Wednesday, November 14, 2007

My TTC Is... Filthy, smelly, frequently late, a waste of money, not worth the fare, horribly uncomfortable, grossly incompetent...

(photo from, although I fail to see why being pissed off about the incompetence of TTC employees should be the exclusive domain of "right-wingers." Maybe "left-wingers" enjoy wastes of tax-payer money?)

The TTC (an acronym for "Toronto Transit Commission," or alternatively, "Take The Car"), that big swirling vortex that people who just really hate money like to support, has announced that, despite yet another fare increase a week ago, they're still hemorrhaging cash:

If you thought last week's TTC fare increase would be enough to solve Toronto's transit woes, think again.

The TTC is already projecting a $32 million shortfall on its $1.2 billion operating budget next year.

Although the gap is pegged at only $14 million officially, the TTC's contract with its unionized workers expires in March and a new agreement is expected to cost an extra $18 million a year.

Unveiling the 2008 budget proposal yesterday, TTC officials said they face significant financial challenges, including $21 million in service improvements, increased costs and continued ridership growth.

So, hold up a second - you mean to tell me that that expensive new automated "stop announcing system" didn't generate millions of dollars out of nowhere, but actually cost money? And that new art project for a few downtown stations didn't generate any revenue either?

Could you imagine a private company running their affairs this way? Coming up short year in and year out, and yet announcing even more new and exciting projects which are expected to generate precisely zero dollars in profit? That company would fold faster than - and please excuse the cliche - Superman on laundry day.

Why wouldn't you get the system up to "tolerable" levels before adding new features? After all, would you buy caviar when you haven't even scraped together the money to buy the toast?

I am so sick of this. It's as if the heads of the mighty Transit Commission don't realize that they need to take in more money than they spend if they want to keep doing what they're doing. They don't consider future costs, they aren't willing to take a hard stance with their unions, they aren't willing to forgo some new thing-a-ma-jig or pet-project in order to save money, and they definitely aren't willing to consider any sort of revenue stream that isn't forcibly taken from people who don't even use, never mind enjoy the transit system. Instead of getting buses that can seat more than 12 people comfortably, we get buses with bike-racks on the front, or ad campaigns that give themselves pats-on-the-back, or some inane removal of helpful signs for what seems to be no other reason than an excuse to give incompetent employees who can't be fired something to do.

How can the TTC raise some money? For one, I proposed actually privatizing the TTC way back on my Facebook page. Of course, in conjunction with such a proposal, I also said that the system would then need to be opened up to competition, as monopolies are, and I believe I speak for everyone who's ever dealt with Canada Post when I say this, no fucking fun at all. Hell, maybe the system could be opened up for competition without privatization. Don't know how, but I think it's worth looking at.

I also suggested more vigorous advertising: there should be advertisements on subway train seats, subway station elevators, and even over the audio announcement system I derided before. It doesn't have to be elaborate, only a little "the TTC is brought to you by Future Shop," or some other crap. The website should also include advertising, which can be cheap and unobtrusive. Could such advertising be considered be considered obnoxious, or simply unsavory? Sure. But I'd rather put up with a three-second ode to H&M between the announcing of stops than pay increasing prices for decreasing service.

Here's the original post:

Things the TTC Should've Saved Money on...

...before running face-first into the inevitable shit-storm associated with voting in an ex-NDP mayor, and talking about cutting routes and raising ticket prices in order to scare the public into allowing them to raise taxes.

These things should have been done over five years ago:

- refrained from purchasing 800 buses that are cramped, uncomfortable, lurchy, and virtually seat-less.

- refrained from fitting those same moronic buses with bike racks stuck to the front.

- switched over to an all-token system: paper tickets have to be recycled every time their used. Metal tokens can last up to 20 years without wearing out. "Smart-cards" could also have been considered.

- looked into the "driver-less" automated trains like they use in Paris.

-stood up to their money-wasting unions.

- opened the system up to competition.

- worried about running an efficient transit system, not about tarting up the subway stations with "modern" art like 2-dollar whores (or, with fares today, $2.70 whores)

- built subway stations that followed demand, not wishful thinking (Sheppard subway, anyone? Anyone?)

- increased station advertising.

- given up and privatized it.

I don't blame them for not thinking ahead - I mean, they had that scheme to give the homeless free booze and cigarettes, and when you've got such a flawless plan, why would you hedge your bets?

I've also mulled over the possibility of removing the current system of child/student/adult/senior tickets, as would be necessary with an all-token system, and decreasing the fare to $1.50. I figure that a family of four (two adults, two kids) would have once spent (2.70 x 2 + 0.70 x 2 =) $6.80 to go one way on the bus. With 1.50 for everyone? $6.00. Okay, maybe we can make it $1.75. But the point is that you would not be losing that much revenue, considering that so much transit is paid for by students who use, fittingly enough, student tickets, and who are hassled every day by drivers asking for student I.D. This inevitably pisses off the student, forces the TTC to maintain a system of producing photo-ID cards, inconveniences other passengers when a particularly tenacious student without ID will not leave the bus after being told that the ticket he just threw into the fare box cannot be redeemed for a ride, endangers the driver if the student won't take it lying down, and pisses off the 12-year-old who just looks thirteen but is being hassled by a big dumb bald guy who thinks that he can verify age by sight alone. In case you couldn't tell, I have been witness to all of these events, and they never fail to tick me off.

I think that I may have steered a bit off of my initial purpose of this post, which was simply to feign surprise that the TTC is, once more, not in the black, but I take any chance I can to complain about the TTC. Holy fuck, do I hate this transit system.

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