The TTC’s Ridership Update report will be discussed at the March 23, 2016 Board meeting. Its publication triggered an unwelcome round of hand-wringing about transit service and financing that could well undo momentum seemingly regained by the Tory regime at City Hall. How did we get so quickly from a pro-transit stance to one where just avoiding cuts will seem a victory?
Fun With Budgets at City Hall
During the Ford years, TTC ridership continued to climb despite the best efforts of Council to throttle the TTC budget, but a good deal of that growth came at the margins, filling up less crowded routes and time periods, and stuffing the busier ones to the extent any new riding was possible. John Tory ran on a platform that SmartTrack would fix absolutely everything, but once in office acknowledged that day-to-day service had taken a hit and needed fixing. Improvements to date have not addressed peak capacity for the simple reason that there were no spare vehicles, and that is only now being addressed.
Some of the new buses bought by the TTC will not directly address capacity shortfalls, but instead will be used to bolster the pool of spare buses so that maintenance standards can improve and fewer vehicles will fail in service. The streetcar system remains hobbled by a car shortage thanks to Bombardier’s missed deliveries, and this cascades down into the bus fleet. On the subway it is physically impossible to run more trains, a problem that will not be eliminated until 2019-20, and then only on Line 1 YUS. Riders might be forgiven for wondering if things will ever improve, especially for peak period travel.
Schedule adjustments have reduced the amount of short-turning on some routes, but gaps and bunching of vehicles remain a problem.
The TTC is far from out of the woods on service quantity and quality, and this situation cannot be fixed overnight.