What is “Service Efficiency”?

Toronto launched its 2012 budget on November 28, 2011 with an overview presentation.  Much of this has nothing to do with transit, and I will leave analysis of the full budget to others.  For those who like the details, further information about the TTC’s Operating, Wheel-Trans and Capital Budgets can be found in the Analyst Notes.

The City’s Budget Committee will consider details of the TTC budgets on December 6, 2011, and the Commission will debate the final version of its budget on December 14.  Everything goes to Council on January 17, 2012.

City of Toronto Budget Presentations

TTC Budget Analysts Notes:  Operating  Capital

Operating Budget

The City’s contribution to the TTC’s operations in 2012 is budgeted at $404.1-million, down from $429.1m (budget) and $425.6m (projected) in 2011.  Still outstanding is the question of a fare increase, although the TTC plans to consider a 10-cent hike in adult token fares (with proportional adjustments to other fare types) in December 2011.

Several “service efficiencies” were proposed for the TTC including a reduction in loading standards and the elimination or restructing of all night services.  Council voted to “receive” these recommendations in late September, but the TTC went ahead with the new loading standards anyhow.  This led to the long list of service cuts effective in January 2012.

City Manager Joe Pennachetti was asked to explain the difference between an efficiency and a change in service.  He replied that if an existing service could be delivered at less cost, that’s an “efficiency”.  Otherwise, it’s a change in the level of service.

That’s the new spin we have on “service cuts”.  Changes to TTC routes are not “cuts” because people can still ride buses and streetcars, just not as comfortably.  This assumes you can get on at all.

Often I am asked how the service cuts could be backed out.  There are a number of considerations.

The net saving in the Operating Budget is $14m which is actually an expense saving of $21m offset by $7m in lost fare revenue (roughly 3.5m riders at $2 each).  The ten cent fare increase is projected to bring in about $30m.  In round numbers we could get the $14m with another five cents on the fare increase assuming this does not drive away a disproportionate number of riders.

Alternately, if this came as a tax increase, we know that the proposed 2.5% property tax increase will yield $57m.  We would need about another 0.6% to generate $14m from this tax.

However, the City also will carry over an operating surplus in 2011 just as it has in many previous years.  City staff want to use some of this to fund capital projects (see below) and part to go into the Tax Stabilization Reserve.  That reserve is actually yields $83m of the 2012 budget, and so in reality a good chunk of the projected $139m surplus will cover a gap in the 2012 budget.

The money to keep TTC service levels at 2011 standards could come from this pot also, although we would have to hope that the TTC itself would generate a 2012 “surplus” thanks to good service and strong riding to justify staying with the more generous service standards permanently.  Otherwise, we would be back with the same proposed cuts for 2013.

For a detailed look at the City’s sources of revenue and historical use of surpluses and reserves, visit Matt Elliott’s Ford for Toronto site.


The Wheel-Trans service will be withdrawn from dialysis patients in January 2012 unless an external source of funding can be found.  Overall, Wheel-Trans will carry 55,300 fewer trips in 2012 than are projected for 2011.

According to the Budget Analyst’s report, the City is seeking a further $8m saving (about 9%) in the Wheel-Trans budget to reduce its subsidy requirement.  On page 3 of the notes, we see:

5. the Chief General Manager of the Toronto Transit Commission report back to the Budget Committee by its final wrap-up meeting of January 9, 2012 with options to reduce the Wheel-Trans operating budget by a further $8.001 million, such as a $0.10 fare increase or additional reductions to service.

Considering that the entire fare revenue of Wheel-Trans is only $5.3m, it is unclear how a modest fare increase could generate so much revenue.  There is no indication of what a 9% cut in Wheel-Trans funding and operations would entail for riders.

Capital Budget

On the capital side, the big problem remains how to finance the City’s share of some large projects, mainly the replacement of transit vehicles.

When Council looked at the 2011 budget, the future spending was well beyond their comfort level in terms of the amount of City debt and the uncertainty of future subsidy programs from Queen’s Park and Ottawa.  All projects that were not already committed were zeroed out in the budget effectively killing any commitment to years beyond 2012.

In the 2012 budget, funding has been restored for many projects on the basis that the budget is now affordable.  How we got to this state is a combination of project deferrals and creative accounting.

In September, the TTC adopted an amended capital plan that deferred over $1-billion in expenses beyond the 10-year planning window.  This eliminated one batch of bus purchases, shaved 19 cars off of the new streetcar order, and dropped 10 Toronto Rocket trains intended for additional service.  Spin-off effects of these changes included elimination of the need for additional bus and subway car storage.

(See also the City’s Capital Budget presentation at page 27.)

The remaining gap of $1.149b will be filled with:

  • $294m reduction in 2012’s spending request
  • $193m reduction in 2011’s planned spending
  • $ 25m additional development charges in 2012
  • $700m asset sales, city operating surplus, renewed subsidy programs

The last item has little detail, but is composed of whatever money the City can cobble together by selling assets (such as a part share in Toronto Hydro), using some of the 2011 City operating surplus, and hopes that Queen’s Park and Ottawa will extend or replace subsidy programs that are now winding down.  This may be wishful thinking in the current economic climate.

With this rather expensive collection of fig leaves, funding is restored to future capital projects in the budget.  However, notable by its absence is any reference to the Sheppard Subway because that scheme is not yet an approved project, not even to the point of coming “above the line” in the budget with actual commitments and projected funding.

The Service Efficiency Study

Accenture, a management consulting firm who also, wearing another hat, have the contract to provide and operate the provincial Presto system, were retained by the City Manager to review the TTC’s operations.

Their report covers many of the usual areas you would expect from such consultants such as business process re-engineering, headcounts, absenteeism and overtime.  It also wanders into operational areas where Accenture’s unfamiliarity with transit is glaringly obvious.

Pages 9-11 include a table summarizing various possible actions and savings, and claims possible annual reductions of $57-101-million.  This analysis makes the first and most basic mistake of TTC budget critics:  it combines costs and savings from the three budgets into one total.  Unwary readers may miss the fact that almost 40% of the savings, at maximum value, are not in the Operating budget, but lie in Wheel-Trans or in Capital.

A number of recommendations bear on the TTC’s Information Technology where problems of archaic or unco-ordinated systems lead to inefficiencies, difficulties in data sharing and, one would expect, extra costs.  The potential savings identified are small, and a wise manager waits until a project is actually up and running successfully before counting them.

The greater problem with poor IT systems is that some things just don’t get done, or done very well, because they are too difficult.  Oddly, Accenture made no mention of the fact that field staff have access to less information about service than an average, well-informed rider does on their smartphone.  The TTC will not improve line management until they start using the very data already in their hands both for real-time and for historic analysis (some of which can be found elsewhere on this site).

The three largest contributions to operating savings are staff cuts, bus maintenance, and service standards.

Staff cuts contribute $22m in total both through downsizing and through a higher manager:staff ratio.  Of this, roughly 3/4 is attributable to the Operating budget.  The appropriate supervisory ratio will vary from unit to unit within an organization like the TTC, but it is unclear how extensively Accenture has considered this.  It’s no secret that the TTC is top-heavy although some areas, such as line management, probably need more, not fewer, better trained and equipped supervisory staff.

Bus maintenance savings (up to $13m) are presumed to come from outsourcing some work now done at higher cost by TTC staff.  Accenture observes that the TTC’s ratio of maintenance to total operating cost is about 25%, higher than other transit organizations at 19-21%.  It is hard to believe that the TTC is the only overpriced shop in North America, and there may be other reasons, including the lifespan of buses at TTC, that may underly this figure.  Long bus lives reduce ongoing capital costs, but this saving (which may cost more in maintenance to achieve) is not reflected in the total budget review.

The question of service standards is titled “Peak Hour and Off Peak Service Efficiency” in the report as if getting more people on a bus or streetcar is somehow more “efficient”.  Crowded buses spend longer at stops, and they have less-satisfied customers.  Both of these have a cost, but Accenture makes no effort to quantify this.  If this were a process control review at a factory, it would do little good to produce more widgets per hour if the defect rate went up or, worse, the after-purchase failure rate.

Much more troubling in this section (starting on page 30) is the reappearance of net loss figures in a review of TTC operations.  Although this exercise has been dropped from service reports for several years, the technique is still obviously in use internally in the TTC.

I don’t know how to say this any more bluntly:  it is impossible to allocate revenues to individual routes in a flat fare, free transfer system where the majority of riders don’t even pay per trip, but use passes.  Any figures purporting to show the subsidy due to a specific route or collection of services is a complete fabrication and is deeply misleading as a guide to service performance.  Lightly-used routes will always score low regardless of how one evaluates them, but so-called profit-and-loss statements for routes are riddled with inaccuracy.

In the past, the TTC has allocated revenue per “boarding” so that each link in a rider’s journey receives a fractional fare, typically about half of the system average.  Adjustments are made in this calculation to allow for routes with a high proportion of one-seat rides.  This scheme makes no allowance for the length of time or mileage travelled in each link.  Moreover, riders who transfer more than once will contribute more than 1 fare to the routes they use.

The cost of various operations is shown in Appendix F (page 63) with a breakdown by type of day and day or blue-night operation.

The first problem with this chart is that the total cost of operation is only about $825-million, well below the total cost of running the TTC.  Where does the other $600m go?  In fact, the numbers cited are for the bus fleet only as can easily be verified by comparing the total mileage with the annual statistics by mode.

Second, the calculated cost/hour is the same on Saturdays and Sundays even though staff are paid a premium for Sunday work.

Third, the cost/hour for night services is much higher than for everything else, and yet the cost per kilometre is much lower.  If we look at the hours and kilometres booked against the night service, we see that the average speed of operation is over 40km/h.  None of the night services operates at this speed, and the closest is Steeles East at 37.9.  Most are well below this figure.  There is a fundamental problem in the data used to calculate these costs.

Even more fascinating are statements about the amount of subsidy.  Accenture claims that the day routes consume $37m while the night routes consume $16m.

That’s only $53m out of a total subsidy 8 times this value, and this implies that the streetcar and rapid transit systems jointly consume over $350m in annual subsidy.  That simply does not make sense.

The report states that about 75% ($29m of $37m) of the subsidy to daytime routes goes to a handful of routes, and these should be reviewed for possible efficiencies.  These routes include 53 Steeles East and 86 Scarborough, both routes not known for their light ridership.  Indeed, Steeles East manages loads of close to a full bus, although it will lose 2 peak vehicles in January.

The report claims that Night Services have a 31% cost recovery ratio and are responsible for $16m of operating subsidy.  If this figure is correct, it is a small price to pay out of a $425m total (2011) subsidy to provide 24-hour service.  Elsewhere in the report (P10), Night Services are listed as part of “Ridership Growth Management”, a collection of changes intended to get more riders with no added cost.  How can the changes to Night Services fit this category when they will either save money from service cuts, improve their cost recovery from higher fares, and almost certainly have fewer riders overall.

A few other service-related observations deserve comment.

Accenture claims that the TTC manages to headways, not to schedules.  This is the complete opposite of what happens, except on the subway.

They also claim that the TTC is rolling out automatic passenger counters to get accurate passenger counts.  From the service debates of early 2011, we know that many of the TTC’s counts are years out of date.

One recommendation involves the use of express buses to carry long-haul passengers at lower cost.  Possibly Accenture has not read the Transit City Bus Plan which proposed exactly this a few years ago, but was shelved due to budget constraints.

Another recommendation advocates better priority for transit vehicles both in lane usage and in signal timings.  Possibly the consultants have not heard of the “war on the car” and how this scheme might not fit with today’s transportation planning philosophy.

Accenture talks about interlining and the elimination of double fares, but ignores the basic fact that revenue sharing across municipal boundaries requires added subsidy that nobody seems willing to pay.

They talk about fare cards as a way to reduce fraud, but ignore the fact that over half of all adult fares are now paid with passes.  Regardless of the technology, no fare system will eliminate evasion if it is not enforced, a practice we see rarely on the TTC because it costs money.

Rear-door loading is decried as a source of evasion, but the consultants ignore that this speeds service and increases vehicle utilization at times and places where most riders have transfers or passes anyhow.  This is a tradeoff of one “efficiency” (fare collection) for another (capacity and speed of loading).

The bottom line is that this report is full of holes.  There are efficiencies to be had at the TTC, improvements that could benefit both the organization and its customers.  You won’t find them in Accenture’s report.  Sadly, budget hawks at Council may use this document to go after the TTC for even more fictitious savings rather than concentrating on better service.

24 thoughts on “What is “Service Efficiency”?

  1. This is going to be a long one, I am putting it here because no matter how much Steve Munro and I disagreed or agreed, we have agreed to disagreed at many times and Steve M. hasn’t taken personal shots at me, thus keeping it classy, unlike others out there.

    When former Admiral Giambrone pushed most routes within Toronto until past midnight … he was wrong.

    The TTC has to look at each individual route (and each branch of those routes).

    169 Huntingwood has no more than 3 people after 10pm

    29 Dufferin … I find it wrong when 1 full/packed bus comes, then bus #2 comes right away with half empty then buses #3-5 go behind bus #2. Those buses are resources and could either have the line managed better and keep them far apart or put them for other routes.

    510 Spadina … bunching again.

    I could go on about each individual routes. We have to look at what is the minimum passenger load at night/weekends/other times.

    Let’s take the 95 York Mills….

    There should be an express route that goes like this:

    East End Loop | Meadowvale | Morningside | Neilson | Markam | Bellamy | McCowan | Brimley | Midland | Ellesmere RT | Kennedy | Birchmount | Warden | Pharmacy | Victoria Park | Don Mills | Leslie | Bayview | York Mills Station.

    Guess what those stops have? Major streets … same can be applies to Steeles (60/53)/Finch (26/29)/Sheppard (84/85)/Lawrence(52/54)/Eglinton (32/34), both sides of Yonge.

    Just one branch of each above routes does the Express route, the others do their local.

    This way it helps people from ends coming into YUS subway line. Someone going from Brimley to Lochinvar (one stop west of Don Mills) can take the 95 LOCAL.

    Not every route should go every 5 minutes. Not every route should go after midnight.

    Each individual route should be checked, specially outside rush hours.

    Steve: The few routes with very low ridership on the fringes would not make up for the cuts to peak period service capacity. I agree that if service were better managed, they would get more out of what they run. However, we all know that actually spacing service is something the TTC rarely does. Hence parades of Dufferin buses, etc. This has been a problem for decades, but the TTC would rather blame things on “congestion” rather than dealing with the fact that some vehicles take long layovers at terminals and leave in packs.


  2. Go watch Dufferin buses at Wilson, you see more than 3 buses just parked there. #1 bus comes, #2 and #2 catches up at Lawrence and Eglinton, gets worse south of St. Clair. 3 or more buses travelling together near Dufferin station is just an usual activity.

    However, not only 29 but also 25 and 7 have the same problem at similar level.


  3. Why would there be a Sunday premium for operators who are assigned Sundays as part of their regular workweek (Sunday can’t be provided entirely by overtime, surely there are plenty of operators who are assigned to most Sundays)?

    Steve: It’s in the contract. Always has been. This is probably a leftover of an era when working on Sunday was considered a quasi-holiday. The premium is 25% on platform time (time actually spent driving a vehicle) for the first 8 hours of work. After that point, overtime kicks in and the premium goes to 50%.


  4. “field staff have access to less information about service than an average, well-informed rider does on their smartphone”

    To me, that sums up one of the biggest problems with the way the TTC is run: the solutions exist, but aren’t implemented.


  5. Steve, this may not be appropriate in this thread, but I use the St.Clair car and I would like to know what the TTC’s excuse is for bunching along this route. Two weeks ago, there were 6 cars packed into St.Clair West, 4 of whom left together and I drew the lucky straw to be short turned at Lansdowne (with the announcement at Dufferin). I live at the end of the line and it is a regular occurrence to watch streetcars leave together at Gunns Loop, or within a minute or two apart. Rather infurating given the upheaval that construction of the right of way created.

    I wrote Karen Stintz pointing out that if vehicles leave terminal points together headways are pooched right off the bat. I got a nice reply that told me how much the chair supports public transit……and did not address my concern.

    Am I mistaken in supposing this is a very easy fix?

    Steve: Yes it is, but the TTC seems totally unwilling to address the problem. Every time I review actual operations based on the TTC’s own GPS data, the uneven departures from the terminals are glaringly obvious. The wide gaps get wider and the narrow ones narrower, and passengers get a far different service than is advertised. On paper, the average headway and load may fit the schedule and the standards, but that’s not what the average rider sees.

    Stintz’ lack of an appropriate response shows that, at a minimum, her staff don’t understand your issue. If she herself actually decided what to reply, well, all those bright smiles and speeches about better customer service are just so much hot air.


  6. Thanks, as ever, for this comprehensive post, Steve.

    The Globe this morning reports the following:

    “Staff also released a proposed capital budget that slices $1.1-billion from planned TTC projects over the coming nine years, including purchases of subway cars, streetcars and platform edge barriers at subway stations.”

    Is this in addition to cuts reported in the amended capital budget (09/11), or in line with them? That is: are we losing more than 10 trains and 15 cars? Do you have updated totals for each vehicle set? and/or: is there a place online where I can easily access a (n updated) schedule for the vehicles’ release? (Like many TTC users, I’m particularly interested in knowing the schedule for the subway train release. While it was fun for a while, I’m now sick of playing “spot the elusive rocket train”.)

    With thanks!

    Steve: These are the same cuts as in the amended capital budget. The trains would have been an add-on to the order now in progress which will still arrive as planned. What’s changed is that the TTC will no longer pre-buy cars it really does not need just to keep the production line at Thunder Bay rolling and cars coming in at a cheaper add-on price. There are spin-off effects of this including savings in new yard space, but it also means that the TTC won’t have enough trains to convert the entire YUS (including the Vaughan extension) to TRs, convert fully to automatic train control and shorten the headways as much as they had planned.

    Once the detailed budget books come out (likely in December), I will get a look at the updated fleet plans and will write an article on the effect of all of the changes.


  7. Steve, do you have the number of TTC riders on a daily basis who’ll be affected by the service cuts – you seem to have everything spreadsheeted, so just curious as to the overall numbers. Also, that is an interesting point about fare evasion versus loading efficiency!

    Steve: I don’t have the numbers of riders affected because the TTC does not report ridership by time of day. They cannot be inferred from the peak hour, average load info because all this tells you is that sometime in, say, the AM peak, the average load per bus was “X”. We know how many buses per hour operate on a route, but we don’t know the loading patterns outside of that peak hour. Things are even messier for longer periods such as “midday” and “Sunday daytime”.

    In one of the spreadsheets I posted, I calculated the capacity and riding in the peak hour for each affected service, but that doesn’t tell the full story. Depending on how close the service already is to being overloaded, the change in the headway will have different effects at different points within a period. The route may be super-crowded and leave many riders at stops for only one of the three hours in a peak period, depending on the characteristics of the demand on the route.

    Everyone, however, will be affected by longer wait times which, as I have discussed before, are usually much longer for the “average” rider than the posted values in the schedule due to bunching.


  8. Hi Steve and Karl:-

    Sunday premium is a norm in many companies in Toronto not just at the TTC. Many in the retail industry are paid a premium too, not as generous as 25%, but nonetheless, more than a ‘normal’ weekday’s hourly wage. Too, there is a night shift premium allocated for those who work at those scheduled shift times.

    This payment of a premium to work on a Sunday is an historical agreement that goes way back to the privately owned Toronto Railway Company of the 1890s. The TRC sorely wanted to operate their assets on Sundays too, which had been a City By-law that they could not. It was desired as a means of maximizing investment and adding in another day’s revenue to recoup the high capital outlay that car building, track construction and overhead stringing had cost them in upgrading the horse railway rather than having their large physical plant lie dormant one seventh of the time. The churches in the city were adamantly against this intrusion on Sunday services and that the Sabbath should be held sacred. As we know the trolley company prevailed, but to appease their opponents and the Motormen and Conductors who may themselves have supported their Church’s philosophical stance a premium was paid them to soften further opposition to the need for the employees’ services.

    The TTC is merely acting as a good corporate citizen should and seeing to it that their workers are properly accommodated.

    Dennis Rankin


  9. In the news today, I learned that American Airlines and its parent company AMR sought Chapter 11 protection. May not directly have anything to do with the TTC, but one reason for the protection by American Airlines is that they will be able to restructure and shed labour costs. In other words, the labour contracts are ripped up and starts up as if it were a new company.

    We heard about cities in the states going bankrupt and in so doing the labour contracts get thrown out. Could the same circumstances happen here in Toronto and the TTC? Rob Ford keeps saying Toronto is in financial trouble. Is this the direction he is going, bankruptcy protection, to get the current contracts thrown out?

    Steve: Toronto has a very long way to go before it would be bankrupt. The problem here is that we can afford to pay for the city, but we choose not to (or are bamboozled into thinking we should not have to). Also, labour laws are different here and I suspect that Toronto/TTC would not be able to get out of the current provisions just by declaring bankruptcy. In any event, if we really were near bankruptcy, why do we have a spectacularly good credit rating? That saves us a bundle in borrowing costs because lenders trust that we are good bets to repay the loans.


  10. Thank you, Dennis, for the extensive background on that contract clause. That explains quite a lot.

    I don’t agree that it has anything to do with good corporate citizenry or proper accommodation, it is only an anachronism that should have faded when its original purpose declined beyond a certain point, but like Sunday-only stops, that never happened – and likely won’t, which is too bad, because a rough math calculation suggests that that Sunday premium is worth over $10M/yr (50% of all service is in off-peak times, divide by 10 (assumed ratio of off-peak service that lands on Sunday, which is proportionally less than other days and thus divide by a value higher than 7 days a week), multiply by 20% to get value of premium on Sunday, multiply by 75% for labour portion of TTC operating budget, multiply by TTC operating budget value). The service cuts are worth $15M in 2012.

    Steve: So you’re saying operators should take a $15M pay cut collectively to pay for service restoration. Apples and oranges. Sunday pay is part of an overall compensation package and would have to be negotiated away, no doubt in exchange for something of roughly equal value.


  11. While as a former bus driver I am fully aware of how difficult a job it is, the existence of a Sunday premium wage rate is certainly something the TTC should look at as a way to reduce costs. We live in a seven day a week society now, and very few Americans (and I suspect Canadians) get paid extra for working on Sunday as part of a normal 40-hour workweek. Or, instead of going after this 25% premium, perhaps the TTC can raise fares 25% on Sundays and holidays to account for the significantly higher cost of operation. How about a $4 cash fare on Sundays and holidays only, or a 50 cent add-on fare for pass holders in order to subsidize the higher wage?

    Steve: Come off it. If we start linking fares to the cost of providing service, we will find larger variations between routes than whether it’s Sunday or not. Also, many costs (fuel, power, parts, supplies, much of the maintenance and administration) do not attract Sunday pay rates and you cannot presume a 25% bump in the entire cost of doing business. One could argue that peak riders should pay more because there are probably more operators working overtime, or that riders of the Sheppard Subway should pay a surcharge because the service they use is so out of proportion to their numbers.


  12. Steve: So you’re saying operators should take a $15M pay cut collectively to pay for service restoration. Apples and oranges. Sunday pay is part of an overall compensation package and would have to be negotiated away, no doubt in exchange for something of roughly equal value.

    I’m saying that anachronisms that no longer make sense should be retired. Even if service cuts weren’t on the horizon, this would raise eyebrows. There is no justification for the Sunday premium in an era when there’s much more to life on Sundays than church. The only reason this anachronism is there is that it has been there for over a century, and that’s just nonsensical. Its time has passed. This is hardly a huge sacrifice, and I find it ridiculous to attempt to frame it as if it were some draconian pay cut.

    A 25% premium would mean an operator that’s paid $28/hr most of the week would be $35/hr on Sunday, when traffic is lighter on most routes and so the job easier. It’s absurd to pay the workers more at times when the work is easier and less stressful. Given that service cuts are on the horizon, that $10M or whatever the exact figure works out to (it’s not $15M, I said $10M and I meant $10M) could be providing service instead of being wasted on a hangover from a bygone church-dominated era. If there’s a desire to improve public relations with TTC, saving service by retiring such silly anachronisms would be a great sign of goodwill.

    I don’t see how anybody can logically defend an operator getting an extra $7/hr or so just because it’s Sunday. In the 21st century, it makes no sense at all.

    Steve: To which I would reply simply that the change must be negotiated in the contract, not simply imposed because you don’t like it. Given that negotiations on the contract are in progress, and under the essential service designation this will probably wind up in arbitration, and a change in the rate of pay, even for one day, really is a pay cut, well, you’re just going to have to see how the negotiations/arbitration work out.


  13. Dennis Rankin wrote, “The churches in the city were adamantly against this intrusion on Sunday services and that the Sabbath should be held sacred.”

    Wasn’t it to help quell that opposition that the “Sunday Stop” was created, some of which still survive to this day?

    Steve: It is ironic that the move to accessible stops for streetcars (most Sunday stops are on streetcar lines) causes the Sunday stops to be discontinued because a sidewalk bubble and all the infrastructure of a “stop” doesn’t make sense for use one day a week.


  14. W. K. Lis asked, “We heard about cities in the states going bankrupt and in so doing the labour contracts get thrown out. Could the same circumstances happen here in Toronto and the TTC?”

    I don’t believe so (setting the point Steve made about the city being a long way from being bankrupt). Listening to an ‘expert’ on labour law today about he AMC situation, he specifically mentioned that bankruptcy protection under US law provides the ability to tear up collective agreements, which is a major difference with the laws here.


  15. I’m very confused by your quick dismissal of Accenture’s recommendation about transit signal priority. Is this not universally accepted among transit planners as a positive tool if implemented correctly? Dismissing it because of “political climate” seems too easy to say that. I’d post about “this is a good idea and here is how I think it should be introduced to the unfavourable political climate”.

    Steve: I am not dismissing Accenture’s recommendation on that point. I am pointing out that their political masters (those who commissioned the report) won’t be very interested in this idea. A related problem is that City traffic engineering staff do not exactly welcome signal priority at many locations with open arms, and actively work against its implementation. My irony appears to be lost on you.


  16. If we surcharge riders of the Sheppard Subway, shouldn’t the same logic apply to those who board at the extremities of other subway lines (Kipling, Islington, Downsview, Wilson, Kennedy)? The ridership of those segments is much lower than the average, therefore the attributed cost per rider is higher.

    Likewise, those who board buses at the fringes of the city, require more fuel and more driver’s labor to deliver them to the destination …

    Anyway, I don’t think such surcharges are practical.


  17. I am not a regular patron of TTC as I used to be; however I’d like to add one more thought (and a building block) to the “science” of route management.

    I have used (and I am still using) #24 [Victoria Park] as my main route. The following situation has arisen last week at VicPk. station. #24 comes for boarding and 30 seconds later #24A (to Fairview mall – Sheppard subway) comes in – and voila – they both vanish N/B along VicPk almost at the same time. This “bunching” at the departure time is counter-passenger and most probably only pro-TTC contract.

    Steve: The current schedule treats the 24A service to Consumers Road as a separate route on a 12 minute headway, while the main route 24 runs every 5 minutes in the AM peak. This inevitably will produce cases where two buses, one on each branch, are scheduled to leave at almost the same time. This situation is not unique and can be found wherever multiple routes (whether they have the same route number or not) leave from a common terminal on different headways.

    Similar mismanagement was happening years ago (I cannot confirm its existence). There came rush hour,dispatcher didn’t say to N/B #24 patrons, if and when next bus was coming and quite logically all passengers (there were always plenty of them) tried to board first bus at bay (the result was,that second was half-full and third almost empty). Same bunching was happening S/B along #24,when bus drivers must have seen one another in distance,but TTC didn’t give them walkie-talkies, so they couldn’t co-ordinate the boarding, which could have possibly accelerated bus movement along the route (winter time was always a good example).

    Steve: Bunching of the regular 24 buses (and many other routes) regularly produces uneven loading, and yes I agree that enough is not done to even things out so that each bus has roughly the same load on it. The absence of any interface to the vehicle monitoring system for the Route Supervisors is a travesty of TTC’s so-called Information Technology strategy because it prevents the most basic info, something any rider can get on a smart phone, from being in the hands of the people managing service in the field.

    One would think that at least during rush-hour TTC would be able to run express service btw. Vic.Pk station and Lawrence (for example) – at least N/B,where the departures from bay at the station can be somewhat controlled. – It always seemed quite naive to interrupt a route just for sake of accounting or master TTC contract. #34 and #32 and pre-David Gunn’s term #501 come to my mind.- I’d like to defend TTC on the argument of express buses,too. One of my co-workers has told me more than 20 years ago that TTC tried to have express service along #34 – and passengers didn’t like it because they (the passengers) tried to get off an express bus between “express-only” stops.

    Steve: The TTC had a plan for a network of express routes, but it was not funded by Council. Quite some time ago, both the 34 and 54 had express branches, but they were dropped because the proportion of riders who only rode between express stops was too low to justify splitting the service.

    I am not against personal hygiene; if a driver needs to go to “the facilities”, then to me it is a basic human right. On the other hand, an adult should be able to hold “his stuff” for an hour btw. Queen/Neville pk and Long Branch without dropping passengers at Humber.

    Steve: It takes an hour and a half to get from Neville to Long Branch, and that’s assuming off-peak traffic. If an operator needs a pee break at Humber, he should not kick passengers off of the car.


  18. @Michael Forest: The boardings at Kennedy in the AM peak hour is about equal to the alightings at King in its respective peak hour (there’s probably about 45 minutes’ lag between the two stations’ peak hours). Kennedy pulls its weight and could have difficulties being carried by another mode. The same is true by Islington, but not Kipling (Kipling plus Islington combined is about equal to Kennedy).


  19. The religious aspect of Sunday does seem an anachronism in today’s TTC where many operators subscribe to religions which worship on a different day or who subscribe to no religion at all. But that is not the end of the matter.

    If we adopt the view that salary is compensation for the worth of a person’s time, the reality is that while transit is a 24 x 7 x 365 service in Toronto many (most?) still work 9-5 M-F. To state that working on Sunday is no big deal is to see a worker as an individual, when that worker has family or friends who are 9-5ers and who he/she could otherwise be spending the day with. Having to work that day carries a larger opportunity cost than it might on a weekday.

    As for Sunday being a less stressful day to be a transit operator – Sunday is a day when many parades, runs, Gardiner / DVP maintenance closures and other disruptions are held. The loads might be lighter on the cars – but not on the streets they run on.

    I wonder how many who would eliminate any premium for Sunday work have such an arrangement in their own employment and how many rolled their eyes at US employers who demanded their staff abandon Thanksgiving dinner to come work at their big box stores?


  20. Steve said: It’s in the contract. Always has been. This is probably a leftover of an era when working on Sunday was considered a quasi-holiday. The premium is 25% on platform time (time actually spent driving a vehicle) for the first 8 hours of work. After that point, overtime kicks in and the premium goes to 50%.

    Are you saying after 8 hours, overtime (which I take it is Time and One Half) the premium is then 50% and thus Double Time? If so, that is beyond generous.

    Steve: No, double time means a 100% premium, not 50%.


  21. Steve,

    While I have the greatest respect for you (as you know); and also believe that TTC staff (and every other worker in society) should receive a reasonable compensation package; I can not take seriously the defense of Sunday wage premiums.

    Simply put, this premium is predicated on either ‘holiday work’ or 6th day work. Neither of which is true in contemporary society. Holiday pay is for holidays. And if you work six days a week, you should get overtime pay, I think that is entirely fair.

    However, if you are hired to work a five-day week, which is Sunday to Thursday, or the like; the idea that you should get paid more than someone working Monday to Friday in an era of 7-day shopping is simply absurd.

    I am an advocate of giving the TTC and transit in general greater funding, and paying staff fairly; but you can not demean the notion of value-for-money; and wages reasonably compared, not with the lowest-common-denominator, but with comparable averages in like professions.

    We also need to discuss the on-going issue of drivers on the SRT, on a system that does not require them, when Vancouver manages just fine w/o them.

    Put simply, more funding AND better value would deliver vastly better service, at a reasonable price.

    Steve: Sunday work represents about 1/12 of all of the hours worked on the bus network, according to the Accenture report. Therefore, getting rid of the premium would save 1/5 of what we now pay for the Sunday work by those who are entitled to the premium rate. That’s 1/60, or somewhat less than 2%. However, of the total TTC budget, part is consumed by staff who either don’t work on Sunday or who are not in a category eligible for Sunday premium, not to mention non-labour costs such as fuel which cost the same no matter when you consume it. I would be surprised if the value of the Sunday premium paid is much above 1% of the TTC’s total budget.

    We can come at this from another viewpoint. The total bus hours for Sundays is about 500K per year. If we are paying a $7/hour premium (25% of $28), then the cost of this premium is $3.5-million. That’s about 1/4 of 1% of the total budget. Add in the streetcars and rapid transit system, and you’ll have a hard time getting up to 1/2 of 1%.

    If we were starting from scratch on a pay schedule, this would obviously be something that would not be included, but it does not represent a vast saving overall. Getting rid of the premium won’t pay for even 1/3 of the cost of the pending service cuts. A basic point in labour negotiations is that you don’t go after things that won’t save much and will cause a huge ruckus to obtain. If you’re lucky you might get it through arbitration, but this is one I doubt would succeed via that path either.


  22. Perhaps if there had been more penalties for employers requiring weekend work then we would never have been forced as a society into what is quickly becoming a 24/7 work environment. The only reason for the move is greed on the part of some businesses and as more people are forced to work and commute odd hours and days, service industries (including transit) follow suit to accommodate the first round of these workers so they are able to bank and shop. The pattern repeats itself as more and more people shift away from ‘traditional’ work schedules.

    My first retail employer used a two-week schedule rotation which allowed me every second weekend off. My current retail employer uses a four-week rotation so that I only get one weekend off per month. This requires working seven consecutive 9-hour days (1-hour unpaid lunch) during part of the rotation. Normally this would not be legal according to Ontario Labour Law if they occur in the same week. In order to skirt the rules they shifted the defined start day of a week. Because their week starts on a Saturday and I have to work Monday through Sunday that’s five days in one “week” and two days in a separate “week”. Somehow this makes 56 hours of seven consecutive days’ shifts legal. All this to ensure that a smaller workforce is required to be able to handle larger weekend sales traffic.

    It will be interesting to see as more people lose access to 9-5, Monday-Friday jobs and also move further away extending their commute time, if this pattern has to morph further to allow these folks to shop at odd hours and with unpredictable peaks. I’m already seeing intense waves of customer traffic in the late morning on weekdays which is not a pattern typical of the past. (The vast majority of these customers have jobs. They aren’t ‘home-makers’, another ‘occupation’ that is quickly disappearing.)


  23. The city wants to lay off 324 TTC workers this year. Are some of these drivers? The concern is even if TTC riders want to pay an extra 5 cents to avoid service cuts, there might be no drivers available due to “efficiencies”. Also, would it require a 2/3 super-majority on city council to reject any specific cuts? I suspect most right-wing councillors would like to accept the argument of riders waiting only 30 seconds more.

    Steve: The TTC is dropping a bunch of management staff. Operator strength will be cut back through attrition. Although this avoids layoffs, it means that there are several months lead time to build up again because new operators must be recruited and trained, not just recalled from layoff.

    The budget can be amended by a simple majority.


  24. It is interesting to note that Sunday Premium has generated so much controversy here. Would Karl Junkin also have us lose our Shift Premium that we receive if we do work that starts after 1:00 PM? One has to keep in mind that we do not work “conventional” hours in the “real world” sense. Our work day typically starts around 5:00 – 5:30 AM and can last until approximately 1:30 -2:00 PM if you are working a “regular” or it can last until 5:30 – 6:00 PM if you are working a “swing” (split shift) with a large break in the middle of the day. I’m not complaining about this (I enjoy my job), but these are the things that make up for time lost with your family and missing family events.

    These are the items that TTC targets every time the CBA is up for negotiation. The CBA is currently in arbitration because the TTC never entered into a meaningful discussion with the three unions. All they did was present an ultimatum of “take aways” that had to be agreed to before they would even start negotiations! I don’t have all the details of these talks but it is clear that the TTC (and the City) were not prepared to negotiate in a meaningful way, but rather sought to provoke the unions into taking a form of job action such as a work to rule campaign. The union leadership of all three unions, to their credit, refused to bite at this provocation and have continued to state that they wanted a negotiated settlement and that they eventually had no choice but to seek arbitration to settle this as is the procedure under Bill 150.


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