Updated December 1, 2017 at 11:15 am:
The preliminary City of Toronto operating and capital budgets were presented at Toronto’s Budget Committee on November 30, 2017.
To no great surprise for seasoned budget watchers, the Two Hour Transfer was not included in the funded budget, but instead appears among a long list of unfunded new or enhanced services. The total value of these proposals is $41.3 million (after considering any associated revenue), and they are competing for a much smaller amount of available headroom in the operating budget. (The list is on pp 12-14 in the appendices linked above.)
Although Council may approve many wonderful initiatives and the Mayor may hold many press conferences and photo ops exulting in the decisions, the money to pay for them is often not part of Council’s decision. What actually happens is that these are “nice to haves” thrown into the coming year’s budget hopper on the off chance funding will materialize by budget time. This has the effect of throttling the will of Council and feeding all of its decisions through the much more conservative outlook of the Budget and Executive Committees.
Council further limits this process by passing a budget directive early in the cycle (usually late spring) directing that property taxes for the coming year not rise by more than the rate of inflation. The actual increase is below inflation because commercial property rates are on a long downward trend thanks to rules imposed by Mike Harris to rebalance the relative tax levels for commercial and residential properties in Toronto. This will not complete until, probably, the 2021 budget after which tax increases will apply equally across the board.
Of the new revenues Toronto will receive in 2018, property taxes are actually only a small component, but Council debates inevitably turn on this source as a benchmark. The actual tax increase anyone sees is the result of several factors:
- the tax rate change for their property class;
- changes, if any, in separate levies such as the Scarborough Subway tax and the Mayor’s Infrastructure tax;
- updated and/or phased in changes to the assessed value of property;
- policy directions such as rebalancing rates between property classes (e.g. commercial vs residential).
Other new revenues can flow to the City through various rate structures notably TTC fares, although these have been frozen for 2018. A small increase in fare revenue is expected compared to the 2017 budget thanks to a changes in the relative number of fares paid of each type (passes, tokens, cash).
As things stand today, the funding to pay for the Two Hour Transfer simply isn’t there, but it may be found, almost like magic, as the budget process unfolds from now through February 2018 at Council. Another transit fare proposal, the first phase of the “Fair Fare” scheme in the Poverty Reduction Strategy, is also not funded.
This process creates a drag on implementation of new programs unless there is strong political support from the Mayor and his voting block on Council, and should serve as a warning to advocates for schemes such as the Ridership Growth Strategy. With luck, there will be proposals before the TTC Board before the hiatus of meetings for the 2018 elections, but anything the Board approves will be considered as an “enhancement” going into 2019 and could well be derailed. Add to this the chronic problems of vehicle and garage space shortages at the TTC, and there is a recipe for seeing little real growth in service until at least the 2020 budget year if not later.
This is the combined effect of a process that has valued capping spending above all other goals for many years. Infrastructure that would be needed to support growth doesn’t exist and has a multi-year lead time, and even the vehicles the TTC owns run less service than they could because improving service never comes with enough revenue to cover costs.
Passengers who have shorter waits or are less crowded do not represent extra revenue, and the marginal gain lies only with new fare-paying trips attracted to the TTC. On a grand scale this is seen for 2018 with the Vaughan subway extension where net new revenue does not come close to paying for the added operating cost of service, but this happens at a smaller scale whenever a bus runs more often and less crowded, but mainly with passengers who were already on the system.
A further problem for constrained budgets is that the cost of existing service goes up through inflationary pressure, and the population requiring municipal services including transit continues to grow. City management use that growth to show how the tax burden is actually declining on a per capita basis from $4,480 in 2010 to $4,262 in 2018 (presentation, p 17), and this is considered to be virtuous when in fact it shows not just “efficiency” but also a decline in service provided. The effect on individuals varies depending on which municipal services they consume, and the program-by-program effect is never reported.
Every year, the budget is hauled into balance through a combination of new revenues, reduced expenditures and “bridging”, a term for various accounting “fixes” that get the City past short-term problems. (Apologies for the subtlety of the colour changes in the chart below. It is from the City presentation.) Note that the values below are “deltas”, the change from year to year, not the total revenue or spending in each category. Expenditure cuts (darker blue) have been a large chunk of the savings in recent years. By comparison, TTC fare increases are small change within the larger City context and, of course, there is no increase in 2018, a policy direction endorsed during the 2017 budget cycle.
However, City budgets are debated at the margin in that any fine tuning is achieved by tweaking revenue sources to accommodate new spending, and the proportional effect on thinks like fares, property taxes and other user fees tends to be higher than for the budget as a whole. The reason for this is that much of the City’s revenue comes from sources that Council cannot “tweak” in the course of setting its budget, and so the effect on what remains is higher.
The TTC Board decided that it would include the money sitting in the Transit Stabilization Reserve as 2018 revenue, just as they did in 2017 (although in fact this was not needed because of better-than-budget results). This keeps the year-to-year subsidy increase down to $24 million paying mainly for the new cost of the TYSSE and for transitional increases in fare handling while Presto and the legacy fares both remain in place. Using that reserve is an example of a “bridging strategy” because the reserve will not be available in 2019 if it is depleted in 2018, and new revenue will be needed to replace it. That $24 million pressure from the TTC (with more to come from unfunded proposals) crowds other City departments and agencies by taking the lion’s share of new spending.
Among the factors listed in the revenue and expenditure changes for 2018 (p 27), there is a section headed “Prior Year Decisions”. This includes the TYSSE effect, but does not include the cost of the fare freeze decision on the 2018 revenues. Had there been a fare increase, politicians would be forced to explain to riders how opening a new subway is not free and how York Region gets a free ride on Toronto taxpayers.
The City’s overall revenue and expense budget is summarized in the chart below. The TTC’s total expenditures of $1.974 billion consume about 18% of the budget, but 63% of this is paid for through the farebox. (Note that there is a common problem when “farebox” recoveries are cited for the TTC because other revenues such as advertising and parking are sometimes erroneously included as if they were rider contributions. Also, occasionally, the TTC funds some capital costs from current revenues and these do not properly belong in the “operating cost recovery” calculation.)
When the available revenue including assessment growth and inflation in property taxes are considered, the City has a small surplus of $3.4 million in the preliminary budget. A further $5 million will be available from a pending change in taxation of vacant property, although Council has already directed that this go toward the Poverty Reduction Strategy. Without further adjustments, these are the only funds now available to pay for the $41 million in approved but unfunded initiatives including the Two Hour Transfer.
On the Capital side, there are a few points worth noting in the City Budget that bear on the TTC’s funding.
The City of Toronto has a policy that total debt service payments should not exceed 15% of property taxes. This was changed in recent years from a hard cap to one that considered the 10-year average debt ratio mainly to deal with a bulge in borrowing that will peak in 2021. That bulge would affect projections well into the next decade as lower-than-average borrowing in 2018-19 slips off of the chart but must be replaced by comparably low numbers in 2028 and beyond to hold down the average while the 2021 peak is “digested”.
Various adjustments to the budget change the shape of this chart and somewhat tame the peak. There are additions (funding for TCHC repairs and other unspecified “unmet needs”), but new provincial gas tax revenue announced in 2017 allows a reduction in the debt load producing the revised chart below.
The debt limitation, together with limited provincial and federal funding, is directly responsible for the TTC’s enormous list of unfunded projects. The new gas tax revenue will generally not go to transit projects (except possibly under “unmet needs”), but will offset other City borrowing needs.
Another change in projected City financing will be an increase in the “Capital from Current” amount. The proportion of funding provided by this source will rise from 12% of the 2018 budget to 22% in the ten year plan while debt falls from 32% to 22%. This will shift more of the spending in later years of the plan into the operating budget, although the dollar increase may be offset by a reduction in total annual funding needs assuming no major projects are added without dedicated revenue sources and/or subsidies from other governments.
Even with all of this spending, the “state of good repair” backlog across the city will continue to grow, notably at the TTC. This plan understates future funding requirements by its failure to include the TTC’s SOGR projects that are known to exist, but not included in the City’s plans. (Some other City departments, notably Transportation and Facilities Management, also have large unfunded repair backlogs. See p 63 of the presentation.)
Updated December 1, 2017 at 9:15 am:
The budget presentations, which contain slightly different information from the budget reports, are now online.
The Capital presentation has a more detailed breakdown of the “Capacity to Spend” reduction, and I have added this, plus a few comments, to that section of the main article (scroll down to the end).
Updated November 29, 2017 at 8:30 pm:
Two Hour Transfer
To no great surprise, given support from the Mayor and the TTC Chair, the Board endorsed the implementation of time-based fares effective August 2018, or earlier if possible. There was only one vote opposed, Councillor John Campbell who has been opposed to this scheme because, he claims, it will undercut sales of Metropasses. His argument, as I understand it, is that some riders who now buy Metropasses do so for convenience even though they don’t “break even” on the cost versus single fares. With a “token” buying more travel, their extra revenue could be lost. From my point of view, that’s part of the cost of doing business, and there are many other fare options that could also affect the balance of fare types used.
For example, if the TTC changed from a pre-purchased pass loaded onto a Presto card to a monthly capping scheme such as that used by GO Transit, then those who would be entitled to “metropass” fares would get them automatically without the up front cost. A related function that has been available in the software for some time, but not turned on, is daily capping which would provide an equivalent-to-day-pass function. Any move to fare capping will almost certainly reduce TTC revenue and lift ridership, but nobody has run the numbers (at least not publicly).
A further consideration would be whether in a regionally integrated system with, say, cross-region two hour transfer, daily or monthly capping might be part of the amalgamated tariff.
These are the sorts of issues Metrolinx’ Fare Integration Strategy has studiously ignored in a relentless pursuit of fare-by-distance and two-tier fares for local services, notably the subway. It is long overdue for the Metrolinx Board to direct their planning staff to desist with this nonsense.
Reports on Overcrowding
An important amendment to the Budget approval was a motion by Councillor Mihevc directing staff to provide a list of over-capacity routes (relative to the Board-approved Service Standards) on a quarterly basis, and to attempt to bring services within the standards as possible within the budget. The information will be presented in the CEO’s report.
This is an important change because for too long the degree to which service does not meet standards has been swept under the rug with the more pressing issues of budget headroom and vehicle availability.
Additional Provincial Funding
There was talk among the Board members of new Provincial funding through a higher gas tax handover. The details of this have not yet appeared in the TTC’s budget. although there may be more inforation when the City unveils its own budget on November 30.
The idea is that the new money would free up existing City borrowing room for dedication to other projects.
There are now three classes of “unfunded” capital projects.
(1) Approved Unfunded Projects
Within the base budget, there is about $2.7 billion of “approved” projects for which there is no identified funding. Of this amount, $426 million is considered as ephemeral and eliminated as a “capacity to spend” adjustment even though the majority of the projects are vehicle purchases which tend to have very little underspending. This is part of the City/TTC creative accounting to minimize the capital gap. (See Table 7 in the main part of this article.)
(2) Unfunded Projects That Are Not Approved
There is a list on p 25 of the Supplementary Report with the detailed breakdown of the Capital Budget listing $128 million in previously identified projects that have not been approved for inclusion in the base capital program.
The largest items among these are:
- Fire ventillation upgrades: $60 million.
- Escalator replacement: $22 million.
A further list of $1.05 billion in new projects appears on p 24. Council has told the TTC not to add any more projects to the unfunded list, and yet there is a need for more work. Some items on this list are quite interesting:
- Purchase of 549 Low Floor 40 Foot Diesel Buses: $612 million. Recent decisions about green power at the TTC rule out diesel, and this project will no doubt be “recycled” to a different technology. Spending for this project lies in the years 2022-27 after the current large bus orders will already be in service.
- A CNG Facility Upgrade and Fueling Station for $96 million. The TTC has no intention of resuming CNG operations, and yet when the Capital Budget was prepared, someone thought to include a fueling facility. This is yet another part of the mysterious puzzle regarding new bus technologies.
- Warden Station Development: $71.4 million. The corresponding project for Islington Station is further down the list.
- Davenport Garage renewal: $93 million. The old garage building on the north side of the Hillcrest complex has been unused for many years. It is also adjacent to the revenue service building on Davenport Road whose function will be obsolete when the TTC converts completely to Presto.
(3) Projects for Future Consideration
Yet more projects are shown on pp 25-26 totalling $2.2 billion of which the largest are:
- Yonge-Bloor capacity improvements: $1 billion. There have been no details of just what this entails, and how the need might be altered with the opening of a Relief subway line or other diversions of load away from this interchange. This is a project that could become critical if more frequent subway service planned for the early 2020s places a burden of transfer movements on this station which it cannot handle.
- Platform Edge Doors for Line 1 YUS: $592 million
- Station Modernization: $120 million
- Islington Station Renewal: $79 million
- New Davisville Facility: $317 million (part, see below)
- New Transit Control Centre: $100 million (This would be a backup site for the Gunn Building.)
The following “future” projects are beyond 2027 and are therefore not part of the $2.2 billion cited above.
- Platform Edge Doors for Line 2 BD: $632 million
- Fire ventillation: $1.5 billion
- New Davisville Facility: $113 million (remainder)
- Bremner Streetcar: $277 million
There is no indication of the pressure with which all of the above, a total of roughly $8 billion, will try to edge into the approved budget, and there are other items, notably a new subway yard and carhouse at Kipling, that do not appear to be anywhere in the Capital Budget.Moreover, there is no provision for the buses and garage that would be required to handle an uptick in service levels beyond very modest current growth.
The hole in TTC’s funding is considerable, and the many projects on the “unfunded” list must be prioritized to determine just how much funding must be located soon. At previous meetings staff have said that they are working on a scheme for prioritization, but nothing concrete has shown up to inform debates on the budget.
The original article follows below.
The TTC Board will hold a special meeting on Tuesday, November 28 to discuss the 2018 Operating and Capital budgets and related matters.
Regular attendees should note that the public meeting begins at 10:00 am, not at the usual time after lunch.
The budgets approved at this meeting will feed into the City’s own budget process which launches two days later on November 30. There is no guarantee that the funding sought by the TTC has actually been provided within the draft City budget.
Responding to the motion placed at the recent Budget Committee meeting and Mayor Tory’s position on this issue, staff have brought forward a proposal for changing from the current transfer rules (no stopovers, no backtracking) to an arrangement whereby a fare would purchase, in effect, a two-hour pass. Metropass users, who account for over half of all TTC journeys, already have this privilege.
The specifics of the plan are:
- The two-hour fare would be available only to Presto users.
- The change will take effect in August 2018.
- Additional budget room will be provided for modest service increases in September 2018 in anticipation of higher demand.
The financial effects are summarized in the following table taken from the report.
The calculation of lost revenue is based on the behaviour of existing Presto card users whose movements are known in detail. Of the 11 million journeys studied, 4% would have been eligible for free carriage if the two-hour rule were in place. There is no estimate of the behaviour of token or cash-paying passengers, and it is assumed to be the same as the Presto group.
On an annual basis, the $22.4 million shown above is the 4% of “lost” fares implying that the base against which it is calculated is $560 million. This is about half of the total fare revenue of $1.175 billion (the remainder comes from pass sales which are outside of this calculation).
However, because one fare will now buy “more” than it did in the past, there is an expectation of new trips that will bring in some offsetting revenue with growth continuing into 2020 as more riders take advantage of the new rules.
Presto fees paid by the TTC are affected in two ways. In 2018, the takeup rate of Presto would be faster than might otherwise occur, and this will shift token/ticket/cash fares to Presto along with its handling fees. Conversely, with less revenue attributable to single fare payments that will now buy more riding time, Presto fees will fall for that set of trips.
There is a provision in 2018 for a $5 million payment to Presto to cover conversion costs, although this is tentative. It says something about the amount of “planning” within the Presto system that a function already used in the rest of the GTA, and one that the TTC has been headed toward for several years, is not already built in as a simple “flip of the switch”. Indeed, Presto actually operated on this basis for TTC trips until the transfer rules were implemented. Metrolinx has backpedaled a bit on this thanks to criticism in social media, and the cost may actually be lower. It should be zero.
The report argues at some length for a two-hour transfer, and it is no secret that this has been supported by TTC management for quite some time, notably as part of a package of improvements proposed in 2014. Many benefits are cited as advocates for this change have been saying in the face of political opposition for years:
- “Trip chaining” is the process of making several short, linked trips with stop-offs along the way for shopping or other errands, and the simplest version is a round trip that can be made within the time window. Motorists are quite accustomed to this type of journey where the greatest challenge is to find parking at each intermediate destination, while pass users simply jump onto and off of transit without considering the extra cost, beyond the time awaiting the next bus or streetcar.
- By making trip chains cheaper, the new rules will save money for the most transit dependent riders who otherwise face the need to pay an additional fare for each “hop” in their journeys, or to travel in a way that allows them to cheat on their transfers (a time-honoured tradition).
- As part of the background work for the city’s anti-poverty strategy, low income Torontonians were surveyed to determine their preferred change to transit fares. The top ranked choices were a discounted monthly pass (1,924), a discounted single fare (1,534) and a time-based transfer (1,455). The discounted pass is already in the works for 2018 (albeit for a very small group initially), and a time-based fare also addresses the request for a lower single fare in the case of chained trips.
- Disputes concerning the validity of a transfer are eliminated, and the question simply is a matter of checking the timestamp on the Presto card against current time. (See note below.)
- Overcharging on Presto – caused by GPS errors, incorrect or missing data in the “valid transfer” database, and non-standard transfers thanks to diversions and short turns – will disappear along with the customer service time required to back out these bogus charges.
- A disincentive to TTC usage thanks to the high cost of short linked trips is removed.
- Regional fares are much simpler to implement if every transit system is using similar, if not identical, policies for transfers between vehicles. A cross-border co-fare (or even free ride) is simpler to introduce if a 905-based fare remains valid for the same period in the 416.
- Ongoing maintenance of a free-transfer table within Presto will not be required.
One missing but essential policy element will be a clear statement on the validity of a two-hour transfer. This is important where a rider boards a vehicle before the two hours have expired, but their last ride extends beyond that interval. It should be clear that if the fare is inspected, the boarding time should be the governing factor. There is a related issue for riders who are forced to make an unexpected vehicle change thanks to a short turn, diversion or breakdown. This is a matter for common sense informed by a stated policy so that staff and riders understand what is expected.
The old rules have been in place for a very long time, and wording that has changed little since the TTC was created in 1921 appears on the back of transfers. The example below is from 1924, and includes wording about the “Conductor” in the days of two-man cars. Transfers will still be in use later in 2018, and we could see a short-lived variant in this text reflecting the new rules. Transfer collectors will have an entirely new set to assemble, while it lasts.
The budget report before the Board is identical to the version presented to the TTC Budget Committee with two exceptions arising from request by the Committee.
First is the incorporation of the effect of time-based transfer rules. This adjusts the overall budget increasing the subsidy request for 2018, and it also reduces the projected ridership bexcause some trips now counted separately will be one fare in the new scheme. This shows how “ridership” can be affected by how you count it.
Even though there will be more people on the TTC, the number of fares collected will drop. There will be an asterisk and a footnote in all tables and charts of ridership from 2018 forward to explain this. Another effect will be that the subsidy “per rider” will be higher than otherwise because the subsidy pot will be divided between fewer “rides”. Without time-based transfers, there would be 539 million rides and a subsidy of $727.1 million for a subsidy of $1.35 per ride. With time-based transfers, 539.4 million rides share a subsidy of $738.2 million for a subsidy of $1.37 per ride.
Projections also change slightly for 2019-20.
The other change in the report is the addition of a table showing how the budgeted hours of service will be adjusted from 2017 to 2018. This arises from the observation that the CEO’s report showed a shortfall in streetcar hours throughout 2017.
The reduction in streetcar hours for New LRVs on King, Dundas and St. Clair reflects the adjustment to frequencies once the conversion to larger cars is complete.
2018-2027 Capital Budget and 10 Year Plan
In early October, I wrote about the 2018 Capital Budget and Plan when it was in the draft stage at TTC Budget Committee. An updated version is now before the full TTC Board.
The plan includes $9.24 billion in spending, including inflation, over the coming decade. This does not include projects with their own funding arrangements notably the Spadina subway extension (TYSSE) and the Scarborough subway extension (SSE).
The annual spending rate drops off in future years and this could understate the TTC’s needs. Development charges are forecast to be high in the short term, but these numbers typically change in from year to year as known and projected development in the pipeline changes.
A bit over half of this chart represents subway projects, and this shows the scale of spending needed if subway costs were uploaded to Queen’s Park. Any new subway construction would be over and above the amounts here. (For a more detailed version of this chart, scroll down to the end of this article.)
In the short term, there is more money available than the TTC plans to spend in 2018, but long term, there is a $2.7 billion gap. Of that gap, it is assumed that $427 million can be set aside under the rubric “Capacity to Spend” on the basis that historically the TTC does not spend everything it asks for. In fact, this allowance has been fine tuned in recent years to reflect the difference between spending rates in different types of projects. Some “underspending” is only a matter of timing, not that the work is never done. It is important not to assume that underspending “this year” can be pro-rated through the ten year cycle.
The line by line details of the plan are found in the “blue pages” (so called because in hard copy they are traditionally printed on blue paper). These include the Capacity to Spend adjustments which went through a more detailed review for the 2018 budget cycle. For the first five years of the plan, the adjustments are smaller in the 2018-27 plan than in the 2017-26 version except for groups of projects where the total spending has gone up substantially. In other words, the projected underspending for budgetary purposes is lower than the previously assumed rate based on historic trends.
Gas tax revenue accounts for $242.6 million annually from the provincial and federal governments. Note that the Ontario amount is lower because about 60% of the provincial subsidy goes to the operating budget, not to capital.
Between the September and November versions of the budget there have been various adjustments as detailed on pp. 5-6 of the report. The largest changes involved plans for Line 2 BD’s renewal. The resignalling project has been moved from unfunded to funded, while the new subway car project has shifted to unfunded. One consideration here is that the signalling project needs to get started first, and leaving it unfunded was not an ideal situation. This still leaves Toronto with a big hole – one quarter of the capital budget is not funded.
The funding requirement for 2018 has actually gone down primarily because the budgeted amount for the new streetcar project has been reduced from $335 to $185 million reflecting delivery dates, and provision for an up-front payment on the planned 60-car follow-on order has been reduced.
Over the ten year plan window, the total spending requirement is down because a very capital-intensive year (2017 – $1.264 b) has been replaced by a much leaner one (2027 – $373m, at least as currently projected).
In the chart above, Federal Funding includes only the first phase of PTIF and there are more projects, some in the currently unfunded list, that will move “above the line” when the second phase details are announced. However, that will also trigger the need for matching funding at the city level. New projects such as further subway extensions require funding beyond this table.
The unfunded project list as it now stands contains mainly future vehicle purchases. Note that:
- The capital budget does not contain any provision for expanding bus garage facilities beyond the McNicoll Garage now under construction.
- Bus purchases shown are mainly for replacements, not for fleet expansion.
- The streetcar purchase is for an additional 60 cars to handle ridership growth and new services such as the Waterfront extensions.
- The new subway cars will replace the existing T1 fleet on Line 2 BD.
The funding sources for TTC capital projects are broken into more detail in Appendix B. The PTIF money for 115 additional buses is shown separately because originally this funding was earmarked for non-TTC projects by the City, but later redirected to the TTC budget.
The Capacity to Spend amounts are more finely-divided in the presentation from the Board meeting. In 2018-19, the amounts are lower because there is more certainty about project costs based on recent history. Future amounts are likely to drop as budgets are refined. This remains at least partly an artificial way to understate future capital requirements, but as these are dominated by the huge list of unfunded projects, this adjustment does not get much political attention.
The footnote that these adjustments “do not reflect a decrease in capital need”, only the likely cash flows, contradicts the use of this as part of the “funding strategy” for the unfunded projects.
This is not the first time in history that this has been implemented, and other systems follow the simple rule that a transfer must be valid at the time it would be normally looked at. For pay-upon-entry vehicles, that means only at the time one enters the vehicle, for POP, that means any time during the travel.
That said, for POP inspections there is generally some common sense given for reasonable variances, such as the transfer expiring during the journey. In my personal experience, both with paper transfers and with Presto, that has been the case. This is likely because the primary focus on POP inspections is to find those who are taking advantage of the POP system to gain totally free access, and not just running out of time on a valid fare, accidentally or intentionally.
Of course, if someone wants to be an A-hole about being inspected, then I’m all for throwing away all variances. 🙂
Steve: My concern is rather that fare inspectors have clear rules to follow because this is the sort of thing that creates needless hassles. Just say what the rules are so everyone knows.
This would be a “frill,” but does anyone know if it would be feasible to reconfigure the Presto screen readers to display how much time you have left on your time-based transfer (rather than guessing, based on your tap-in time)? This would help with ease of use.
(Seems to me that a lot more could be done with the Presto screen space, rather than just just saying “accepted”/”rejected”).
Steve: What can be done and what will be done are two separate things. The TTC does not permit the dollar balance on the card to be displayed citing privacy issues. It is unclear whether the count of trips/time remaining would be subject to the same issue. I will inquire.
I suspect that this 4% is understated. For example, suppose that I need to go shopping in the evening after work. If I have to pay an extra fare anyway, I am not going to stop on the way home from work. I am just too tired. I’ll go home, rest, have dinner, and then go shopping.
This current pattern will not be captured in the 4%. Yet with the incentive of saving a fare, that means that I will stop off and go shopping on my way home from work.
Although I do not have any numbers, I suspect that this happens a lot. With a two-hour fare, people are now incentivized to do all of their trips at once, rather than at different times.
I do support two-hour fares, for precisely the same reason as this Toronto Star author.
I merely suspect that the actual cost will be greater than $22.4 million due to encouraging trip chaining.
I have suggestion. TTC should have a “pilot” project for 2 hour paper transfers effective ASAP as in January 1, 2018. Then after 6 months it can be made permanent on Presto. Result: Everybody happy.
Steve, this is the main reason for me supporting the new rules. Right now, if I can, I will try to make two or three trips on one go so I can justify a day pass. Or I just do a single round trip. With the new rules, I will be more likely to travel on the TTC and to take short trips, which right now do not necessarily justify the expense of multiple trips. The new rules will enable me to save money while using the TTC, thus increasing the number of times I’ll use the service.
Based on their changed ridership numbers, that suggest right now every time a metropass user makes a transfer it counts as a ride, but for people who use transfers, it does not.
Steve: No. Metropass usage and conversion to trips is calibrated using trip diaries where a selection of passholders record their journeys, and these are converted to the equivalent number of “trips”. A new panel does this every month, I think, to keep the stats current and avoid skew from a small, repeated panel.
The whole question of how one reports ridership is a real challenge when comparing systems, and some use “unlinked trips” where each leg of the journey counts independently. This has its own problems depending on the degree to which networks force transfers rather than giving one-seat rides, and network reorganizations can be a real headache statistically.
Anything about streetcar track work for 2018. For example, The Queensway west of Roncesvalles Avenue to Parkside Drive?
Steve: The rest of The Queensway plus the K/Q/R intersection is planned for 2019. Current plans for 2018 are: Broadview from Hogarth to south of Dundas including intersections at Gerrard and Dundas, and Victoria from Dundas to Queen. I don’t think if it has been decided yet when to finish Wellington from Church to Yonge that was postponed this year for Hydro work and because of the King Pilot.
More info when I see the updated five-year plan.
Typical bureaucratic bullsh*t. I can’t speak about other GTHA agencies, but on YRT the pay-as-you-board machines on regular buses show both the time remaining (on top line) and the dollar balance (bottom line), as well as the last load amount. It appears for a VERY short period, perhaps only two or three seconds, which is barely enough time for the card user to read it, let alone any curious eyes.
Before YRT switched to time-based fares in 2005, that is exactly what I would do, only the “then go shopping” involved my car. Once time-based fares began, I would do this on my way home using transit, saving me having to use the car several times per month.
Déjà vu: St. Clair streetcar. Many of my trips downtown were for two or three specific things, and I would get off the subway at St. Clair to head over to St. Clair West just to get the 2-hour paper transfer in order to complete my journey on a single fare without having to worry about whether the transfer was valid at the stop I wanted to use (it did have to be a transfer point, but didn’t matter which one). These were the kind of journeys that would have been done by car if it weren’t for the 2-hour transfer.
Came across a comment that was posted November 28th, 2017 (9:54pm) on Urban Toronto in regards to subway operations. I thought I’d share it here and see if there has been an discussion about this current issue:
1) “Took just about an hour tonight (8:45-9:45pm) on the subway for me to get from Queens Park Station up to Wilson. The excuse was “service adjustments.” Is there any reason why it takes so long for the TTC to remove rush hour trains?? There has to be a more efficient way in doing this.”
2) “there should be an increase in post-evening rush hour service. Right now on average it’s standing room only on northbound trains from Bloor around 10:30pm.”
I hope there is a solution for the first comment that will be implemented before the extension opens. One can easily see this snowballing and creating problems throughout the rest of the Yonge-University-Spadina line. It seems like this is a recent issue or change in how things are done.
Steve: Various things can happen at the north end of the line to cause backlogs in service, although by mid-evening this should not be as common as at the end of the peak period. There are not that many trains to be talen out of service (about 1 in 4) and even if they short turn northbound at Wilson (requiring that they cross over the southbound service to get into the yard), this should not be a big challenge given the headways at the time.
What is more likely is that the service was badly screwed up earlier, and they are swapping crews around to get them “on time”. This is not always the most efficient process.
As for post-peak service, there was a proposal for more early evening service in the original 2016 budget, but it was cut to save money and keep your taxes down (the estimated annual cost was $12.7 million). Please send all complaints to the Mayor and the Budget Committee. (See proposed service improvements report.)
I took three quick round trips to King & Yonge in October and I was only charged one way each time. I tapped on the Eglinton East bus and got off the subway at King station. I tapped again at King station between 1 and 2 hours after the first tap for the return trip and each time it shows up in my Presto activity report as a transfer with 0.00 charge. So it appears I’m already getting a two-hour transfer.
Steve: I hear stories like this regularly, and it begs the question of why it would take so long and be so expensive to implement this update.
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When is the work scheduled for the new fare gate installation at Union, Finch, and Osgoode stations?
Steve: Osgoode has started. It will be closed over the weekend of Dec 1-4.
Finch starts mid-December.
Plans for Union have not been announced.
Nobody has yet mentioned the fact that just recently (in September) they got rid of 2hr transfers on the 512 St Clair streetcar. While I’m happy to hear that they’ll be implementing 2hr transfers system-wide, I wonder about the timing of all this. Why get rid of 2hr transfers on St Clair, just to bring them back a few months later?
Steve: The elimination of the 2hr transfer on St. Clair was triggered by the introduction of new streetcars. The budget announcement re system wide implementation came out of the blue from the Mayor and TTC Chair. It was going to be in the Ridership Growth Strategy, but that would not have surfaced until too late (early next year at best) to be implemented before the election.
Correct me if I’m wrong Steve but despite being unfunded doesn’t Warden fall under AODA requirements for accessibility? I know 2025 was the date being tossed around for accessibility but it’s not like they can just slap an elevator into Warden and call it good. I believe they would need 11 of them.
With that said is there any reason why they keep this unfunded? I get they have a development scheme but getting that to happen is akin to starting a unicorn farm. Nice idea but it’s never going to happen despite all the talk.
I would have figured they would have funded it to make it AODA compliant.
Steve: They are still hoping for development. It may be wishful thinking, or it could simply be that Islington was bumped up in the list when a development proposal seemed certain, now faded.
A few days ago, I had a mid-morning appointment near Bloor and Indian Road. I tapped onto the subway, rode to Dundas West, walked to my appointment. Afterward I walked down Indian Road to Howard Park, to catch a Carlton car back to work.
Indian Road and Howard Park is not an official transfer point, and I was off the system for more than an hour between boardings.
Presto correctly reported the boarding location at Indian Road and Howard Park, but called it a transfer and didn’t charge me.
I am pretty much convinced, from many experiences like this, that despite claims to the contrary the current Presto programming doesn’t even try to enforce the real transfer rules. It seems to be more like a time-based transfer of 90-120 minutes (I’m not sure of the exact number), except that at most one subway boarding is allowed without charging a new fare. Possibly at most one boarding of the same vehicle; a few weeks ago I stopped on my way home for supper, and was charged a new fare when I tapped back onto the bus (and happened to get exactly the same vehicle).
Steve: Or to put it another way, the complexity of transfer rules that Metrolinx claims will cost so much time and money to tear out may simply be a fudge. This also implies that the “revenue loss” to the TTC will be less than projected because riders are already getting cheaper fares.
I wonder how the PC proposal to have transit capital costs for the TTC uploaded to the province will impact situations like this and others in the list in the near term. Why would the City prioritize big ticket TTC capital projects now when perhaps they can kick the can far enough down the road it lands in someone else’s backyard?
Is funding in place for the new Kipling Subway Yard/Shop? Timeline?
Steve: That’s a bit tricky. There is money in the current budget to buy the land (the former CP Obico Yard). There is money for a new yard buried in the Scarborough Subway budget, but I don’t think it will build as much as is planned for Kipling. The new yard and shops must be ready to accept the T1 replacement fleet which would arrive before the SSE opens starting in the early 2020s.
My gut feeling is that there are pieces missing, and await the Line 2 Renewal Plan which has been almost ready for months, now expected early in 2018.
As someone who uses transit at all times I am willing to accept full vehicle deployment during peak periods, but suffering regular streetcar shortage on off-peak is unbearable. Does anyone at TTC/City see when there is more beyond peak? There are citizens that use transit at all times, even attending the ACC or Rogers Centre and those event schedules are publicly available to use in planning? How can service levels Saturday evening on King be justified with beyond crush loads just after a concert lets out?
Last Sunday while attempting to commute home from shopping at 4:30 pm I witnessed a driver through no fault of his own, closing the doors in a mother’s face when he said you’re not making it on here with that stroller. She said it was her third jammed car that went by in 20 minutes. It’s off-putting to those that depend on transit to make their lives happen. It got me to thinking what I wouldn’t pay to have a webcam of the transit yards to correlate the “we don’t have enough vehicles excuse” with reality. C’mon John and Andy (Andy’s replacement) surely those parked streetcars are not that tired as your excuse.
Steve, have you asked what the excuse is for the off-peak crush and vehicle availability?
Steve: The constraint is quite simple: budget, headcount and some game-playing at the TTC.
The TTC has underspent its budget every year for the past six, and this gives a cushion going forward so that the “ask” for the next year is smaller than it would be otherwise. Council has a real fetish for headcount, and sees any upward trend as a very bad thing, even though you can’t run service if you don’t have enough staff.
There have been some off-peak improvements but not nearly as much as are needed.
Yea, from my experience the Presto logic is simple. You’ll only be charged once as long as you don’t tap into the same route twice (the subway acting as a single route) in a two hour timespan. It doesn’t matter if you do so at a recognized transfer location or not.
The only exception is that some stations are flagged as ‘no transfers allowed’ and will charge you if you tap in (the solution here is just to get on a vehicle on a route you haven’t yet tapped on, one stop away from the station). I think that they’re loosely related to the list of stations that have in-station bus loops, but I don’t think they match up exactly.
With that logic in mind, it’s easy to get two hours out of Presto with only a small amount of preplanning (just so that you don’t find yourself needing to take the same route twice).
For example, from just west of Dundas station I’ve done the following:
-6 Bay north to College. Grab a few groceries.
-506 Carlton west to Spadina. Get some fruit and vegetables from the Chinese markets there.
-510 Spadina south to King to get some stuff at MEC/Bulk Barn.
-504 King east to King Station and the Yonge subway north to Dundas station.
As long as you tap on at King station prior to the two hour time limit (I managed that with a couple of minutes to spare) you’re good to go.
So Presto already starts a two hour clock when you first tap on. All they need to do for two hour transfers is remove the ruleset that charges you again if you get on the same route twice, or enter the above mentioned ‘no transfers allowed’ subway stations.
@Anna mentioned being charged once to ride the King car three times, which according to the logic I just presented, shouldn’t be possible. Of course, my understanding of the underlying system logic could have holes in it, but to date I’ve found that logical model to be 100% successful in predicting whether I’ll get charged again (or not!) for a trip.
There does seem to be one bug that makes it possible to tap onto a route twice without being charged twice. Sometimes a trip’s starting location shows up as ‘0’ on Presto’s Card Activity page. That seems to indicate that the route/location identification system failed. So while the tap was recognized, and, if it’s your first tap you’ll still be charged, the system doesn’t know what route you just got on and as a result you can tap on to that same route a second time without getting charged within the two hour window.
I’d be interested in hearing if this lines up with other people’s experiences.
One problem is poor use of existing resources. Flexity’s were promised on the 504 this fall in the CEO’s report from early 2017 but the TTC has reliably kept a large chunk of the fleet idle at Leslie Barns on Sundays instead of deploying them as planned. True, deliveries have been slower than expected but there’s no excuse for having more than 20% of the new cars in storage when they are available.
Steve: According to @TTCHelps, there will be some Flexitys on 504 King next week for extra capacity. I agree that on weekends there is no excuse. The biggest problem is that Joe Mihevc jumped the queue by getting Flexitys on 512 St. Clair sooner than they were originally planned, and this has delayed their deployment on King.
Begs the question, was the crowding on 512 at a level where the new cars were required, or is this a question of ensuring that this other LRT route is seen to work well? Yes he jumped the queue, but if the demand is close, does it make sense to deploy here first in terms of creating a perception that LRT can and does work, or at least protecting it from being perceived to be a disaster. I would like to think that the city could also then encourage development along St Clair west of St Clair West station so as to provide more high quality areas developing on a transit and pedestrian supported basis. Yes, I understand that likely has little to nothing to do with motive but would this not also be a reasonable direction to pursue?
Steve: This is a “sort of” answer. I think that at the point the decision was made to bump up St. Clair, Bombardier’s abysmal delivery record did not look as bad as it has turned out, and more cars were expected to be available by now. There is also a desire to counter the “St. Clair disaster” meme. One problem the TTC still has, even though St. Clair is entirely on its own right of way is the uneven departure of cars from terminals creating ragged headways with absolutely no excuse. The failure of TTC management to address this system-wide problem is one of the gaping holes in Andy Byford’s tenure, although a lot of blame has to go to his acting successor, Rick Leary whose fix for everything, it seems, is to pad schedules and keep as many spare (rather than in service) vehicles as possible.
PS. There seems to be about 5 cars on delivery or delivered awaiting the entry to service. What would the impact of committing these all to say 504/514 ? Would this be enough to significantly change service? Also if you were to commit them there would 514 make more sense?
Steve: 4451-2-3 are currently in acceptance testing. There has been no sign of further cars leaving Thunder Bay, and yet we are owed 12 more by year end on Bombardier’s much reduced schedule.
I agree that improving service on the 514 is probably a good use of whatever cars are available in the short term as a way of concentrating capacity on the central part of King.
Why not have both Timed Transfers and normal transfers. A normal one way transfer could be a “reduced price” version, and a timed transfer could be offered at a more premium price, since its highly likely that a return trip will be used. It can certainly help to offset the losses that may come from this, and will also keep transit riders from handing off their timed transfers to others, like some people do with parking slips.
Steve: When someone “taps on” this process needs to be fast because of the volume of riders. Adding a choice of which fare they want would add to congestion at entrances. Also, with Presto, you cannot “hand off” your transfer and so this is a moot point.
According to forum postings, a car sighted in transit is probably 4454, and 4455 is supposed to be almost ready to ship.
Steve: Thanks for the update!
Why is it so difficult to regulate the departures from streetcar terminals. The subway has a few stations with the white flashing lights that authorise departure and the work force seems to accept this level of guidance. Why can’t there be automated stop/go lights at the streetcar terminals that authorise the departure of each car. This would prevent the departure of two cars together and the total waste of the following car.
Steve: Actually the white lights are simply to tell the guard, who cannot see the signals, that there is a green for departure. And some of these don’t work any more. The main thing is that the subway is regulated by schedules at terminals and at time points enroute, and two trains running back to back is impossible. This is not true for streetcars and buses. Dispatching and on time indications are available through the on board CIS console, but even this only works if the line is generally “on time”. Operators have a fair amount of leeway in when they depart, and even then don’t routinely hit the service standard target unless someone stands physically at the terminal and dispatches them. You might describe this as a part of “TTC Culture” that Andy Byford did not fix.
I remain adamant that on-street supervision is what is required. Since Operators won’t do their job without being watched over. If necessary, eliminate one vehicle/operator (union) to pay wages of one supervisor (non-union).
This is the essential issue today, in that the TTC does not get any credit for the increase in development it might enable from better service, only the expenses associated with it. Until the load actually appears, the TTC is seeing only expense, and there is no perceived link between running more service reducing crowding on buses, and space on roads, and density thus enabled.
The link between LRT and BRT and addition density along those routes is being made clear in the discussion around city planning, but would mean nothing if people will not ride the service because of massive overcrowding on rough service offered. This reality is also true in the entire city, and the reality of rough service and congestion is one where the TTC likes to blame congestion for rough service, but should also be making the argument, that to a some degree congestion is also the result of rough service, and the city by better supporting signal timing that supported proper spacing and was somewhat reactive to crowding (ie slow a bus down that was half empty in front of a crowded one running into a gap).
The city should be looking at improving services especially where they could see how it would result in a larger tax base, and reduced congestion. The logic of improved service in a BRT to subway/LRT/GO for instance does not work, when we look only at the TTC revenue, but what about tax base improvements from infill development? East Bayfront is about development and getting it where we want. Well service improvements as a whole should have that in mind. Hugely improved TTC services improves commutes and makes in 416 development more attractive relative to sprawl to the beyond.
Steve: Another important point is the lag between “investment” in better service and “return” in development and riding. The expense occurs immediately, but the return is at least a few years away.
Is the reality of the relatively decent number of new cars going to 509 about creating viable service to a spot near Liberty Village (ie CNE terminal) or the Queens Quay or a mix of both? Does this make as much sense as 514 given current crowding?
Steve: The 509 is busy in its own right, and service levels have already been reduced to allow for the extra capacity of the new cars. Also, of course, Queens Quay is something of a showcase and is advertised as being fully accessible.
At the point the TTC decided to run new cars on St. Clair, they expected to have more Flexitys by now. I don’t think anyone foresaw the bump in demand the improved service triggered. This has implications system-wide.
This is I hate to say, one of those spaces, where the signals need to be fixed, and include the desired gap between cars. Where the city needs to invest in re-examining the signal priority system, and makes this appear to be a real priority. Yes, there is a culture issue within the TTC, but I would also ask, how much of that is because this is not seen as important by their superiors especially their political ones. When the question is the number of runs, and average loading they know that a car at 30% capacity offsets one at 110% if the goal is 70% overall. If the targets were more about total trips, peak loading etc, it might actually trickle down to culture within the organization.
Steve: I certainly agree that if the goals were changed, we might see better service. The problem of “managing to the metrics” is a plague that stretches far beyond the TTC.
Which is why mouthpieces like Giorgio Mammoliti and Doug Ford claim after *ONE* day of the King Street Streetcar Pilot project being underway that it is a “total disaster” with local restaurants and shops along the Jarvis-to-Bathurst route being mere days away from closing their doors forever because of loss of business! These guys, and others of their ilk, seem to think that if you plant an acorn and then an oak tree doesn’t pop up ready-to-cut-down the following year, it was a complete waste of time, energy and effort. And the scary thing these days is that voters from within and even outside their constituencies believe that drivel and get on their virtual soapboxes to shout about the “clear” stupidity of the undertaking and how it’s a “waste of taxpayer dollars.”
That’s an inherent problem with governments and transit agencies not having clear, detailed and well-thought-out long- and short-term plans regarding transit development: you know, plans that are based on statistics and *FACTS* and analysis. Instead, in Toronto, we get Flavour-of-the-Month “planning” courtesy of, among others:
Granted, lack of ongoing financial support from both Federal and Provincial levels of government – again, based on Flavour-of-the-Month “We Know Best” patronizing attitudes, whatever the political stripe – is part of that mix. Quebec’s provincial government financially supports Montreal’s transit system as part of doing business. For Ottawa and Queen’s Park, that funding seems to have to be somebody else’s business. And when you have a Mayor and Budget Chief who insist on no new taxes ABOVE THE LEVEL OF INFLATION there is no money for maintaining the current system, never mind trying to expand or enhance it for the sake of the riders. And if there isn’t some nice photo op with ribbon-cutting or shovels-in-the-ground with hardhats on then it’s not sexy enough to care about. Investment in transit is like CEO performance for stockholders – if there is no increase in dividend value by the next quarter, “Get rid of the bum and put someone else in!”
Another sad thing is that, even if the Feds and Province were to give BILLIONS of dollars to the City over the next decade, you’d be hard-pressed not to hear Mr. Mammoliti say that it should be spent on a SUBWAY along Finch, and LRT be damned! Hey, we’ve got the money now! Let’s just spend it!
A dysfunctional funding system; dysfunctional meddling by upper-level government representatives to self-serving ends; a dysfunctional “Me First” local-councillor focus, not looking instead – and, as a priority – at the big transit picture both city- and region-wide; and a misinformed public who are, by nature or by design, willingly ignorant and/or uncaring and/or just at the mercy of politicians who can’t look beyond the next election cycle.
Is there any surprise why there has been so little investment in public transit to date and why, as a result, the return on investment is a stunted sapling instead of a firmly rooted, well-tended and far-reaching transit network across the entire city?