Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Goodale flushes self-respect down the ..

...you know where.

Ralph Goodale took the opportunity today to call the Conservative government "ideoogically-driven'.

Well - wasn't it Goodale' s party who brought in:

- the gun registry
- same-sex "marriage"
- signing onto (but not doing anything about) Kyoto

Are these not ideologically-driven. Come to think of it, even Goodale's 'fiscal responsibility' mantra is based on ideology.

What complete C++P! Get this man back on the farm so he can spread this stuff around with a pitchfork without us having to listen to it.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The truth about power...

OK - in the last Ontario provincial election, Dalton McFiberal promised to rid use of coal-fired power plants by 2007. The Tory's instsited that 2015 was a reasonable expectation.

Well now, it appears the Tory's were right:

Toronto Star - Nov 14th 2006 - Keep Coal longer..

Apparentely, the Ontario Power Authority will recommend 2014 as the target date:

Ontario’s power authority is recommending that the last of the province’s coal-fired plants be shut down by 2014 with half of existing capacity phased out by 2011, the Star has learned.

I'm guessing that the real date is 2015. The OPA head probably x-ed out the 2015 and wrote in 2014 - for fear of being sacked. Regardless, we hope that McGuinty is x-ed out of office far sooner than either 2014 or 2015.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

2006 - A Toronto Odyssey - David Miller plays the HAL-9000

Has anyone seen a mysterious black obelisk zoom in from nowhere and appear somewhere in Toronto? Perhaps not - but I'm pretty sure I found HAL 9000 within the city limits. The computer from Stanley Kubricks filme (2001: A Space Odyssey) has obviously taken over Mayor Miller's mind.

How else is it possible to explain his worship's calm reaction to the city's not submitting a bid for the World's Fair? We've put all kinds of $$$ into putting a bid together - and many have worked really hard. The Mayor's reaction! - little more that an 'aw shucks'. Reminds me of HAL when the astronaut is pulling out the last of his circuit boards.

Well - this is nothing new. When Imperial Oil biged out of Miller-ville to the more business-oriented area know as Alberta, we saw a similar non-reaction from Miller.

I wonder where HAL-Miller will be leading us. When will he figure out that a large pile of federal/provincial cash just for Toronto with no-strings-attached in the infinity?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The end of a dream

It's no real shock - Toronto's bid for the 2015 World's Fair has died in uterus.

As usual, the effort to cobble together funding from different levels of government proved decisive.

I can't blame the senior levels of government too much. Scarcely a day goes by on which Mayor David Miller is complaining about not getting enough handouts. Queen's Park even coughed up $200 million in free cash to cover the city operating expenses for this year. Upper levels are funding waterfront projects and transit equipment. Of course, they could provide more.

The trouble is that the fiscal practices of the city have raised too many red flags. The City's operating budget grew $1.3 billion over 3 years - easily twice the rate of inflation. The city bureacracy is bursting at the seams of two large office towers.

Miller has again raised the desire to get 1 percentage point from the sales tax/GST. Sure, that would give the city $450 million or so. This would last about one year - and then we'd back into crisis mode.

Miller and his minions understand nothing about saving $ through efficiencies. It's actually completely anathema to them. They operatate as if the pols at Queen's Park and on Parliament Hill don't notice. PulllEASE!

Miller is giving Ivy Leaguers with good hair a bad name. This is personally upsetting. For the sake of Toronto, we must have a change on leadership.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Yet more on transit

Mr. James Bow has raised some interesting questions in regards to my post a few days ago.
Firstly, I should emphasize that it is to be expected that two different transit systems - in different cities, with different geographies etc. - will have different cost structures. The absolute costs are less of an issue that the trend - i.e. the change in relative performance over time.
2nd, I don't believe there is any one factor that explains the difference or the trend.
So let's look at a few elements:

Farebox recovery

I don't believe that "farebox recovery" is a significant factor in operating costs on a per passenger basis. A lower fare can attract ridership incrementally - but it doesn't change the walk-vs-transit-vs-auto choice for the vast majority of potential customers.
Based on the 2006 budgets, the % of operating costs covered by 'autonomous revenue' is actually closer than a decade ago:

STM (Montreal): 60%
TTC: 76%

The subsidy per rider for 2006:
STM $0.76
TTC: $0.56

If you do the math, you'll see that a good deal of the difference in the autononous revenue % is due to the lower cost per passenger at the STM.

(I'm using the TTC budget numbers showing $1,038 billion of operating budget - which is different than numbers I saw earlier which were about $20 million higher.)

Metro/Subway vs Surface transit

Mr. Bow asks "Are more Montrealers as a proportion of the overall transit system taking the Metro than Torontonians taking the subway (fewer personnel per passenger)? "

Well, this may explain part of the trend. Based on the 2006 STM budget - which has all kinds of great statistics - from 1997 to 2006, the STM has seen a not insignificant swing to Metro service:

1997 - 2006
Metro KM run (Vehicle-km) + 3.7%
Bus KM run (Vehicle-km) -2.4%

Overall KM of service is very stable - but the Metro cars are larger and move at roughly twice the speed - so the passenger moving capacity has increased by more that at first glance.

It should ne noted that in 1998, the STM radically revamped how it scheduled surface operations. There was a once time drop in service hours on the surface routes - which believe it or not - coincided with a noticeable increase in ridership. My take is that the STM shifted capacity to routes with ridership potential. Interlining was implented to enable assymetry in service between peak direction and non-peak direction.

Wage levels:

Do TTC operators make substantially higher salaries than those in Montreal?

I haven't looked at this. I'd need to look at total compensation costs. Payroll taxes in Quebec are higher - much of which is born by the employer.

Packing levels:

Does Montreal pack their passengers in more tightly than Toronto (which I can believe; STCUM's buses were always packed whenever I took them).

The only data I have shows that the boardings per hour on the STM and TTC service routes are about the same - about 80 boardings/hour. This doesn't tell us if riders stay on longer on one service or teh other on average.

Average length of passenger trip

Or do Torontonians travel further on the TTC's surface transit than Montrealers do?
I don't have any particular data on this. The average commute (all modes) in Montreal is slightly shorter in Montreal - but I don't know if this is true of transit rides. Will the Metro being proportionately larger than the Subway here - the average STM passenger trip may not be any shorter than here in Toronto on the TTC, as the speed of the Metro makes longer trips more attractive. However, I haven’t seen any statistics either way.

Impact of commuter train service in the transit mix?

Hard to say. There's less overall AMT train service that GO service. How many Torontonians take Go from Long Branch or Kipling vs Montrealers who ride in on the AMT line from the West Island. I have no idea. The Kipling parking lot is pretty full when I've seen it. Not sure if this is mainly for the GO train or the subway.

Either way, I don't see that as a significant factor in the trend.

Some other factors

Here are some other sources:

1. The STM has focused a good deal of capital spending on new buses - whereas the TTC has had to spend on rebuilding chunks of streetcar track. Newer buses mean the STM has lower maintenance and better fuel efficiency.
2. Obvious from various reports, the TTC is getting eaten alive by the operating costs of streetcars - especially maintenance. Likely, this has just gotten worse over the decade.

Well - someone should stud this in detail. BTW - when I suggested to Howard Moscoe that he take a look at how the STM operates, he stopped replying to my emails.

My feel is that the STM’s philosophy is to focus very hard on efficiency - realising that operating costs ultimately deplete the financial and political reserves for strategic improvements. Consider the surface transit priority initaive I wrote about a few weeks back:


I don’t see this at the TTC - I just see a culture of entitlement. Howard Moscoe embodies this culture.

Perhaps the STM brass realises that Quebec is broke - and they aren’t going to be awash in easy cash any time soon.