Woe is the TTC [To Be Marked]

3 03 2011

I am almost tired of hearing about the TTC and its problems: service inefficiencies, regular strikes, and a recent slew of public relations issues for instance the unfortunately photographed TTC fares collector who was caught sleeping on the job. And do not get me started on the very common fare hike. Honestly, I am one of many loyalists who are asking “the better way” to live up to its name. Now a budget shortfall of about 7 million dollars threatens the TTC balance sheet. To avoid any fare hikes, the transit commission has proposed reducing and/or eliminating 41 less travelled routes. I will admit, instantly I felt this would be the best alternative. If a route is not being efficient in that it does not serve many riders, it would be a waste of funds.By removing benefits from a small group, a large group will benefit. On my daily journeys I see a bus by the name of the 98 Willowdale-Senlac. Time and time again I fume when I see this much underused bus arrive more frequently than my vital 84 Sheppard. This bus almost makes me want to say cut/reduce all underused bus routes if it will make my route more efficient.

By reducing services to low rider routes, the TTC will be depriving a group of individuals of the public transit service. As Royson James (City columnist) pointed out, this is just Darwinism, a survival of the fittest. We are killing off underused bus routes in favor of ones that are more frequented. The wording may be harsh, but this is the wrong path to take because this so called efficient method will make some individuals worse off. Take the time to examine a meek creature in nature, for instance the beautiful dung beetle. It may just be a small insect but it plays a role in the ecosystem in being like nature’s janitor in that it consumes animal excrement as well as provides a source of prey to larger animals. Just like the small dung beetle, these bus routes may play a small role in helping the system but ultimately it plays a role. Mineta Thomas is a daily commuter of a bus route that is underutilized and she is not the only one. They rely on these buses every day. This is their mode of commute to get to work, activities, home, etc. Removing night service would be problematic because some citizens need transportation at night due to working the night shift, etc. The fact is a large amount of users do not have an alternative to public transit. Many do not have access to motor vehicles due to financial and personal circumstances. It’s either public transit or they walk. For efficiency, are we willing to make people walk?

After a route becomes too infrequent riders may just be turned off from the idea of public transit. When will a waiting become too long? There is a chance that people will start to abandon the ideal that is public transit the moment people’s routes are reduced and cut. There is a threshold when it just becomes far too inconvenient. One can bring up the idea that pollution will as a result increase due to more cars riding the streets. However, most people will not cite saving the environment as their primary reason for riding the rocket. The moment people start to abandon the TTC is the moment the organization has failed them as a public service. The TTC was not designed for a few people in mind, but to serve a city entire. That is why the TTC should not cut or reduce certain bus routes.

If anything, there are 2 simple steps that can remove the shortfall and leave the TTC better than before the lack of money occurred. First of all, one must remove the current problem of those who avoid paying their fare through deception. Recently, the TTC proposed fines and the use of TTC security to make sure people are indeed contributing their “fare share.” I agree with this as one of the solutions because as revealed in a recent report, the TTC lost an estimated 22 million dollars in 2010. That in itself is enough to remove the budget shortfall. However realistically speaking, fare evasion is unavoidable and can only so much be deterred. An additional step needs to be taken, and that step is to do nothing but carry on operating. This may sound like an odd statement but ridership of the TTC is expected to have a 7 million dollar increase due to the trend of customer behavior. More people, non-regular users, are starting to buy tickets and tokens only when needed. The only flaw with this is that it is only a trend and may overshoot or, unfortunately, undershoot its actual predictions. Both are not certain fixes alone but together they stand a good chance to clear the 7 million dollar deficit.

Ultimately, bus route cuts to cover-up the shortfall are a step in the wrong direction because the TTC is a service above all else. The Toronto Transit Commission is by no means  a profitable one. It  needs a 429 million dollar subsidy from the property taxes of the city to keep afloat. It serves all Torontonians, not just ones that live close to Yonge Street and have immediate access to subway stations. And that is key; the TTC is not made for the majority. It is made to service all who need it. The sad reality is that the TTC has been knocked for its quality of service in recent years. Many, including myself cite service and efficiency as major problems with the TTC. Removing more services would be a mistake because it would mean depriving a group of people who rely on the specified routes. The evident problem facing the TTC now is not a 7 million dollar deficit but a loss of quality. By following these recommendations, the TTC can remove the deficit without sacrificing anything; they can modernize without having to cut back. Maybe, this is what the TTC needs to “re-become” a beacon of public transit in North America. Maybe I’m being too optimistic.

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7 responses

3 03 2011
jkeum132

To whomever this is.. you forgot to tag and categorized… I’m just telling you :/

3 03 2011
aenamorado

Thanks Joey!

9 04 2011
Kiruban

Nice debate on TTC route cuts Alex! You gave some interesting arguments on both sides of the issue. I like how you start off with a personal story that reflects how a regular commuter feels. I agree that as much as we hate waiting for our own bus route to come, it’s unethical to cut routes that may benefit others. I also like your example of the significance of the dung beetle. Like the small dung beetle, less-travelled TTC routes are overlooked without realizing their potential significance. I think it’s amazing how you connect something to nature and make it relevant. Your arguments were clear and easy to understand. Nice Job!

10 04 2011
carolynewang

Great post! I agree with you that cutting bus routes is not the way to go for the TTC. You made a really strong argument when you wrote that the TTC was not designed for a few people in mind, but to serve an entire city. You strengthened that point as well when you added that the TTC is not profitable, but actually needs a subsidy of 429 million dollars of property taxes, meaning that the TTC should not try to gain profit but instead continue to work for the various needs of Torontonians. The two solutions that you proposed to regain the 7 million dollar deficit are great solutions, too, and I like how you looked at the monetary value of each solution to show how they can cover the deficit.
Just one counter argument: the 98 Willowdale-Senlac bus only comes once every 15 minutes during rush hour. The 84 Sheppard West bus is scheduled to come more often during rush hour, and would only be later than usual because of traffic, so cutting the 98 bus would not make the 84 bus more efficient. Also, I take the 98 bus all the time!

16 06 2011
18 06 2011
19 06 2011

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