Taking Apart the TTC (Part I): Fares and Wages
Fare hikes. Crowded subways. Funky smells. Surly drivers. For many of us in Toronto, a two-way commute on the TTC is a reality five days a week. And, at least anecdotally, it’s been getting more unpleasant. As somewhere in the neighbourhood of 100,000 more people make the Toronto area home each year—whether newcomers to Canada, or newly-graduated small-towners—the city is undeniably growing more crowded each day, and this can’t help but be reflected in our TTC rides.
Back in 2003, a ride cost less than a toonie, at $1.90. I can remember purchasing tokens at a machine—$20 would net me 10 tokens and a loonie. With fares ascending seemingly like clockwork, though, that same $20 yields a pitiful 7 tokens today, and just a little bit more change than before. In other words, the price keeps rising, but the product seems to be getting worse.
What do the numbers say? Is it just that we riders are being worn down by the drip-drop of one miserable ride after another? Or is there something to this? With the hopes of answering the question of whether the TTC has become less efficient, I dove into the 2012 Annual Report—the most recent available—and ran a some calculations. Over the course of a few posts, I’ll present some of my findings.
If you feel that fares have been growing disproportionately relative to the other measures that matter to you—consumer price index (“CPI”) inflation (which none of us believe—but we’ll get to that another day) and household incomes—then you’re absolutely right. Fares grew 37% between 2003 and 2012, while inflation was 20%, and the average Ontario family took home just 17% more (or slightly less, if you adjust for inflation).
So where did the growth in fares go? We’ve all heard that the TTC has had to invest a great deal in keeping up their infrastructure (buying new trains, repairing tracks, rolling out new streetcars)—and they have. But that hasn’t stopped operators’ wages from growing, too. That 37% increase in fares translates into a 36% gain in operator wages—or 16% after inflation. That’s just a little bit much, when the end-user’s experience is deteriorating so quickly. We riders might feel just a little better—in a Schadenfreude sort of way—if the operators were actually working harder for that coin. But are they? We’ll answer that question next time.