The Gaping Hole in TTC Funding

At the TTC Board Meeting on June 23, 2022, the quarterly financial update reviews the status of the 2022 operating and capital budgets together with the status of major capital projects. This report is one of the more valuable contributions to understanding the state of the TTC, certainly in more detail than the superficial CEO’s Report. But even at that, its concern is primarily with the current year.

For 2022 the TTC is not out of the woods on its operating budget and political efforts continue to “shake the tree” at the federal and provincial level for funding to make up the Covid deficit caused by running nearly full service with less than 60 per cent of historical ridership. To the degree that governments recognize that the country is still in a pandemic and provide backstop funding, the TTC can continue to appear close to normal to its riders. However, that level of support will not last forever and 2023 will bring hard decisions to Toronto Council about how much service they can afford to provide, and whether a continued freeze on fares is affordable.

Lurking out of sight is a much larger deficit in capital program support. Before the pandemic, the TTC published its capital plan including many, many items that had previously not been publicly disclosed or which were listed “below the line” in the budget as being without funding commitments from governments. The heart-stopping total was three times the level historically acknowledged as the TTC’s capital needs, and this did not include major new transit projects. Ontario took over some of the largest, but also inflated their cost with design decisions such as undergrounding the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension (ECWE). Meanwhile, the Eglinton East LRT to Malvern and the Waterfront East LRT do not show up on TTC’s books beyond a modest amount of design funding.

This chart from the 2022 Capital Budget shows the severity of the problem. In the short term, money is available from one-time, project-oriented subsidies. In the long term, funding depends on finding political support for transit spending at a much higher rate than in past years and largely on projects that do not involve system expansion.

For many years, Toronto and the TTC have muddled through the Capital Budget cycle by scraping together enough money to fund near term requirements and hoping for a better tomorrow. Concurrently, the focus of transit debates has been on new builds, the “we deserve” school of transit planning, while funding for other projects is left for another debate. Two special levies, one implemented during Rob Ford’s mayoralty to fund the Scarborough Subway, and one under John Tory to fund other transit projects, placed an additional charge on the property tax base over and above the so-called inflationary increase. Tory’s City Building Fund is still not at its full level, and there will be little desire to add even more transit taxes in the medium term.

This problem is not unique to transit, and other calls for funding by various governments are obvious: housing, health care, education, just for starters. Transit neither gets nor deserves all of the pie. What we do not really know is how big that pie is, and when governments will say “enough”.

When the feds were handing out large transit subsidies both as a city building and economic stimulus, a question asked by some transit advocates and community groups was “why are you not imposing conditions on which projects are built” including environmental responsibility and overall transit needs. The response was simple: Toronto Council identified its priorities, that’s where the money is going and, by the way, do you really want the feds dictating which transit projects are funded?

There are many key projects without funding, and at some point the obvious response will be “but we already gave you billions” out of a national program that is shared across the country.

The TTC Board appears particularly unwilling to discuss these matters in public and is generally overwhelmed by the size and complexity of the budget. Once upon a time, the TTC had a Budget Committee that almost never met, and recent attempts to re-establish one were voted down by the Board. This is an abdication of responsibility for a core function.

The 2022 Operating Budget

Ridership and revenue have been trending above the level used in the Council-approved Operating Budget. The lines are projected to converge over the summer and through the fall hitting an 80 per cent recovery level late in the year

Looked at by mode, all three are recovering but at different rates. As of the week of June 4, the bus network is carrying 65 per cent of pre-covid demand while streetcars sit at 53 per cent and the subway at 50 percent. The rate of growth since early February when most of the Omicron-related restrictions were eased has been strong at 34 per cent on the system as a whole, and 44 per cent on the subway.

Further growth is expected in the fall as office workers return and post-secondary students come back to in person classes. Even so, the TTC will still be running close to full service while ridership is 20 per cent below normal and fares have been frozen for two years.

Source: June 2022 CEO’s Report p. 29

The projected year-end deficit remains high.

Because riding is tracking above budget, there is a forecast surplus of $66 million for fare revenue, although two thirds of this has already accumulated during the period when actuals have been higher than budget values.

Expenses are running slightly below budget because TTC is operating service at roughly 6 per cent below budget levels. This is offset by the higher cost of diesel fuel than originally foreseen. Covid-related costs are also expected to come in below budget.

The TTC projects that the shortfall due to Covid will be $74 million less than budgeted, down from $559 to $485 million, primarily because of stronger ridership. The amount of committed funding at the City is, at this point, uncertain because of ongoing negotiations with the provincial and federal governments. Any shortfall will require backfilling by the city, or last minute cuts by the TTC. The longer such a decision is deferred, the fewer months remain for the TTC to pull its costs down, and the more crucial that funding requested from other governments materializes.

The 2023 budget will be challenging because Covid operating support is likely to disappear at the end of the provincial and federal fiscal years on March 31 if the current “covid is finished” attitude prevails. TTC will not be back at 100 per cent of demand, and will face new costs from the opening of Line 5 Crosstown. Some combination of fare increase and constraint on service growth is inevitable.

This is precisely the area where informed public discussion should be happening going into the municipal election cycle, but instead all is silence.

Deferred 2022 Capital Spending

Three large items in the 2022 Capital Budget have been deferred to 2023:

  • Yonge-Bloor Capacity Improvement: $50 million
  • Other Buildings and Structures: $48 million
  • Spadina Subway Extension: $26 million

Due to the increased complexity surrounding planned property acquisitions that will not be finalized this year, and the acceleration of projects ahead of schedule with projects experiencing delays, a total of $128.1 million is being reduced in 2022 and a total of $132.4 million is being deferred to 2023, as summarized in Table 12 below and itemized in Appendix 2 of this report. [p. 16]

Yes, the Spadina extension is still an open capital project because property acquisitions have not been finalized years after the line opened.

“Other Buildings and Structures” is a grab-bag within the overall budget, and the report does not identify which component projects are affected.

A further deferral will occur due to delays in bus procurements:

The TTC will be submitting a subsequent adjustment to the 2022 Capital Budget and Capital Plan at the first opportunity post Council recess to account for the hybrid bus procurement delays as a result of supply chain issues. [p. 16]

The deferral of Waterfront Transit design work is odd considering that Council recently asked staff to review ways to accelerate this work, and it is already known that substantial changes in scope for work on the Bay Street segment (for which the TTC is responsible) will be needed to contain project costs.

These deferrals relieve pressure on the City’s 2022 budget (including spending on capital works from the current operating budget), but add to problems in future years.

The Iceberg: Unfunded Multi-Year Capital Projects

An updated 15 year capital plan was presented to the Board in December 2021. It includes an extensive list of future projects and their funding status. A critical table lists major unfunded projects and the timing of necessary approvals.

In the years 2022-2024, several projects require approval and funding, and cherry-picking is not an option because of the linked nature of many works.

Source: 2022 Capital Budget Presentation

In some cases, the due dates for funding are misleading because for multi-year programs such as bus purchases and scheduled maintenance the future year spending does not have to be nailed down today.

Subway Trains and Facilities

The purchase of subway trains (primarily replacements for the existing T-1 fleet on Line 2 BD) must be fully funded before the TTC signs a contract lest the City be on the hook for funding that was assumed to be available from others.

The total project cost is $2.3 billion of which only $619 million in City funding has been nailed down. No provincial nor federal contribution has arrived.

If TTC is unsuccessful in receiving funding for the subway car purchase, then the existing funding of $619 million will need to be increased by $100 million and utilized for T1 Life Extension Overhaul instead, to extend the useful life of the T1 trains from 30 to 40 years, thereby deferring the cost of subway trains that will inevitably be required. [p. 25]

The TTC has an RFP on the street for supply of these trains, but it is unclear if they will be able to award the contract. If the decision is taken to rebuild the existing fleet, this carries two major risks:

  • Whether the fleet will last reliably to 2040. The TTC’s experience with life extension programs has mixed results notably with the CLRV/ALRV streetcar fleets, and of course with the SRT fleet.
  • What will be done about the signal system on Line 2. ATC conversion is a funded project, but retrofitting the T-1 fleet for ATC operation would be expensive and add to the complexity of any overhaul. The SSE to Sheppard is planned to operate with ATC. Conversely if the existing system is left in place, it would be over 70 years old by 2040.

This is not simply a question of shuffling money around in the budget, but of potentially boxing in the TTC’s options for the future of the Bloor-Danforth subway.

Related unfunded projects include changes to Greenwood Yard and additional storage to accommodate the co-existence of old and new fleets. Further in the future is a new subway yard west of Kipling Station that could be either a standalone project or built as part of a western extension of Line 2.

Meanwhile on Line 1 YUS, the TTC plans a new yard in York Region to supplement storage for that line. However, this yard is not part of the Yonge North Extension project and it is not funded. Funding for additional trains both to extend Line 1 and to increase service is likewise not part of the YNSE project.

Electric Buses

The purchase of new buses and conversion to electrification is another major area that is not fully funded. The TTC has enough money committed to get them through the first few years, but not for complete fleet replacement nor for the full rollout of charging infrastructure. There is also a tenth bus garage for which property will be acquired soon, but which will not be built until much later in the 2020s. (As an interim step, some TTC functions will be relocated from property where existing leases are expiring.) The bus garage would be the first purpose-built eBus facility, but this project is not funded.

Various factors have contributed to a bulge in the spending rate on buses:

  • eBuses are more expensive than hybrids, and so more capital is required to provision the same number of buses.
  • With the TTC’s change to a 12-year replacement cycle, the number of buses that must be bought each year is higher than when the cycle was 18 years.
  • Depending on the charging scheme, more buses might be required to provide a given level of service because they cannot remain on the road for long periods without recharging.
  • Charging infrastructure is a net new item until the network is fully converted.

The shift to a shorter life cycle avoids the need to rebuild buses more than once in their lifetime. That policy was implemented based on the declining benefit of rebuilds for diesel buses, and yet electric buses should have a longer lifespan. We will not know until the mid 2030s whether it will be possible to return to a longer replacement cycle for eBuses.

On top of this, a recent green policy initiative at the City seeks to increase the level of transit service and attract more people to the system. These would either be exiting car users, or people dissuaded from acquiring a car by the convenience and quality of transit service. More buses means more drivers, mechanics and garage space. None of this is provided for in the TTC’s plans which assume only modest fleet growth with some offset from conversion of major routes from bus to LRT.

The big emission saving from transit comes from trips diverted from autos, and that means more service. The contribution achieved through electrification of the fleet is relatively small.

Streetcars and LRT

The TTC has 60 additional streetcars on order, and this is a funded project. Also funded is the conversion of a portion of Harvey Shops as a streetcar yard to expand system capacity and supplement Leslie, Russell and Roncesvalles.

Some of these cars will go to improved service on the existing network and some will likely go to new Waterfront lines. However, construction of the Waterfront projects is unfunded, and there is a tangle of overlapping projects that could delay implementation of much new in the medium term. Various options for early implementation of some portions of the Waterfront plan are now under consideration.

The proposed Eglinton East LRT to Malvern is not fully funded, as its anticipated cost is now well above the amount of City funding reclaimed from the Scarborough Subway project when the province took over full responsibility for it.

GO Transit & SmartTrack

For better or worse, the City is on the hook for about $1.5 billion worth of GO Transit stations including the major hub at East Harbour. Under the rubric of SmartTrack, this is the remnant of John Tory’s original campaign promise for one line that would solve all of our transit problems.

There is still no provincial commitment to provide full, free transfers between TTC and GO trains, a factor that would have been key in making SmartTrack an integral, attractive portion of the network.

Note that SmartTrack spending does not appear in the TTC budget, but does compete on the City budget for funding with other portfolios.


The 15 Year plan includes a table of projects and their funding beginning on page 28. I leave it to readers to peruse the details, but here is a summary of the situation as it was reported in December 2021. (Some values do not add due to rounding.)

($ billions)TotalFundedUnfunded
Line 1 YUS$8.64$2.79$5.84
Line 2 BD$12.63$3.20$9.46
Wheel Trans$0.33$0.04$0.29
Other Infrastructure$3.30$1.50$1.80
Source: TTC 15 Year Capital Plan pp 28-34 (summarized)

30 thoughts on “The Gaping Hole in TTC Funding

  1. This chilling TTC scenario you have outlined is being played out across the transportation sector and it is going to end badly. Canada’s aviation sector, under the phony autonomous airport authority model concocted by the Chretien government two decades ago, has rung up a massive debt load. Federal emergency pandemic funding of about $10 billion has only encouraged the development of more overblown plans that haven’t been submitted to true alternatives analysis, such as the substitution of improved intercity rail service on competitive routes. The end result will be a coagulated intercity air system or a massive draw on the public treasury. Or both.

    The idea of focusing on strategies to aggressively encourage modal shift in urban and intercity travel always gets swept under the rug in favour of expensive and uncertain “greenie in a bottle” solutions, such as battery-powered electrification schemes.

    The politicians and the public agencies they are supposed to be guiding are all living in a fool’s paradise.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks Steve, and commenters, and yup, never mind the gap, eh? Delusion is the solution, a phrase I often use for the ‘caronic’ denial about car subsidies, which are thoroughly diffused in multiple budgets of governments, plus usually ignoring externalities like climate change.

    But with the excess spends of multiple billions in the Ford transit priority schemes, it’s a shame that we’re being embarked upon these massive money pits and also, there’s often a huge amount of concrete to be used in multiple repair projects, everywhere.

    The real value for public dollar may well be giving away e-bikes, of a modest power. Wish there were some fiscal conservatives, not ‘carmunists’, as it were (like ‘carservatives’).


  3. It will be interesting to see where we are in September with the office workers downtown. It’s certainly trending in an interesting direction with hybrid work not being spaced out through the whole M-F week, but coalescing with most people working in the office on Tuesday through Thursday, with others picking up the shoulder days of the “new work week”. My 504 trip was almost crush loaded like the old times on Tuesday and Thursday this week, and it was not due to a gap in service. The Monday car didn’t even have a half seated load at 8:15 a.m. heading toward Bay Street.

    Maybe we will wind up with a new paradigm where some routes need a more fine grained schedule for the week than “weekdays vs. weekend”. I wonder if the TTC can even fathom making such a shift.


  4. The Metrolinx money pit is going to be a whopper comparable to what we got from the Ontario Hydro empire building of the 1960s through to the 1980s. Coupled with it is the near-complete piecemeal privatization through contracting-out of every aspect of Metrolinx except the bloated management and the dwindling station staff. The lame opinion piece in the Toronto Star on Metrolinx a few days back didn’t even scratch the surface on this looming disaster.


  5. Maybe we will wind up with a new paradigm where some routes need a more fine grained schedule for the week than “weekdays vs. weekend”. I wonder if the TTC can even fathom making such a shift.

    I feel like the “weekend” part of the equation is something that needs to be watched very closely. Anecdotally I’ve noticed a consistent increase in mentally unstable and distressed people on the system who seem to be much more aggressive than before. There have also been a lot of well publicized assaults, robberies, and even attempted murders on the system in the last few months. The whole place feels subjectively less safe.

    And funny enough at the moment of writing out this message, there was no subway service between Kipling and Jane and Broadview and Woodbine due to two separate security incidents. Middle of the day on a Friday.

    There’s no visible commitment to maintaining a safe environment. Councillors have taken a laissez faire approach to these concerns and the TTC has always brushed these off as isolated incidents (and warn women they shouldn’t be using the system alone) but I can’t help but wonder if this attitude is going to come back and bite them in the near future.

    I’m at the point where I’m seriously considering a new car to avoid the system on weekends and to spare my elderly parents from dealing with the worsening mess. I can’t be alone in this.

    It’s well known that a lot of the TTC’s patronage comes from off-peak and weekend usage but if they take people like me for granted they may find that ridership may never recover to previous levels when a lot of those off-peak and weekend optional trips dry up.


  6. In Japan, and other countries, the transit agencies own real estate holdings around stations and along transit routes. They get so much revenue from leases (residential and commercial), that government subsidies are not needed.

    The TTC (and GO) should develop its own real estate holdings, instead of ignoring or selling off adjoining real estate.

    See Bloomberg

    Steve: That’s all very well in theory, but it helps if the land the rapid transit lines are built on was already owned by the state. Here, land is held privately and is expensive to acquire even by expropriation which must pay fair value. Some development at stations is planned by Infrastructure Ontario along the Ontario Line, and I have shown their illustrations of what is planned in previous articles.

    The TTC is in no position to do this because they are not building major rapid transit lines with that function passing to the province.

    If you want to see vast real estate holdings that are underused, look at GO Transit’s parking lots.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Steve: I’m sympathetic to your negative comments related to GO’s rail station parking ‘lots’. They have grown into a monstrous contrast to GO’s original purpose; which, of course, was to take cars off the highways.

    Aurora is a prime example with both rush hour traffic jams and a multi story parking garage worthy of Downtown Toronto. But, this situation has evolved from York Region planning, some of which is excellent, environmentally.

    Any new development in central York has been set up to prevent flooding and to separate industry and housing, for several decades. For the most part, York also respects greenbelt areas, and plans accordingly [unlike our recently re-elected ‘government’ at Queen’s Park].

    Inevitably, all these beneficial aspects result in a spreading of the population, which is quite different from ‘urban sprawl’ because it includes huge green areas that come close to maintaining the original countryside. The ‘certainty’ that the GTA requires an ever growing population is a different topic; which largely emanates from Queen’s Park, [all major parties], and represents a constant planning albatross for York Region.

    All this leaves most GO Train users with a long trip to the nearest station, and a feeder bus system that requires station pavement of its own and jams traffic up very thoroughly at train time, often with a diesel bonus in the air.

    A solution of sorts is on the way. When Doug becomes a memory; the Liberals and/or the NDP will begin charging for GO parking, rendering themselves a one term government.

    Ontario voters may well be the ultimate problem; consistently voting for the best panderer.

    Meanwhile the parking lots could be the least evil result of relatively good train service and environmental planning.

    Steve: This is true as far as it goes, but a major tenet of the GO Expansion program is the benefit of avoided future growth in road traffic and the ability of GO to serve two-way trips. As long as parking is a fundamental part of the business model, this simply will not work. Meanwhile we have political attention on technical trivia of self-driving vehicles as a last mile “solution” without (a) recognizing their limits or (b) modelling how they would serve a large and diverse set of origins and destinations. What is needed is a clear understanding of the future demand pattern GO intends to serve plus full funding of a network, not just the backbone corridors, not to mention fare integration between feeder/distributor and core services.

    Every time Metrolinx celebrates opening yet another garage, they are celebrating failure to plan for a more complex market than CBD commutes.


  8. The funding gap has to be addressed through increasing fares and not through increasing taxes. Increasing taxes at this state of the economy will send us into a deep painful recession.

    Steve: Raising fares will only address the comparatively modest shortfall in the operating budget, and will not contribute at all to the huge gap in capital funding. From a policy point of view, improving service to attract more riders is an “investment”, but if the cost of fronting his lands on existing fares it will drive riders away. Taxes pay for a lot of things.


  9. “The purchase of subway trains (primarily replacements for the existing T-1 fleet on Line 2 BD) must be fully funded before the TTC signs a contract lest the City be on the hook for funding that was assumed to be available from others.”

    As everyone who has ever bought or sold real estate knows full well, it is perfectly possible to sign a contract that is conditional upon funding. Indeed, it might be advisable to do so. If the contract contains a clause that states that it is invalid unless funding is obtained by some date, then this creates a deadline that puts pressure upon higher levels of government to commit before the deadline.

    Steve: You have clearly never bought a subway train. There is a large payment due on signing that pays for startup costs, and it is not refundable. If the contract is conditional on funding, it’s not a contract as far as builders ar concerned.


  10. “In Japan, and other countries, the transit agencies own real estate holdings around stations and along transit routes. They get so much revenue from leases (residential and commercial), that government subsidies are not needed.”

    Canada could have been the same way. One of the many government subsidies given to the Canadian Pacific Railway and many other railways was enormous land grants next to the railway lines. Which was smart public policy because it was a win-win. Without a railway, even the most fertile of western farmland was worthless since there was no way for the farmer to ship his crops to market.

    Worse yet, in the mid-19th century the US government had just finished conquering and stealing from Mexico a good chunk of what is now the US south-west, including places such as Texas and California. And many US politicians were advocating doing exactly the same to western Canada.

    So handing over vast chunks of real estate to railway companies as part of the price of getting a railway built was a really good idea. The problem is what happened next.

    In actual history, the railway companies foolishly sold off this property for a quick dollar. That was dumb, but fully in accordance with the lengthy Canadian tradition of selling off resources for immediate profits even although it destroys the future.

    We can imagine an alternate reality in which all this real estate was leased and not sold. So that passenger rail in Canada today was bursting with billions of dollars in profits from real estate income instead of begging for crumbs.


  11. In CP’s case; the dollars weren’t all that quick. They used their land grants to facilitate the development of a huge mining company [Consolidated Mining and Smelting] and an impressive hotel chain.

    Those vast chunks disappeared in the latter part of the last century, without [as far as I know] any benefit to the taxpayers.


  12. How much of a one-time windfall did the TTC get, or hope to get, from sale of the land at the old Lansdowne carhouse/garage and Eglinton carhouse/garage? If the TTC could develop and lease those lands for a mixed-use residential and commercial development for a l-o-n-g term source of revenue, that could have been a start.

    If they sold that land, do they still have that cash stored in a mattress someplace?

    Steve: Actually, it is the city that profits from the development of those lands, not the TTC. Much of Lansdowne remains undeveloped due to underground pollution.

    The Bay Street Bus Terminal is another valuable piece of land, and it is the only asset of the dwindling corporate remains of Gray Coach Lines, a TTC subsidiary. The City will pay TTC only enough to clear the debt of Toronto Coach Terminal (as GCL is now known).

    The income from these is nowhere near enough to make a big dent in TTC funding needs.


  13. Bob W says:

    “The funding gap has to be addressed through increasing fares and not through increasing taxes. Increasing taxes at this state of the economy will send us into a deep painful recession.”

    Then let’s also have “fares” for those who drive on the roads. It should be based on the weight of your vehicle, the kilometres you drive, and the type of road on which you drive. I am tired of subsidizing drivers who do not pay their fair share of road costs.

    Steve: Especially now that they get a further subsidy through free license renewals.


  14. I’d like to be slightly more educated on the “car subsidies are massive, the TTC gets nothing” debate that’s frequently brought up here. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not arguing that the TTC should receive less subsidy (by most counts, it’s the least subsidized system in all of North America…), or that cars should receive more (I am LIVID that Kathleen Wynne’s liberals blocked tolls on the Gardiner and DVP).

    But I went and checked through the municipal city budget and found the following figures:

    Transport *other* than the TTC – but literally everything else, roadways, bike lanes, the works (so a safe estimate to completely cover anything “car” related) gets ~225M per year. Note that parking raises 70M per year so the “net” cost to cars (and transportation in general) is ~150M / yr.

    The TTC gets a whooping $900M per year… that’s 6x as much as all of transportation. Even if the roads were EXCLUSIVELY for cars, their subsidy would be a small fraction of what the TTC gets.

    So what am I missing?

    Steve: It’s more complicated than just the city outlays as the highway network is on the provincial budget. Also there are indirect costs such as the effects of congestion on an overloaded network which we continue to attempt to solve with more roads (see 401 widenings, 413, etc). Roads also enable sprawl which triggers costs for many other services over a wider area than would be used for equivalent transit-oriented development and capacity.

    I am sure there are others who regularly comment here for which this is a prime opportunity to show their stuff.


  15. For Dennon Oosterman’s wishing more detail about car subsidies vs. transit, one of the big issues is how diffuse and obscure the car subsidies are, buried in multiple parts of all levels of government. And pollution as an externality should be seen as a subsidy, and despite the nice weather here, it is a climate emergency.

    I’ll dig out the Newman and Kenworthy book that has more details some time; in meanwhile consider checking

    The main point of checking the thread/comments again was to observe again that one very critical to some of us neglect – the shattered and broken condition of the margins of many of the streetcar trackbeds – actually could be deadly, and sure reinforces the idea that the TTC is happy to keep cycling dangerous as it dissuades the core competition as many aren’t ‘suicycle’.

    Steve: Your ongoing assertion that the condition of paving beside streetcar tracks is a plot against cyclists by the TTC is tiresome. It is just lousy maintenance and a poor design of the paving that more or less guarantees that these strips will break up.


  16. Robert Wightman wrote: Then let’s also have “fares” for those who drive on the roads. It should be based on the weight of your vehicle, the kilometres you drive, and the type of road on which you drive. I am tired of subsidizing drivers who do not pay their fair share of road costs.

    Maybe those people in those bigger cars are also paying more taxes and hence pay their fair share that way? Question of who’s subsidizing who is a slippery slope. Perhaps some people with no children don’t want to pay the portion of their property taxes that are earmarked for education (15%). Should they be able to opt out and not subsidize other people’s kids?


  17. Steve wrote: “Roads also enable sprawl which triggers costs for many other services over a wider area than would be used for equivalent transit-oriented development and capacity.”

    Kevin’s comment: The City of Halifax did a study breaking down the costs of providing municipal services to suburban vs. urban households. The average cost of servicing a suburban household was $3,464 and the cost of servicing an urban household was $1,416. Less than half. Further details may be found at:

    Probably the greatest and most tragic cost is the cost of motor vehicle operators either poisoning or crushing people to death or serious injuries. In terms of poisoning people, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health has produced a report with the other medical officers of health in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). This report, entitled “Improving health by design,” talks about how to improve health through better urban planning and design of cities. Our present urban design is deeply unhealthy because of its automobile dependency.

    By way of their fine particle lethal cancer poison assaults, every year in the GTHA:

    • Motor vehicle operators poison and kill between 712 and 997 people.
    • Motor vehicle operators poison and injure between 2,812 and 3,939 people so seriously that they have to be hospitalized.
    • The cost of all this death and injury is over $4.6 billion. Yes, that’s billion with a “b”.

    Source: City of Toronto

    I strongly recommend reading this entire report, as it does a good job of documenting all the ways in which car driving is very bad for a community’s health. For example, by exploring the links between car driving, obesity and diabetes.

    Health care costs are the #1 most costly item in the provincial government budget, constituting approximately 50% of all provincial government spending. Doug Ford has sought to control these costs by attacking the pay and benefits of nurses. I would suggest that a more appropriate cost reduction method would be to leave the nurses alone and work towards progressively eliminating car driving in the GTHA.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. My dear friend Hamish wrote about:

    “…the idea that the TTC is happy to keep cycling dangerous as it dissuades the core competition…”

    Kevin’s comment: I keep running into this idea, which is reinforced every time the TTC engages in some lazy or dumb anti-cycling move. A recent example of which was blocking off one of the two bicycle racks on the front of buses. This was allegedly an anti-Covid move, but so far nobody has been able to explain to me how this social distancing of bicycles reduces the spread of a disease that does not infect bicycles. And, of course, of the two racks, the one chosen to block off is the front one, which is the easiest to use.

    Steve: I call BS on this ridiculous story. The reduction from two to one bike per bus was implemented at the direction of the Ministry of Labour in 2015 long before covid because there were visibility problems for operators when two bikes were in place. The TTC policy clearly states that it is one or two bikes per bus depending on the vehicle type. It would not surprise me one bit if over time some operators apply this rule regardless of the vehicle.

    It is my opinion that the vast majority of these anti-cycling moves fall into the category of “Never ascribe to malice what is adequately explained by laziness, incompetence and stupidity.”

    Steve: This applies to a lot of what the TTC does. Indeed rather than there being a “plot” against cyclists, decisions on maintenance and design simply don’t think about side effects fits in much better with your dictum.

    This category also explains the repeated screw-ups with disability facilities. It is not that the TTC hates disabled people, it is just that they consult with disability advocacy groups in the same way that they consult with Cycle Toronto: At best they just go through the motions and ignore the feedback.

    The reality is that cycling is NOT in competition with public transportation, but complements and facilitates public transit. It does this through multi-modal transportation and solving the “last mile” problem for higher order public transit. A good example of this can be seen at the central railway station in Utrecht, which now has parking for over 12,500 bicycles.

    By comparison, Tokyo’s Kasai Station can only hold 10,000 bicycles. See:

    Finally, an excellent example of bike/bus complementarity AND an example of public consultations that actually cares about what the public has to say may be found here.


  19. Thanks Steve, and Kevin, though I will still maintain that the City/TTC are essentially happy to have core cycling especially remain dangerous because follow the money. Specifically: bikes are pretty cheap mobility and work very well for many shorter distances/last miles and thus inner core cities have more cyclists. In Toronto, the fares for transit are quite high, and the city core is somewhat $crewed for the shorter trips, and the core routes are the ones that almost make money for the TTC, not suburban routes. The old-suburbs outvote the old core, and the new ones dominate the amanglemated City, eg. the last election sigh. Though it’s gotten much better in the last few years, it’s still far more of a patchwork of a notwork in the core vs direct commuter routes, and the very old core (south of Bloor west of Ossington) has very limited options for safer biking, even though Parkdale is a NIA. Many people in core will not risk their limbs/lives in many situations, and take transit instead, thereby boosting TTC $, and helping revenues means less overall subsidy. The City and TTC are not distinct entities, though they are silos, and yes, a LOT can be explained by stupidity ie. Moronto.

    On the positive, I did see some significant margin repair in Parkdale on Queen St. today; very good, but Notice of Hazard still for Queen St. west from Shaw both directions, and a part of Shaw south of Queen is so bad someone should be fired ie. northbound is NOT a safe cycling situation due to tracks/cars/narrow and I hope nobody’s killed.

    Cyclists lives, and pedestrians too, are all devalued/cheap compared to the votorist. We are carrupt, and carservative misrule may well be deadly.

    The misrule and mis-spends of billions mean we have to somehow figger a way to get to an improved transit in the core situation so we can start to have a car-free zone; roadical, eh?

    (And no, I’m NOT happy/content with many of the other cyclists/ebike fasthole/passholes).

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Thanks, Steve, for the TTC link! I’ve bookmarked that for the next time that someone tries to hit me with this rumour as an example of “why the TTC hates cyclists.” I’m going to take a guess that when people saw half the seats on a bus blocked off as an anti-Covid measure, they applied that to blocking off half the bike racks.

    I look forward to the day when there is a better relationship between the TTC and its passengers. Including disabled people, people who access the TTC by bicycle and everyone else.


  21. One of the MAJOR areas of car subsidy/externality is with the health budget, not merely the chronic exposure to air pollution but the direct harms/killings. And while at times there’s a bit of payback from tickets etc., there’s a lot of costs, usually passed on to the victims of a car or truck rather than the driver. There’s now a bit more current fact via CAA:

    The safety record of transit is usually superior, though with those tracks, it sure feels that cyclists lives are really not worth as much to anything, and prove that the tracks were the main reason for a fall and being killed when the victim isn’t alive.

    How much would it cost to mark the tracks like is sometimes done on the escalators at some stations? Or would the extra pain mean confusion?

    With Queen St., the answer in to Parkdale is to move the tracks north about a metre or so, and yes, remove the one travel lane and make it a bike lane; separated, though the garbage and recycling and supplying needs to be figgered out, though excellent alleyways behind most all of the blocks from Shaw to Brock.

    Yes, it would cost money.

    Better value than more than few billion-dollar schemes.

    Steve: Your advocacy might have been better placed before all of this track was rebuilt only last year.


  22. The MoT released their 2051 plan on connecting the GGH and it’s a rosy picture of building everything everywhere with unlimited funding. The strategy is a slow motion train wreck at the regional level which which cascade down into Toronto’s funding problem well detailed here by Steve.

    Some transit oriented development is heading in the right direction. The Province pushing the City to identify development zones around subways is one that should be commended. The challenge is how city zoning and transit use are interdependent. The City’s Danforth Avenue Planning study is a perfect example of the friction between home owners and density advocates. The Green P at Broadview/Danforth is akin to Metrolinx’s fascination with parking lots. Higher housing density could be achieved but at the loss of the parking so beloved by the local BIA. Mistaken City decisions made 70 years ago about parking lots over cut and cover subways are now repeated by the Province across the region at a much larger scale.

    Another whopping mistake is that “work from home” is seen as an issue stemming from Covid rather than an independent trend accelerated by Covid. Metrolinx; and transit in general, are wishing that everybody will return to commuting once Covid has been declared over and all the capital spending will be justified. Nowhere in the MoT’s doc or in Metrolinx’s annual report do they identify “work from home” as a high level threat to their business model. It’s mentioned as a change in commuting patterns but not a downward ridership demand. Metrolinx continues to home that weekend picnic trips will make up for daily commuting.


  23. Apropos the idea that the TTC regards the bicycle as its competitor, is the latest excellent video by Jason Slaughter on cycling in Switzerland. It is his opinion that in Zurich (Switzerland, not Ontario), public transit does scoop up a lot of what would otherwise be bicycle trips. This is due to a combination of excellent and frequent transit service and lousy and dangerous cycling infrastructure. Turns out that in Switzerland, just like everywhere else, people tend to take the form of transportation that is the fastest, easiest and most convenient way of safely going from A to B.

    Among other things, Jason explodes the myth that mass cycling for transportation is not feasible in hilly cities. Switzerland has no shortage of hills (and mountains!) and his video shows some very hilly parts of cities with lots of people using bicycles for their transportation needs. Turns out that there exists this thing called “gears.”

    Until Monday, his video is available to patrons only, but in my opinion Jason Slaughter’s videos are well worth the money. See his page.


  24. Thank you, Hamish, for your excellent puns which always give me a good laugh!

    Hamish wrote:

    “The old-suburbs outvote the old core, and the new ones dominate the amanglemated City…”

    This is, of course, by design. Mike Harris did the amalgamation (or amanglemation!) in a way that firmly tilted the playing field in favour of his hard-right-wing ideology. Things do not have to be this way. For example, Paris (France, not Ontario) provides an example of how to do things right.

    “We are carrupt, and carservative misrule…”

    This is the inevitable result of a two-tier transportation system in which rich people drive cars and us lowly peasants get around by walking, cycling or TTC. We see the exact same effect in two-tier health and education systems in the USA. The system used by rich people is of high quality. And the lower tier used by us peasants is not only crappy, but frequently starved of funding in order to pay for tax cuts for rich people.


  25. One of the chief irritants of the DoFo excuse for a government is his continued practice of appointing people to cabinet posts that have no relationship to their knowledge or abilities [if any].

    It’s been a long time [at least 60 years] since most planners realized that the creation of new highways or additional lanes simply attract MORE automobile traffic. Yet we have Carolyn Mulroney explaining that they must build 413 [though Humber Valley greenbelt] to fight off gridlock.

    Education and the environment, in Ontario, are run by incompetent hacks who are unwilling to devote any time to even a brief review of their important responsibilities, and have no intention of EVER talking back to the most incompetent minister of them all.


  26. Darryl C. Preston wrote:

    “One of the chief irritants of the DoFo excuse for a government is his continued practice of appointing people to cabinet posts that have no relationship to their knowledge or abilities [if any].”

    It has always been thus. In the year 1878, this exact same practice was satirized by Gilbert & Sullivan in their operetta “HMS Pinafore” in the character of Sir Joseph Porter. To learn just how he became First Lord of the Admiralty, I invite the reader to view Sir Joseph’s own explanation.

    Steve: When it comes to G&S, my comment on a lot of the pols and managers in our local transit universe can be summed up with another song, “I’ve Got a Little List”.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. This would appear to be a good time for Toronto theatre talent to mount the 1878 production and apply it to Queens Park 2022. I’m sure that Doug would be happy to star as Sir Joseph Porter, and there would be no need for an update.


  28. Steve: When it comes to G&S, my comment on a lot of the pols and managers in our local transit universe can be summed up with another song, “I’ve Got a Little List”.

    I too have got a little list, and I suspect that there is a high degree of overlap in the names on our lists. And I also have an even smaller list of urban heroes that I admire.

    Urban heroes such as Jennifer Keesmaat. l was truly disappointed that she was not successful in becoming Mayor of Toronto. It would have been awesome to have a Mayor with education, training and experience in urban planning. Imagine this, a politician who ACTUALLY KNOWS WHAT THEY ARE DOING! Instead, we got another Tory hack (look Hamish, I too can do puns!).

    Another of my heroes is Gary Webster. He heroically spoke the truth even when it was politically incorrect to do so. And got himself fired for it.

    On the subject of politically incorrect, I predict that it will be a while before Toronto sees another production of The Mikado with its wonderful song, “I’ve Got a Little List.” Our local politically correct lynch mob would work itself into a bloodthirsty howling frenzy as they scream words like “yellowface” and hound the actors into apologizing for DOING AN ACTOR’S JOB which is to portray people who are not themselves.

    The Mikado is, of course, a satire that is 100% about Victorian-era England and zero percent about Japan of any era. Once upon a time, people understood how this concept works. For example, the Star Trek episode “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” is set hundreds of years in the future in a far away corner of the galaxy. But it is really about race relations in the USA in the year 1968 when this episode was produced. Alas, concepts such as “context” and “being in touch with reality” cannot stand up to the bloodlust of our local politically correct lynch mob.

    Which is too bad, because the arrogance and incompetence of the politicians satirized in The Mikado is still with us. They are on my little list…


  29. Kevin: Yes, Jennifer Keesmaat and Gary Webster provided valuable service to Toronto; and one of the Rob Ford suck ups who fired Webster is deputy mayor today, thanks to the disinterested John Tory.

    But why do Toronto voters consistently elect bumbling excuses for leaders? I would say that it’s primarily because their own lives are too important for them to bother taking even a cursory look at the retrograde ‘thinking’ at City Hall. Voters need to realize that their lives and families would be much better off with competent people at the TTC and in City Hall.


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