TTC Proposes Service Improvements for Fall 2018 (Updated)

Updated May 9, 2018: Information about the planned changes has been updated based on the staff presentation at the May 8 Board meeting.

Contrary to the penny-pinching approach urged on the TTC by budget hawks, where only routes that were 30% above standard would be improved, the changes will bring all bus routes that are above the Board-approved loading standards below the approved maximum. This will be achieved through a combination of better availability in the bus fleet and reallocation of service from routes and periods which are below the standard. The sequence of implementation will likely be:

  • September: Express routes
  • October and November: Peak and Off-Peak improvements

The staff proposals were amended by a Board motion directing that one additional gap train be provided on 1 Yonge-University-Spadina in both peak periods starting in September. This will bring the total to 4 AM and 1 PM gap trains.

The TTC Board will consider proposals to improve service on their network at its meeting on May 8, 2018. No doubt, there will be many cries of  “Huzzah” and tub-thumping pre-election speeches about how Toronto continues to improve its transit service.

There is not much new here for those who have been following the 2018 budget process. This is merely the implementation stage of changes that were included in the Council-approved budget earlier this year.

Previous articles/items on this topic:

There are four groups of improvements:

  1. Improve service reliability on Line 1
  2. Relieve peak crowding on bus routes
  3. Relieve off-peak crowding on bus routes
  4. Implement new express bus services

The changes will be implemented, for the most part, in fall 2018, and therefore have only a four-month effect on the budget. The costs are projected to be $5 million in 2018 and $15.5m in 2019, offset by revenue from new riding of $2m in 2019. For the 2018 budget year, $3m comes from a Council-approved bump in the TTC’s subsidy, and the remaining $2m from spending redirected from other, unspecified, areas within the TTC.

The new riding generated by the changes is projected to be 848,000 in 2019, of which over 60% would come from the new express services. By 2021, this is expected to rise to 1.1 million rides that the TTC would not have seen without the improvements. Many more riders will benefit from less crowded service, at least assuming that the TTC, with adequate funding, stays on top of crowding problems.

Stirring all that together means that the net new requirement for funding in the 2019 budget will be $8.5 million.This implies that the “redirection” of funding in the TTC budget is a permanent change, not a one time efficiency or deferral.

It is important to contrast this with the cost of opening the Vaughan subway extension ($30m annually) or the fare freeze (a comparable amount). The TTC has used its vehicle shortage as a convenient excuse to avoid service improvements with the argument “even if you gave us the money, we couldn’t run the service” response. In fact, what money the TTC does manage to scrape together is going to underwrite service on the subway extension and politically motivated fare policies.

Although there is an intent to reduce crowding, this will only occur on the most badly-overcrowded of routes, and in effect the TTC has made its “standards” worse by only addressing problems on the most badly crowded parts of their system.

Moreover, there is still no ongoing reporting mechanism to allow tracking of crowding by route and time period so that the degree to which the TTC fails to achieve its standards is clear for all to see.

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