This TTC meeting proved something of a surprise considering what was on the table: a fare hike of at least a dime, maybe more, as well as widespread cuts to service on the network. What actually happened was that Chair Karen Stintz proposed an alternative position based on the discovery of some wiggle room in the 2011 and 2012 budgets.
- The rise in diesel fuel costs was originally projected at a higher level, $5-million worth, than what the TTC actually expects to pay based on current market trends. Part of this money will be used to put off any service cuts to the schedule period that begins in mid-February, and the rest will be used to preserve existing service on a few “busy” routes through 2012.
- The projected “surplus” of $12-million on the 2011 operating budget may be directed to pay, in part, for an order of new buses so that service can be maintained. About $45m is needed both for the bus order and for yard space in which to store the vehicles.
- Cancellation of Wheel-Trans service for dialysis patients has been put off to June 30, 2012 to give more time for development of an alternative service and/or funding sources.
The Commission also approved a 10-cent fare increase for January 1, 2012 and, in principle, similar increases at the beginning of years 2013 through 2015.
The deferral of service cuts to February will allow the whole matter to be debated at Council (where it should have been in the first place) so that a decision can be made there on any possible increase to the TTC’s operating subsidy and the broader questions of future service quality. Meanwhile, TTC staff will put together a proposal for which routes are busy enough to warrant continuing service at 2011 levels through 2012.
This is a strange turn of events. Quite recently, staff proposed cuts based on loading standards that, if they were already being observed, would mean that buses had room for more riders. In practice, service on the street is not as good as staff claims, especially when allowance is made for the gap between the advertised frequency and reliability on the schedule and real life operation. Between the riding counts used to justify cuts in May 2011 and the tacit admission that plans for 2012 service cuts were ill-considered, the credibility of TTC Service Planning in reporting actual conditions leaves much to be desired.
If we cannot count on staff information to be accurate, how can anyone make intelligent policy decisions? This is a problem throughout the City’s 2012 budget process where information comes out only because Councillors who are not in the Ford camp pursue the details.
Commissioner Maria Augimeri screened a video of conditions on the Finch West bus. The first bus coming by does not even stop because the operator doesn’t think he can fit any more people on. If you pause the video, you will see that there appears to be space on board, but the bus is crowded at the front, and that’s what the operator bases his opinion on. So much for “room at the back”. This type of pass-up is reportedly quite common. The next bus is very crowded, and we view the ride from the front vestibule where, strictly speaking, there should be no passengers.
Many people representing a wide variety of communities and backgrounds urged that the TTC not raise fares and cut service.
One speaker challenged the TTC and members of Council to “walk in their shoes” and take the TTC for a week. Several Commissioners declined, while a few noted that they are already on the TTC. Oddly enough, Commissioner Crisanti, a Ford loyalist from Rexdale who is normally rather out of touch on TTC matters, took an interest in this deputation, probably because the group behind the video is from his ward.
There was a bit, but not much, open harrassment of public speakers by members of the Commission unlike the way the Budget Committee treated the hundreds who spoke there over two days. That’s just as well. Insulting the public would only further undermine the dwindling credibility of the commissioners.
Transit City came up frequently in the deputations. Unlike previous occasions, speakers were not stopped from addressing this topic because the Chair cannot claim that cancellation of the LRT network and the overall quality of the TTC are not linked. We have billions for Eglinton and Sheppard tunneling, little of which will co me from the private sector, but we don’t have money to operate the basic transit services. Hoped-for improvements, notably on Finch West, won’t happen because the LRT line was cancelled, and the TTC has no buses or budget headroom for service improvements, let along the capital cost of any transit priority scheme.
Councillor Joe Mihevc, former Vice-Chair of the TTC in the Miller administration, proposed that Council should vote for the original Transit City plan with Eglinton underground only from Black Creek to Brentcliffe, and that all work on the Sheppard subway scheme should stop. This was, of course, ignored by the Commission, but the idea shows where Council’s left is headed going into 2012.
Word on the street has Queen’s Park just waiting for Council to actually take a position on Toronto’s transit plans, a vote that has never been held even though the Mayor committed to getting Council approval for his agreement with Premier McGuinty. The open statement from Ford’s consultant, Gordon Chong, that the Sheppard line will attract at best 30% private sector financing, leaves the Sheppard proposal in ruins. If such a vote reaches the floor of Council, will enough of the “mushy middle” tell Rob Ford to take his plans and get lost, and affirm Council’s commitment to proposals much closer to Transit City?
In other news, the Humber Bay bus issue was put over to February’s meeting so that consultations with the neighbourhood can take place.
There was no supplementary agenda, and the issue of TTC relations with Metrolinx and the status of the Eglinton-Crosstown line was put off to January’s meeting.
The original post previewing the meeting from December 11 follows below.