Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Mr. Moscoe, ridership levels and ...

ships and shoes and sealing wax.

OK - well maybe not the sealing wax.

I did notice the A- grade granted to TTC Chair Moscoe. I'll have to admit that I find it a bit generous. I do find the improved flexibility of the passes a positive. Since Moscoe is the chair - he is rightly due a check mark on this.

On the bus purchase question, for a transit agency the size of the TTC, purchasing 100 buses in a given year sounds about average. A can't grant Moscoe kudos on this. Did the TTC enter in pooled purchasing agreements with other transit agencies to gain economies of scale? Not that I'm aware. Did they learn from other transit agencies on the optimal seating arrangements of LF buses? No.

Let's look at ridership and ridership growth. First off, the drop in ridership from the heights in the 1989-1991 peak is mostly attributable to lower employment levels in the city. There are roughly 10% fewer jobs located in Toronto - and there are roughly 8.5% fewer riders than at the peak. So, ridership is actually slightly ahead in proportion to employment - likely due to better relative employment statistics for the downtown core.

I'm an RGS skeptic. Firstly, the TTC should always have a strategy that looks to attract more riders. However, that isn't the only element of a strategy. Attracting incremental ridership can be extremely expensive. While I appreciate some of the improved service - I now have later evening service on my local bus route - the fact is that consumer awareness of these types of changes is low. (I happened to be out for a walk a few evenings ago and noticed the 92 coming down the hill. I'd venture I'm one of the few on my street who knows.)

I'm glad Mr. Bow is open to the TTC looking for savings internally. $100 a year may sound like a lot - but I'll throw some number out from some analysis I did a couple of years ago. (Somewhere in the archives! - haven't thought about this stuff for a while.)

In 1994, when we compare the operating cost/rider of the Montreal transit system to Toronto, we see:

Montreal: $1.63 / rider vs. Toronto $1.73 / rider

==> Difference = $0.10 rider

In 2003

Montreal $1.68 / rider vs. Toronto $2.22 / rider

==> Difference = $0.54 / rider

So the difference in the difference ($0.54 less $0.10) - over the 10 year span = $0.44 / rider

If the TTC could make up but half that difference - i.e. $0.22 / rider - based on having 430 million riders, it would save $94 million a year. At 5.5% interest - a typical municipal debenture rate - the $94 million is equivalent to $1.72 billion in room for capital expenditure.

1 comment:

James Bow said...

Thanks for the reply. I would be interested to know more about what went into the numbers, and what they represent. Because the TTC has a far higher farebox recovery ratio than Montreal (82% versus roughly 50%, I believe). So, what's at work here that makes Montrealers so much less costly to move around than Torontonians?

Are more Montrealers as a proportion of the overall transit system taking the Metro than Torontonians taking the subway (fewer personnel per passenger)? Do Torontonian drivers make substantially higher salaries than Montrealers? Would contracting out these services bring about savings? Does Montreal pack their passengers in more tightly than Toronto (which I can believe; STCUM's buses were always packed whenever I took them). Is there really $100 million per year more management within the TTC hierarchy than in Montreal? Or do Torontonians travel further on the TTC's surface transit than Montrealers do?

The last possibility intrigues me, because the TTC really only became dependent upon an operating subsidy in the early 1970s when the City of Toronto eliminated the two-zone fare system, removing any last semblance of fare-by-distance in this city. The fact that it costs Torontonians the same amount of money to travel from Woodbine Mall to the downtown as it does to travel from the Eaton Centre to the Exhibition encourages cost intensive long distance travel, while discouraging the short trips that could conceivably subsidize the longer ones.

My impression is that GO Transit has a better coverage of the Greater Toronto Area than AMT does of the Montreal region (where are the commuter trains to East Montreal?), but how many Torontonians make use of GO Transit instead of the TTC versus Montrealers making use of AMT versus STCUM? You can travel from Beaconsfield by transit bus and commuter train as easily as you could do this from Long Branch, but while Beaconsfield does have its train commuters, how many Torontonians use Long Branch?

Perhaps the key to decreasing the TTC's operating costs is to encourage more people to take GO Transit?