The Toronto Transit Commission’s monthly meeting will be on Wednesday, October 19. There are a few items of interest, most importantly the financial and riding information that has not been formally reported since April.
This report gives the TTC’s operating results to the end of August 2011. Ridership is 2.2% above budget and 5.2% over actual riding for the first eight months of 2010. My feelings about service cuts are well-known, and the idea of trimming service, forcing more crowding and longer waits is madness in the face of growing demand. We are no longer talking about cuts to the least-used services, but to major routes during some of their busiest periods.
Better riding brings more fare revenue to the tune of $9.2-million, a number that would be even higher were it not for a slightly lower than projected average fare (the proportion of trips taken by various lower-priced fares was slightly higher than expected). Among the factors credited for the strong riding is the growth in downtown condos and, by implication, the higher transit usage of people living close to the core area job market.
The projected “surplus” for 2011 is $2.4m. This is properly described as a reduction in the amount of subsidy needed to balance the TTC’s books. Although the TTC would love to carry forward such a surplus to future years, the City always claws it back arguing that in years where the TTC fell short, the City was on the hook for the difference as the ultimate funder.
A variety of revenue and expense items, some one-time, some ongoing, bring the 2011 books more or less to the projected subsidy level despite the stronger ridership and fare revenue. The TTC will expense about $10m in “corporate restructuring” related to downsizing its total workforce in the 2011 budget year. A further $7.2m will show up as a book loss when the TTC transfers the parking lot at York Mills and Yonge to Build Toronto for nominal sum rather than its TTC book value.
On the Capital Budget, there will be considerable underspending because of project delays. These include rescheduling of some major track projects to 2012, delays in the Vaughan subway extension, the subway resignalling and the new LRV carhouse at Ashbridges Bay.
Some of this is detailed in a report on Technical Amendments to the Capital Budget in which funds are shuffled between projects and years to reflect actual project timings and spending.
Toronto Transit Infrastructure Limited
This is a subsidiary company of the TTC formerly known as Toronto Transit Consultants Ltd. (TTCL). The now-TTIL has been used as a vehicle for consulting work on the proposed Sheppard Subway project, and its funding came from $162k in equity sitting in the TTCL accounts. (See TTC financial statements for 2010 at page 27 of the pdf). This amount includes $62k in retained earnings from work actually done through TTCL and $100k of the original capital investment by the TTC in TTCL as seed money.
At this point, TTIL has burned through almost all of its capital and has an equity value of only $2.8k. This decline will show up as a cost to the TTC on a consolidated basis, albeit a small one. Spending the money did not require an authorization by the TTC or Council because it was already in TTIL’s hands. However, the TTC’s shares in TTIL are now worth, effectively, nothing and they will have to book this as a capital loss.
A parallel situation exists with Toronto Coach Terminal Limited which has a $1m capital investment by TTC and a $15.6m receivable from its parent (the TTC). The company, the remains of Gray Coach Lines Limited, has a negative net worth, but this will, in theory, be offset as and when the bus terminal property is sold for redevelopment. TTIL does not have a comparable offsetting asset.
This report responds to a request by the Commission for additional information on the cost and composition of the Wheel Trans passengers.
The 2012 Wheel Trans budget includes a proposal that trips for kidney dialysis patients who do not otherwise meet the eligibility criteria for WT service be discontinued unless alternate funding is made available. TTC staff continues to investigate funding sources, but plans to issue notices at the end of November that service will be terminated at yearend in the absence of new money. This policy change reduces, but does not eliminate the shortfall in WT funding for 2012, and severe cuts to WT service levels remain a possibility.
The 2012 budget included a proposal to begin charging for text messages giving projected vehicle arrival times. This scheme has been put on hold for various reasons:
- Most bus stops don’t have next vehicle info stickers giving the code number for the stop, and as a result, usage of the system for bus routes is still quite small and within available budget.
- As part of the overall Customer Service initiative, the TTC may wish to make other changes to information posted at bus stops. If there is to be a project requiring staff to visit every stop, then this opportunity should be used to make any other changes at the same time.
- The cost of text message services to the TTC may decline in 2012 due both to the beginning of a new service provider contract, and because of potential revenue from ads bundled with the transit info.
Meanwhile, the TTC will also encourage use of free services such as those provided by Nextbus and various other web applications by those riders who have devices capable of accessing them.
TTC staff recommend that the proposed rollout plan for accessible stations remain unchanged despite a request that Keele Station be moved up from the currently scheduled 2018.
The overall schedule includes four stations on the SRT which, by the time accessibility is scheduled to occur, should have been rebuilt as part of the Eglinton-Crosstown LRT line.