One of the pillars of the TTC’s plan to trim its budget is to cut some twenty-one “poor performing” bus routes. But what, exactly, is a “poor performing” route? As it turns out, transit whiz Steve Munro claims, it sure isn’t what the TTC says it is: “in a flat fare system,” he writes, “it is impossible to allocate fare revenue in any way that makes sense and produces meaningful comparisons between routes.”
There are a number of reasons for this, not the least of which is the sheer diversity of the routes and what they are used for by their travelers (compare, say, the Airport Rocket bus or the York University Bus, to the ones mostly used by people transferring on at stations, to the ones that are more used on a stop-by-stop basis), as well as other variables like fuel consumption (which varies depending on if the route tends to be in stop-and-go traffic or smooth sailing). There are all sorts of weird anomalies in the TTC’s bus system—like the aforementioned Airport Rocket, which has both the highest cost per hour of service and the lowest cost per kilometer traveled.
So, last evening on his blog, Munro crunched the numbers and came up with some data of his own.
Aside from producing an improved chart of the performance [PDF] of each and every one of the city’s bus routes (want to know how much it costs to run your favourite route per hour of operation? Or how many people, on average, board it each hour that it operates?) and giving us the majority of the list of routes that the TTC contends are poor performing (that’s the 160 Bathurst North, 49 Bloor West, 8 Broadview, 120 Calvington, 127 Davenport, 26 Dupont, 33 Forest Hill, 14 Glencairn, 169 Huntingwood, 30 Lambton, 160 Lawrence-Donway, 132 Milner, 62 Mortimer, 74 Mt. Pleasant, 67 Pharmacy, 167 Pharmacy North, 115 Silver Hills, 10 Van Horne, and 97 Yonge), the real help is Munro’s comparison between the “poor performing” routes and those that the TTC contends are doing just fine.
Munro’s larger argument is not, though, that the TTC’s definition of “poor performing” is misleading, but that in cutting any routes, the TTC risks doing damage to its entire system. “Before we start running around the transit network axing suspicious routes left and right,” says Munro, “it’s important that we remember that this is a network and when you start taking parts away, you damage more than the individual pieces.” What Munro’s superb analyses demonstrate is what we all expected: that the TTC has its work cut out for them for September, even when it comes to defining or justifying two little words, like “poor performing.” There are no easy ways to save $130 million without making the TTC worse.
Photo outside of Dupont Station, waiting for the 26 Dupont bus, by e.dward from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.