Comment 121782

By Haveacow (registered) | Posted July 30, 2017 at 15:03:08

Oh, TTC fare recovery has bounced between the low to mid 60's and low 80's for the last 40+ years. It used to be that operating costs were pretty solidly covered by fares at 68% and the Metro and Provincial subsidies came in at 16% each. Then the Common Sense Revolution in 1995 came in and the provincial portion was dropped entirely. So fare recovery jumped to 82-84% and almost no money for capital purchases of any kind. I agree things were a little less spend thrift in the Miller years but that was because the province came back on side when it came to the capital funding of transit in the final Harris years and continued to expand in the following Liberal administration. Plus a new equilibrium had been finally reached on capital funding of large projects. Before Premier Harris, 75% of all capital funding was provincial and 25% was the Metro or local level of government. During most of the Harris years there was little capital spending of any kind. By the time the year 2000 rolled around the current 33%,33%,33% split between Local, Provincial, and Federal was becoming common.

Don't worry about the drop in fare recovery down to the low 70's its well the norms of the last 40 years. Looking at it from the other way though, the TTC is much too reliant on the fare box compared to most other transit services, even in Canada. Many other cities like Montreal or Vancouver have a much greater level of support which gives them a lot more financial wiggle room when it comes to reliance on fares as part of operational costs. Even most European cities have less reliance on fares and receive greater levels of support for both operational and capital budgets.

Hamilton must also come to terms with what its BLAST network will really be. If the majority of lines are BRT lines than a very fine line between operational costs and passenger counts has to be established. As I have said before on this website, BRT is not LRT with buses. You can forgive politicians using these phrases and tag lines like, "like rail but cheaper" this but in reality, real BRT lines especially ones that are physically segregated, Ottawa, Mississauga and York Region can have almost as high capital costs as LRT. You must also differentiate between real BRT that has at the least, a majority of its right of way physically segregated from other traffic and the BRT Lite systems that have popped up like Brampton's Zuum system which is really a glorified express bus with nice stations. I put York Region's VIVA system in with real BRT because they had a consistent plan that would convert a majority of their BRT Lite service to an actual BRT system and planned to fund it in a real attempt to build up York region's terrible transit numbers. Real BRT requires a completely different type of operational plan than a LRT line does. The two are just different, especially if you want them to be successful. The higher the amount physical segregation the higher the capital cost. Unfortunately, unlike what a lot BRT supporters believe painted bus lanes just don't have very much capacity. You don't have to be a transport expert to realize this, just have eyes. For 30+ years we have had fully segregated Transitways dumping buses on to a couplet of one way downtown streets with very permanent painted bus lanes and the twice daily effect this has on downtown Ottawa.

One of the problems in Ottawa was we thought it was just easy to add capacity when we needed it with our BRT system. As the system got busier and busier and passenger levels climbed capital costs not only equaled LRT capital costs, it exceeded them. The final straw for the conversion from BRT to LRT in Ottawa was when the expected passenger levels in 2031 required not only a bus tunnel under the downtown with enormous subway or almost mainline railway length passenger platforms (200 metres long in some plans), to handle the 7-8 articulated buses coming in at the same time, it required enormous to existing Transitway Stations (marketing name for our Busway Network) that were already quite large. Combined with a bus fleet that was starting to grow to a point where it was already becoming unaffordable at 1100 buses (in 2009 big for a city of 950,000). The expected fleet in 2031 was going to be somewhere around 1400-1500 not just for Transitway buses but the regular network as well. At some point you have to build expensive BRT rights of way and build up a large fleet. It happens really fast compared to rail based transit which is much more able to absorb new passengers and has a much higher built in passenger capacity than BRT.

Considering Hamilton council's reluctance to just finance Transit in general, I have serious doubts that the present council will even come close to trying to implement the BLAST Network at all. Unless there is a massive change of outlook for the next round political candidates vying for Hamilton Council for the next Municipal election. I had to smile to myself when I read on this website, BRT supporters trumpet a system of express bus lines from the rural areas of Hamilton into downtown similar to what Ottawa has. Then suggesting how useful and cheap this would be compared to a Billion dollar LRT line. It was especially funny because starting in 2011, Ottawa has had to pair down the number of rural express bus routes due to a fare to cost recovery rate of less than 30% on a majority of these lines. Until recently, passengers on all these routes had to pay a premium fare on top of that because it ran outside the transit area and thus the subsidy from the province could not be applied to it. recently these all premium express bus fares were cancelled. To cover all these extra costs the majority of Ottawa's passengers had a 5% fare increase every year since 2014. O.C. Transpo's cost recovery is around 52%-54% this year. Given these financial realities I had to chuckle when I read BRT supporters use the word cheap and rural or just single seat to downtown suburban express routes in the same sentence.

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