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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Free To Lose – The Power of (Dr. Friedman’s version) of the Market

7 11 2010

Journal Entry Two (On Prompt Three)

The Friedman Free Market

Dr. Friedman seems to have some clear ideas of how an ideal market should operate. His ideas are so clear and one sided that some might find them irrational. He believes in a free market economy, a pure free market economy. I personally believe too much of one thing is not good. Therefore, I support a free market with certain mixed market components, not the extreme version cooked up by Dr. Friedman. I have no problem with many of the things that Dr. Friedman says but some of it is a bit too irrational and illogical. Moreover, a pure free market economy has never existed and never will as the 16th president of the United States Jean Kirkpatrick said, “There is no pure free-market economy.” Therefore, the primary purpose of this entry is not to prove that a free market will not work, as it does to a certain degree of effectiveness, but rather to prove the flaws in a pure free market as Dr. Friedman proposes.

Law And Order

The purpose of the government is to serve the people’s needs. How can the government serve the people’s need if it is not allowed to have a hand in people’s monetary matters? In a democracy the fate of the people and the government is connected, the two bodies are interdependent. In all free markets there is a certain degree of government intervention no matter what, there is no pure free market. But we have to decide on where the government can interfere and where it cannot. However, it is necessary that the government regulates and implements laws in order to prevent business fraud. Competition does not always necessitate that the best quality products will enter the market, but rather the most profitable products will. It is up to the government to ensure that product quality and business integrity is maintained. There must be a neutral body between the businesses and the consumers that prevents unethical business activities such as monopoly, price fixing and price gouging. An economic system without any degree of regulation would cause a lawless market, unless you trust firms to look out for consumer interests.

A different corporation

Moreover, as Canadians we would probably have nightmares if  something like our health care was privatized to ensure a pure free market. There will always be claims that it can be done cheaper, better and more efficiently if these sectors were privatized. However, crown corporations, government controlled corporations, have served us well. Few notable crown corporations are the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), Via Rail and Canada Post. Don’t get me wrong, Canada ranks 7th in the global economic freedom index, one above the United States. But we still have a progressive tax system, tariffs on trade and numerous public services. As a daily commuter I can tell you that the TTC is not perfect, but it gets me where I need to. There have been global attempts to privatize public transit but all of them have failed miserably, Vancouver and London U.K are two examples. It goes to show some markets are best left public. Furthermore, the profits from crown corporations come back to benefit the public and help provide further governmental services. Moreover, there has to be a controlling body which regulates services that we cannot afford to privatize, for example the army, fire service and police. We call this controlling body the government. Unless, Mr. Friedman can enlighten us on how we can turn fire service, law enforcement and the army into private services I think we need the government.

 

You may have seen one of these notorious red boxes in your neighbourhood. Canada Post is a crown corporation.

 

Human decisions, inhumane market

In a free market economy the private entrepreneur is not out there to look out for the interest of the public, this is why we need the government. A tragic flaw of the free market is it makes few better off and leaves the rest where they are (or worse). Creating a giant gap between the rich and poor. Whereas, the mandate of the government is to ensure the improvement of the economic situation of those left behind. A free market is a market controlled by human actions, but human actions can be irrational. Money will always get in the way of ethics, morality and humanity in a free market. Even though, the market is determined by human actions, the market by no means is humane. It is up to the government to look out for the people, this is something the firms will not do. I would like to end this entry with a quote from the former head of U.N, Kofi Annan, who said “We have to choose between a global market driven by calculations of short-term profit, and one which has a human face.”

Canada ranked 7th overall in the global economic freedom index of 2010.