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TTC brass fires back at board of trade

Allegations that the system is inefficient are just wrong,
argues transit chief Gary Webster

By Tess Kalinowski
Transportation reporter

The Toronto Board of Trade called on the city’s budget committee this week to seek an audit of the transit system. Now, the TTC is striking back.

Chief general manager Gary Webster, in a letter to board of trade president Carol Wilding, defends the transit system as both efficient and productive.

The TTC has the lowest per-rider subsidy among comparable North American transit systems, he said. And its operating and administrative costs are among the lowest in the world, according to Nova, a transit benchmarking group that compares systems as far afield as Asia, Europe and Australia.

In a submission to the city on Monday, the board of trade argued that taxpayers would have saved $71 million in 2008 if the TTC had maintained its 2003 productivity level in the ensuing years.

While the system’s reach expanded by only 6 kilometres between 2002 and 2008, its workforce grew by 12 per cent, according to the board’s submission.

But hours of service are a more appropriate measure, writes Webster in his Friday letter.

“One subway train that can carry 1,100 passengers requires only two employees to operate, as compared to about 22 buses which require 22 operators to carry the same volume,” he said.

Between 2002 and 2008, “Hours of service grew by 12.7 per cent while our operating workforce grew by 11.7 per cent — a clear indication of improved productivity.”

The TTC received only 68 cents in government subsidy per ride in 2008, compared with $2.65 in Vancouver, $4.37 in York Region, $1.84 in New York and $5.14 in Atlanta, wrote Webster.