So You Want To Own A Subway …

Updated May 26, 2014: Philip Webb caught two typos in numbers in this article which have been corrected. These changes do not affect the overall argument.

The madness that passes for political policy in Toronto continues in the provincial election with a proposal that a Tory administration under Tim Hudak would transfer control of the rapid transit system to GO Transit as a regional asset. The conventional wisdom is that the subway on its own would be “profitable”, and that Toronto would be stiffed for the money-losing surface network.

Quite bluntly, any claim that the subway makes a profit and could be uploaded at no net cost to Queen’s Park is pure bunk, and it says something about the quality of Hudak’s advisors that they don’t seem to know this (among many other fiscal facts of life). Just like the operation of a house or a car, two things many voters must deal with day-to-day, there are two budgets:

  • Operating: Here we have the bills that roll in regularly such as taxes, utilities, insurance. Unless we are renting out our homes or vehicles, there is no offsetting revenue, but in the case of the subway, there are fares and other much smaller sources of income.
  • Capital: Now and then, major expenses come along such as a new roof or foundation repairs, a new furnace or other appliances, fixing the plumbing and electrics, building that nice new patio you always wanted. These don’t happen often, and the expense covers an asset that should last decades, but some level of capital spending is unavoidable.

I have omitted mortgage costs here because they do not have a direct equivalent in transit budgets where the cost of borrowed money is not visible. If this were included, then capital-intensive modes like the subway would have a higher operating cost with the debt service charges included.

Capital Costs for the TTC

The TTC has a 10-year rolling budget projection for capital costs (see 2014-2023 Capital Budget). The appendices contain a detailed breakdown by area and project with a summary in Appendix A and the details in Appendix B. Those who have a real appetite for mind-numbing detail can browse the two volumes of the “Blue Books”, all 1,800 pages or so, that are available for review on request, but by personal visit, not online.

TTC_2014_Budget_Breakdown_By_Mode

This table subdivides the areas within the 10-year budget by mode. The allocation to each mode has been done as follows:

  • Where an item is clearly for a single mode (such as “purchase buses”), the cost is allocated 100% to that mode.
  • For a few large items that contain many projects (notably “Buildings & Structures”), I delved into the line items to determine how they should be allocated. The percentage split reflects that breakdown (details not included here).
  • For other lines, I allocated costs based on my understanding of the relative portion of the asset related to each mode. Some will quibble with the values I chose, but it is important to note that these are not major budget lines, and shuffling the percentage splits will not have a big effect on the totals by mode.

The TTC’s capital plans (including the so-called “below the line” projects for which they do not yet have funding), total about $8.6-billion over the 2014-2023 period. This breaks down as:

$-billion Percent
Subway 4.5 53
Bus 1.7 20
Streetcar 2.2 25
Wheel Trans .164 2

The streetcar amount and percentage are high because this part of the capital plan includes the complete fleet replacement and the initial stages of expansion not to mention the construction of a new maintenance facility. Spending on these budget lines will not continue at the same level into future decades.

Similarly, some subway costs such as the new signal system and fleet replacement do not recur at the same level decade-by-decade.

That said, it is clear that over half of the TTC’s capital budget, with no provision for system expansion, goes to the subway network at an annual cost of about $450-million. If Queen’s Park takes over the subway, they must also take over this capital expense.

The only long-term capital funding from Queen’s Park today is the gas tax revenue at an annual rate of about $71m (Toronto receives more, but directs the rest to the operating budget). Ottawa kicks in about $154m in gas taxes bringing the total from this source to $225m. However, only about half of that can reasonably be “uploaded” to Queen’s Park as part of a subway takeover, and so there is only about $113m in gas tax that should shift to the province as part of the transfer.

This would leave a net additional cost to Queen’s Park of $337m per year for capital maintenance.

The Operating Budget

The TTC’s Operating Budget covers all modes and does not break out the subway system as an explicit cost centre, although this breakdown has appeared in the past. On a broad scale, the budget looks like this:

$-billion $-billion
Fare Revenue 1.101
Contract Services 0.017
Advertising 0.026
Rent 0.010
Parking 0.010
Other 0.002
Total Revenue 1.166
Total Expense 1.600
Subsidy 0.434

Although the TTC does not publish subway and RT operating costs, we can get a sense of their magnitude by working backwards from the costs assigned to the surface routes.

Taking the reported daily cost and factoring by 300 to get an annual estimate (this treats weekends as the equivalent of one weekday), we can figure out the “leftover” costs that must be due to the subway. Note that 2012 costs are used here because these are the most recently published on a route-by-route basis.

Daily ($-million) Annual ($-billion)
Bus System Cost (2012) 2.9
Streetcar System Cost (2012) 0.6
Surface System Cost (2012) 3.5 1.050
Inflation to 2014 @ 2% 1.090
Total Budget (2014) 1.600
Net Subway Cost 0.510

(If someone at the TTC wants to challenge this estimate or correct it, I would be more than happy to see numbers that, for some reason, disappeared from the route-by-route allocations years ago.)

A common refrain is that there are millions to be saved by conversion of the subway to automatic operation, or even to unattended trains. I wrote about this in my critique of the Neptis Metrolinx review. The total number of subway operators is only about 605 out of a 10,700-strong workforce (2012 data). Some savings would be possible, but these would be offset by the cost of roving passenger assistance agents and security staff.

(The subway has a large fixed cost associated with the operation and maintenance of its complex infrastructure and stations that is independent of actual usage or level of service.)

When we combine the operating and capital maintenance costs together, we get:

$-billion  $-billion
Operating Cost 0.510
Capital Maintenance 0.425
Total Annual Cost 0.935
Current Capital Subsidies 0.225
Subway Subsidy Share (50%) 0.113
Net Cost of Uploaded Subway 0.822

However, the total revenue obtained by the TTC is only $1.17b, and roughly half of that “belongs” to the surface network. (There are actually more riders on the surface network than  on the subway although many trips involve both networks.) If the subway actually is “owed” half of the revenue, $585m, this would roughly balance the annual operating cost with little left over to fund capital maintenance (or to pay a “dividend”).

Cooking the Books

The subway can be made to appear profitable simply by changing the revenue model, notably by splitting it off as a separate fare zone. Even if a dual fare were granted to riders who start out on a TTC bus or streetcar (rather like the co-fare provided to GO riders who start their trips on a local bus system), the effect would be to increase fares for all riders whose travel uses both modes.

We can have a robust debate about whether the subway should be priced this way, and given the projected operating losses of extensions into York Region, the idea of a subway surcharge is superficially attractive. However, this goes directly against the design responsible for the TTC’s success as the city grew — providing a single fare ride with free transfers between routes — and also risks penalizing those riders who cannot organize their lives to avoid the subway system.

A long-delayed policy discussion at the TTC should examine the practicality and effects of moving to a new fare system such as zones or a time-based model. It does not matter which one we choose or how we tweak the scheme, some riders will pay more and some will pay less. After all, the talk of “regional integration” is at its heart a desire by riders who must cross the 905-boundary for a lower combined fare on their journeys. “Integration” is not simply a matter of having one card that would pay for all travel but with an unchanged tariff.

The effect of rebalancing fares can be offset either by raising subsidies, or by accepting that some riders will pay more. This discussion would be central to uploading the subway to Queen’s Park because there must be some way to decide how fares are calculated and revenues are split between the systems.

Another crucial issue is that of service standards. We have seen this battle in Toronto. Some believe that transit should be available at reasonable crowding levels and good service frequency throughout the day. Others hold that service should only be operated when it does not lose too much money, and that vehicles should be stuffed full as the standard and target for service levels.

Nobody ever talks about the subway service operated with nearly-empty trains to the ends of the system until 2:00am every day. Would GO Transit provide such generous service on its rail network, and would the TTC’s frequent off-peak subway service be a victim of uploading? A Hudak government can hardly be expected to run “gravy trains” out into the suburbs for only a handful of riders when a bus would do just as well. That is, after all, the GO Transit model.

Whenever there is talk about “integration” or “uploading”, we never see a full explanation of just what is proposed. This can leave voters and transit riders hoping for their ideal world such as a single TTC fare for trips well beyond the 416 into downtown or a reduced cost of trips including GO and other systems. What they actually get may be a surprise that pandering politicians would rather not discuss, presuming they even understand that issue.

40 thoughts on “So You Want To Own A Subway …

  1. But isn’t the issue here not whether subway, streetcars or buses are profitable, but that the only public transit lines that pay for themselves are the ones in the dense pre-war parts of the city.

    The TTC was able to pay for itself until the creation of Metro in the 1950s. The streetcar lines carry a lot of passengers and likely pay for themselves even today. No doubt, the Yonge line and parts of the Danforth line would pay for themselves if only the pre-1970 parts are included.

    The subway extension to Vaughan, and likely the ones in Scarborough, including the proposed extension, are likely money losers, and will be for decades, much like the Sheppard subway has been.

    Steve: The TTC was able to pay for itself because the riding habit coming out of World War II was strong and the city was growing, but expressways had not yet taken over. Most trips were fairly short because the system was concentrated in the old City of Toronto, and what services did exist outside of the city charged a separate zone fare. The decision to move to a flat city-wide fare in the 1970s was not unilaterally bad, in the sense that it was a strong incentive to ride transit in the suburbs provided (a) it was there to ride and (b) the city and province kept up a strong subsidy policy. We know that both of these did not last, and suburban expansion did not keep pace with the expanding population.

    We cannot turn back the clock to a much smaller, simpler city or to some nirvana where transit doesn’t run at a loss. Don’t forget one more important thing: when the TTC was doing well, it did not have a network of subways to maintain or operate at service levels far better than would be provided on surface routes. The first parts of the subway network replaced very busy streetcar lines and established the pattern of frequent service all day, a pattern that was extended into areas where the ridership does not strictly justify it. This is one of the reasons people want “subways subways subways”: they get very frequent service as long as the lines are open, something they cannot expect on a surface route.

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  2. This seems to be the election where the Tories throw out everything they can in terms of red meat to their base.

    As a fiscal conservative, I am shocked at how fiscally unsound their rhetoric is.

    This Emperor has no clothes.

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  3. The uploading proposal is baffling for other practical reasons:

    1) Who will determine service levels if it’s uploaded to Metrolinx? Will Torontonians have any direct say in this, given the local nature of the service, and the possibility that an Ontario government can be elected without significant representation from Toronto? (Or, is Doug Holyday meant to be accountable to all Torontonians?)

    2) Who will run replacement buses (and pay for them) when the subway goes out of service (or chooses to cut back its service hours)? Presumably, Metrolinx won’t just have a fleet on standby. Will the TTC be compensated for providing extra service?

    3) Who will own and be responsible for each individual station and its infrastructure? Presumably, some kind of arrangement would be made like GO/Viva/Zum have to share the regional bus platform at Finch, but what do you do at stations that are more completely integrated? Who’s responsible for maintaining the elevators between the subway and streetcar platforms at St. Clair West or Spadina, for example?

    4) Add in to the capital costs the cost of establishing new fare gates around most stations’ bus terminals to separate them from the subway. Let’s have fun figuring out which stations will be the most difficult to add the gates to. I’m going to say Kipling, ’cause the bus platform is so small there’s really no room to add a fare gate.

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  4. Ogthedim said:

    This seems to be the election where the Tories throw out everything they can in terms of red meat to their base.

    I find it remarkable that they can say Ontario is broke in addition to Ontario needing to spend recklessly and slash revenue, sometimes even in the same sentence, while expecting people to take them seriously. One would think that someone in the war room would have clued in that all the voters want is a few years of getting the province’s books cleaned up. But then, Tim Hudak is desperate to win because everyone knows that he should have been gone after losing the last election.

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  5. The other issue here too is that 99.9% of the surface routes either start/end at a subway stop, or passes through/over a subway on their trip. This only makes it more complex to determine if the subway would be ‘profitable.’ Many people using the subway are not using the subway to get from ‘A’ to ‘B’ but rather as part of their trip between ‘A’ and ‘B’.

    Brian wrote:

    “The streetcar lines carry a lot of passengers and likely pay for themselves even today.”

    Well perhaps downtown, but in the west end the 501 can be lightly used during the day and as such makes the 501 hard to pay for itself. Also, part of its route downtown is shared with the 502. Again this makes it more complex to say that either route pays for itself as people may simply jump on the first car that comes.

    And again a very complex evaluation of travel patterns would have to determine if people are actually using the streetcar to get from ‘A’ to ‘B’ or if they are not also using another option (such as another streetcar line, a bus, or the subway.) As such fares would have to be split between those routes not applied to one route or another.

    Steve: A separate issue is that in a flat fare system, it is impossible to allocate fares between routes without producing distortions. As a simple example, should we split fare revenue based on vehicles used, by mileage or by time? How should pass revenue be allocated? I left this out of the article because it’s a complex problem in its own right, and the real issue should be “do people want to ride this service”.

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  6. Any uploading of the TTC/highways would inevitably mandate that the City of Toronto pay for the cost of their upkeep. This is simply the Conservatives realizing that the downloading of the 1990s didn’t work. Taking the TTC out of the city’s hands would get rid of the endless interference from city council, Miller, Ford, etc. There would still be provincial political inference, but at least there would be interference from one level of government instead of two. I also always perceive Metrolinx operations to be better run, despite the lower levels of service provided. For instance, GO stations are much better maintained than TTC stations, customer service is better, etc. Also if the TTC bus system got taken over by the province it would finally eliminate arbitrary regional boundaries like how only every 4th bus goes north of Steeles and an extra fare is charged. Similarly the city’s highways department does a poor job of maintaining the Gardiner, city council refuses to consider widening the section of the DVP north of Eglinton, and the city allows ridiculous things like charity bike rides on the Gardiner/DVP that the province would never allow on the 401.

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  7. Brian:

    The TTC was able to pay for itself until the creation of Metro in the 1950s.

    Didn’t the TTC’s operating budget stay in the black until the early 1970s?

    I remember, some years ago, stumbling across a bound report about that in the Toronto Public Library, discussing the elimination of zone fares and whether that was why the TTC’s operating budget finally went into the red.

    It concluded that there were other causes. I can’t remember the details or even the title of the report (any ideas, Steve? even a partial match might help me find it in the library catalogue), but I definitely remember the
    timeframe.

    Steve: Politically, the argument for elimination of the zone fares in 1973 originated with Metro helping to pay for the subway extensions into Scarborough, Etobicoke and North York. Suburban pols said “if you want us to pay for it, we want the same fare as everyone else”. However, the suburban expansion, which really took off in the late 1960s, had brought new capital and operating costs that were not completely covered by fares even with the zone system. Trip lengths were growing and with them the cost of providing service.

    By the way, for the benefit of readers unfamiliar with the period, there were tickets for combined zone 1 & 2 trips (each half of the ticket paid for one zone) that cost about 1.6 times the single zone ticket. When people refer to the zone fare system, it was not a full double fare except for people who chose not to buy the two-zone tickets (which in those days were available from the operators on buses and streetcars).

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  8. Fares by mileage vs fares by time?

    The problem with fares by time is that if there is congestion, like on roads without HOV lanes or ones with construction, passengers actually pay more for bad service!

    Steve: And less for fast trips on the subway which, if anything is, should be a “premium” fare. When I speak of time-based fares, I should be clearer — one “fare” would buy, say, two hours of travel, in effect a limited time pass. This would cover most trips, and would give a discount to people making multiple short hops within the window.

    For mileage, trips downtown tend to be short and therefore would be cheap (far cheaper than a cab), whereas anyone living out by the zoo will pay a lot to go anywhere and so they would just use the car, except during rush hour when headed downtown.

    Steve: Such are the challenges of finding a new fare structure that is perceived to be reasonably “fair”. There will always be cases where some benefit and others pay more, and implementation will almost certainly involve higher subsidies.

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  9. Per Andrew’s comment above, I’ve long thought about simplifying and his points of having 1 gov’t vs. 2 meddle with capital projects is spot-on. I think everyone has a desire to depoliticize the process, and I believe that City of TO Planning is trying to build in the planning for Rapid Transit corridors into their official plan, which will again disarm some of the lower priority ideas (e.g. North York relief line?)

    I can’t think of any reason the city would have wanted to keep the Gardiner/DVP under their jurisdiction? I understand that when uploading, there is a fear of sacrificing local knowledge/subtleties, but is that really the case with freeways? Besides the re-routing of the Gardiner that is on the table, which the city has a ton of vested interest in, why would they care if someone else would pay for maintenance/upgrades? I am a big fan of uploading as while “there is only one taxpayer,” provincial income streams are much more progressive than the limited tax base we have in Toronto from property taxes & MLTT (although one could argue we don’t flex our muscles enough with the City of TO act).

    In terms of uploading, I know there is some discontent about the lack of change in the operating subsidy file from Queens Park, however, if in theory the province took on all capital costs, then maybe that is same as offering an op sub? Right now, both entities are partially in, maybe the separation would be cleaner if out of the Design-Bid-Build-Finance-Operate-Maintain, O&M are responsibility of the city, and DBBF are the province?

    Steve: The inevitable problem is the arrival of a government at Queen’s Park that doesn’t give a damn about Toronto and either shirks its responsibilities, or worse, foists plans on an unwilling city. We have local government for a reason, inconvenient as that may seem at times.

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  10. If Queen’s Park takes over the subway, they must also take over this capital expense.

    But this isn’t true.

    Steve, your problem here is that you are trying “real accounting”. Don’t do that. Think instead on what a majority provincial government can do to the TTC and Toronto – the answer here is, “anything they want to”. They can upload fare collection (only) and leave 100% of the costs as the responsibility of the city, because #$%%^ you, that’s why. They can cut capital investment to zero (and I would expect that to be one of Hudak’s first actions). They can raise fares to $5.00, because why should hard-working suburban taxpayers subsidize these pampered city elites?

    You can count all the PC ridings in Toronto with zero fingers. Hudak does not care if his actions with regard to the TTC are disastrous or not, as long as they make the provincial budget look good for a few years.

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  11. I think this would actually make the operation harder to control. I suspect that one of the reasons that GO appears better run is that generally I am under the impression that its operations are smaller in terms of staff, and easier to assess in terms of schedule.

    One of the basic problems I suspect with the TTC in terms of line management is that it is large enough to make for considerable ‘dis-economies of scale’. I would think that if TTC was uploaded to any great degree that would make management of GO harder. Breaking subway out, would not greatly affect any operations, but would make co-ordination harder. If the province wanted to tackle the harder parts of line management and scheduling etc, they would tackle the bus and streetcar operations.

    Does the notion of taking control of “rapid transit” mean they will also be responsible for any BRT and closed ROW LRT as well? What about the idea that we would be running buses and streetcars in mixed situations, closed ROW for part of their operations and street for part?

    The province has quite enough on its plate if it is really going to address the issue of making GO a high frequency system! The service improvements required there to draw people away from TTC subway and the highway are still substantial. To make it work regionally requires a high level of schedule coordination with more than just the TTC. The subway is the slightest issue here.

    Further, frankly the province could dictate plans regardless, something that Mr. Hudak will likely ‘discover’ shortly after he is elected.

    City politics would not disappear at the local service level regardless, as the province would still get considerable political pressure, as they do now. The issue now is not really who is in control of the system, but the general dysfunctional populism of local and provincial politics.

    We need the provincial and city governments to return to the purpose of representative democracy. We are supposed to elect representatives to make the best decision based on all available information. Not based on the mood of the electorate.

    Steve: And I might say, “not based on the highly manipulated mood of the electorate”.

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  12. Steve said:“And I might say, “not based on the highly manipulated mood of the electorate”.”

    I was trying not to go there. However, that is in essence true.

    Stir up the electorate with easy to sell BS, and then you are caught. “Subway, subway, subway” makes a great campaign but incredibly bad governance.

    However, “We have a plan to improve basic management, schedule integrity and inter-agency cooperation” while a large part of what is required would be incredibly bad electioneering.

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  13. Rishi asks,

    “I can’t think of any reason the city would have wanted to keep the Gardiner/DVP under their jurisdiction?”

    Remember that the Gardiner west of the Humber used to be the QEW and provincial. It was downloaded to the City by the Harris government — as were a lot of other provincial highways all over the province.

    The city might be glad to have the province take over the highways. I suspect the province doesn’t want to.

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  14. Ed says

    “The city might be glad to have the province take over the highways. I suspect the province doesn’t want to.”

    Exactly – this has been a big problem with the Liberal government – an unwillingness to go back and undo a lot of the damaging policies of the Harris years – fixing the megacity, undoing the damage done to school boards, etc. – largely because McGuinty was really a red tory at heart, and not from the GTA either.

    Same with the OMB and the lack of actionreform in this or other areas.

    The city could have just closed/blocked off the sections of highway it inherited and blamed the province for all the havoc, I guess, but the province would have the ultimate power to inflict even more pain or to force the city to put up with the situation.

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  15. Both Libs and Cons plans are full of hot air. Both have some good points & both have some head-scratchers. If we could merge parts of the two plans together we would be in good shape unfortunately we are forced to cut our own throats as always.

    The NDP is really missing an opportunity to shine.

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  16. Brian says;

    “The city could have just closed/blocked off the sections of highway it inherited and blamed the province for all the havoc, I guess, but the province would have the ultimate power to inflict even more pain or to force the city to put up with the situation.”

    The province tried to off load the 427 and the core lanes were in terrible shape. The city said if they were off loaded they would close the express lanes because they weren’t for 416 as much as they were for 905 and others crossing through Toronto.

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  17. Joe M said:

    The NDP is really missing an opportunity to shine.

    I’d say the Green Party is the party missing an opportunity to shine with this election. Simply put, they are the only major provincial party who you can’t invoke the boogieman of recent governments against them.

    Steve: The NDP is so enamoured of the possibility of beating Tories for seats in southwestern Ontario that they have become a Tory-lite party with some of their urban policies. There has been a transit announcement, but late in the game and with a lot of detail missing.

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  18. Re: The notion that the T.T.C. was financially self-supporting prior to approximately mid-century, last century, as well as diverse notions about apportionment of costs:

    There may be that, operationally, the T.T.C. was self-supporting during the course of at least three or four decades of time after its inception; however, there’s a tendency to ignore the contribution toward that self-sufficiency, made in the form of support by the robust infrastructure provided, if I’m not mistaken, at public cost given representation in the great rebuilding effort of the early nineteen-twenties. Moreover, when additions to the fleet, or replacements to the fleet, were needed, the T.T.C. benefitted through low-cost acquisitions of cars from American cities abandoning their streetcar systems. Not taking some account of those matters, seems to me to introduce at least some measure of distortion into the argument that the T.T.C. was ever self-supporting.

    Steve: That is an excellent point because, together with the subway being brand new and therefore relatively cheap to maintain, the TTC came into the 60s in very good shape.

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  19. Steve: I have heard it said that an improvement for the TTC would be to have proper financial accounting – just like a private sector company. Then debt service and depreciation would impact the Balance Sheet and P&L. As capital assets depreciate, it would be evident on each year’s report and the long term costs of refurbishment would be equally visible. While the depreciation would increase paper losses, it is a non cash item so subsidies would not need to be increased. This seems like a good idea to me.

    Steve: This would also require that capital contributions via subsidies be treated as revenue on the capital account, and debt service would have to be shown there as well. This gets tricky when the debt is actually carried by a separate entity (e.g. the city or province) from the transit system. The whole problem of capital asset accounting was a knotty one for Metrolinx and Queen’s Park.

    In the old days indirect subsidies for transit were available through leasing arrangements when taxpaying financial institutions could take advantage of the Capital Cost Allowances (tax depreciation) and offer lower cost lease payments. However, many years ago the federal government introduced the “new” leasing rules which disallowed this practice for transit equipment. If the federal government made an exception to the new rules for public sector entities, cheap financing could be made available. However – beware because Dash Domi might be the one structuring the deal and it may not be cheap at all.

    Steve: The Feds explicitly barred this practice because it was, via the tax credit, an indirect federal subsidy of transit capital purchases, and I doubt you would see this return. Other jurisdictions have wrestled with this because a tax credit in state “A” could wind up subsidizing a project in state “B” or even a foreign country.

    However, please do not confuse these suggestion to think I believe that the “TTC needs to be run like a business”. I don’t like being a “customer”. The TTC is a service provided as a social good and I am a patron. The TTC should continue to be run as a subsidised social service that loses money. However, better financial reporting might make it easier to keep an accurate tab about where we stand.

    Steve: One thing that shows up in the city’s accounts is a statement of the interest they are paying on capital debt, and an apportionment of this to various agencies and projects. I very much doubt that Queen’s Park does the same, and they treat many subsidies as a direct expense in the year they are paid. More recently with “their” LRT lines, they have wanted the assets on their books to offset the debt, and they will be depreciated in the conventional manner.

    The info is there, but it is scattered through different sets of accounts.

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  20. I remember the zone system as being more than 2. When we moved to Toronto in 1959, there was a pony farm at Kipling and Albion and the nearest bus was at Islington (Woodbridge, every 1 1/2 hours in rush hour). I don’t remember exactly, but zone 3 started at Wilson and Weston and they may have been up to zone 5 by Steeles or Hwy 7.

    I’m sure that the nearest stop to us was one or two into zone 4.

    A few years later we were down to 2 zones.

    Steve: Yes, originally, zones 2 and 3 were within Metro Toronto, but they were combined into zone 2. From then on, zones 3 and above were outside Metro.

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  21. David Youngs says:

    “I remember the zone system as being more than 2. When we moved to Toronto in 1959, there was a pony farm at Kipling and Albion and the nearest bus was at Islington (Woodbridge, every 1 1/2 hours in rush hour). I don’t remember exactly, but zone 3 started at Wilson and Weston and they may have been up to zone 5 by Steeles or Hwy 7.”

    On the Etobicoke Historical Society’s webpage, they have this link to a photograph with the following description:

    “Four Corners, Thistletown c. 1953, Albion Road looking east across Islington Avenue. Directional signs indicate: Woodbridge 3 miles, Weston 3 miles, Pine Grove 4 miles, Kleinburg 8 miles, Clairville 4 miles, Brampton 13 miles.”

    One cannot help but notice too the “Zone 3 Limit” sign on the white post in the middle of the photo. I guess this would have been considered “out there” at the time for anyone without a car and using public transit.

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  22. If this is the corner I remember some came down Islington too fast once and missed the corner damaging the front of the building in the right side. Perhaps this is why the utility poles have rocks and mounds or dirt around them. It sure looks different now.

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  23. There is a 3 zone map or just google and the same map comes up. This looks late 50s, as there is no Leslie bus and no subway under University either, just Yonge.

    I recall that on Leslie street, north of Eglinton, in the early 70s was where they would stop the bus as it was another zone – I was coming from the Science Centre to Leslie and Lawrence once and didn’t have enough money or tickets!

    Steve: The stop was at what was then Columbia Records, later Sony. I believe the building is now for sale.

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  24. In that 1957 map, the distance of zone 4 from Albion Road to Steeles is about 2 miles. The bus went to Boyd conservation area (Pine Grove) which seems to be another 2 miles.

    I think the ex-urban zone tickets were a bit cheaper than zone 1 or 2.

    I had a visit from a friend from Scarborough. He claimed to have had to pay 5 fares because he went into Zone 1 and back out.

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  25. Steve wrote:

    “The NDP is so enamoured of the possibility of beating Tories for seats in southwestern Ontario that they have become a Tory-lite party with some of their urban policies.”

    Kevin’s comment:

    I heartily agree. Classic example of this: Andrea Horwath is MPP for Hamilton Centre. Yet is missing in action when it comes to the Hamilton LRT, which will convey a huge benefit upon her own riding.

    In my opinion, an essential prerequisite for demonstrating competence to be premier of Ontario is to first be an effective MPP in her own riding.

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  26. It is unfortunate that the province cannot stick to the big picture issues, and that which should really be under their control. That is infrastructure, funding and GO. From that perspective, they should be asking regularly, are you sure you really need this, and is the best bang for the buck (re:Yonge and Scarborough subway extensions).

    The city fight should really be about management issues, and who is or will do the best job of real stewardship, and creating real accountability for city agencies. Rob Ford has indicated no desire on the transit file to do much more than grand stand. The city election should mostly be about making the buses and streetcars run on time and quickly.

    Good management means you buy what you need now or in the reasonably near future. A responsible mayor would argue for what is really required and not saddle the city with grand visions of unsustainable subway. Toronto needs one subway, just west of the core to Don Mills and Eglinton, asking for or providing more does not improve transit, only reduces resources for other needs (including transit).

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  27. Not that I think Hudak thinks about these kinds of things very seriously, but the only reason that the TTC subway is so successful is the connecting bus routes. It’s a fast, high-capacity trunk line for the bus network rather than a standalone system. It’s not as though most riders are walking (or driving) to the suburban stops; the overwhelming majority are riding the bus. If fares are to remain integrated, it’s just meaningless juggling of assets between government agencies. If the fare systems are separated, you’d see a massive overnight decline in subway ridership, not to mention the massive capital cost of separating the fare systems. It goes without saying, but this is a very foolish policy.

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  28. I would be interested to know how the subway expenses break down, and how they compare to other subway systems around the world. Similar systems, like those in New York, Montreal, Paris, London, and newer systems like those found in Hong Kong. Once the data is normalized based on passengers per km of subway, or per active station, for example, we may be able to identify activities that can be improved from a financial efficiency standpoint.

    Toronto has one of the smallest subway systems in the world, we have an opportunity to learn from cities that have developed much more interconnected transit systems at a much greater scale. Let’s use that data for our benefit.

    Steve: When making comparisons, it is also vital to consider the age of systems and where they stand in the typical arc of being fairly cheap to run in early years before the need for capital repairs sets in. Individual costs need to be compared on an apples-to-apples basis because even something like km of track do not represent the same underlying structure system to system.

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  29. Can the province easily upload the subway system if the tories get elected?

    Steve: Yes. Toronto and the TTC are created by Provincial Statute (The City of Toronto Act) which can be amended by the government any time it feels like it.

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  30. Steve: Yes. Toronto and the TTC are created by Provincial Statute (The City of Toronto Act) which can be amended by the government any time it feels like it.

    Of course, trying to decide what is the Subway, and what is to remain with the TTC/city will be very expensive and time consuming – particularly dealing with facilities and real estate issues, contracts with 3rd parties that overlap (billing for electricity, water, etc.) and then figuring out the staffing issues – ultimately making GO bigger and the TTC smaller might not mean any loss or gain in economies of scale, but as with amalgamation, lower paid workers will likely be brought up to what higher paid ones get!

    But as the subway lines get extended into Vaughan, Richmond Hill, and maybe even Mississauga some day, at some point it does become a regional service.

    GO is a money-loser, and frankly, City should not be subsidising the low-ridership parts of the system that benefit the 905 more than the 416.

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  31. Steve, your name was mentioned in the Toronto Sun. It said you have forgotten transit than most people.

    Steve: The actual quote is “who has forgotten more about transit planning than many of us will ever know” which has a slightly different meaning than what you wrote, but I know your heart is in the right place 😉

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  32. Brian says:

    “GO is a money-loser, and frankly, City should not be subsidising the low-ridership parts of the system that benefit the 905 more than the 416.”

    All transit systems are money losers but GO loses a lot less per passengers than most. Perhaps its cost should be compared with the cost of building and maintaining the roads and parking lots that would be needed if there were no GO transit.

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  33. It seems to me that uploading just the subway to the province makes about as much sense as downloading all GO bus operations to local agencies (including those that operate through the areas of different agencies).

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  34. Calvin Henry-Cotnam said:It seems to me that uploading just the subway to the province makes about as much sense as downloading all GO bus operations to local agencies (including those that operate through the areas of different agencies).

    The problem is, people not in the know will point to York region as proof downloading all GO bus operations to local agencies can be done.

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  35. Nick L wrote:

    The problem is, people not in the know will point to York region as proof downloading all GO bus operations to local agencies can be done.

    Not exactly. GO’s Yonge B and Bayview services were operated as contracted out services in that they did not use GO fares and tickets, but South York Region tickets and transfers (what existed before YRT). When YRT was formed, they took back the operation of these routes.

    GO cut back, but did not eliminate, their Yonge Street service between York Mills and Newmarket when YRT implemented VIVA operations in 2005 after many people shifted to the new service that had a lower fare for the trip.

    These are a far cry from downloading as in, “Here, you will now run this service”. Imagine Metrolinx discontinuing the Train-Bus routes (Newmarket/Aurora, Richmond Hill, Stouffville/Uxbridge) with the expectation that YRT and TTC will pick it up?

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  36. Calvin Henry-Cotnam said:Not exactly. GO’s Yonge B and Bayview services were operated as contracted out services in that they did not use GO fares and tickets, but South York Region tickets and transfers (what existed before YRT). When YRT was formed, they took back the operation of these routes.

    GO cut back, but did not eliminate, their Yonge Street service between York Mills and Newmarket when YRT implemented VIVA operations in 2005 after many people shifted to the new service that had a lower fare for the trip.

    These are a far cry from downloading as in, “Here, you will now run this service”. Imagine Metrolinx discontinuing the Train-Bus routes (Newmarket/Aurora, Richmond Hill, Stouffville/Uxbridge) with the expectation that YRT and TTC will pick it up?

    The thing is, you missed five key words in my post which illustrated the problem I was getting at:

    “people not in the know”

    Those people are those who don’t follow transit news beyond the superficial in the GTA and tend to not read Steve’s blog by extension. As a result, they don’t understand that the changeover in York region was contractual rather than downloading and thus they can be easily lead to believe it was successful downloading and they won’t read your explanation here or dig for it elsewhere.

    To put it another way, the problem is the lack of widespread public awareness on complex issues like transit.

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  37. Nick L says:

    “To put it another way, the problem is the lack of widespread public awareness on complex issues like transit.”

    In fact, I would suggest that a general problem today is the lack of widespread public awareness on *most* complex issues – despite having access to a vast array of information sources and education like never before in human history – or maybe because there are such varying opinions readily available out there.

    As has been shown with the “Subway, subway, subway” mantra, there seems to be a tendency in the public at large to accept sound-bite “explanations” about important issues as gospel, accepted on faith, without questioning the source. Expediency now trumps expertise, to coin a phrase. That may help explain why people who don’t see the inner workings of a collaborative democratic process that can take time to create, nurture and from which one can *then* reap the rewards instead demand instant results, as long as *they* benefit from it (i.e. no more Vehicle Registration Charge and no property tax increase but at the same time a bright, shiny new subway where numbers may not warrant it while other people get no new transit at all….)

    I’m thankful that blogs like this one allow conversation and constructive criticism where public officials and institutions may not always provide this kind of a venue.

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  38. Nick L wrote:

    To put it another way, the problem is the lack of widespread public awareness on complex issues like transit.

    That is par for the course when it comes to most every transit issue.

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  39. Nick L wrote:

    To put it another way, the problem is the lack of widespread public awareness on complex issues like transit.

    Frankly the problem is several decades of high population growth in the past, and many more decades of this to come in the future, without any realistic plans for how we fund growth, or any idea of why such high levels of population growth are necessary in the first place.

    Population growth is expensive … and with higher densities, it means higher public funding/costs once road capacity is maxed out. Sprawl is cheap and easy, though at a high environmental cost.

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