TTC Route Ridership and Service Statistics 2004:2012 (Updated)

Updated June 16, 2013 at 10:15pm:  An epilogue comparing system statistics for 1989 has been added.

The TTC publishes statistics on its surface routes showing the most recent all-day riding count, the resources (vehicles, vehicle hours and vehicle mileage) consumed by a day’s operation, and the estimated cost of one day’s service.

For many years, this information was included in the annual “Service Plan”, but the last one of those was published for 2008.  The TTC’s Transit Planning page includes the 2008 plan, as well as the 2011 and 2012 figures as free-standing tables.

(In earlier years, the tables included a “revenue” for each route based on the ridership, although the method of calculating this varied over the years.  This was eventually dropped because there is no way to allocate fare revenue in a system like the TTC’s without producing distortions in the resulting “profitability” of routes.  Fares, especially passes which make up the bulk of adult system use, are collected on a flat basis for an entire trip or for a period of time, not for distance travelled nor number of vehicles used in a trip.)

This information becomes more interesting when viewed over time to see the evolution of ridership, service and allocated costs.

The Raw Data

The 2004-05 stats appeared in the 2005 Service Plan (the full version of this report is not online).  The values in the columns “Passengers” through “Cost” are taken directly from the report.  Calculated values show the passengers and mileage per vehicle hour, and the cost per AM peak vehicle, per hour, per kilometre and per passenger.

Note that “Passengers” are “boardings” — one rider making a trip that uses three surface routes counts as three “passengers” in this table.

Information for rapid transit lines and for premium express bus routes is not included.

The total boardings for the surface system in 2004-05 was about 1.4-million per day.

The 2012 stats are taken from the Transit Planning web page.  The format is identical to the 2004-05 table above.  By 2012, the daily boardings were up to almost 1.6m.

A comparison of the two sets of stats was created to show how each route and component had changed over eight years.  The numbers in this table are the delta values between the first two tables together with the percentage change in each value.  Some 2012 routes did not exist in 2004, and these are net new.  A few routes were reported on a consolidated basis in one year, and on a separate basis in another.

Because this table is wider, it is split into two sections.  The first four pages show the changed values and the percentage changes between 2004 and 2012.  The second four pages show the percentage changes in the calculated values such as boardings per hour and vehicle speed.

A Few Grains of Salt

Some of this information must be read with care.  The riding counts are one-day values, and viewed over a long sequence, some route’s values bounce around quite a bit.  This would generally be due to differences in the days on which counts were taken — which season, what day of the week, special events, etc — that can affect a single day’s observation.  When the TTC rolls out vehicles with automatic passenger counters, we should see more frequent counts and better year-to-year comparisons.

A few routes, notably the streetcars, don’t have full riding counts taken every year.  The worst case is 501 Queen which was reported with 41,200 daily riders in 2002, a number that was unchanged until 2007 when it was reported as 43,500 a number unchanged in the 2012 stats.  In fact, only three streetcar routes had new counts in the 2012 report compared to 2011, and 69 bus routes also showed no change.

The assigned costs are supposed to be based on a formula with three variables: am peak vehicles, vehicle kilometres and vehicle hours.  However, these costs are not always well-behaved in the sense that comparable values on two routes can produce different assigned costs.  This suggests that the calculation has some other basis or uses a different underlying set of data to produce the dollar values.


2004 and 2012 are directly comparable from the viewpoint of service design.  2004 predates the introduction of the Ridership Growth Strategy (RGS) and its more generous loading standards.  2012 follows the reversion to pre-RGS standards in response to the budget cutbacks of the Ford/Stintz era at Council and at the TTC.

Between 2004 and 2012, boardings on the bus network rose by 12% compared to 8% on the streetcar network (with a caveat about the currency of streetcar figures). Overall system riding during the same period went from 418.1-million to 514.0m, an increase of 23%.  That shows a substantial difference between weekday route-based boarding counts and the annual system total riding numbers.  Some of this could be explained through stronger demand on the subway and on weekends, or the number of boardings per rider could be falling (an increase, say, in shorter one-seat trips).  This evolution in counts needs to be understood for future service planning.

Bus service measured in hours or in kilometres rose by 21-22% while streetcar service rose by 16%.  This implies that service grew more than demand even with the rollback of RGS, but could also reflect outdated riding counts relative to service levels.  The boardings per vehicle hour are about 7.5% lower in 2012 than in 2004 for both modes.

On the bus network, the change from high-floor to low-floor vehicles reduced vehicle capacity.  More service was needed to carry the same number of passengers.

On the streetcar network, the change from ALRV to CLRV operation on 511 Bathurst is reflected in the very large increases in vehicle hours, kilometres and assigned cost.

Ridership changes on a route-by-route basis vary considerably.  Some routes lost riders, but most gained, in some cases by a substantial margin.  Large swings must be read in the context of the “one day count” problem and with knowledge of each route’s evolution.

Although the streetcar system provided 16% more service in 2012, its allocated cost rose by 49%.  On the bus network, a rise of 21-22% in service produced a cost increase of 77%, a slightly higher proportionate rise than with the streetcars.  The cost per vehicle hour in 2012 is up 45% for buses, but only 28% for streetcars indicating that not just capacity factors are at work, but also the inherent cost of bus operation.

In 2012, the cost per boarding for the two modes was almost identical: $2.23 for buses and $2.19 for streetcars.  This does not establish the superiority of one mode over another, but reflects the higher capacity of the streetcars and the higher number of boardings per hour (92 vs 67) on the streetcar routes.  That number is also influenced by the average length of a trip segment.

On very short routes, a long trip is impossible and there will be high turnover of passengers.  Strong bi-directional demand can reinforce this by keeping a vehicle busy for both halves of a round trip.  Only three bus routes have boardings/hour over 100 in 2012:  22 Coxwell, 64 Main and 81 Thorncliffe Park.  On the streetcar system, the highest number is no surprise: the 510/509 Spadina/Harbourfront route.

One point of note in the ongoing discussions of “congestion” is the fact that the average speed of the streetcars is almost unchanged:  14.1 km/h in 2004 versus 14.0 in 2012.  Although some schedule adjustments may have occurred over the years, they are comparatively small across all of the streetcar routes.  Similarly, the average speed of the bus system is almost unchanged: 19.9 km/h in 2004 versus 19.7 in 2012.

There are individual exceptions to this observation on specific routes.  For example, the speed on 512 St. Clair is up 14.5% from 2004 to 2012 reflecting the change to a reserved right-of-way, while the 501 Queen car is down by 5.6%.  511 Bathurst takes the worst hit, an 11.7% fall.  Two core routes, King and Dundas, are almost unchanged on an all-day basis.  An obvious question here is the adequacy of schedules to the claimed higher levels of traffic congestion.

Note that “speed” can also be affected by addition or removal of layover time from the schedules.  The “hours” value reflects the entire time a vehicle is in service whether it is supposed to be moving or not.  Some schedule changes simply shift allocated time between driving and “recovery”, and this makes no difference in the calculated speed.  Conversely, if driving+recovery time is extended, then the speed falls.  This could be done by adding vehicles and/or by extending headways.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Both TTC Chair Karen Stintz and CEO Andy Byford have stated that the TTC cannot absorb another year of flatlined subsidies.  However, the City Manager’s targets for all agencies and departments in 2014 is just that — a zero percent increase in furtherance of Mayor Ford’s financial targets and hoped-for tax cuts.

The TTC faces important policy questions, and the debate should be backed up with reliable, up-to-date information on current and future demand.

Later this month, the TTC Board’s agenda should include details of the new streetcar rollout plan.  How will this affect service capacity?  Will a latent, unmet demand for service be reflected in riding counts?  How much will headways be widened for the new cars offsetting the benefit of greater capacity with longer waits between vehicles?  Will the TTC return to leading demand with capacity rather than grudgingly operating more service only when it has no choice?

Updated June 16, 2013 at 10:15pm:

Epilogue: Looking Back to 1989

Although the TTC has not published comparable data for the subway and SRT for many years, I was tempted to go back and look at the numbers.  The last year for which data are available is 1989.

            Boardings  Veh Miles   Veh Km     Op Cost
1989          (000)      (000)      (000)      (000)
Subway          971        138        223       $466
SRT              39          6         10       $ 24
Bus            1417        213        343       $904
Streetcar       305         27         44       $204

Bus            1302                   384      $2902
Streetcar       284                    43      $ 620

The only subway network change has been the addition of the Sheppard line, although this had associated effects on the bus network.

Elsewhere on the surface network, the Harbourfront/Spadina routes were operated with buses, and so their boardings and mileage are included in the bus totals.  77 Spadina carried 32,838 riders per day in the 1989 report.

In 1989, costs were allocated only by vehicle mileage, and this produced distortions in route costs. If the hours per vehicle or vehicle usage pattern (e.g. peak-to-base service ratio) were not close to the system average, then allocated costs on a per mile basis over or understated the hourly and vehicle components of the cost.  Here, however, only the system totals are shown.

Bus and streetcar boardings in 2012 were down relative to 1989 showing that at least by these counts, surface boardings have still not recovered to the level before the 1990s recession and service cuts that followed.

On a mileage basis service is up about 12% on the bus network and down marginally for streetcars since 1989.  However, the Harbourfront/Spadina route was still a bus, and so all of the new service on the 509/510 has come at the expense of cutbacks to other routes.

501 Queen operated 9,830 vehicle kilometres/day in 1989 and, at that time, had not been amalgamated with 507 Long Branch which operated a further 2,198.  The consolidated 501 Queen in 2012 operated only 8,200 vkm/day.  Daily boardings on the 501 were just under 60k in 1989.

12 thoughts on “TTC Route Ridership and Service Statistics 2004:2012 (Updated)

  1. Do you have the Blue Night stats? I just was wondering if there was a change to the 352 Lawrence West night bus. The offices of Councillor Doug Ford and Member of Parliament Ted Opitz had forwarded a request to extend the 352 Lawrence West overnight. Just wanted to see if there was an increase in ridership with the extension.

    Steve: No, TTC does not publish stats for the night services.


  2. Now you are into my area of expertise, management accounting. A few comments.

    1. Although you are right in asserting that “revenue” is impossible to allocate without producing inevitable distortions, there should be some measure of productivity for each route. I would suggest passenger-kms as this is what public transportation is about, moving people.

    Steve: The TTC does not currently measure passenger-kms because this requires knowing how many people are on the bus between each stop and the distance between those stops, although this can be fudged for a route with fairly evenly spaced stops. Once they have buses with passenger counters installed, it should be easy to report on a stop-by-stop basis the demand for each route. This sort of thing has been done manually, but only rarely as a large sample size is needed for meaningful results at that level of granularity.

    2. Non revenue service time should definitely be excluded from any calculation of speed. As a passenger, I really don’t care about recovery time; how fast I get where I am going is the only thing that counts.

    Steve: You may not care, but it counts toward the cost of operating the route because the operator is paid by the hour, not by the kilometre. To get the speeds excluding the layovers (which in most cases are quite short), refer to the Service Summaries available on the TTC’s Planning page.

    3. Allocation of capital costs. Specifically the fact that buses beat the crap out of the roadway, requiring expensive and ongoing capital investment in refurbishing roads. This does not appear as a TTC cost, making buses look far cheaper than they really are.

    Steve: This gets tricky. Road construction standards are dictated by trucking which is generally far more prevalent than buses. Indeed, the changes over the years in streetcar paving standards was due to truck traffic, not because the streetcars needed all that concrete. Then there’s the capital cost of the vehicles and infrastructure which have been borne in part through subsidies. If these were included, and if the TTC reported rapid transit costs, those “cheap” subway trips wouldn’t look so good any more. Similarly, the “premium express” buses are not burdened with the capital cost of a bus that is used for a few hours a day on largely one-way traffic.

    4. Cycling is consistently faster than surface transit. My 75-year-old mother can cycle at 20 km/hr, which is a typical traffic planning speed for cyclists. The light weight of the vehicle makes the road cost essentially zero, unlike buses.

    Steve: Not quite. If part of the road is dedicated for cyclists including special provisions for lanes, curbs and signalling, then the value of that portion of the road becomes a cycling cost, not a general road user cost. Cyclists can’t have it both ways. 😉

    5. The population of Toronto is growing and the TTC budget is flatlined? We need a new mayor next year. Preferably one that has a better relationship with arithmetic.

    Steve: It is the subsidy that is flatlined, not the budget. Previous flatlines have been dealt with through cuts to service quality. In 2013, the TTC received a de facto increase as follows. Their budget number was $410m for 2012 but they didn’t use all of it due to stronger fare revenue and lower costs on some items like diesel fuel. This formed part of the “surplus” for the city in 2012. In 2013, the TTC has the same budgeted subsidy as last year, but will use all of it. Therefore the actual subsidy spending will be higher in 2013 than in 2013.

    Don’t tell the Mayor or the Budget Chief. They seem to have missed this in their zeal to “control” costs. A true flatline against actual spending would have cost the TTC roughly $40m in 2013. There won’t be a “surplus” this year, and a real increase in the budget will be required. Anyone who claims the TTC “absorbed” a flatline in 2013 has no business anywhere near the city’s finances.


  3. I don’t really want to bore all the readers with a technical accounting discussion, but one of my serious concerns is the way that the capital and operating budgets are separated from each other without being linked by the accounting concept of depreciation. This has the effect of showing the costs of capital-intensive items like subways as being far lower than they really are.

    For example, say that we are going to rebuild a stretch of streetcar track for $20 million and its forecasted life is 20 years before we have to rebuild it again. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) would require the TTC to show that as a $20 million asset that depreciates at a rate of $1 million per year. That $1 million would be treated as an operating expense called depreciation.

    By treating capital as “free,” things like subways look much cheaper than they really are.

    To incorporate a stroke of luck, such as a downward fluctuation in the price of diesel fuel, into future budget assumptions is simply delusional. What if luck goes the other way (as it has a habit of doing) and a bunch of costs fluctuate upwards? Oh yes, October of next year is the municipal election so Rob Ford really doesn’t care if reality turns out to be quite different than the rosy numbers he intends to present when he stands for re-election.

    Steve: Recently revised accounting principles change the manner in which public agencies handle capital assets that were purchased with subsidy dollars. This is reflected in the financial statements for the TTC for the past few years (2013 statements). Without going into the gory details, depreciation is now shown for subsidized assets (not just those purchased with the TTC’s own revenue), and offsetting subsidy revenue is recognized to cover this.

    The effect can be a bit disconcerting at first glance because there is a lot more money flowing through the financial statements than before, and one must factor out the new items to “see” the basic revenue/cost figures on which the operating budget is based. (This info is broken out in the copious notes to the financial statements.)

    However, the TTC does not incorporate the capital depreciation in the operating cost of its routes, nor do the statements contain a breakdown of depreciation by mode. Direct comparison with historical numbers would be impossible because the accounts have not been restated back decades.

    A further problem in full accounting is that borrowing by other governments (e.g. Ontario or Toronto) to fund TTC capital is carried on the borrowers’ books, and the debt service cost does not show up in the TTC’s statements as it would if the TTC borrowed on its own account.


  4. Using the TTS database, I obtained some stats on historical subway/RT boardings:

    1986: 889m
    1991: 734m
    1996: 706m
    2001: 1,013m
    2006: 1,157m.

    Comparing TTS’s 1986 figures with yours shows that TTS probably underestimates things… regardless, there’s been a 30% increase in subway/RT usage from 1986 to 2006, and I don’t think it’s any lower now!

    Steve: That big drop in the mid-90s at the end of the recession had an unfortunate side-effect for Toronto. In the late 80s, there was much talk of system expansion because we were running out of capacity, but the drop in the 90s gave us headroom for growth without any capital expense. We fell out of the habit of expanding the system, regardless of debates about technology, and are only now starting to recover.


  5. This is a very important seminal post by Steve, that all Commissioners would be well advised to read carefully & master—to fulfill their governance fiduciary duty & duty of care to the TTC and its riders.

    It is shocking to me, as the former TTC CMO responsible for ridership forecasting, to realize in 2013, that TTC routes are still manually “checked” or counted by Service Planning’s ~22 “Checkers” and based on these ONE-day route counts, are then used as cast-in-stone gospel planning truth for weeks, months & even years into the future.

    This includes not only “Board” service planning levels by route, but completely arbitrary accounting allocations of route costs & revenue, as Steve’s written, based on clerical assumptions of linked-trips that are completely lacking any fact-based evidence or analytic support (but employ an army of divisional clerks to log the transfers given out to riders that you notice vehicle Operators occasionally tallying at stops.)

    Steve: Actually, the transfer counts have nothing to do with the riding counts. I am still baffled that the TTC keeps such detailed track of this information as it has no useful purpose beyond knowing, in total, whether enough transfers were ordered for a route. This will all disappear with Presto when we can turn our attention to unreliable fare vending machines for non-pass holders.

    This is the equivalent of Walmart or McDonald’s planning individual store labour based on months or years old consolidated sales data of their entire system, then arbitrarily allocating individual store sales rather than based on real-time store sales data, by day, by hour at each store for the immediately preceding period as well as year ago recurring events.

    The truth is the TTC, despite all its Management protestations that its ridership forecasts & actuals are accurate to +/– 1% and verified by its “counts”, really doesn’t know what its actual ridership is, where & when it takes place due to the limitations of staggered one-day “counts” over ~169 surface routes, 69 RT stations and 3 subway lines. System wide real time customer counts are still not available in 2013.

    The largest portion of TTC rides are on unlimited, transferable Metropasses which use an unreliable small sample of “diary panels” to project representative MP rides across all ~275,000 MP/month; w/o representative samples of the various sub-classes of MP (Adult, Student, Post-Secondary, Senior, VIP, etc.)

    The nascent TV industry once used Nielsen’s diary panel samples to monitor TV program viewership, then switched to electronic TV-on channel loggers and more recently “People Meters” where the sample household’s individuals wore sensors that counted when they were present with the TV on. They resulted in a doubling of viewership vs. the prior TV-on channel loggers!! I can’t imagine the magnitude of error in the TTC’s archaic limited MP diary panel sample’s projection of actual rides, let alone the completely arbitrary linked-trip transfer heuristics.

    PRESTO’s great failing was not enabling tap-on counts to give real time day/hour/route trip data to allow GTA public transit properties to dynamically plan public transit service integration on an as-needed basis: matching demand and service—even as real-time interruptions happen. It’s NVRAM is totally filled up with 10 different fare menus rather than two integrated fare systems (GO & GTA PT), not allowing real time ride data to be captured for GTA service planning, integration, cost-savings and revenue allocation/reconciliation of a single GTA fare.

    Steve: Presto NG is supposed to be capable of much more, but we don’t know yet what this might be. The absence of a unified fare system across the GTHA doesn’t help because we don’t know what they are aiming at.

    The TTC’s ridership eggs are now in the APC automatic people counter hardware that uses magnetic pulses to count passenger boardings and exits. It is currently being tested, but is expensive and will likely only be rolled out on a limited number of routes, a far cry from the private sector’s standard expectation of real time sales data by day, hour & location.

    Steve: But the buses and streetcars can be moved from route to route so that counts are obtained on a fairly regular basis across the whole network.

    Steve points out that the TTC’s route costs have increased faster than ridership and some of the reasons why. If you’re interested in a more detailed look at how consolidated TTC rides, revenue & costs have changed since 1989, I recommend checking out my (2011) TTC factsheet, along with historical fares at my website (2012 TTC Factsheet available Sept, 2013).

    It’s clear that the TTC’s costs have escalated higher than either % increases in CPI or TTC rides & revenues over the past 10 years, and this service cost/funding available imbalance is unsustainable in the future, particularly as the Big Move’s $2B/year GTA public expansion comes on stream demanding even more operating funding above current levels.

    Is it any wonder that TTC CEO Andy Byford is tearing his hair out each Commission meeting, trying to impact and change the TTC’s resistant operating, let alone customer service culture?


  6. Every route is inherently different, so a cost/kilometer comparison is not very useful. It is no different than a person driving to downtown from Scarborough. If one drove at 5AM on a Sunday morning, the vehicle would use a lot less gasoline than say 8AM on a Monday morning.

    What these data show are that trams are more cost effective to operate than buses. The Queen route is probably the worst case scenario for a tram route with traffic congestion. The cost is about $13.05 per kilometer operated (cost/vehicle kilometers operated). A bus averages between $7 and $10 per kilometer operated. Considering that the ALRV can carries multiple times higher in passengers. The economics is no different than an Airbus A380 versus a regional jet. It costs more to run the Airbus, but on a per passenger basis, as long as one can fill the Airbus, it will cheaper.

    Bus operations will always costs more due to the energy source and traction. Keep in mind that the TTC operates the latest hybrid buses and 1980s era trams. The buses already have 8 speed automatic transmissions, hybrid propulsion, high efficiency air conditioners and lighter materials. When the Flexity trams arrive, expect the operating cost to decrease. Going forward, how many more improvement can bus technology deliver? The easy fuel gains have already been used.

    If the TTC is a private corporation, they can bankroll their profits and invest it as they see fit without political interference. On some of the heavier bus routes like the 85 and 199, it makes sense to convert them to tram operation to decrease costs. Yes, a capital investment is needed for the conversion, but in the long run, the savings will pay for the conversion and more.


  7. Is there any account given anywhere to the capital cost for the road wear and stop poles costs etc. for buses?. Buses do put a lot of wear and tear on roadways, especially at stops. Does any one remember the 10 Mack buses the TTC had. They were so heavy that they only ran on Spadina and the stop locations had to be reinforced to prevent road damage. The new ZUM routes in Brampton have stops that cost between $100,000 and $200,000 each, but the stations are designed so they can be picked up by a crane and put down in the centre of he road for LRT. Our mayor actually thinks ahead and is pro transit. I am sure the answer to my question is “NO.”

    I bet that there is no simple relationship between service level and the amount of damage done to roads. The buses on a route that runs every two minutes probably do more than 15 times the damage of a route that runs every half hour. It would be interesting to see some study into actual road costs associated with buses. I guess we will get some idea from all the new BRTs being built.


  8. There are some additional service plans (and ridership stats) preserved on the Transit Toronto archive page.

    Steve: I have this info going back about 30 years, but publishing all of it would be even more intimidating that what’s there now. Moreover, my real intent was to contrast 2012 with the pre-RGS era of 2004, as well as the “boom” times before the 1990 recession.

    The TTC began publishing this info in response to work by then Mayor John Sewell, the City Planning Department and me to give evaluation of service changes some sort of fairness with reporting of route performance and comparison to proposed modifications.


  9. The streetcar fleet was larger in 1989, wasn’t it? Some PCCs were still in service then, weren’t they?

    Steve: Yes. They were used on Harbourfront when it opened in 1990.


  10. Benny wrote:

    “What these data show are that trams are more cost effective to operate than buses.”

    Kevin’s question:

    But are they? Streetcars are much more capital intensive, with those capital costs not being allocated to the operation of the streetcar line. On the other hand, the serious road damage done by buses, particularly where they sit for long periods of time at major bus stops, is also not being allocated to the cost of running the route.

    If one looks at the roadway in front of major bus stops, we can see the knuckling effect in the road where the bus wheels have pressed down into the roadway surface. Repairing that is a “free” cost that is not allocated to the TTC, much less to that particular route.

    In order to reasonably compare the operating costs of streetcar vs. bus routes, it is necessary to at least make some guesses as to the capital costs and how to allocate them to route operations.


  11. To answer Kevin Love’s question, it can only be done indirectly. Yes, buses cause damage to road surface due to their weight. However, most bus stops are also used as right turn lanes. So, if a 53ft trailer sits on the right turn lane waiting for clearance, what do we attribute it to? When the Viva Rapidway is built, there should be some indication on the true cost of rubber tire based vehicles.

    Looking at the private sector, the cost delta between rail and rubber tire vehicles is huge. To ship a standard skid (48×40″, non stackable goods) from Toronto to Vancouver using CN Intermodial only costs about $320. The same skid would cost about $560 to ship on a tractor trailer. Since CN owns and maintains the tracks themselves, the cost quoted is an all inclusive cost. The tractor trailer is only for the cost of fuel, driver, handling and insurance since highways are publicly owned.

    It makes sense as that a tram would cost a lot less to operate than buses. Electricity generated at Pickering and Darlington cost about 50% of the same kilowatt generated at an oil fired plant. Electric trams also have fewer maintenance versus buses. No engine rebuilt, transmission rebuilt, tune ups, fuel facilities etc.


  12. Steve said:

    Then there’s the capital cost of the vehicles and infrastructure which have been borne in part through subsidies. If these were included, and if the TTC reported rapid transit costs, those “cheap” subway trips wouldn’t look so good any more.

    Don’t forget capital maintenance! That’s a big ticket item, in both direct costs and the necessity for having many more vehicles than actually running, which boosts the capital cost.

    Kevin Love said:

    By treating capital as “free,” things like subways look much cheaper than they really are.

    Yes, but by treating capital as an operating cost, things like subways look much more expensive than they really are.

    The City Council report commissioned to provide an excuse for the current ill-advised LRT extravaganza effectively depreciated the cost of subway tunnels over the time frame chosen … which had been chosen to match the expected life of LRT infrastructure. This is much shorter than the expected life of a subway tunnel, but facts don’t matter.

    Steve: Capital maintenance is a big issue because it doesn’t attract the same level of subsidy attention as the big construction projects. As the subway system ages, and more of the infrastructure comes up for overhaul or replacement, this is a growing cost area for the city.

    As for accounting techniques used to justify the LRT “extravaganza”, I don’t know where you got that from. The basic issue is that NONE of the Transit City lines have projected demand anywhere near rapid transit levels, and a huge saving (or alternately increased project scope) is possible by staying on the surface as much as possible. That’s why it’s LRT, not because the cost of subways was somehow understated.

    While we’re at it, by the way, claims that subways outlast LRT 3-to-1 are based on comparison of subway structures that are intended to last the better part of a century, and streetcar track/vehicles which do well to make it to 30 years. As you yourself point out, there is a huge ongoing cost for capital maintenance on the subway which is only coming up on 60 years for Yonge, less for other lines. The fleet has been replaced twice (G trains, then H trains, then T trains); the signal system is being totally replaced; tunnel repairs for leaks are ongoing; escalators have all been replaced.

    If the subway as a whole actually lasted as long (without major maintenance) as its advocates claim, I might not kvetch, but there is far too much mix-and-match, selective use of data to buttress a pro-subway position. It undermines an argument that, in the right circumstances, has validity. Both LRT and subway (not to mention BRT) are oversold by their advocates as a one-size-fits-all solution. When this is merely a well-intentioned error, I can pass it off as enthusiastic support. When it is pure political BS, it deserves to be called out for what it is.


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