Toronto Deserves Better Transit Service Now! Part 2: What Can Be Done

The first part of this article reviewed the evolution of transit service and riding since 2006. In brief:

  • System riding grew by about 22% from 2006 to the projected demand in 2014.
  • The bus fleet, after increasing by about 22% early in that period in part for the Ridership Growth Strategy (RGS), has not grown since 2009.
  • The capacity of the bus fleet has dropped by about 6% as the remaining high-floor fleet was replaced with low-floor buses.
  • Although RGS improved crowding standards to encourage more riding, these changes were reversed in 2012 to fit more passengers on existing vehicles.
  • The streetcar fleet size has not changed at all, and peak service improvements, such as there were any, came from redeploying vehicles from routes shut down for construction projects.

Changing the level of TTC service on a broad scale is not something anyone can do overnight.  More service means more buses and streetcars, more operators and more garage capacity.  All of this takes more operating and capital subsidy, and a sustained commitment that lasts longer than a campaign sound-bite.

Paying for Better Transit

Let’s get something out of the way early in this article: none of this will be free.  Claims that somehow we can operate transit services that break even or make a profit are fantasies, especially when capital costs are taken into account.  Toronto is not Hong Kong with immense population density and travel demand to match, nor is it a city where all of the land is held by the state and leased for development to cross-subsidize the transit system.

If Council cannot get past the bean-counter mentality that increased staff counts are “bad”, then don’t expect to have more buses running down the streets any day soon.  Toronto must get beyond the slogan that all spending and staffing are inherently wasteful.

If Council is unprepared or unwilling to better fund transit and rests on vague hopes that senior governments will help us out, we might as well stop talking about improvements now.  Certainly Toronto and the GTHA deserve better support from Queen’s Park and Ottawa, but to make this a precondition for any improvement at the local level guarantees policy gridlock.

Toronto made a conscious choice to limit growth in taxes, and calls for help invite the obvious question of how much the City should pay for itself.  We certainly seem prepared to levy new taxes to bribe voters when the need arises.

What Are Our Options?

At the very least, Toronto needs to know what policies it could pursue, what they will cost and what benefits they will bring, even if they seem beyond our means.  “We can’t afford it” is unacceptable as a starting point for debate.

There will be three stages to rebuilding the TTC into a much more attractive transit system:

  • Short term fixes: can we do more with the resources we now have?
  • Medium term: what improvements can we make in the scope of the next Council, 2014-2018?
  • Long term: what will be Toronto’s “transit philosophy”, how high should we aim for “good” or “excellent” transit, and what will be needed to get us there?

Those “long term” goals are topics that the new Council and TTC Board must address, and I will leave these for future articles.

Now the focus should be how to improve transit that people use every day rather than fairy-tale promises of subway lines a decade in the future.  The debate about rapid transit networks is important, but it has overshadowed the problems of riders who must deal with overcrowded, unreliable service.

Running More Service

This topic divides in two ways.  First is the split between peak and off-peak service. Second is the different situation for each fleet of transit vehicles: buses, streetcars and rapid transit.

Off-peak service anywhere in the system can be increased simply by better funding.  This is a political problem, not an operational one.

No new vehicles are needed in the off-peak, only the operators to drive them.  The marginal cost of these drivers would be lower than the system average because productivity can be improved.  Less time will be wasted with peak-only vehicles travelling to and from garages, and more “straight through” crews will be possible avoiding the pay premiums associated with split shifts.

The fundamental problems for improving peak service are the need for more vehicles in the surface fleets, and the constraints of signalling and track geometry on the subway.

Issues with the subway have been discussed at length elsewhere on this site, and these problems cannot be solved quickly.  Automated operation and the more frequent service it can bring to the Yonge-University-Spadina line is still almost three years away (late 2016, maybe), and a decade or more on Bloor-Danforth.  More frequent peak service is difficult to operate with existing systems, although some small-scale improvements are in the TTC’s plans.

In the medium term, the bus fleet can be expanded with new bus orders and more garage space, and as the new streetcar fleet arrives, the capacity of that network can also be improved.

Although the TTC has proposed buying 60 more streetcars beyond the 204 now on order, this project is not yet funded.  Moreover, they would not be delivered until 2019 and beyond and, therefore, fall into the “long range” time frame.

The short term is the challenge.

More Buses?

For the bus fleet, a common approach to the lag between service growth and new vehicle delivery is to keep older vehicles in service, if only as peak period trippers.  The TTC plans to retire over 200 buses in 2014-15 (the lift-equipped Orion V and Nova RTS buses). These could provide a pool of vehicles during the two years it would take for expansion-related new bus orders to arrive.

Another short-term saving in vehicles comes from the moratorium on major road construction during much of 2015 for the Pan Am Games.  The Games proper occur during the summer when service requirements drop, but outside of the Games period, fewer buses will be needed to supplement/replace services:

  • Streetcar service will return to Queens Quay by late summer 2014 releasing buses from 509 Harbourfront and the 510 Spadina shuttle.
  • Construction of the Spadina Subway extension will have progressed to the point that supplementary bus service can be reduced in affected areas.
  • Construction by Metrolinx in the Weston corridor will be completed.
  • No major TTC streetcar track projects are planned that will require bus replacements on portions of car lines.

This is a one-time saving of peak buses, but it falls just at the point when every spare bus is worth having.

Keeping the old buses active will require not just the maintenance expense but also garage space to store them.  The TTC has already looked at leasing storage space for its fleet while awaiting the construction of Tapscott Garage, although this need was offset by the reduction of bus requirements made possible with less generous crowding standards.

More Streetcars?

As for the streetcar fleet, the TTC plans to retire old streetcars as soon as the new ones enter service.  This has two effects.  First, the problem of having no spare capacity for better peak service would remain until the fleet of new cars begins to overtake the lost capacity from retirements.  Second, the TTC plans to retire the larger “ALRV” cars used mainly on Queen Street first even though the new streetcars will go to routes now operating the shorter “CLRV”s.  There is no announced plan for how the TTC will make up the lost capacity as ALRV services are replaced with smaller cars.

Keeping old vehicles active is not an ideal situation, but Toronto’s service is hamstrung by the cutbacks (including capital spending on fleet expansion) of the Ford/Stintz years. Council is perfectly happy to pay $12-million/year to keep the SRT running while we await a Scarborough subway, and the short-term commitment of funds to maintaining old surface vehicles deserves the same priority.  We should not have to wait two to three years, much of the next Council’s term, for new vehicle deliveries and noticeably better service.


  • Retain older buses and streetcars until new vehicles can replace them with a net gain in capacity.  (Short term)
  • Recognize that off-peak service improvements are not limited by the size of the fleet, only by the will to fund and operate them.  (Short term)
  • Increase the driver workforce to reflect additional service requirements.  (Short to medium term)

Where Should Service Be Added?

A quick-fix approach to service would simply “put things back the way they were” before Rob Ford came to office, but the problem is more complex and deserves a more fine-grained approach.  Specifically:

  • What routes today already suffer from inadequate service that does not even meet the Ford-era crowding standards, or will be in this position within 2014?
  • Which components of the Ridership Growth Strategy (RGS) should be re-introduced such as more generous crowding standards and hours of service?
  • Should elements of the Transit City Bus plan including greater use of express bus services and the creation of a “10 minute network” be part of plans for an improved TTC?

The first priority should be catching up with the worst of problems we already have, notably capacity shortfalls on major routes.  Riders will know of these from personal experience, but a system-wide review is needed.  This should not take years, but at most months as the TTC should already know which routes are in trouble.

Making service more attractive requires that it not be planned to be packed full.  Heavy loads on buses may look “efficient” at least to those who don’t ride them, and yet we all know how “congestion” is the word of the moment for motorists.  Why are transit riders expected to endure conditions that would bring howls of outrage if they were driving their cars down a highway?

A quick review of the crowding standards brought in by RGS is worthwhile here as a reminder.  In November 2008, the peak period standard for buses was changed so that, on average, the target load on a bus would be about 10% (5 riders) lower than it had been previously.  A comparable change was not made for streetcar routes because there were no spare vehicles with which to operate less crowded peak services.  Off-peak standards were set at a seated load for all types of vehicles.

By contrast, the 2014 standards (implemented in 2012) use the pre-2008 peak values. The off-peak standards allow standees on routes with frequent service (less than 10’00”) at a rate of 25% of the seated capacity.  The effect for some types of buses is that the off-peak standard is only slightly better than the peak one on frequent routes.  No wonder that the rush hour appears to last all day.

Another RGS change was the extension of all routes to provide service until at least 1:00am.  Many of the affected routes lost service to the new standard in 2011 that they must carry at least 10 riders per vehicle hour.  Should this standard be revisited?  Are there other considerations such as walking distances to alternate services that should be included?

Finally, there is the Transit City Bus Plan, endorsed by the TTC Board in August 2009, which included:

  • Creation of a network of 21 bus routes where service would be provided at least every 10 minutes all day, every day (fall 2010).
  • New or improved express services on 15 of the TCBP routes (fall 2014).
  • New or improved express services on 3 future Transit City LRT corridors (fall 2011).
  • Implementation of a maximum headway of 20 minutes on all routes at all hours of service (two stages: fall 2011 and fall 2012).

This plan was not funded by Council in the 2010 budget.  This decision was as much an offshoot of a turf war between the Mayor’s Office, Council and the TTC Chair about the launch of new policies as it was about the nuts and bolts of the proposals.  With Mayor Miller’s decision to retire and the election of Mayor Ford, the TCBP fell out of view.

The plan is not perfect:

  • Some route choices for the 10-minute network are odd especially considering the level of service they now receive.
  • Some routes are specifically excluded because there was to be an LRT line under construction in the near future (relative to 2009).
  • The streetcar system is omitted.  I have been told more than once that the reason is that this is a “bus plan”, one of the more thick-headed statements I have ever heard about TTC’s planning.

The basic plan is sound, and it should be revisited to update its projected costs, fleet requirements and route structure.  We do not need to start over from scratch.


  • Identify routes that now or in the near future fall short of crowding standards as candidates for improvement.  Can these be addressed within current budget and fleet constraints?  (Short term)
  • Review the Ridership Growth Strategy’s crowding standard and determine what would be needed to implement it for peak and off-peak services.  (Short term)
  • Review the Ridership Growth Strategy’s hours of service as well as the more-recent riders-per-vehicle-hour standard.  (Short term)
  • Review the Transit City Bus Plan to update its network proposals as well as the resources needed to implement them.  (Short term)
  • Decide which of these improvements should be implemented and when within the constraints of available fleet and the lead time to hire and train more drivers for improved service.  (Short to medium term)

The goal here should be to find out what can be done and done quickly.  The original RGS report dates to 2003 and discussions leading to it started a few years earlier. Implementation dragged on to 2008 as other calls on resources and limitations on the number of available drivers plagued the rollout (normal service increases, changes in hours of work through labour legislation, spikes in retirement rates).  There is no reason to wait five years for a new round of improvements to hit the streets.

Managing Transit Service

Articles on this site have often detailed problems with service management.  Despite the fact that TTC vehicles are tracked by GPS, the systems used to monitor service depend in part on a separate archaic, problem-ridden system.  Improving the ability to track service has never been important enough for the TTC until 2014 when a project to replace the current vehicle monitoring system was included in funded portion of the capital budget. We have several years to wait for its actual installation and migration of line management to the new system.

There are several fundamental problems with line management today:

  • At times, many routes have either no supervision at all or one supervisor attempts to handle several routes concurrently.
  • Styles of line management vary from supervisor to supervisor, and the goals to be achieved may vary.
  • The TTC claims that its desire is to manage services to provide regular headways, but on the street experience suggests that keeping operators on time comes first with short turns as the inevitable result.
  • Regular analysis of GPS tracking data by TTC staff is a comparatively recent activity spawned in part by the kind of work I have published on this site.  Such analysis can reveal patterns in route operations that might be addressed by improved scheduling or alternate approaches to service management.
  • Drivers have no way of  knowing where they are relative to other service on the line except when nearby vehicles are in sight.  “On time” information displayed to drivers is based on schedules, not on headway targets.
  • Service quality metrics consolidate information from many days, times of day and locations on a route, and even at this level show poor headway reliability for many important services.  The targets for buses and streetcars are, respectively, 65% and 70% “headways within three minutes of schedule”, hardly an impressive goal. Bunching produces no penalty in the metric because very short headways are not counted toward the total. There is no measure of the degree to which quality, such as it is, is provided most of the time, or whether the averages mask truly appalling conditions.

The TTC has a long history, a “TTC culture” it has been called, of blaming most of its problems on external factors.  “We can’t run good service in congested, mixed traffic” is the most common one, but this evolves into an abdication of responsibility for trying to do the best possible.

Some problems are a direct result of having too little service on the road.  Small delays turn into big ones when overcrowded buses sit at stops trying to unload and board a few passengers.  The “bean counters” smile to see full buses, but they don’t count the low productivity of a bus that isn’t moving.  By that term I mean not just TTC management who, one might hope, are only responding to political pressure, but also to those politicians who have little understanding of the dynamics of transit operations.

Some problems are a case of poorly set goals.  If the target says that you are “on time” if you are within three minutes of schedule, and if buses are scheduled fairly frequently, then service with packs of buses running in twos and threes can easily meet the 65% threshold for “on time performance”.

Some problems are a case of “nobody minding the store”.  This shows up with erratic service notably at evenings and weekends and in locations where traffic congestion has nothing to do with service reliability.  In some cases, the scheduled running times are inadequate for typical operating conditions, and vehicles will be late except under ideal circumstances.

Getting better productivity from better management will not reduce costs, but will free up some otherwise unused capacity and improve the attractiveness of transit service in general.  (Put another way, if there is so much surplus capacity from badly managed service that major savings are available, and the TTC can actually find it, then their line management is in much worse shape than anyone might believe.)

There is a limit to how much better things can get and we cannot absorb coming years of demand only through better operating practices.  Some will argue that we should not invest in more service until “management cleans up its act” (with similar if less genteel remarks about the unionized staff).  This is a recipe for deadlock and would only make the current situation worse.

This is a major challenge for TTC CEO Andy Byford, and there is no quick fix.  However, the TTC needs to take more responsibility for the quality of its service through more and better supervision, clear goals and detailed public reporting of the results.

Figuring out what to do and implementation should be a short-to-medium term project. Don’t wait four years until the new vehicle tracking system is in place. Look today for ways that service reliability can be improved.  In the medium-to-long term, the TTC must entrench a fundamental “culture shift” about treating riders, those “customers” we hear so much about, to excellent service, not just to cleaner buses.

Transit Priority

This will sound odd coming from a “transit advocate”, but transit priority is no panacea, merely one important part of the overall job of getting vehicles and riders along a route as quickly as possible.

When schemes such as reserved lanes and traffic signals that were at least partly controlled by transit vehicles were proposed, the goal was quite simple: save money on operations.  Early reports seeking TTC funding of priority intersections were justified mainly by the saving in operating cost – running fewer vehicles to carry the same riders – with the pleasant knock-on benefit of a slightly faster trip.  Early proposals for the St. Clair right-of-way spoke not of more frequent service, but of the saving in vehicles shorter trip times would allow.

In practice, the priority signals on streetcar routes do provide some benefits (where they are still working), but these are partly offset by longer trip times and congestion especially in the off-peak when the greater problem is the limitation of moving any traffic on a four lane street with parking both ways.

On St. Clair, fortunately, the TTC’s tune changed by the time service was running with the primary benefit now cited as service reliability and shorter trips for riders especially during periods when the street was the most congested.  Ironically, the biggest saving came on weekend afternoons when shopping and left turns clogged the street, not in the peak periods.  The number of cars in service today is higher than in 2005 and during most periods service is more frequent than before street reconstruction began.

Priority traffic signals and transit rights-of-way like St. Clair or Spadina show two different ways that transit can benefit from changes to road operations.  The first, however, is almost a “stealth” change because most people, especially motorists, won’t even see what is happening.  The “priority” is generally borrowed green time from other movements at intersections where there is some spare capacity.  By contrast, rights-of-way involve physically taking space away from motorists both for travelled lanes and, usually, with reconfigured parking.  These are much more difficult to achieve as we have seen not just on St. Clair, but in the controversy over LRT routes on wide suburban streets.  The same arguments will be heard if and when Toronto turns its attention to true Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), not simply a “please, sir, if it isn’t too much trouble” priority with so-called transit lanes such as we have on Eglinton, Pape and Bay.

Better green time for transit at traffic signals will be the bread-and-butter of priority schemes for the foreseeable future, especially on a system wide basis.  The challenge will be to wrest priority from traffic engineers who see their job as moving traffic overall with transit getting the “trickle down” effect of better movement.  Sometimes, but not always, a transit improvement benefits all road users.

A related problem will be dealing with the operation of nearside stops where a transit vehicle can actually hold up traffic and consume green time that might go to the cross street. Schemes to allow transit vehicles to “talk” to signal controllers have been proposed so that green signals might be given when they are really needed, or that the signals might deign to hold a vehicle that is running “early” (whatever that may mean depending on the goals for service quality).

For routes operating on narrow streets, parking and loading are generally bigger problems than traffic signal delays, but restrictions on these activities involve difficult battles with businesses who view the parking lanes as essential to their operations.

Transit priority is a matter for the medium term with a spillover into the long-term philosophical discussions about how road space and time should be allocated to users whose combined demands exceed available capacity.

In the short term, the main concern is that where priority now exists, it should not be lost to inattention or to political pressure to limit its operation.

Fare Policy

Broadly speaking, there are four possible approaches to transit fares:

  • Prices can be changed to favour specific groups of riders.
  • Prices can be frozen to shift more of the operating budget cost to subsidy from fares.
  • Prices can be based on some unit of consumption such as a time-based fare or fare zones.
  • Integration of fares with other transit systems in the GTHA including local carriers such as Mississauga Transit and the regional carrier, GO.

Fare By Class of Rider

Today, Toronto has different fare media for certain classes of rider such as seniors and students, but these are broadly-based discounts available to anyone who meets the definition regardless of their ability to pay.  Children, students and seniors have enjoyed discounted fares for a long time, although only the child fare goes back to the early days of the TTC.  Free travel for the blind is also well-established, but they are the only class of disabled rider with this benefit.  (It can well be argued that the substantial subsidies for Wheel Trans benefit many others in the disabled community, but this brings us to the problem of being “disabled enough” to quality.  I will turn later to Wheel Trans.)

At budget time, a common refrain is that discounted fares should be available to people on specific types of social assistance (with that status being a de facto means test for the lower transit fare).  The TTC’s position has always been that this constitutes a social benefit that should be funded by Council or Queen’s Park, not something that the TTC extends unilaterally.

Some wheels are squeakier than others as those of us who watched the well-organized lobbying for post-secondary student fares saw.  This is not to say that students are undeserving, but there are many classes of Toronto resident with credible claims for lower transit fares.  If Council goes down this path, the debate should be broadly-based, not simply be for the benefit of one group of riders.

Frozen Fares

Fare freezes come up routinely as a “solution” to resolving the high proportion of transit costs that are borne by riders as compared with those on other systems.  There are two fundamental problems here.

First, a fare freeze does nothing in itself to improve service and actually can work contrary to that goal unless Council makes up the missing funding.  A lower fare is of little value if one cannot board the system because it is overcrowded, or runs too infrequently to be useful. Second, no matter what target is chosen for the “fair fare”, a freeze will reach that target some day. The common value used in Toronto is a 2/3 farebox, 1/3 subsidy ratio based on the Davis formula from the early 1970s.

In the 2014 budget, fares revenue is set at 68.78% of total costs, with 27.13% coming from subsidy and just over 4% from other revenues such as advertising and parking.  It would take only two years for frozen fares to bring revenues down to about 2/3 of total operating costs.  (This calculation presumes that fare revenues would rise by 3% annually due to increased riding, while operating costs rose by 5% due to service expansion plus inflation.) After the two year freeze, what then?

Another way to achieve a lower farebox recovery rate is to expand service faster than the growth in fare revenue. This was a deliberate policy during the RGS era, and the approach preserves the concept that service should become more attractive to riders.

A quick-fix fare freeze is the worst sort of “pro transit” policy because it inevitably leads to limitations on service growth, and a large “reset” jolt if the effects of the freeze are undone in one swoop by a future administration.

Charging by Consumption

For all of its existence, the TTC has had a single fare and transfer policy.  Originally this covered its service territory, the old City of Toronto, and routes going beyond were in one or more separate fare zones.  Transfers were issued so that riders could move between routes for one continuous journey without stopovers.  For the better part of a century, riders and drivers have played the game of getting as much out of a transfer as possible.

Smart cards may be coming, but encoding the byzantine rules governing transfer use and the many permutations of valid trips will challenge even the smartest of systems. An alternative scheme is needed that will not just be change for its own sake (and for the benefit of back-end computer systems), but that will also make transit more attractive to use.

Recently, the question of time-based fares already in use elsewhere in the GTHA came up for discussion at the TTC, and the Board referred this off to staff for inclusion in the 2015 budget process.  In short, the scheme would make the single fare (be it cash, ticket or token) a limited time pass which could be used for any travel, in any direction, with any stop overs, provided that the time limit was not exceeded.  High technology is not required to implement this, and other cities have issued transfers timestamped (or cut)  to show when they expire for decades.  With a smart card such as Presto, the same logic can easily be built into the card and readers to deduct a new fare only when an older one had expired.

This has the advantage of making transit much more attractive for bursts of trips that are each short, but which would require separate fares (or very creative use of transfers) to make cheaply.  With a two-hour window (the most commonly proposed), almost all trips would fall within a single fare’s time.  This scheme has the additional benefit of being easy to merge with other transit systems in the GTHA that are already using a similar time-based arrangement.  Time of day and day of week discounts would be possible simply by extending the period for which one fare is valid.

Another discussion has been the question of zone fares.  This too can be implemented with a smart card, but the likely short-term arrangement would only be for cross-border trips onto other transit systems like VIVA.  Bringing a zone system back into Toronto itself would open intense debates about the role of transit for the longer trips typically taken by suburban riders.  After all, it was the suburban politicians who, through their control of subsidies by the Metro Toronto government, brought an end to zone fares over 40 years ago.

Finally, we have the problem of classes of service. Should a higher fare be charged on “premium services” and , if so, what is the difference between GO Transit and the subway system? Where do GO buses fit into the mix? What happens to a network built on one integrated set of services (the TTC) if parts of it sprout different fare regimes?

The larger problem for the GTHA is that when people talk about “integrated” fares, they really mean “cheaper for me”.  Riders from York Region complain about a double fare to ride into Toronto and the TTC just as riders from Scarborough once complained about the zone boundary on many bus lines and, initially, at Scarborough subway stations.  One major incentive for subway construction beyond the 416 boundary is the perception that a single TTC fare ride will be available all the way to Union Station, a much cheaper deal that a comparable trip on GO Transit.

I have written here before that my own preference is for time-based fares as these are easy to understand and do not build in the distortions inherent in zone boundaries. However, any new fare system will almost certainly require more subsidy, a higher base fare, or both.  We are unlikely to see this for 2015, but a well-informed debate is essential in parallel with the Presto rollout that begins later this year and will continue into 2016.


  • In the short term, background papers are needed on each of the possible fare schemes including costs, implementation plans and effects on riders. These are essential to an informed debate by the 2015 Council and TTC Board.
  • By no later than 2016 (the budget cycle after the current one), Toronto should implement a new fare structure that can be easily supported by Presto and be easily understood by riders and drivers.
  • Discussion of true fare integration with revenue sharing among the pool of GTHA transit operators is a topic beyond Council’s power, but with subsidy implications for Toronto and other transit systems including GO.

Wheel Trans

I have left Wheel Trans to the end not from any sense that this is a lesser service, but because its clientele and the funding arrangements are so different from the regular TTC system.

There are many issues for Council to discuss about transit service for the disabled and accessibility in general.

Some of these involve large-scale capital projects such as the retro-fitting of subway stations, an area where our “partners” at Queen’s Park have been notable for their absence even though the work is required by provincial legislation.

Wheel Trans provides two types of services to its riders: subsidized trips in taxis and trips by Wheel Trans vans. The subsidy per trip is much higher than that paid for users of the regular transit system, and this is funded entirely by Toronto with no provincial support. The goal has always been to constrain the growth of these costs even though demographic trends work against the TTC.

Improving accessibility of the regular system will allow some riders now on Wheel Trans to shift to buses, streetcars and subways, but this is not possible for every Wheel Trans rider. This basic fact seems to elude some politicians who hope that the need for Wheel Trans might evaporate when, if anything, it will almost certainly grow.

Among the sacrifices made by riders for the “greater good” of budget control, dialysis patients who formerly had access to Wheel Trans were dumped from the system. This was not the TTC’s finest hour, and it begs the question of who else will be deemed fit enough to lose Wheel Trans eligibility.

Wheel Trans costs Toronto over $100m/year that is separate from the regular TTC operating budget. Council needs to debate the future of this service and eligibility/access which, like so much else in Toronto, has been chipped away during the Ford era.

This is a service where provincial involvement is badly needed as a dedicated subsidy, not simply lumped in with other transit spending. It is not just a transportation matter, but a social service and medical issue with profound implications for the lives of people who depend on it.


Toronto has lived through three-plus years of Rob Ford and Karen Stintz dictating transit policy and limiting the options put before Council for debate. The message has all been about “respecting the taxpayer” while the poor transit rider is left shivering in the cold hoping that they can board that barely-visible bus blocks down the street, and that it won’t short turn before their destination.

TTC meetings have been all about “good news”, but rarely about real policy debates or any sense that the track Toronto transit has been following leads not to a bright, prosperous future, but to the decline of a once-great transit system.

Council spent hours deciding whether to support subways or LRT, but rarely debating the basic question of what transit service overall should look like. What is the TTC expected to do? What should a truly good, even excellent TTC look like? Why are we prepared to invest new taxes for one subway, but cringe when spending on the rest of the system is mentioned?

TTC management must not shirk from providing policy alternatives where the words “we can’t do that” or “we don’t do that” simply do not appear. Some things may be difficult, but the job of staff is to advise, not to dictate, and to implement what the Board and Council direct.

The TTC Board’s goal, short term, should be to prepare the way for a new administration, whoever they may be, with background information on transit alternatives and advocacy to ensure that this debate is a public one.

Toronto needs to see real progress in 2015, not just studies and political platitudes.

Leadership, not abdication.

Do those who would lead Toronto really want a better TTC?

41 thoughts on “Toronto Deserves Better Transit Service Now! Part 2: What Can Be Done

  1. Well according to Robert Munsch a subway station can appear anywhere … even in the house of a kid named Jonathan … if the city’s transportation computer says so.

    Steve, I bet with your years in IT you could reprogram that computer to make it happen.

    Cheers, Moaz

    Steve: There is a wonderful animated version called Blackberry Subway Jam on the NFB’s website.


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