Memo to John Tory: Where’s The $50 Million? (Updated)

The Mayor and other worthies showed up for a press conference and photo op today at Davisville Shops to trumpet all the new money the TTC will be getting in 2016.

Quoting the TTC’s Media Release:

In 2015, the TTC received an unprecedented $95 million increase to its budget and is set to receive over $50 million in new, annualized funding in 2016 to improve service on buses, streetcars and subways that serve the 555 million riders who use the TTC each year.

“Through two budget cycles, we have made significant service enhancements and continue to improve the experience for our customers” said TTC Chair Josh Colle, “As TTC Chair, I will continue to push for further investments to enhance service, and make the TTC less crowded and more reliable for our customers.”

Those are stirring words, but let’s have a look under the covers. Here is the TTC Budget as presented by the City Budget Analyst going into debates at Budget Committee.


The important line here is “Total Net Expenditures” which is another way to say “subsidy from the City of Toronto”. The actual increase from 2014 actual to 2015 projected is only about $77 million ($393m to $470m). The projected bump to 2016 is a further $25.6m, and that looks good only because it is relative to the 2015 actual, not budget.

On a budget to budget basis, the change is only about $21.5m ($473.7m to $495.2m). Even that may overstate the real increase because the “change from 2015 approved” budget shows growth of only $11.1m. This is probably due to in-year amendments to the 2015 budget.

(The inconsistencies in budget reporting at the City and TTC are an ongoing challenge, and there is usually just enough information missing to cloud any analysis.)

Note that these numbers include the effect of the fare increase, but do not include the TTC Board’s proposed enhancements.

There was a lot of fine tuning at the Budget Committee, but at the end of the day only the following changes were approved:

  • POP Inspectors: $1.7m
  • Streetcar service reliability: $1.2m
  • Early Sunday surface (surface routes): $0.6m
  • Discretionary spending : $5m reduction

That’s right – the cut in discretionary spending (paperclips, conferences, and other accounts the TTC has already pillaged to find “efficiencies”) is bigger than the approved additions to the budget. This is in a budget where there is already an across the board $10m reduction to reflect savings based on actual spending patterns vs budget in 2015.

The key phrase in the release above is “new, annualized funding” which is takes the improvements approved for 2015 and operates them for the full year. No real “new” investment for 2016. Worth remembering are the items that were not approved by the TTC Board and/or the Budget Committee:

  • Reliability Centred Maintenance (Pro-active vs Re-active): $7.7m
  • Track Safety (Flag Persons): $1.8m
  • Training: $1.8m
  • Bus Service Reliability: $2.0m
  • Express Bus Services: $1.6m
  • Subway Service Reliability: $0.6m
  • Line 1 3-minute service: $2.8m
  • Cherry Street streetcar service: $0.8m

When the TTC turns into a publicity machine for the Mayor, and so much that was touted as part of the 2016 Budget doesn’t make it past the sharp knives at Budget Committee, press conferences about “improvement” and “investment” ring rather hollow.

So, please Mayor Tory, stop using our subway trains as publicity props, and start being straight with Toronto about what you are really spending on transit service. As anyone who reads the budget can tell, the big increase in TTC “funding” comes from the paying customer, the riders who pay higher fares, not from the penny-pinching City Council and a Mayor who cares more about looking like he is pro-transit than actually paying for the honour.


The TTC’s Brad Ross explains the $50m figure thus:

There’s $20M in additional subsidy over 2015. The balance of $30M is annualized for the new and enhanced services begun, primarily, in the fall that now apply to all of 2016. That’s in addition to POP, early Sunday service, streetcar reliability and the 5 express routes that start in March.

I hate to point this out, but the basic numbers show that the City has very little on the table in this game, and the riders are paying the freight for a lot of the new services carried into 2016 from 2015. As for new services in 2016, don’t hold your breath.

The Lord Mayor’s new transit clothes are rather tattered.


The section about year-to-year budget comparisons has been clarified.