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TTC a victim of its own success?

An article by Paul Maloney and Tess Kalinowski in yesterday’s Toronto Star and articles in other local media report the good news that the TTC may carry the most passengers in its history in 2009. Now the bad news: a side effect of those numbers is actually less, rather than more, revenue.

According to the Star, the TTC’s success has helped create a $17.4 million deficit. Although ridership is at a record high — probably as high as 473 million rides this year — revenue per passenger is lower because more people are buying cheaper, transferable Metropasses. Each Metropass that the TTC sells means that its fareboxes lose about three cents a ride. The TTC has also sold more passes and tickets to seniors and students, which also results in less money in the coffers.

Metropass is a success because it’s cheaper than tokens, is transferable and you can buy them with Air Miles. You can also gain a federal tax credit by buying it. The TTC has been taking in an average of $1.77 per trip. It had expected about $1.80. The loss of just 3 cents a ride makes a significant difference over millions of rides.

The TTC had budgeted for $904 million in total revenue for this year. It needs an extra $80 million from the City of Toronto next year, in addition to the $374 million operating budget it received in 2009 to maintain service levels. The Toronto Transit Commission will discuss the shortfall at today’s meeting.