The Toronto Transit Commission
The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) provides transit service to the city of Toronto, Ontario, Canada through a variety of modes - subway, bus, and streetcar. The TTC is a self-governing department of the city government of Toronto. In 2009 the TTC provided 471,233,000 rides on 140 bus routes, 11 streetcar lines, and four rapid transit lines. As the population of the city of Toronto proper - which coincides with almost the entirety of the TTC service area - in 2006 was about 2.5 million, that means that the per capita ridership of the TTC is a very impressive 188. These riders were provided by 1,782 buses, 248 streetcars, and 706 rapid transit cars. The TTC has a very high peak-to-base ratio of 2.25 to 1.
One of the most impressive aspects of the TTC is the breadth of its network. Whereas the Los Angeles Metro considers two bus routes to be duplicating one another if the operate within 1/2 mile of each other, much of the TTC service area, especially in the denser inner city, features bus routes that are within 1/4 mile of each other. As a result of a policy change in 2008 the TTC began operating all of its routes - even the low ridership ones - at all times the subway was operating, which on weekdays is from approximately 6 AM to approximately 1:30 AM the following day. This mandated service span increase was included with a minimum allowable frequency of thirty minutes at all times. Although this change greatly increased ridership, budgetary concerns in the early part of 2011 have forced some, but not all, of the routes with expanded service spans back to their former spans. The Toronto Transit Commission also has been an industry leader in adopting a 1.0 load standard for off peak service - in other words, the goal is that nobody should have to stand on a TTC vehicle outside of the peak hours. This great focus on operating bus service stands in marked contrast to many American cities, which are allowing their bus services to founder while all their attention is focused on rail expansion. Of course, the TTC has many plans for rail expansion that are constantly being changed as the political winds blow back and forth, and are discussed on the Projects page .
Operating funding for the TTC relies heavily on self-generated revenue such as fares; historically, the TTC has had one of the highest fare box recovery ratios in North America. For the rest of the operating funding the TTC has always received money from the city of Toronto government, and has frequently received money from the province of Ontario. Before 1998, the provincial government shared the cost of subsidizing the TTC with the city of Toronto; unfortunately, during the Harris government years of 1998 - 2003 provincial government funding was shut off completely. This shut off resulted in some of the worst service cutbacks in TTC history. Since 2003 the provincial government has contributed money from gas tax revenues to the TTC and other transit providers in the province.
In 2009, TTC operating funding sources broke down as follows:
- Passenger fares: TTC fares generated $839.3 million out of a total operating budget of $1.4 billion. In other words, the TTC fare box recovery in 2009 was about 60%.
- City of Toronto Subsidy: In 2009, the city of Toronto contributed about $428 million, or 31%, of the TTC operating budget.
- Gas tax revenue from the province of Ontario: In 2009, Ontario contributed about $92 million, or 7%, of the TTC operating budget.
- Other sources, such as advertising, make up the rest of the budget.
While the city of Toronto is responsible for fully funding the TTC's capital needs, frequently both the province of Ontario and the federal government of Canada also contribute money. In 2009, the TTC's capital budget of $742 million broke down into four major sources:
- City of Toronto: $333 million or 45%
- Province of Ontario: $195 million or 26%
- Federal government of Canada: $208 million or 28%
- Other: $6 million or 1%
Unfortunately, capital contributions from the province and federal government vary each year according to the whims of elected officials, which makes long term capital planning a difficult proposition for the TTC. Perhaps as a result of this uncertainty, the TTC retires buses at 18 years of age, which is considerably higher than the 12 years of age at which buses are normally retired in the United States.
Other Transit Providers in the Region
The city of Toronto is the largest municipality in what is known as the "Golden Horseshoe", a stretch of continuous urbanity along the shore of Lake Ontario from Hamilton to the west to Oshawa to the east. Although the TTC carries about 76% of total transit ridership in the Golden Horseshoe, each city in the region operates their own separate bus service. These bus services include: Hamilton Street Railways , Burlington Transit , Oakville Transit , Mississauga Transit , Brampton Transit , York Region Transit , Barrie Transit, and Durham Region Transit . Both York Region Transit and Durham Region Transit came about as an amalgamation of several little city-owned systems; their creation provides a beacon of hope to those of us in California who despair over the large number of separate tiny transit operators in the Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay regions.
In addition to the above, GO Transit , a regional operators, operates inter-regional bus and commuter train services throughout the Golden Horseshoe, including an extensive number of peak hour trains to downtown Toronto's Union Station.
The TTC keeps chugging along. The combination of its' Ridership Growth Strategy, higher gas prices, and the economic recovery have resulted in record high ridership. In 2012 a sleek new generation of streetcars will begin to appear on the streets of Toronto; in 2015, the Spadina subway extension across the city limits into Vaughn will open, and shortly thereafter the new Eglinton Subway. For more information on these and other TTC projects, please see this page. One major hurdle to overcome is the introduction of a region-wide smart fare card and how that will affect the TTC.
Despite its' frequent criticisms, the TTC continues to operate one of the top public transit systems in North America, making Toronto one of the few cities where it is quite possible to thrive without owning a car. Ease of getting around Toronto without a car: 9/10. Only the lack of a comprehensive subway system keeps Toronto from garnering a perfect score in this regard.