TTC Proposed Operating Budget 2013

The TTC has passed a proposed Operating Budget for 2013 including, in principle, a five-cent increase to the adult fare.  This budget now goes to the City of Toronto’s Budget Committee and Council for discussion and approval of the 2013 operating subsidy.

There are two components to the budget report: the budget for the “regular” TTC system and the one for Wheel-Trans.

Item                  Regular        Wheel-Trans
                      ($000)         ($000)

Fare Revenue          $1,061,000     $    5,546
Other Income              67,106
Total Income          $1,128,106     $    5,546
Expenses              $1,548,794     $  102,488
Subsidy Required         420,688         96,942
Subsidy Available *      410,951         96,823
Shortfall                  9,737            119

The “Subsidy Available” shown above is based on premise that the 2012 subsidy, adjusted for the cost of arbitrated labour settlements, will be provided as a “flat lined” City subsidy in 2013.  TTC management intend to continue looking for savings within the budget to whittle down the shortfall.  CEO Andy Byford is adamant that he does not want to cut service, and this is the first of many challenges for TTC supporters on Council.

The operating subsidy for the regular system in 2012 was $374.1m.  Adjusting for arbitrated pay increases going back to April 2011, the “flat line” value for 2013 is $411.0m, an increase of 9.9% to bring 2010 rates up to 2013.  It is entirely possible that budget hawks will want an absolute freeze in subsidies.  If so, then the TTC would have a big hole to fill in its budget.

Service on the regular system will be increased to meet a projected ridership of 528-million, but there is no provision for improved loading standards or minimum service levels.  This is a 2.7% increase over the projected 2012 ridership of 514m.  Projections for 2013 only months ago set ridership at 520m, an unreasonably low figure.  With the higher number, the budget does not have a built-in shortfall in planned service.

On Wheel-Trans, there is a one-time saving by the removal of ambulatory dialysis patients from the eligibility list.  This was originally intended to happen in 2012, but the decision’s effect was staved off by diverting $5m intended as subsidy for regular service to the Wheel-Trans budget.  TTC Chair Karen Stintz speaks of this as a “good news” story because it is claimed that alternative transport has been found for these riders.  Whether this is true, or to what degree costs are being transferred back onto riders, remains to be seen.  There were no deputations at the Commission Meeting on this subject.

The fare increase is half of the amount approved in principle during the 2012 budget debates when standard ten cent increases were proposed for years 2013-15.  At a five cent level, the increase is 1.9% for adult token fares.  On a weighted average basis across all fare types, the increase is 1.7%.  (Cash and child fares are unchanged; senior/student fares go up by 2.9% because a five cents is a larger proportion of the 2012 fare than for adults.)  The proposed new fare schedule is Appendix C of the budget report.

The shortfall could be eliminated by a ten cent fare increase which is projected to raise an additional $14m net of the effect of lost riding.  For many years, TTC riding tracked employment levels in Toronto, but this relationship ended at about 2009.  System usage continues to rise even though employment is stagnant through a combination of discretionary and off-peak riding.  Metropass sales continue to climb because the pricing, net of various incentives including discounts for various groups and the transit tax rebate, make passes an attractive way to purchase transit service.

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Queen East Construction News (Updated September 21)

Updated Friday, September 21

The TTC has announced that the 501 Queen service will revert to its normal routing between Broadview and Coxwell effective Monday, September 24.  Service on Kingston Road will continue to be provided by buses for the remainder of the current schedule period.

Plans called for the 502 Downtowner to operate from Bingham Loop to Wolseley Loop at Bathurst Street, and the 503 Kingston Road will operate from Bingham to York & Wellington effective Tuesday, October 9 (the first weekday of the new schedule period).

For the next two weeks, we should see amazingly good service on the outer ends of the 501 Queen route because cars will have the extra running time for a diversion they are not taking.  This will be an interesting point of comparison once the normal running times return with the October 7 schedules.

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TIFF 2012 Part I

The Toronto Film Festival has been back for another year, and I was distracted from transit affairs enough to be watching movies and writing reviews rather than the usual content on this site.

Reviews appear here in the order I screened films.

Included in this batch are:

  • Festival promos and observations
  • Rust and Bone
  • The Gatekeepers
  • Stories We Tell
  • Frances Ha
  • Anna Karenina
  • Seven Psychopaths
  • Capital
  • A Liar’s Autobiography — The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman
  • Cloud Atlas

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Streetcar Track Rebuilding Plans (Updated)

Updated September 20, 2012 at 6:00 am:

Correction:  The work planned for Bingham Loop is the removal of the special work at Victoria Park leading to the unused tail track.  This will eliminate a totally unnecessary wear point at the entrance to the east-to-north curve.  In the original version of the table, I listed this as the removal of the runaround track.

Update:  The question of track on Adelaide has been answered by the TTC in the following note from Brad Ross:

We’re protecting Adelaide at York, meaning that we’ll keep the utilities out of the East to North and North to East curve areas. When Adelaide is redone we’ll make provision as required at York. No timeline for Adelaide, York is in our 2013 program. We plan to remove all abandoned track including all obsolete turns at the intersection of Queen, Richmond and Adelaide – southbound track.

The intersection at York does not now include a north-to-east curve, but this would be a logical mate to a planned new curve east-to-north at King and York.  In brief, the 2013 job will see a simple straight through northbound track at Adelaide, but the TTC is allowing for installation of curves when/if Adelaide is eventually rebuilt.

Original post from September 16 follows the break.

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Waterfront East LRT: Will This Ship Ever Sail? (Updated)

Updated September 4, 2012:

The full set of Waterfront Toronto reports and the City Manager’s recommendations arising from them are now available in the Executive Committee Agenda for September 10.

I will not attempt to summarize all of the material in these, but a few critical points deserve mention.

  • Although the revitalization of the mouth of the Don River is a central theme in this entire project, and illustrations showing the effect abound in the reports and publicity, in fact this work has been relegated beyond the 30-year timeframe of the financial projections.  The river mouth changes are in “phase 4” which is beyond the 30-year line.
  • Similarly, transit improvements to the area beyond the level of bus service, possibly but not necessarily as BRT with dedicated rights-of-way, are pushed off to phase 3 and beyond.  Transit is now described as “demand led” rather than the “transit first” policy around which much of the East Bayfront and Port Lands were being planned.
  • The connection to Cherry Street under the rail corridor is not even costed in the report and lies off in the vague future.

The fundamental problem for Waterfront Toronto and for the City is that the economics of a self-financing project simply do not work.  In the City Manager’s report, some shuffling of components allows the scheme to show a “profit” in the short term, the first decade, by the expedient of delaying or dropping expenditures to future years.

The City Manager’s Report shows the evolution of the costing model.  The first cut (page 4) used conservative assumptions and produced a net cost of $189.2m for the first 30 years.  This was reworked (page 5) with more generous assumptions to achieve a positive cash flow in the first decade, and a reduced net cost of $118m over 30 years.  Note that the tables are clearly titled “phases 1 and 2” and therefore omit costs associated with the river mouth and with the upgrade of transit services to LRT.

As someone who has been involved in many of the public discussions of these plans, I am deeply disappointed on three counts:

  • The shift of “phase 3” beyond the 30-year line was not made clear by Waterfront Toronto in its recent public meetings.  This verges on dishonesty from an organization previously well-known for plain dealing with the public.
  • The idea that Toronto would pre-build a good network of transit lines into the waterfront districts has been abandoned, and we are back to the standard TTC approach of running a bus, now and then, once a few people start to complain about service.
  • The myth that private sector development will somehow relieve the City (or other levels of government) from funding the Port Lands revitalization is exposed for what it is.  If Toronto wants to reinvigorate this huge tract of land, it will have to invest money in the process.  This issue — how to actually pay for the waterfront and what staging strategies could be taken — is completely absent.  Council is asked to approve the proposed scheme without knowing what alternatives might be available or what financing strategies would be needed to achieve them.

Building new neighbourhoods of this scale requires major investment in infrastructure and in the operating cost of providing services.  If Toronto is not prepared to pay these costs, then the Port Lands will sit empty for a long time.  Someone may propose they be rescued with a special project such as an Olympic Games or a World’s Fair.  That’s wishful thinking, and simply playing the slots at a race track may prove a better investment.  We cannot make the future of the waterfront dependent on the world’s desire to let us put on a big party.

The original article from August 12 follows the break …

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How Network Structure Matters — The Birth of the Grid in Toronto

Robert Wightman left an interesting comment that begins by linking to Jarrett Walker’s piece on Portland’s 30th anniversary of their grid-based transit network.

Toronto’s grid is almost a half-century old.  With it we avoided having the 60’s growth turn into the rambling sort of suburban transit system found so often in the 905.  Here is Robert’s comment:

Jarrett Walker has an interesting article on his web site about the 30th anniversary of the grid in Portland. Next September is the 50th anniversary of the TTC’s implementation of the suburban grid system in the then OUTER REACHES OF Toronto. Before that date if you wanted to go from Lawrence and Warden TO DON MILLS  AND LAWRENCE you took a bus (Pharmacy IIRC) to Luttrell Loop, the Bloor car to Pape and the Don Mills Bus to Lawrence. After that date is was a straight 10 to 12 minute ride instead of a 90 minutes sightseeing tour of Scarborough, Toronto, Leaside and North York.

I will bet that are not many at the TTC who realize what a monumental effect that decision had on the growth of transit usage in Toronto, especially the suburbs. This anniversary should not be forgotten and the people who were responsible should be honoured, probably posthumously unfortunately. The foresight and courage of these people to take a major risk and change all the suburban bus routes to form a cross city grid is a major factor in the TTC’s current success.

I have PDF files of the early 1963 and late ’63 ride guides and the difference in coverage is amazing. What is also noticeable IIRC is that the Sheppard bus ran from Dufferin to Warden or Kennedy, the Finch bus from Dufferin to Leslie or Don Mills. Most of the outer 416 was still farmland.

Maybe Steve could start a new thread on this topic and anyone who has any relevant information could add to it. The TTC should also play up this anniversary as it was a major game changer in Toronto and the planning should be remembered.

The grid is, of course, absolute poison to those who believe a transit system’s job is to take them from their front door radially to the subway system.  Even with our grid, the network is still very subway-centric looking at service quality for anyone who wants to travel around the suburbs.