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. It’s hard to really know which particular trips are crowded, and what time periods can be relaxed slightly, without automated passenger counters. If Ford really wanted to make the TTC more efficient, then he should provide money for this essential data collection mechanism.

    Steve: The TTC has talked about putting such technology on some buses and streetcars, but we never hear anything about the results. One problem has been that stairwells jammed with riders really screw up the counters’ ability to record boardings and departures.

    This is what I would do:

    1) Raise fares until the expected ridership loss from the fare increase equals the expected additional riders in 2012. This will prevent crowding from getting worse, at least some service cuts, and increase the farebox recovery rate. If the farebox recovery rate were 100% then the TTC would be much more immune to whatever the mayor wanted to do (and totally immune, if the province agreed to cover all of the TTC’s capital costs).

    2) Immediately convert all standard size bus orders to articulated bus orders. When these buses arrive, all routes that they operate on could have a slight service reduction and still provide more capacity than they do now.

    3) I think the subway could operate every 10 minutes after 10:30 PM without any ill effects. While there are significant fixed costs such as station collectors, any subway train removed from service still saves a large amount of money from labor costs (2 employees per train) and electricity costs. I don’t think I’d want to do this, but you could even close certain lightly used subway stations early (London and I believe Chicago do this, and others might as well).

    I guess I don’t believe that reducing mid-day service on a given route from 5 minutes to 6 minutes (which is what I’m gathering may happen) will drive a great deal of ridership away. I think Toronto is an industry leader in having an off-peak load standard of 1.0, but if the TTC can’t afford that right now then it cannot afford it.

    Steve: The off-peak loading standard will change to allow about 20% standees on routes running on headways at or below 10 minutes if they go back to the pre-RGS standard.


  2. According to comments made by Mitch Stambler in an anti-st.clair ROW article:

    “We’ve never argued that streetcars don’t cost more to operate than buses,” he says, pointing out that they’re still a bargain compared with subways, which cost about 10 times as much to build. “But all the benefits they bring — a smooth, quiet ride; zero emissions; economic development — are well known.”

    I don’t believe that the relative capacity is a big issue. You simply buy more buses/streetcars.

    In theory it is possible for a street to get clogged with buses. But I’m not sure that streetcars in mixed traffic is a better idea. e.g. You can’t run express services with streetcars as they can’t drive around each other.

    Overall I’m not sure if most Torontonians would support streetcars over buses. The higher cost affects low-income riders more than higher-income riders. They impede traffic flow. They aren’t immediately accessible. To make them accessible, it could be that some streets will see one lane reduced.

    Yes there are some benefits, but they seem rather marginal.

    Steve: The issue with streetcars has always been that with the lack of new equipment, and the decline in reliability of what we have, the quality of service has been falling, and the amount of service has not increased to keep pace with demand. Redevelopment along the streetcar routes over the coming decades (you can get a preview of this by looking at King West and more recently Queen West), will bring a need for much more service and clouds of buses. This affects both operating cost (many more drivers) and congestion (more transit vehicles clogging up streets at stops). Of course, if we simply regard streetcars as being for “people downtown” who don’t count, then they will come under fire. There was a lot of bilge about the potential effect of suburban LRT lines, notably on Sheppard East where the biggest hit occurs thanks not to the LRT, but to the GO Transit grade separation project at Agincourt Station. However, the LRT project took the blame for this.


  3. In response to Kristian re: The National Post article of this morning about TTC overtime.

    The mileage reimbursements are not given to operators; they are paid to supervisors and managers (plus some other non-unionized staff). There are some supervisors who are required to visit multiple work locations to followup with their staff who do not qualify for a TTC non-revenue vehicle to conduct their duties. This article is actually very inaccurate and I have actually sent an email to the National Post to point out several items that should be clarified. Denzil Minnan-Wong (who as a TTC Commissioner should know better) is over-hyping this inaccurate information.

    For example:

    “an operator who ends his or her shift late is entitled to claim a minimum of three hours of overtime”.

    I wish! This is the policy (quoted from the latest collective agreement, Article II, section 6 Delay Time:

    “Effective June 1, 2005, all Surface Operators on scheduled or special crews will be paid double time (two times the basic rate) for any extra time caused by being late when relieved or running vehicles into surface carhouses or garages when such delay is ten minutes or over.”

    This policy also covers Subway and SRT Operators when their delay is five minutes or over. So as you can see, as a Bus Operator, I would be paid 30 minutes if I am 15 minutes late finishing NOT three hours. The three hours minimum is for Operators who are called in to work VOLUNTARY overtime on their off days for work such as shuttle services.

    Mr. Minnan-Wong and the author of the article, Natalie Alcoba, are presenting false information as fact. I would think that Ms. Alcoba would check the facts (perhaps contact ATU113) prior to submitting this story. This is the kind of story that I would expect from the Toronto Sun. This, I believe, is an attempt by Mr. Minnan-Wong and his right-wing masters at City Hall to further discredit the TTC and the TTC’s Unions.

    Steve: It’s also worth doing a bit of math on the numbers in the article. The top claimant for overtime worked 1142.5 hours and was paid $66,776.89, or $58.45 per hour. Without knowing the job category, it’s hard to say whether that was at 1.5 or 2.0 times the base rate, but it looks high for an operator/collector. The number of hours is equivalent to 28.6 40-hour weeks, and that’s really a huge amount of overtime. If this were an operator, I suspect that it’s a violation of the Labour Standards act, or whatever legislation controls overwork by people who drive vehicles.

    I notice that there is one employee who received nearly $100/hour for the overtime worked. This is almost certainly a management employee as there is no union position paying a base rate at a high enough level to generate this sort of overtime remuneration.

    The article starts out by saying that the top 32 overtime workers cost the TTC $1.6m, or $50k each on average. The real question is what the total overtime costs were, how many employees this went to, and the distribution of hours/dollars. I suspect that if we had the full list, we would see many employees making much smaller amounts of overtime, but these are not the sorts of folks Denzil M-W or the Post seems to care about.


  4. Population in Toronto in 1996: 2,385,421

    Population in Toronto in 2001: 2,481,494

    Population in Toronto in 2006: 2,503,281

    Between 1996 and 2006, an increase of: 117,860 or 4.9%.

    We will know by February 8, 2012, the first results of the 2011 Census. Unless Rob Ford already knows that the population will have decreased by 10%, justifying a 10% reduction across the board, I think there will another increase in population. If there will be more people, wouldn’t an increase in services be desired?

    BTW. The population increase in the Greater Toronto Area would be even higher, so that means the smugglers who get into Toronto to use our services will put even a greater pressure for services.


  5. 100% cost recovery for the TTC should be implemented on the same day as 100% cost recovery is achieved from private automobile operators. The subsidy paid for the latter far exceeds society’s investment in transit.


  6. Thanks for the clarification, Gord. Now that you’ve shown what a limited number of employees these figures apply to, Minnan-Wong’s arguments are all the more irrelevant and inflammatory. You can probably understand how this article mislead me.

    Ironic I suppose that it didn’t have the intended effect of sympathizing with their budget cutting intent. I think my point still stands that it is silly to expect TTC employees to be able to efficiently and reliably travel about to perform their duties solely using their free bus passes. This is especially true given the service cuts that have already gone through and the cuts still to come.

    It just makes Minnan-Wong look like a bigger fool and conservative agitator/jerk than he’s already proven to be. Maybe now that this guy just learned how to ride a bike he could stick it on a bus bike rack and have an enlightening TTC rider experience also.


  7. As far as crowding and quality of service goes, we might also want to consider the effect of the signalling work and platform edge doors.

    The YUS line is overcrowded during rush hour. I think that some people would appreciate being able to get on the train versus less crowded buses.

    PED: Each year there are ~19-33 “injuries at track level”. (And perhaps fires from debris/litter on the tracks). Would riders prefer more crowded buses and a more reliable subway system? Would riders prefer a more reliable subway system over Transit City LRT lines?

    Steve: And if you feel that spending $1-billion on PEDs is worthwhile, I have a few bridges for sale. There are far more important projects requiring funding to address system reliability and capacity.


  8. Hey Steve, do you have any knowledge about where the new streetcar project is at? Are the prototypes coming soon? Talk has been coming from Del Grande and Doug Ford about the new streetcars. I was wondering if there is any idea what the cancellation costs would be if they targeted this project.

    Steve: Last I heard (a few weeks ago), the mock up is coming “soon”, and the prototypes next year. There have been delays due to design changes. I suspect any action on cancellation awaits the provincial election. Either we will have a party that doesn’t care, or we may have a government that might sweeten the pot on transit support.


  9. To Steve and Glenn Chan:-

    Would riders prefer surface over subway?

    Well this Zoomer Rider would. Making a transfer without stairs and the time it takes to go from the point of entry at a station to platform level versus a level walk is preferable. Some trips it even saves time.

    This Zoomer prefers streetcars thank you. They are a much better ride than a diseasel bus and as for Transit City, well a long distance (a mile or more) on a bus or an una’FORD’able subway fantasy has Transit City winning that argument hands down!



  10. Gord wrote, “I would think that Ms. Alcoba would check the facts (perhaps contact ATU113) prior to submitting this story.”

    Expecting a journalist to do research and check all facts is a pretty tall order, in my experience. 😉

    Kidding aside, every time I have been witness or close to a witness in an event that made the news, the story reported always has a few main facts that are correct, and all the details range from slightly to drastically off base. Alcoba (and Minnan-Wong) state that overtime is paid at the TTC. That is an action that is accurately attributed to an organization. Everything else ranges from slightly to drastically off base.

    Steve stated in his response, “The article starts out by saying that the top 32 overtime workers cost the TTC $1.6m, or $50k each on average. The real question is what the total overtime costs were, how many employees this went to, and the distribution of hours/dollars.”

    Assuming the work needed to be done, how does the $1.6m price tag compare to what it would cost to have separate employees hired to work straight time instead of using existing employees paid at overtime rates? If the extra work continues indefinitely, then the hiring and training costs at least can be amortized over a longer period, but the cost of straight time plus benefits compared to overtime needs to be taken into account along with whether or not the extra work could actually support new hires.

    Steve: Another point worth mentioning is that the total labour cost of the TTC is about $1-billion annually. If they’re only paying $1.6m in overtime, that’s a very low ratio.


  11. What are your thoughts on premium fares for Blue night routes?

    Also, @Glenn Chan: Accessibility is an inherent advantage that low-floor Light Rail has over any subway or heavy rail.

    Steve: The proposal for premium fares is a red herring. It presumes that the night routes do so poorly that only premium fares would save them. However, the total riding on the night routes is approximately five times the level used as the cutoff line for “poor performing routes” last spring and for other services on the chopping block this fall (15 riders per vehicle hour). This means that at least some routes already “pay their way” to the extent that they are comparable to the criteria used for the system as a whole. Also, we’re only talking about 49 vehicles for 3 hours per day. That’s 147 vehicle hours’ worth of savings, roughly the same as the all-day figure for the Bay bus, and less than 1/3 of Dufferin.

    On a related note, when the TTC starts publishing ridership and cost recovery data for the premium express bus routes, then we will see just who is subdising whom. Those are peak buses that, unlike the night service, contribute to the total fleet count while contributing very little to the overall system capacity.


  12. Steve, are there any wage premiums or other costs which would make BN routes more expensive on a vehicle/km basis than day routes, and thus justify higher performance metrics?

    Steve: There is a shift premium payable to operators under the ATU contract:

    “Operators on crews commencing between 1:00 pm and 1:00 am the following day … will be paid an additional shift premium of $6.00 (8 hours x $.75).”

    Obviously night service is affected by this, but so are all crews running past midnight when the vast majority of the system still has service on it. This is not really a cost specific to all-night routes.

    I must ask why riders on the Yonge and Bloor routes, for example, which routinely carry loads as good as or better than late evening services that are untouched, should pay a premium for the privilege of having this service. How can we carve up the network into routes that should have premium fares at certain times just because they have lower than average ridership? This is a much more complex question than just the night routes.

    Finally, taking an operator’s wages as $30/hour (rounded), the labour cost of the night services is about 150 hours times $30 per day, or $4,500 per day plus benefits. We are not exactly breaking the bank here.


  13. I was dead set against a premium fare for overnight service. However it means cutting it or keeping it, then I might warm up to the idea of charging a premium. I say this, because after some searching around, it is not uncommon for a charge a surcharge for night service. Zurich for example charges a premium for overnight routes, which in that city only operate on Friday and Saturday nights.

    In terms of riders per hour, the truth Steve is that many Blue Night routes aside from Yonge and Bloor, do carry very light loads at specific times. Yes the trips around 3AM may be packed on a Friday and Saturday night, due to clubbers. And surprising enough, when I used to take the Blue Night at 3:30Am to get into work downtown for an early shift, the buses were actually pretty full going into the city, while the buses going in the opposite direction where almost totally empty.

    In terms of the express buses, I do not understand why there is so much contempt for them. They get people onto transit who are going to put up with the slow local bus and subway service to get to work downtown. These people will probably drive without the express bus. And these riders pay a double fare. And judging by the 144 Don Valley Express, which I used to take everyday, I think the riders themselves are paying for the full service if not turning a profit on that route. That route would almost always travel with standing loads, all paying a double fare.

    Steve: The issue here is that the KPMG report proposed dumping the night routes without even presenting stats to justify this action, and without a comparative analysis against other special routes or those that suffered cuts earlier in 2011.

    I am sure there are night routes that do not average 15 riders per vehicle hour from 0200 to 0500, but cancelling all of the night routes, as KPMG proposed, ignores the fact that some routes are extremely busy.

    As for express buses, yes, the Don Valley route carries quite good loads and with the premium fare may even operate at a cost recovery comparable to other regular services. However, not all of the express buses do so, notably the Humber Bay bus which is under the protection of Vice Chair Milczyn despite loads of under 10 passengers. These routes may divert some car trips to transit, but at what cost? Is this the best use of the limited resources the TTC has, especially when regular fare services are suffering cutbacks.

    I am simply asking for consistency in analysis and data presentation, but hard data tend to undermine political rhetoric. If we are going to cut night routes, then identify them by the same criterion applied to the many routes that were cut in May. If some other policy, such as a desire to maintain 24 hour service on trunk routes, trumps this decision, then make this as a deliberate policy choice and assume the cost without complaint.


  14. @Gord …. Thanks for correcting and clarifying this matter. Can you explain the rationale for an Operator being paid double time rather than the more conventional time and one half?


    Steve: The high penalty (from management’s point of view) is intended to “encourage” practices that will get operators off work close to the time when this is supposed to occur. This followed many years in which operators routinely came in well behind their scheduled times because of problems with service including on the subway where that catch-all excuse, traffic congestion, does not explain the problem.


  15. Steve:

    Either you or I have been fooled by the number of uses of “roll back”. I don’t think that the rollback to pre RGS is off the table. I think the Executive Committee reinforced the concept for further endorsement by the Commission.

    Steve: I think that Exec screwed up by failing to divide the parts of the recommendation that they wanted to “receive”. They also want no cuts to Wheel Trans service, but there is no indication of how the TTC might pay for this.


  16. The night routes do not fall under a rider per hour standard.

    A Blue Night route could carry zero people an hour, and still not be cut, if it is deemed to be a route that maintains walk access to transit during overnight hours.

    The entire Blue Night system is designed to ensure residents are within a 15 minute walk or less of overnight service.

    According to the TTC’s own report, the subsidy is taken as a given, because the overnight service is a social service, and therefore the daytime standards are not applied to it.

    Steve: That’s all very well, but the TTC has been playing fast and loose with its standards recently. For example, there is a walking distance standard for regular services, but it was ignored in the May cuts. My argument is with the fact that the Commission doesn’t understand how its own standards work, and staff are inventing new ones to suit the political climate without looking at how everything fits together.


  17. One thought that occurs is that if Blue Night goes premium fare, we’re one step closer to a fully two tier system. What’s next? Ride 97 for standard fare but express fare for subway?

    Steve: Well, if the subway goes to premium fare like GO, maybe they can institute a “15-minutes late and it’s free” rule.


  18. Is there still a union contract between the union and the TTC that disallows part-time workers? Couldn’t semi-retirees, those on medical, maturity, or parental leave do some of the part-time work required instead of overtime?

    Steve: It’s not the contract that is the problem. The TTC spends a bit over a month of full time training just getting a new employee to the point that they are qualified to drive a transit vehicle. That’s a fairly big investment, and such employees would then get the worst of the work, the leftovers, the bits of shifts nobody wants. They would not be convenient hours as anyone who is a junior operator will tell you. This is not an attractive part time job, and the TTC feels that the turnover would be substantial.

    Semi-retirees probably have lots of seniority and are used to working the hours they want on fairly quiet routes. Going back to the worst of the rush hour and evening/weekend work is not likely to be appealing. There might be some takers, but don’t count on it.

    Medical leave is just what it says — you’re off for medical reasons. Such people cannot operate a public vehicle either because they are physically incapable of it — injury, chronic condition, compromise of their recovery. People who are pregnant and/or on maternity/paternity leave are off for a reason.

    The cost of “overtime” is lower than the 1.5 multiple on wages suggests because some of the benefit package does not scale up when you work more. Vacation, health coverage and sick time are unchanged. The shift premium discussed earlier in this thread is a per diem for regular crews and does not apply to overtime. The one cost that probably does scale up is the pension contribution which is typically a percentage of the gross pay. However, the TTC pension is underfunded from the employer side and it’s unclear whether they will ever pay in the full amount of their share. This may be an accounting liability, but not a current cost in 100-cent dollars. If we take the benefits as typically being worth 20%, then the actual base rate is about 1.2 the official rate. Overtime at 1.5 is a 25% premium (0.3 on a base of 1.2), not 50% (0.5 on a base of 1.1).

    It is cheaper to pay an employee the TTC already has to work more hours than to keep more spare employees on hand, possibly not working a full shift but getting paid for one including full benefits. The total dollar value of overtime cited by the Post article is well under 1% of the TTC’s total labour cost. I’m a bit suspicious of this, but for such a low level, you don’t get very far with part time staff replacing the overtime.


  19. At the end of the day, aside from one too many managers, there really is not a spending problem at the TTC. In fact the TTC is too efficient, and the Commission should be aware of that. If the TTC was in Rome, Paris, New York, Chicago, then it would be recovering less than half its operating costs from fares. In NYC it’s a little higher, and in Rome I believe they only cover 30% of costs from fares.

    The TTC has a bargain with the TTC, and they don’t even understand that.


  20. @Steve:

    In response to my Q for Gord who posted:

    This policy also covers Subway and SRT Operators when their delay is five minutes or over. So as you can see, as a Bus Operator, I would be paid 30 minutes if I am 15 minutes late

    You then posted:

    Steve: The high penalty (from management’s point of view) is intended to “encourage” practices that will get operators off work close to the time when this is supposed to occur. This followed many years in which operators routinely came in well behind their scheduled times because of problems with service including on the subway where that catch-all excuse, traffic congestion, does not explain the problem.

    I don’t get it. Why are they paying double time? This is a union demand to penalize the employer and meant to reduce/stop the practice that brings about said penalty. It is a practice that is open to abuse. Drag your a.. and get more money. No incentive for the Operator to get finished work.

    Steve: You can read it either way. The problem as I understand it was that finishing late, but not late enough to trigger any penalty payments, used to be extremely common.


  21. Also, @Glenn Chan: Accessibility is an inherent advantage that low-floor Light Rail has over any subway or heavy rail.

    I’m not sure I follow. Any streetcar needs platforms that are level with the streetcar floor to be wheelchair accessible. I believe that even the PCC streetcars could be made accessible (though the ramp would be very large). Toronto may have a hard time with making the low-floor streetcars accessible as some streets have limited room… I don’t know if some lanes will be reduced to make room for an accessible platform or bumpout (e.g. as on Roncesvalles).

    Subways pull up to a level platform so they are accessible… as long as the station has an elevator to get you up to street or bus level. (Unfortunately many stations were designed a long time ago without accessibility in mind.)


  22. I and many of my fellow dialysis patients are confused. Which group does the TTC want to bar from Wheel-Trans — all dialysis patients OR the subset of ambulatory dialysis patients? Media reports about this have been vague. Not surprising, since dialysis is not well understood.

    Steve: Patients who would not otherwise qualify for Wheel-Trans service because they are ambulatory would be dropped.

    Also, my understanding is that a final decision on this won’t be made until December, correct?

    Steve: The TTC is looking for other funding sources, and my sense of the meeting is that a final decision won’t be taken until early in 2012. However, the TTC’s press release on actions taken at the Commission meeting is silent on this.

    Oh, and the business of “creating individual plans” for dialysis patients to access the “significantly” (!?!) accessible conventional transit system is laughable when Wheel-Trans has a virtually non-existent customer service function. Try phoning them.


  23. Hi Steve:-

    Your comment;

    “Operators on crews commencing between 1:00 pm and 1:00 am the following day … will be paid an additional shift premium of $6.00 (8 hours x $.75).”

    is interesting because that means that those Operators on the BD blue that start in the wee hours of the morning are not getting shift premium as they start approx 4 a.m. and then they go to a route in their own division’s area. One I recall becomes the first bus out on Royal York S for example. The Coxwell Blue Operators, just stay on Coxwell.

    So of the early buses out there, those Crews at the end of the blue services are not receiving shift premium. And this occurs at a time when the service is ramping up for the am peak.

    Oh and by the way. I have all too frequently seen passengers almost left at the stop by late (just before the subway opens) BD Blues because those horrid less than 50% low floor sardine can diesel buses cannot accommodate them. They are not a decent vehicle choice for a heavy trunk route like BD for sure. Or Yonge for that matter as the early (just after the subway closes buses) are full before reaching Dundas NB.


    Steve: That wasn’t a comment. It’s a direct quote from the ATU contract.

    Also, when I have written about the cost of night service, I am dealing only with the 0200 to 0500 period. The “day” service on many routes starts around 5 am, and there’s no way this could be eliminated as part of a “blue night” cutback. Night-only routes that cover the subway ramp up to handle additional load at the start of service as you describe.


  24. The issue of paying double time for Delay Time actually stems from a number of supervisors who had a tendency to abuse “complete your mileage” to the detriment of operators who were finishing late due to traffic congestion — a catch phrase to be sure, but which covers such issues a lack of adequate running time on busy routes which does lead to vehicles running late. It is actually quite amazing how much an additional two or three minutes can make!

    As for the subway issue, traffic congestion is actually a problem! Trains get backed up waiting to enter the yards, which causes the entire line to slow down — witness the BD line after the morning and afternoon rush hours when the deadhead trains run in to Greenwood yard from Kennedy Station — the eastbound trains tend to crawl from Main to Kennedy. This is also a problem at the end of the service day — it is routine for the late evening subway operators to be up to half an hour late handing off their trains to the hostlers at Greenwood portal.

    The other question that was asked was about operators having no incentive to finish on time and therefore rack up tonnes of double time. In theory — yes, in practice — no, as the management monitors this very closely as part of their route management process. Chronic offenders are compared with the other operators on the line. If every run is running 5 minutes late and the operator in question is continuously running much later than the average they can expect an undercover rider to monitor them. They will soon find that they get to have a chat with the superintendent and receive a warning. Failure to improve will result in more undercover monitoring and a possible unpaid suspension.

    Late finishing is the primary reason for the rider’s favourite scenario — the short turn! As well, the route supervisor also has the ability to perform a street change over (also done on the subway where the crew crosses the platform to get back on time).

    Hopefully, my comments answer some of the questions. If not, keep the questions coming.


  25. @Glenn Chan

    That’s exactly why I specifically said “low-floor LRT”. I’m not talking about PCC’s or existing streetcars.

    Subways require escalators and elevators in order to be accessible. Surface LRT does not. Aside from the kerb (1 step), access to LRT is practically stepless, more so if the entrance to the LRT platform is sloped.

    Even if a subway is equipped with escalators and elevators, access between neighbourhood and train is still more difficult than that of surface transit. It would be easy for one to hop on-and-off a low-floor LRT on street level, but not for subways.

    Nevermind the walking distance to a subway station would likely be greater, due to high capital and operating costs to provide this expensive and artificial form of accessibility.


  26. @Gord:

    Thanks once again for your insight and clarification. I would like your advice on a situation I ran across. A delay at the start of rush hour (3 pm) on a main route at the far end of the route. Bus comes along and I politely ask about the delay. Operator says he was asked to give up his 10 minute break to get things moving. (Thanks!) My understanding is he would then be paid DOUBLE time for the ENTIRE remainder of his shift which likely had only begun recently. Is this correct? Seems beyond generous.

    Steve: As I understand things, the double time payment only applies to time beyond the scheduled end of the shift.

    Also, a comment was posted on line that Operators get NO break during their shift. True? Did refer to coffee break? Are there not requirements for a (30 min?) meal break by Ontario Labour Law?

    Steve: It depends. First off, many shifts have two separate pieces of work involved with a break between them. Whether the operator is paid for the entire time depends on the length of the break. Straight-through shifts during the daytime have coffee breaks built into them, although these can be lost to short turns as you describe. For example, on the King car, relief operators drive cars up and down Broadview while the regular operators have a break at Queen Street. This only works if all of the cars actually go to Broadview Station. The arrangements vary from route to route. There are no coffee breaks for evening or night crews (Gord can probably fill us in on the point where crews don’t get them), and this means operators have to catch breaks as they can during their shifts. This leads to the “why is my bus sitting empty while the operator goes to the washroom/cafe” problem.


  27. Steve, I will attempt to shed some light on some of the questions that have been raised about how TTC crews, breaks, overtime, etc. work. I am not an expert on these issues (I quite often stare at my pay stub and wonder at the complexity of the formula for calculating my pay – refered to a long time ago in another topic here).

    Our crews break down into several different types:
    Early Regular
    Straight crew with platform time over 7 hrs 29 min finishing before 3:30 PM

    Late Regular
    Straight crew with platform time over 7 hrs 29 min finishing between 3:31 PM and 8:00 PM

    A two piece crew with platform value over 7 hrs 29 min and generally working AM and PM rush periods

    Early Relief
    A crew with platform value over 7 hrs 29 min and finishing between 8:00 PM and 10:00 PM

    Late Relief
    A one or two piece crew with a platform value over 7 hrs 29 min finishing after 10:00 PM excluding designated night crews

    Night Crews
    Those crews starting around 9:00 PM and finishing around 5:00 AM to 6:00 AM and designated as such on the Operator’s Board

    Platform value is the time we actually spend in the seat operating. There are numerous other add ins that add up to the total value for the crew.

    It is actually a fact that some operators do not get a break or get shortenned breaks. ATU113 and the TTC have an agreement that enables the parties to not follow the ESA on breaks. All operators are paid out at the end of the year a sum of money which is supposed to be equivalent to the missed breaks. Operators on Regulars have short breaks (typically 15 to 20 minutes) before they step back onto a vehicle. As well, one piece late relief and night crews do not usually have a scheduled break outside of 2 or 3 minute layovers at the ends of the line. Late relief and night operators will make their own breaks for washroom or coffee or fast snack time. This is what led to the now infamous situation at 3 AM at Bathurst and Wilson.

    If the operator stops mid-route on a night crew to use the washroom; it is because the end of the routes do not have readily available facilities (loops located a Steeles Ave). Some routes do have washroom access at certain points (322/324 at Bingham Loop or Broadview Station) but many do not. Operating on Route 302, for example, I would stop in front of Birchmount Division and pop in to use the facilities there.

    As for Raymond Kennedy’s question about double time; it would be paid ONLY for the loss of the 10 minute break, as well as any time that runs past the finish time.

    Steve: Thanks for this detailed breakdown.


  28. Back in 1996, they had closed down Lansdowne with compensate for reductions.

    So, TTC can downsize its fleet by closing New Eglinton after poor customer problems, complaints, and lack of maintenance of buses. They had poor experiences on the Orion VII buses since 2003. However back in 2002, they had the glory days replaced Danforth and Old Eglinton. Since then several routes that uses one type of 300+ breaks down daily.

    IMO, if TTC decides to close New Eglinton garage (the garage is right behind the consumer areas, a movie theatre), they can save money by reallocating their existing routes to Birchmount, Malvern, and Wilson garages. There might be a possibility of having Birchmount and Queensway’s bus sizes expading if closure is possible depending on the budget.

    Steve: I believe that the cutback in fleet activity will be reflected around the system as some garages are already crowded and reduction of demand on them won’t result in any being closed. Indeed, the delays in Transit City (or whatever replaces it) have forced a re-evaluation of bus storage plans as the TTC had expected to begin seeing bus to LRT conversions within the next five years. The service cuts which are planned for February 2012 will actually buy the TTC some time in the cost of provisioning temporary garage space to handle system growth. That assumes, of course, that the service cuts are not restored in response to funding changes.


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