Council Votes a Small Increase in TTC Funding (Update 3)

Updated January 28, 2012 at 10:15am:  One intriguing point about the proposed service restorations is the formula on which they are based.  Originally, the off-peak standard for frequent services was to change from “seated load” (on average) to “seated load plus 25%”.  On this basis, several routes and periods of operation would have service cut so that the allegedly existing seated loads were given 20% less service. 

(If you have five buses each with a seated load, and you cut the service to four buses (a 20% cut), then one quarter, or 25%, of the seated load from that fifth bus much be added to each of the remaining vehicles.)

Now the TTC proposes a standard of “seated plus 15%” saying that this will rescue many of the services that would have been cut.  Hello TTC.  If an existing service is already at seated plus 15%, then it is most certainly over the current standard of a seated load.  The same sort of calculation applies to the peak period bus routes that were already saved by an adjustment of the new standard.

The common point here and in the round of service cuts on lightly used routes last year is that the TTC’s riding counts are out of sync with the service they actually operate.  One one day, a revised standard may cause a service cut, but on another, amazingly, it turns out that there were more riders on those buses and streetcars than we had been led to believe.  Certainly many routes are operating beyond the “Ridership Growth Strategy” standard, and the amount of headroom to cut service is less than alleged by KPMG’s Core Services Review.  That document is a tangle of half-truths and bad research, but it was the underpinning of planned cuts to many City departments.

Why didn’t the TTC explain this during the budget reviews?

Updated January 27, 2012 at 11:25pm:  A “final budget” report on the TTC’s agenda for the January 31 meeting recommends spending the $5-million voted by Council either on restored service on the conventional system, or on avoiding a cutback in Wheel-Trans service.  The report includes a list of services that would be restored on March 25, 2012 reversing completely or partially the cuts pending for February 12, 2012.  There is no discussion of service restoration (which would require redoing the work sign-up for February on very short notice) for the period from February 12 to March 24.

While funding of Wheel-Trans will be advanced by some as a more humane way to use the $5m, the very clear intent of Council and of everyone who spoke in favour of this funding was to restore service on the regular bus system.  Wheel-Trans funding is a separate issue that even the TTC had agreed to leave until mid-year pending possible funding from another source.

At the meeting, we will see whether the Commission chooses to thwart the will of Council, and whether Councillors who voted the additional money will show up to read the riot act to those Commissioners who do not understand that Mayor Ford lost that vote, and the TTC should get on with restoring regular service.

Those who argue that the $5m is “not sustainable” because it is drawn from one-time funding conveniently ignore that it will have this status whether it is spent on regular routes or on Wheel-Trans.  Moreover, it is entirely likely that a good chunk of this money will appear in fare revenue from riding that is running ahead of budget predictions.

Updated January 23, 2012 at 10:55pm:  The option of using the extra subsidy voted by Council as part of the capital budget to pay for new streetcars has been ruled inappropriate by the City’s legal staff because this conflicts with the wording of Council’s motion.  However, because “restore service” could also be construed to refer to Wheel-Trans cuts (although that was not the intent), it is possible that the Commission might sneak through redirection of the funding anyhow.  How this will sit with Councillors who thought they were saving regular service remains to be seen.

The original article from January 18, 2012 follows:

In a surprise victory at City Council, progressive forces — an alliance of the left, the “mushy middle” and a few from the right wing — combined to restore funding in the 2012 budget in several areas including the TTC’s subsidy.  The vote on January 17 was as close as it could be with a 23-21 margin (one Councillor was off sick, and the vote would have been 23-22 if he were present).

The TTC will receive an additional $5-million for its operating subsidy in order to reverse some of the planned service cuts.  This is less than the full amount needed ($9m), and will likely result in a concentration on off-peak services.  Why only $5m?  The political compromise needed to pull together this vote involved a lot of horse trading, and many of the amounts involved for other budget areas were considerably lower — in the hundreds of thousands rather than millions — and the overall package had to stay within a scope the coalition could support.

The TTC must now consider how it will use the money, and the mechanics of unwinding cuts that have already been scheduled for mid-February.

As the TTC developed its 2012 budget, the first big challenge was to absorb a planned 10% cut in City funding (roughly $40m).  This was compounded by a large anticipated jump in diesel fuel prices and the need to provide service to a rapidly growing demand.  The original scheme to offset these and other limits on the budget was to cut service by reverting to the 2003 loading standards.  This would have increased crowding on many routes both during the peak and offpeak periods.

By December 2011, the Commission (a board drawn almost entirely from Ford’s loyal followers on Council) was feeling the heat, and they discovered a way to undo part of the planned cuts.  The cost of fuel was no longer forecast to be quite so stratospheric, and this freed up $5m that would be used to defer all cuts to mid-February, and to cancel the peak period cuts on about 20 very busy routes.  This approach clearly left open the possibility of additional funding coming from revisions to the City’s budget in January.

All the same, the normal operation of TTC scheduling and work selection required that the mid-February work be planned and posted for operators to select their crews.  This has already been in progress, and notices about service changes began to appear around the city at bus and streetcar stops late last week.  When the Commission reversed its original plans for January cuts back on December 14, the sign-up process was repeated for January with the old schedules.  If February’s cuts are to be backed out, a similar tactic will be needed now, but without enough money to undo all of the cuts, it won’t be as simple as just using the old schedules for another 6 weeks.

TTC management are now figuring out exactly what they will do, and I expect that there will be an announcement soon with the details.  One option is to run the February-March period as planned, service cuts and all, and then back out some of the cuts for the next set of schedules.  How this would sit with riders who, if they believe news stories, think that there will be no cuts at all, remains to be seen.

The longer term situation is more complex.  By cutting the Service Standards, the TTC reduced its need for new buses.  That changed future plans both for the total fleet size and provisions for garage space to handle growth that would push the TTC beyond its existing capacity.  This change contributed to a reduction in the TTC’s long-term capital plan, another of the demands made by the City to fit TTC’s needs within Toronto’s self-imposed cap on total borrowing for capital programs.

If peak Service Standards remain at their 2011 level, the TTC will run out of spare buses to increase service by the fall of 2013.  At this point, it is unclear whether they can resurrect their now-cancelled order, or if they must rejoin the queue for a later delivery.  Also, the Capital Budget must be updated to reflect both the added buses and some provision for their storage.

TTC’s capital needs very substantially exceed the money available to pay for them thanks to the gradual withdrawal of provincial and federal support.  Various stimulus programs have more or less wound down, and the vast majority of transit subsidy at both levels is targeted to specific projects (the Spadina subway extension, the Eglinton LRT/subway) rather than to general system needs.  Provincial gas tax funding is split roughly 60/40 between operating and capital, and this leaves almost nothing beside a much larger ongoing capital requirement.

During the budget debates at Council, the order for new streetcars became the scapegoat for the TTC’s capital problems.  This project has a total cost of about $1b just for the vehicles, not to mention the new carhouse at Ashbridges Bay and upgrades to the streetcar infrastructure (mainly the overhead power distribution system and retrofits at the two existing carhouses).  Queen’s Park will pick up 1/3 of the cost for the streetcars, but the rest is on the City’s tab.  (A hoped-for 1/3 from Ottawa never materialized, and the now-solidly Conservative political climate there is unlikely to improve chances for new federal subsidy programs.)

Over and over we heard how any spare money the City has in its budget should be directed to a reserve to pay for the new cars (the roughly $700m City share).  Aside from Mayor Ford’s openly confessed dislike of streetcars, more was going on here than meets the eye.

Throughout the 2012 budget process, Ford’s goal has been to cut off sources of revenue and, through this, to strangle programs he dislikes.  This was presented with the mantle of “fiscal responsibility” and of getting the City’s budget into a “sustainable” state.  The nub of the debate is the annual surplus in the Operating Budget.

Because municipalities are legally barred from running an operating deficit, their budgets tend to be drawn up conservatively so that they are not caught short.  Toronto has run a surplus for the past six years, and it is common for a good chunk of this to be rolled into the next year’s budget as revenue.  However, if times turn bad, so goes the argument, the “surplus” will vanish and Toronto will find itself short.

Meanwhile on the capital side, there is the problem of how to pay for a massive amount of transit spending of which the streetcars are only part.  Over $1b in planned projects has already been deferred beyond a 10-year horizon so that it does not officially appear in the budget projections.  However, that doesn’t make it vanish.

Ford’s proposal, one that only surfaced at a recent Executive Committee meeting, was that any operating surplus be dedicated to a reserve fund until the $700m needed for Toronto’s share of the streetcar purchase was fully-funded.  I might have more faith in this scheme if it had appeared as part of the original budget proposal last summer, but as a last-minute add-on it is suspect.  Ford’s real desire is to cut off the surplus as a fund available to allow last-minute budget changes by Council.  We hear endlessly about the horrible budget pressures the City faces in the most apocalyptic of descriptions.  Greece and the failing European Union are invoked as spectres of what Toronto might become.

In fact, part of the City’s financial pinch was self-inflicted by cancellation of the Vehicle Registration Tax and by a property tax freeze in 2011.  How was this funded?  With some of the 2010 operating surplus.

If the surplus, whatever its size, were dedicated to filling up a large transit reserve, this would scoop all of the available funding for four to five years and put it out of Council’s reach.  Councillors and “special interest groups” who complained would be painted as trying to deny downtown Toronto of its precious streetcars, vehicles that (Fordists claim) should never have been ordered in the first place without guaranteed funding.  That’s hogwash because “guaranteed funding” is available through taxes and debt provided one has the will to undertake it.

Paying for the streetcars with the surplus uses a supposedly unreliable source of funds and would probably do so in a shorter time period than the actual delivery and payment schedule for the cars.  If this purchase really is to be paid from current revenue, not from debt, the actual payments would stretch over a longer period assuming the surplus continues at roughly it current level.

Thus Ford’s hated streetcars would be used as a bludgeon both to sweep the surplus funds off of the table for the foreseeable future, and as a way to taunt his (mainly) downtown political enemies that the financial crunch was of their own making.  If the “surplus” actually became a standing part of the budget process, this could evolve into a de facto slush fund for other major projects such as the Sheppard Subway while doing nothing for overall transit capital needs.

Council didn’t go along with this, and reaffirmed its policy that any surplus not otherwise scooped as part of a following year’s budget would go into capital reserve funds.  TTC capital needs will be dealt with year-to-year as part of the overall capital plan.

The political history of this budget goes back to mid-2011 when Mayor Ford through the City Manager issued an edict that all departments must cut 10% from their budgets for 2012.  Things didn’t quite work out that way, notably with the largest single item in the City budget, the Police Service, where after much breast-beating by the Ford faction and  the Police Chief, the police actually wound up with a small increase for 2012.

Other line-by-line rescues were mounted at the Ford-dominated Budget and Executive Committees, ostensibly in response to last-minute discoveries of new revenue, but actually to a growing evidence of unrest among Toronto’s citizens.  Support for Ford’s slash-and-burn budgeting weakened the more Toronto learned how the seas of “gravy” supposedly washing across Nathan Phillips Square were actually puddles.  By the time the budget reached Council, a forum where Ford’s control has slipped away, there was a chance to wrest control of the process from the right wing, and that’s what happened.

The TTC now faces a challenge of policy and of planning for coming years, and the fact that the Commission is dominated by people who would rather preserve Mayor Ford’s fiscal view of the world does not bode well for the thorough discussion Toronto really needs about its transit system.

We already know that ridership is running ahead of projections for the 2012 budget, and that even with what funding Council has provided, the TTC will not be able to operate enough service to handle continued growth at the present rate (over 4%).  The uncertain future of major projects such as the Eglinton LRT/subway and the Sheppard line, the unknown status of Transit City or of any other transit improvements, and the on-again-off-again question of how the TTC will handle growing demand on the subway system — all these require a thorough, public review of transit’s status and options for the future.  We cannot afford to have budgets appear, assumptions and all, without the detailed background needed to understand the effect of what may seem to be short-term decisions.

Some Commissioners still don’t get the distinction between peak and offpeak service where the latter requires no new capital assets, only more operators, and where the marginal cost of service is lower.  TTC riding growth is strongest in the offpeak, and yet that is where the planned service cuts were concentrated.

If the Toronto had gone forward with the planned service cuts and with the associated downsizing of fleet and staff, we would inevitably hear excuses for years on end about the difficulty of restoring the system to what we had in 2011.  Although the Ridership Growth Strategy dates from 2003, the actual implementation took years to complete because other factors always seemed to get in the way.  There weren’t enough operators, or buses, or whatever.  Transit systems are large, and a decision to improve service quality cannot be implemented overnight.

February will probably bring an update on the Sheppard Subway project, and moves are already underway to force a vote at Council to undo the madness of the fully underground Eglinton LRT.  Rumours have Queen’s Park simply waiting for an official request to justify a return to their original plan while other rumours have some at the TTC pushing for a full-scale Eglinton subway.  Such is the state of transit “planning”.

Council gave the TTC $5m, a tiny sum beside a $1.5b budget.  What Council did not give was long-term direction on where the TTC should be going.  That decision cannot be left to the Commission itself without a full and honest public debate about the future of transit in Toronto.

37 thoughts on “Council Votes a Small Increase in TTC Funding (Update 3)

  1. Seems that Karen Stintz is not prepared to put the money into regular service, rather that $5M will be allocated to Wheel Trans to allow them to continue service for dialysis patients.

    Steve: That was not the intent of the motion at Council. In the linked Star article, Stintz says that the money shouldn’t be used to restore service because it’s not a sustainable revenue source. If so, how does she justify spending it on Wheel-Trans which is just as much an ongoing cost as the regular bus service? This sounds like a Ford sycophant trying to prevent through the back door what Council instructed.

    The motion states:

    g. The TTC budget be increased by $5 million to prevent service reductions;

    Although it does not mention Wheel-Trans or the conventional system, it’s clear everyone knew what the intent was. Karen Stintz is going to need support from the left and centre as the power of the Ford right dwindles, and this is no way to endear herself to what may be the new power block on Council.


  2. It should be remembered that ALL the commissioners except for one (Maria Augimeri) voted with the Ford brothers against the funding. That means they will have the say on where that money is going, most likely Wheel-Trans. It will be interesting at the next TTC meeting.

    Steve: See my response to the previous comment. They are setting this up as a “Wheel-Trans against pampered riders” debate. Disgusting.


  3. I know you guys won’t like this but isn’t this a better use of restored funds? To me, stranding a dozen FINCH WEST riders for another 58 seconds is worth having more dialysis patients being able to use WheelTrans. I think Ms. Stintz is right on the money on this one.

    Steve: No, the intent at Council was not to fund Wheel Trans. That wasn’t even part of the discussion. Stintz has now created a situation where there will be battles between users of the regular system and Wheel Trans about whose service gets funded. As for riders on Finch West, the peak period cut was already taken care of in a previous adjustment. It’s the offpeak riders whose service is being cut by 10-25% thanks to the new loading standards.

    Also, the TTC was seeking funding through another source for Wheel Trans. In effect, they have just scooped the $5m from Council and told the majority who voted for it to go fuck themselves.


  4. Looks like Karen Stinz has already decided not to restore any routes and put it all into WheelTrans. Of course she is not the Commission, but she certainly does not want the windfall if it will lead to any more capital expenses. Between Karen S and Paul Ainsle (library chair), we have 2 committee chairs who have voted against defending the institutions they are politically in charge of… but political price of power now that the mayor gets to choose chairs over committee electing one. Some of Miller reforms giving mayor more clout are really starting to hurt.


  5. I’m glad the TTC got some of its funding back, but it doesn’t change the fact that this kind of impromptu transit funding and planning is, pardon my French, fucking crazy.

    Why is there so much debate about spending what amounts to a couple of bucks per year per citizen to maintain an already-miserable level or service? And for that matter, why have we hamstrung our fleet’s ability tmaintainin this level of service for more than a couple of years? Why is replacing our dangerously decrepit streetcar fleet still being portrayed as downtown pinkos wanting new toys?

    Don’t get me wrong: I do know the reasons, but when one takes a step back and just looks at the face of the problem, it’s mind-blowing. How are we ever going to build an adequate transit system with this kind of myopic, backward and (charitably) indifferent leadership?


  6. The underlying problem has been the ability by Ford and Co. to frame the debate in their own terms. According to their scenario the City is broke and the Citizens are not only on the verge of tax revolt, but also unable to afford to spend a penny more on taxes. This is all hogwash and as Steve has pointed out above it is a cover for Ford’s desire to eliminate programs he does not like. However, few mainstream media commentators have been clear in exposing the mythical world as described by Ford. Presentation of the facts by Steve, or me or Adam Vaughan for that matter is dismissed as the ravings of “extreme” left wingers who are nothing more than a pressure group. As an example, Royson James today described Ford’s budget – which spends less than last year as an “accomplishment”. I do not believe this to be the case – taxes and the subsequent spending deliver services to Citizens and when less is spent fewer services are delivered. Why is this considered, in itself, an accomplishment.

    Another myth of the Ford presentation is the “out of control” spending by Lastman and Miller. The increases in City employment at the Police (Politically popular) and TTC (RGS as approved by Council) are portrayed as a bloating of a civil service sitting around City Hall with nothing to do. As a result 1,100 real people have lost their jobs for no good reason – other than a poisonous ideology substantiated by at the least a fundamental misunderstanding of the City’s structure and at worst a lie. The attack was not on a “bureaucracy” or even a union – it was on 1,100 families who had dreams for the future that are now under attack and in many cases shattered. However, supposedly “neutral” commentators have described this as “wresting control” from the power of the City’s Unions. What has that got to do with senseless attacks on real people.

    Don’t even get me started about the fake figure $775 million…..,

    Until the debate is framed by real verifiable facts it is difficult to present alternatives. It is amazing to me, that in the age of modern media and instant communication that politicians can continue to get away with arguments based in facts that are not true.

    Steve: “… facts that are not true …” Hmmmm. Sounds like the election campaign. Sounds like many election campaigns.


  7. Well, it’s no different than the Matlows and Junior Colle’s using community/welfare/library approach. To quote from the Star “Each was walking up to a lifeboat and saying: “Save my child!” ”

    And I don’t think anyone can argue that spending the money on dialysis patients is a waste and that a couple more buses on Lawrence is more valuable.

    Steve: No, the point is that at no time during the debate did anyone say “hey, the TTC needs $5m for dialysis patients” because that whole issue had been pushed off to the summer while the TTC sought an alternative funding source. If it was such an issue that Stintz grabbed the money, why didn’t she say that at Council?

    I think that cutting the dialysis patients is reprehensible, and it was one of the many boneheaded recommendations from the “Core Services Review”. However, it wasn’t on the table yesterday, and Council’s clear intent was to save regular service. If Stintz feels so keen on the dialysis patients, she had lots of time to find money for them through her buddies on Budget and Executive Committees. She chose to ignore this problem until after Council handed her $5m.


  8. Is there any sense to Rob Ford’s claim that the surplus is an investment in transit, beyond the political sense? The streetcars have already been purchased through debt. David Miller invested in them. The surplus will just be used to reduce the city’s debt, of which streetcars make a part. Does assigning it to streetcars actually unencumber the TTC in any way?

    Steve: Actually it’s a bit more complicated than that. The city has many capital programs and they are funded from all over the place. In any given year less than 40% of the capital budget is actually funded by debt. Some comes from project-specific subsidies while some comes from general funds that are directed to a specific area, or to the city as a whole. It is City policy that a chunk of each year’s capital will be paid with current revenue (the equivalent of making a down payment on a house to reduce mortgage costs).

    Next, the actual payments for the streetcars are spread out over the life of the contract. There was an upfront payment at signing that covers things like engineering, development and setup, and then there will be progress payments as the vehicles are delivered. Therefore the actual spending in each year is much, much less than the total contract for a project like this that runs for the better part of a decade. We have no way of knowing how big our future surpluses will be, but it’s a good bet that we will accumulate more than $700m worth of them well before the streetcar contract is finished. Why should we “pay” for costs that won’t actually be charged to Toronto early by squirreling the money away in advance? There are many other capital projects worthy of funding, and possibly even some stuff on the operating side (typically “rainy day” events that produce an unexpected sudden demand for funds).

    Moreover, the TTC has well over $1b of projects that are in need of funding, but which have been pushed out of sight to make the City’s future capital budget look smaller than it really will have to be. If we’re lucky, new funding will arrive from another government or a new tax source, and we can bring some of those projects back out “above the line” as part of the City’s budget, but we don’t know now, we can’t know what the lay of the land will be in five years. Even more to the point, several of the “below the line” projects have never been discussed by Council and it is unclear whether they would actually be approved. The streetcar order was approved (and with an expectation that the feds would kick in one third), and so it has to be “above the line” in the budget.

    The TTC is often its own biggest “encumbrance” because it fails to plan for many future costs and then discovers them at the last minute. One good example is the order for TR cars that was placed (I am not making this up) without including the cost of the automatic train control equipment. That was a very expensive “ooops” where the TTC put us in a position of having to push other capital projects off of the table to make room for their lousy planning. This happens quite regularly, and I can think of a few managers who should have been shown the door for what can only be described as incompetence. If not incompetence, then willful neglect which is something they probably would not want to admit to either.


  9. Steve, I mentioned it in a previous thread. The current city hall top dogs are already setting up another battle between the old boroughs of Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough versus the rest of Toronto. Future planning always gets screwed up because of political agendas (be they right or left … it should just be what’s proper for the city as a whole … and this is coming from a 905 resident! ).

    Steve, I also recall that after a particular call to 911 operators where Chief Blair said he didn’t hear anything wrong on the tape. After that Mr.Ford and he were quite buddy, buddy . So, I was expecting some sort of monetary results for the police because of it!! Take care and keep fighting!!!

    Steve: I don’t think that the suburbs vs downtown story is going to wash much longer when we have a coalition of suburban and “old Toronto” members who are responsible for Ford’s budget defeat. The Sun will always print crap on every page, but that’s how they sell newspapers.


  10. Further developments: in an article posted this afternoon by the Globe and Mail, Stintz is quoted as saying that the $5M “should be used for the streetcars as intended”. (“As intended” by Ford, not “as intended” by Colle or the other 22 councillors who voted for the $5M to be allocated.) The Wheel-Trans service (or new buses) is her fall-back position.

    Steve: It was “as intended” in the sense that Ford wanted to use all of the surplus for the capital account, and that’s where the $5m came from. Stintz really doesn’t get it that her side lost. She is probably wondering how much supporting Team Ford has cost her hopes of running a mayoral campaign.


  11. further to your comment Steve
    “The motion states:
    g. The TTC budget be increased by $5 million to prevent service reductions;”

    Well, preventing WheelTrans reductions is just as important.

    Steve: See my previous reply to your comment. I agree that WheelTrans is important, but that is not what Council voted for, and at no time during debate was this raised as an issue. Stintz does not get to rewrite history to suit her desire to thwart Council’s direction as a way of showing her loyalty to Ford’s plan.

    After all, she spent a long time telling anyone who would listen that this funding was “not sustainable” because it was “one time” money. So what will she do for the dialysis patients next year? We could build a wonderful transit system for the disabled if we didn’t build the Sheppard Subway, but nobody makes comments like that.


  12. We shouldn’t be cutting transit in a gridlock strained city — any cut to transit raises the impact of gridlock on our city. With the Pan Am Games 3 years away we need to go back to the deal of Transit City. Finally, can we follow Mississauga and other cities and add service not decrease it — that’s a benefit & can Stintz stop sugarcoating things and saying phrases that make no sense.


  13. The way I see it, capital debt is simply an indicator of how much infrastructure the city needs to keep, and nothing more. Therefore, annual debt servicing is nothing more than an ownership fee on taxpayers to pay for the mere existence of whatever infrastructure the debt is associated with.


  14. Also cutting 3 buses on Bathurst M-F MID-Day makes no sense especially because they don’t have enough buses any time as well same with the -5 on Queen so busy upon any route. These cuts are gonna hurt the city.


  15. It may be clear that we have a rogue chair of the TTC soon; but for the most part, I think the crew are Transit Ommissioners, not Commissioners, and they’re anti-transit, or they want to break the system in order to “fix” it.

    A major key to restoring stability in the planning is not simply by replacing those now in “charge” but reviving the Vehicle Registration Tax, perhaps with a tweaking to bias it in favour of smaller/lighter/cleaner vehicles.

    It is grossly hypocritical to be talking about user pay and fiscal responsibilities when there are quite a few studies indicating of all the freeloaders, it’s the cars that are the biggest, even though when out in the outer suburbs, they’re far more “needed” due to the lack of job and housing density.

    But let’s hope that this new-found majority will solidify; including putting any and all costs of the Transit City delays and cancellation charges directly onto the personal tab of our Mayor – no hiding behind taxpayers on this buck-up….


  16. The more I look at the “compromise” partial restoration of funds, the more I am concerned, because it gives political legitimacy to people who don’t deserve it, i.e. the “mushy middle”. This simply defuses the outrage at what Ford et al. are doing, allowing them to try again. There will be no significant improvement in Toronto’s civic politics and transit development until a Left majority is elected to Council, with more backbone, and solidarity with their backers, than Messrs. Miller and Rae showed during their mandates respectively at City Hall and the Legislature. The $5 million “gift” to the TTC is a poison pill, because the vast majority of voters would support its going exclusively to Wheel Trans, thus earning kudos for Ms. Stintz.

    A massive infusion of new money is needed, which means substantial property tax and fare increases. More pain and turmoil are needed before those solutions become not only acceptable, but willingly desired by voters. Not just Ford’s supporters, but the rest of the right-wing and “mushy middle” bunch need to be targeted for defeat by progressive forces. We’ll see their true colours at lockout time.

    A long sustained period of progressive government is what Toronto needs. As an example, look at Vienna and the achievements over 90 years of Social Democratic Party rule at the municipal level. Last year Vienna was rated as the best city in the world to live in.


  17. Grant,

    I will tell you how we are going to build an adequate transit system. We have to vote in new people at City Hall. That means, getting young people, and people with vision to run for council, and replace the people who have been sitting in City Hall for much too long.

    This is just embarrassing that the chair of the TTC voted against funding to keep service operating as is. She really needs to start riding the TTC more.


  18. It’s around October or so that the commission members are to be replaced, correct? If I’m not mistaken, the mayor recommends the members, but council has to approve them? I assume that means that council could amend the item at that point?

    Steve: Yes it could, and I hope that it will. Strictly speaking, it would be the Striking Committee that would propose the candidates, and that committee is now controlled by Ford loyalists. The big challenge for Council will be to replace Ford’s toadies with a group reflecting the actual balance of viewpoints on Council.


  19. Steve, in one of your responses you state:

    “I don’t think that the suburbs vs downtown story is going to wash much longer when we have a coalition of suburban and “old Toronto” members who are responsible for Ford’s budget defeat. The Sun will always print crap on every page, but that’s how they sell newspapers.”

    Indeed many of the so called “downtown” concerns were raised by Scarborough residents during a special forum as part of the Scarborough Community Council meeting last week, especially on the impact of the propose TTC service cuts. I didn’t attend that meeting but heard from those who did. I’m guessing the Ford allies there were expecting most citizens speaking would be there to defend the proposed budget and service cuts but it sounds like they got a rude awaking. Indeed, the irony is that this budget negatively impacts the suburbs more that the downtown.



  20. Steve: You said that the Striking Committee could propose replacements for TTC commissioners but they would be mainly Ford loyalists as the Striking Committee is composed mainly of Ford loyalists. So, is it virtually impossible to dilute the Ford content on the commission? Would council first have to dilute the Ford content of the Striking Committee, and would they be able to do so? Would council need a 2/3 super-majority? Even if it were possible, it seems the opposition power is very thin (about 23 centre-left votes versus 22 centre-right votes when Cllr Moeser comes out of hospital). It seemed that Cllr. Pasternak was a wavering mushy middle vote.

    Steve: Council can override the Striking Committee’s recommendations by a simple majority vote. The next task is to restructure the Striking Committee itself. I think even Pasternak would be upset at how Stintz is thumbing her nose at the intend of Council’s motion. On a larger scale, development of a reliably working majority on Council for the left/centre will take time, and much will be on an issue by issue basis. We must not project this week’s events months into the future as if nothing else will change.


  21. Cutting $5M in bus service is ludicrous in a city as congested as Toronto. We are facing really severe traffic congestion problems in this city now. Particularly on days when there is bad weather (rain or snow), we are seeing almost every highway other than the 407 in the GTA with severe congestion (bright red on the “Google Maps” traffic site) in rush hour and significant congestion in the middle of the day. We are getting to have traffic worse than Los Angeles some days, and we are in serious danger of becoming like Beijing, Sao Paulo, etc.

    The TTC needs to maintain the bus service it already has, and the 905 needs to expand. Also there needs to be a big GTA-wide subway building/commuter rail upgrade program. I don’t think that Transit City is adequate any more because traffic is just too bad, it might have been somewhat adequate 5 years ago but every year the city grows, traffic gets worse and “light rail” becomes less and less adequate.

    Los Angeles has tried “light rail” and it is totally ineffective, it is slow, low capacity, has low ridership and the highways which carry far more people are severely congested. Light rail is suitable for small cities like Calgary/Edmonton not big cities like the GTA. The GTA needs tens of billions of dollars of subways & commuter trains and greatly expanded bus service now and if we can’t afford it, raise taxes & implement road tolls so that we can.


  22. @Andrew Transit City is a much better plan than Ford’s stupid Subway plan. It costs less and is cleaner. On top of that Sheppard doesn’t have the #’s to support a subway. On top of that Sheppard subway is costing us money [for] the 4 stations. Also Toronto’s gridlock is worse than LA to begin with and we need to act now time to bring back Transit City. By the time we build a subway Toronto will be extinct due to gridlock.


  23. Los Angeles has tried “light rail” and it is totally ineffective

    Of course, because of political hostage-taking in LA (or horse trading, but more stand-off-ish), the brilliant powers that be built a BRT where there should have been an LRT (Orange Line) and built an LRT where there should have been a BRT (Gold Line). Obviously LRT will look bad in that light, because it’s a political cockup.

    It should be noted, though, that stand-alone lines are not where LRT shines, but rather how a well-designed/built network operates.


  24. 1. The Commission is a quasi-independent body. Council should not have directed them to essentially make operational changes using tied funding because then we might as well make the Commission redundant and bring monthly TTC changes to council.

    Steve: Many TTC funding issues go to Council routinely. This whole mess started because the budget process told the TTC to cut its subsidy requirement by 10%, and the TTC came back with various proposals including the service cuts. When a temporary reprieve was granted by extending the 2011 schedules to the middle of February and keeping the existing peak service on some routes, this was a clear sign that the option to do something at Council in January was in play. Otherwise, why not simply make all of the cuts in January and save the money?

    2. What I’m going to say next will sound pretty heartless. The use of the $5m for WheelTrans is a bonehead move. It is probably a lot easier politically to obtain ongoing *operational* funding from higher government for paratransit than for regular transit. The TTC should have taken the $5m and rolled back regular system cuts and sent the dialysis patients to their MPP and MP with a request for a provincial and national paratransit funding strategy. As the age profile of Canada moves to the right side of the demographic curve (also the voting side of the demographic curve) we’re not going to see a reduction in the need for paratransit no matter how many stations they fit with elevators or low floor buses they buy.

    Steve: Heartless though this sounds, I agree. Moreover, the TTC was pursuing alternate financing for WheelTrans. Here is an excerpt from the minutes of the December 14, 2011 meeting:

    That service for ambulatory dialysis patients be continued until the end of June 2012 so that the TTC can continue to work with the MOHLTC, the LHINS and the Kidney Foundation to find a funding solution so that service can continue to be provided to ambulatory dialysis patients.


  25. Steve,

    Has it ever gone through the Commission (current or previous) about having smaller buses in certain routes?

    King of the Sheppard stubway trains are smaller right?

    Steve: The number of routes where smaller buses would make sense all day is tiny, especially now that we have bumped the loading standards. If you can’t justify small buses in the rush hour, there is no point in having them for the off peak. Don’t forget also that the driver is a considerable cost, and a small bus forces a lower crew to passenger ratio.

    Also, smaller buses are not built to last as long as their bigger cousins, so one must do a life cycle comparison. A good example is the number of times Wheel Trans vehicles have been replaced in the time we have both been watching the TTC. A lot more often than full size buses.

    Yes, this has been discussed at the Commission a few times, usually when there’s a new batch of Commissioners who have a bright idea on how to save millions.


  26. @Karl Junkin

    RE: Los Angeles

    I believe that the Gold Line was supposed to be the continuation of the Blue line, but the link between the two lines never got built.


  27. STEVE: I assume you will, as time allows, give us a run-down of the TTC’s capital plans for 2012. As the new streetcars will be here this (or early next) year they presumably need to do quite abit of streetcar infrastructure and finish upgrading most of the overhead and there are several track projects that get moved ahead year by year. (Victoria, Wellington, York in particular.) On than, I noticed that the City is about to lay a new sewer and watermain on Adelaide so I suppose we may see Adelaide rebuilt (or abandoned) from Church to Charlotte once that’s finished and the street gets rebuilt. (Tender call is for: Watermain and Combined Sewer Reconstruction on Adelaide Street from Spadina Avenue to University Avenue.)

    The TTC are, typically, handling the streetcar pole replacement program in a very bizarre way. I assume this is connected to the new overhead that is slowly appearing. They replace a few poles on a block or area one year and then a few more the next etc etc; of course Hydro then seldom comes to move their wires/lights ovder so we end up with two sets of poles. The new overhead also seems to be installed bit by bit – including through the “bridge” at Victoria and Dundas where I have never seen any signs of a streetcar going!

    Steve: The TTC has still not published its detailed Capital Budget Blue Books for 2012. I am thinking of FOI-ing them, presuming that they even exist. Nothing like having a multi-billion dollar budget with no visible documentation.


  28. Council voted on a capital budget that included all kinds of changes to TTC capital spending plans without the Blue Books??? That would mean Council wasn’t making an informed decision, wouldn’t it? Has this happened before?

    Steve: Routinely. Indeed, the City’s budget analyst complains about the lack of budget detail all of the time. This year was particularly bad because of all the shuffling around to get the capital requirements down within City targets. I’m not sure that they actually have published an updated set of books.


  29. Steve: Did McGuinty renege on the Transit City funding? I seem to recall him cutting the funding in half from $8B to $4B but can’t seem to find any information on it.

    Steve: What happened was that the project schedule was stretched out so that Finch, for example, would not even start until about 2015/6 rather than being built concurrently with Sheppard. Eglinton was also stretched out even when 2/3 of the line would have been on the surface (don’t forget the part west of Jane was in the original plan). This change reduced the money that would have to be spent by what is now the “current” government and would push about half of the cost off into a period when, in theory, there were new sources of revenue and Ontario’s fiscal situation would have been better.


  30. Steve:

    On today’s update regarding “Seated Load”, has the TTC done a ridership survey recently? The last I remember from your reports is that they were basing service on surveys done years ago (not sure if it was before or after the Shepherd subway).

    Steve: In some cases, even the “before” ridership numbers the TTC published in their report about service changes showed that some routes and periods were close to or over the line, but not to the extent of saving as much service as the TTC now claims the new standard will do. For example, the old off-peak standard for ALRVs was 61. Seated plus 25% takes it to 76, while seated plus 15% takes it to 70.

    If you look at the spreadsheet I published in my article about the cuts, you will see that various periods of the Queen car (as an example) were very close to the old standard with average loads ranging from 54 to 61. The proposed February service would push this to a range of 63 to 71 showing that even in this scheme, the TTC was leaving some headroom. In the new budget report, all but one of the proposed changes would be completely reversed while the period with the lowest reported average loads (weekday midday) would have some of its service restored.

    I suspect that the TTC has either done new counts, or has used some common sense to factor up their old ones based on general ridership growth and the simple observation that riders on the street are not seeing the numbers the TTC claims. A subtle side-effect of cuts like this is that routes where short-turns already compromise service quality and capacity have an even greater effect because there is less slack in the system. The TTC learned this lesson with service cuts years ago, but in today’s political climate chose to ignore it because the formal Service Standards only recognize it indirectly through the more-generous loading standards brought in with the Ridership Growth Strategy.


  31. TTC seems to be on a big push to make transit more accessible, transferring traffic from WheelTrans to TTC.

    While you do see the occasional chair on a bus, it certainly doesn’t seem to have gotten the same way as Vancouver, where it’s an everyday occurrence – though I expect it will become increasingly common as more and more stations are made accessible. You do see a lot more big strollers than you used to though, especially on the streetcars now that the centre poll has gone. It’s not unusual to see 2 or 3 strollers on the streetcar these days.

    How is TTC adjusting their loading standards to deal with these changing usages?

    Steve: They don’t, and this is a big problem on some routes. Indeed, it is part of the whole debate about service standards that we are not having in the arbitrary moves to squeeze more people on TTC vehicles.

    For at least the new streetcars, the problem will be reduced by all-door loading and the provision of vestibules where large items like chairs, strollers, shopping cars and bikes can ride without blocking flow through the entire streetcar.


  32. nfitz says:

    January 29, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    “TTC seems to be on a big push to make transit more accessible, transferring traffic from WheelTrans to TTC.”

    “While you do see the occasional chair on a bus, it certainly doesn’t seem to have gotten the same way as Vancouver, where it’s an everyday occurrence – though I expect it will become increasingly common as more and more stations are made accessible. You do see a lot more big strollers than you used to though, especially on the streetcars now that the centre poll has gone. It’s not unusual to see 2 or 3 strollers on the streetcar these days.”

    Aside from the fact as you mention that much of the subway and all of the streetcars are not accessible another reason is the levels of service that the TTC has. If Transit only has 2 – 3% of the travellers in a region then people who have mobility issue tend to make up a far greater portion of this small number than they would of the numbers that the TTC carries. Though I tend to agree that the numbers seem lower here.

    The HSR in Hamilton has a rear door loading ramp on their buses as well as the normal front door one. This makes it much easier for a person in a larger wheel chair or scooter to get on than at the front door. I took a bus from downtown to Lime Ridge mall and back and a total of 5 people in scooters or wheel chairs got on and off, all but one used the rear door. The other had a small wheel chair that fit easily through the front doors, but the TTC would never use an idea that came from the HSR.

    I agree with your comment on strollers. They seem to be getting bigger and effectively block the aisle of a bus and make it almost impossible for other passengers to get by. They do not seem to be as big an impediment on streetcars though because of the wider doors and the lack of huge wheel wells just inside the front door. I got on a northbound King car at Roncesvalles and Queen with 40 others including 3 large baby buggies and 2 grocery carts. I was surprised at how fast the car loaded and even more surprised to find there were seats available. I would hate to think of that load getting on to a bus. There may have to be size restriction put on the size of stroller taken on the TTC.


  33. We spent a lot of time at Disney World last year. They have an extensive internal bus service and all the buses are accessible, usually with at least 2 spots for tying down self-propelled wheelchairs. We noticed that about half the time there was someone using the space (this is noticeably up from previous years). However, the time taken to board seemed to be long, especially as the wheelchair was put on before others were allowed on.


  34. Oh, uh, Jacob, that connection between the Blue and Gold lines that you mentioned is on the table now but I’m not sure offhand just where it stands as far as it’s likelihood of being built or the timetable as to when it will or might get built but I do belive it’s now being pursued.


  35. From 2006 to 2011, Toronto’s population went up 4.5% (Census Canada numbers came out today, February 8, 2011). Unacceptable! Rob Ford wanted a 10% reduction in spending, but how can there be a reduction in spending when the population of Toronto went up 4.5%?

    How could the TTC reduce service on the TTC when the population went up? A 10% reduction is not logical when there is a 4.5% increase in people. People would use the TTC more, especially with rising oil prices at the same time (unless you’re a millionaire).


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