Monday, July 11, 2016
TTC Brass Blame Economy for Ridership Drop
TORONTO - It’s the economy, stupid.
At least that’s what TTC brass think might — in part — be behind a steady drop in ridership which has put the agency in a $25-million budget hole.
CEO Andy Byford says May’s ridership numbers, which dropped by .05% compared to May 2015, point to somewhere between 8 million and 13 million fewer rides than the 553 million projected in the 2016 budget.
Byford said that while the city’s economy isn’t the only reason for the drop, it does play a role.
“A lot of the jobs that have been added have been part-time jobs and those people don’t buy Metropasses,” Byford told TTC commissioners at a meeting Monday.
The agency has started belt-tightening exercises to battle the budget gap. That includes cancelling plans for some service enhancements.
Byford has also restricted all out-of-town travel, and existing job vacancies will be subject to scrutiny before being filled.
Councillor Joe Mihevc pressed Byford for more details on the shortfall.
“Toronto is an isolated case, we’re booming,” Mihevc said to Byford. “We’re going up but TTC ridership is going down. I’m just finding that to be a weak argument.”
“It’s not an exact correlation,” Byford replied. “But what you tend to find if the economy drops off, then the ridership drops off.”
Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong said the agency needs to have a more precise way of understanding drops in ridership. If the TTC can’t do it now, it should look at developing a way in the future, he said.
“Large organizations that spend money in the billions of dollars can generally assess with a high level of accuracy where they’re losing money so they can correct that action,” he said. “I would like to see that same precision applied to the TTC.”
In the end, the commission asked TTC staff to examine the issue of falling ridership and report in the fall. It also adopted a recommendation to beef up enforcement of fare evasion.
TTC Chairman Josh Colle warned that inspectors will now start handing fare evaders tickets instead of engaging them in “educational encounters.”
“I think the measure we’re trying to get out today is that the current approach is going to change,” he said. “Fare evaders be warned: The education period is over and you’re going to be getting a ticket.”
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