had the money, it would be more ideal to install 2 elevators instead of 1. When you need to take 3 elevators to get from bus level to subway level… the chance of 1 elevator being down goes up a lot.

    Blue Night
    I actually use it. On Friday nights it is packed because partygoers are going home. On other times… sometimes there are buses with only 1 passenger. There are some pretty uneconomic routes.

    Cutting back on the waste and marginal service is the right thing to do. (So is making the conventional system accessible sooner IMO.) And oh yes, the TTC and the city are running up large debts. $200M have been drained from TTC’s “reserves” to balance previous budgets. Toronto’s total debt has been going up over the years and the current plan is to increase it to fund the TTC’s capital requirements. And Toronto is starting to engage in less visible debt such as guaranteeing loans to ice rinks (it’s very similar to issuing debt… but politicians claim that it “doesn’t cost the city a cent”).

    Steve: There are many issues in the bus versus streetcar debate beyond accessibility, notably the number of buses required to provide equivalent service not just to what’s there today, but to what will be needed in the future as the population living on streetcar routes grows with new developments.


  39. I think it could and should be easier to force higher government’s hand on a fair deal for WheelTrans to begin with, even under a Tory administration. Given the high number of seniors who are mobility impaired (and the correspondingly high number of those in this demographic who exercise their right to vote) it should be a political no-brainer to offer a deal on this, even if the price to completely separate WheelTrans into a standalone operation to impede issues of subsidy tradeoffs versus the mainline system.

    It’s interesting to see stories and commentary arising out of the WheelTrans cut proposals, as if the TTC’s policy of redirecting WT customers to the mainline system is surprising rather than long held, publicly announced policy. Nonetheless even in a “fully accessible” system some customers will simply not be unable to access the mainline system – if you can’t walk as far as the bus stop, whether the bus can lower to curb height or there is a working elevator at your station isn’t really the issue.


  40. So I read that Minnan-Wong is troubled by mileage payments to TTC staff because they already have bus passes. Aside from the rather miniscule amount of money this represents overall, his statements represent a great disconnect with how the system actually functions.

    First off, my bus trip is frequently disrupted when a mid-route operator change-off is late because the replacement operator was taking an already late bus on an intersecting route to get there from the division. This kind of problem can very quickly have exponential ripple effects. Unreliable service often breeds more unreliable service just because the operators can’t get to work on time.

    Second, TTC trips take substantially longer than car trips which leads to stress and a lack of personal time. It takes me as long to get just from near Keele/Bloor to near Caledonia/Eglinton by subway/bus as it would to drive to Burlington, and that’s just half my daily commute. TTC operators already have lousy hours and split shifts – should they have no life at all?

    Third, plenty of operators have to travel during non-peak hours when there is less service or no service at all. Don’t forget how early they need to get to work so that all the vehicles are ready and on route for the morning commute of everyone else. And yet our current political ‘leadership’ at City Hall would entertain elimination of the Blue Night Network.

    Finally, even my retail employer has factored mileage value into my wage. It was part of the cost of doing business by paying to hire the right expertise. When they hired me I only agreed because of that as compensation for a metropass and for losing the ten minute walk to my previous job. It takes a certain breed of person to do my job well just as it does to drive a bus. Covering basic cost of living is only one part of a wage. Retaining skilled and loyal employees through appropriate compensation is less expensive in the long run then turn-over and poorly skilled or undedicated hires. Also think about some of the TTC staff that have to use their personal vehicles to get around as a direct part of their daily duties. That’s one less vehicle the TTC has to own, insure and be liable for. Plus the employee is more likely to avoid damaging it because it is their own personal property.

    I’m so sick of hearing simplistic cost assessments from our politicians at City Hall. It’s clear that ‘penny-wise, pound-foolish’ somewhat applies here. Trouble is they aren’t even wise and would also spend ‘pounds’ on other pet projects.


Comments are closed.