Between the streetcars, buses and subways that interconnect across the city like a web, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) is a critical part of Torontonians’ daily lives. And although many can attest to the often overcrowded and uncomfortable commute experience, Mayor John Tory has called for a 2.6 per cent budget reduction in the coming year.
According to the Toronto Transit workers union president Bob Kinnear, everything that can be cut already has been.
“The TTC is already the most economically efficient urban transit system in North America, with the highest farebox cost recovery ratio, by far, of any other system,” said Kinnear. “Are there some business magicians out there who can take $231 million out of such a system without affecting service levels?”
Mayor Tory has made it clear that if the TTC is unable to reduce costs, he will bring in outside consultants to do it for them.
“I just think that any big organization, where you’ve got billions of dollars and tens of thousands of employees, there are going to be those opportunities without diminishing service that just see you doing differently, running things better,” Tory said, according to an article from the Toronto Sun.
Rising to the challenge, Kinnear says the study should separate management from frontline and maintenance workers.
“Our members are among the most productive in the world in terms of passenger miles, trips per worker and vehicle service life. We welcome any objective study where the conclusions have not been written in advance,” he says. “We disclaim any responsibility for management decisions in which we had no input, which is practically all of them since Andy Byford came to town. He’s not a big fan of consulting the people who actually operate and maintain the system.”
Andy Byford, CEO of the TTC, issued a five-year corporate plan to modernise the system when he was appointed in 2012. According to Kinnear, the plan has brought changes that may be doing more harm than good.
“It’s true that middle management and so-called ‘security forces’ have swollen under Andy Byford,” he criticized. “There seems to be a new department created at the TTC almost monthly. We’ll let Byford defend those hirings. But even if you gave pink slips to all these new managers and cop wannabes, you wouldn’t even come close to what the mayor is demanding. Service will inevitably decline further and fares will inevitably rise.”
As for the environmental impacts of the budget cuts, Kinnear is critical. Citing the Ontario Medical Association’s report, he says cutting back on transit will not only prove counterproductive to the city’s environmental programs, but also contribute to thousands of premature deaths caused by smog-related air pollution.
“Mayor Tory, have you even read the OMA report? If not, I will gladly lend you my copy,” he chided .
“Better yet, spend more time on the TTC, in different parts of the city, especially during rush hour. Explain to your sweltering and crushed fellow passengers why service will have to be cut and fares have to be raised for the second time in less than two years. Good luck with that.”