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Auditor should probe TTC, says trade board

Questions whether Torontonians are getting their money’s worth from their transit system

By Kelly Grant
City Hall Bureau Chief

The Toronto Board of Trade is calling on the city’s auditor-general to look into whether Torontonians are getting their money’s worth from their transit system.

“Torontonians don’t feel like they’re getting value for money from (the) TTC,” Carol Wilding, the president of the board, said after addressing the budget committee last night. “When you look at the budget for this year, you’ve got a 9.1-per-cent increase.”

The Toronto Transit Commission asked for a larger budget increase in percentage terms than almost any other city department or agency this year, even though the municipality’s top bureaucrat ordered every part of the city to slash bottom lines by 5 per cent this year and next. The transit agency’s budget request came in a year when an across-the-board fare hike added 25 cents to the cost of an adult cash fare.

But as Councillor Joe Mihevc, vice-chairman of the TTC, points out, the transit system’s ridership keeps increasing. The more people ride the TTC, the more it costs taxpayers, because each trip is subsidized. Still, the TTC recovers more of its costs from the fare box than almost any other major transit system in the world, a widely accepted measure of efficiency.

Mr. Mihevc said he would welcome an investigation by the auditor-general. But he said he doesn’t believe council should order such an audit, which would require 30 votes - a high threshold - regardless of how many of the 45 council members are in the chamber.

“Should the TTC be singled out as this rogue agency? Absolutely not,” Mr. Mihevc said.

The Toronto Board of Trade says the TTC is becoming less productive. The board calculates that if the transit system’s productivity held steady at 2003 levels from 2004 to 2008, it would have saved $71-million in 2008. The board looked at operating expenditures per ride and adjusted for inflation and the number of TTC workers to reach its conclusion.