Thursday, June 08, 2006

TTC Shenanigans

The TTC is imploding. First, grumblings last week-end from drivers, then an illegal strike (any fines or jail time yet?), then Rick Ducharme resigns and talks of political interfernce, which we can all guess who it is, and now we learn, we're right: it's Howard Moscoe.

Moscoe has been running the TTC for as long as I can remember. I discovered years and years ago that the man's earnest championing of what is right and just is simply bombast. That's why the TTC worker featured in the union's ad dragged along a posse of reporters to meet with Moscoe -- he knew that in private Moscoe would say one thing and in public do another. The only way to ensure a real apology was to force him to do it in real time, in public.

The TTC Commission deciding that Ducharme's resignation is so egregious that they're going to kick him out now, has exposed the true situation, not hidden it as they probably thought would happen.

First, as we all now know, Moscoe's interference was behind Ducharme's resignation. What was Howard doing capitulating to an illegal strike and trying to force Ducharme to do the same?

"In interviews yesterday, Ducharme said Moscoe had asked him to reconsider the night-shift issue." The Toronto Star, Kevin McGran and Paul Moloney, 8 June 2006

This has to be the proverbial straw. So what other lovely things did Moscoe lean on Ducharme to do?

Second David Miller was elected to sweep clean the city, but now we're finding out Moscoe, right under Miller's nose, leaned on the TTC to give "Bombardier the exclusive rights to outfit the TTC with subway cars, without going to public tender. Some believe the city will lose hundreds of millions of dollars doing business this way." (The Toronto Star.)

Has nothing changed?!

Is that why there aren't enough capital dollars available for subway expansion, why fares fund so much of operating expenses -- because the higher level governments aren't about to finance continuing corruption and political interference? If so, why has no-one exposed the real problems at the TTC before now?

Ostensibly the General Manager runs the TTC, but now we're discovering it's really Moscoe putting the screws on the GM in order to benefit the union. That's why the union got beyond more than it wanted in their last negotiations, and that's why fares went up. That's why the union and Moscoe -- no Ducharme mucking up his plans and forcing him to think about us the taxpayers and TTC users -- are cheering Ducharme's resignation. As soon as I heard Bob Kinnear talking about relations improving, I knew that was code for the union will be running the shop again, and fares will be going up again...gua-ran-teed! Kinnear knows Moscoe talks tough to the public but does what they want. And now he will have unfettered control as such a hasty appointment of an interim GM means only one thing: a biddable duck.

What should have happened: Bob Kinnear fired, union fined, Moscoe resigning, no more fare hikes, and in fact, fare decreases.

Toronto City Council is finally representing their constituents in this matter. They're finally getting that when GMs keep resigning, there's something wrong at the Commission level. They're finally understanding that politicians must allow the GM to do his job and not keep sticking their sticky fingers in.

Jane Pitfield, candidate for Mayor: "Maybe the time has come where we actually run the TTC like a business, where it's...not politically driven." (The Toronto Star)

4 comments:

James Bow said...

I don't doubt that Howard Moscoe has been a liability to the commission, but respectfully you are making connections that aren't there.

Driver salaries are an operating expense, paid for by fares and subsidies offered by the city of Toronto, and one-time payments by the province of Ontario. With Toronto strapped for cash, and Ontario slow in restoring its share in the operating subsidy (they used to provide 50%, and the TTC's subsidy in 1995 was $250 million. After Harris, the TTC's operating subsidy is $100 million per year less), then fares pay for 80% of the TTC's operating costs. So, the impact of wages as negotiated between union and management has an effect on fares, but not on subway expansions.

Subway expansions, the purchase of new buses and streetcars are a capital budget, and are wholly a subsidy, with a third-to-a-half provided by the province and a third-to-a-half provided by Toronto, with the rest provided by the feds when they feel the need to make a political splash.

After the election of Harris, the TTC's capital budget shifted. It used to be that the province paid 75% of the TTC's capital costs, leaving the city to pay just 25%. For a while, all capital costs fell to Toronto as part of provincial downloading (a.k.a. "screw the big cities"). There is also the problem of a number of capital expenditures made in the late seventies coming due for replacement. Replacing the streetcars and the Scarborough RT are contributing hundreds of millions to the capital costs over the next decade, and the TTC is short hundreds of buses, and that money has not been budgeted for.

I wouldn't go so far to cite "corruption" here. It's a complicated situation with some villains, no heroes, and lots of people simply overwhelmed by the size of the problem. The union's wages aren't affecting the capital projects, and the pressure to make Bombardier the sole supplier of our next generation of subway equipment almost certainly is coming from Queen's Park, interested in preserving jobs in Thunder Bay (for a number of reasons, some good, some bad, all political).

Anyway, that's what I think.

James Bow said...

And I will give Moscoe credit for one thing he's done recently. The new subway cars -- mockups of which have just been unveiled -- will have forward facing seats thanks to him. Some people in the commission wanted only side-facing seats, primarily to maximize the amount of space for standees, despite how uncomfortable many passengers find these seats.

The excuses they came up to justify the arrangement were lame, like concerns that forward facing seats increased the likelihood of terrorism, because it provided more places for packages to hide. Moscoe tore a strip off of the people presenting the side-facing seat design, and dismissed the proposed arrangement as "cattle cars". I respect Moscoe for his plain speaking in this instance.

Are you following Steve Munro's website? He has a pretty clear picture of what's going wrong, and what could go right with the TTC.

talk talk talk said...

"the impact of wages as negotiated between union and management has an effect on fares, but not on subway expansions."

I thought I had separated the two clearly, but I guess only in my mind, I'm sorry! I was trying to say that the Bombardier deal for new subway cars may have had an effect (or will have) on subway expansion, both being capital costs, and on the other side of the equation, that wages (an operating cost) affected fares, which pay for the operating expenses.

The feds are loath to pay for subway expansion, the province hasn't earmarked enough, and Moscoe with his Bombardier deal has just given ammunition to those who say that Toronto and the TTC waste money and therefore should cannot be trusted with any to pay for major projects like this. Thus it will be harder to get the feds to match the provincial subsidy and to get the subway expanding again.

On the operating side, Ducharme seems to be trying to introduce efficiencies into the system to avoid future fare hikes, one presumes. But if Moscoe keeps capitulating to the union demands, then we will have a fare hike. I, for one, am fed up with paying for fares I cannot afford to go towards the wages of drivers and maintenance workers who do not provide the service that they are supposed to and that they did 20 years ago. Back then the TTC was not a cesspit -- it was clean, noticeably cleaner than any other subway system -- and the drivers knew their routes and would always call out your stop. I will say that for the last couple of months the subway has not being ewww gross anymore (touch wood). It was really getting a bit beyond. Somebody obviously read the riot act to somebody.

"...the pressure to make Bombardier the sole supplier of our next generation of subway equipment almost certainly is coming from Queen's Park..."

On the news last night, Moscoe was defending his decision as a "buy Canadian" one and providing jobs for Torontonians for parts and for avoiding Siemens-associated costs of having to import parts. He didn't mention Queen's Park. It would make sense to me too that if this was for Thunder Bay's benefit (and a bit of one for TTC operating/maintenanace costs) that Queen's Park would have leaned on the Commission, but then why did he not mention them nor say he'd approached Queen's Park for the extra $100 million associated with the Bombardier bid? He also disputed the number as being from Siemen's and not true.

As for subway car design, I missed seeing the new ones. I assume they have the same individualized seats? I hope not because someone really needs to take us back to the bench seat era -- the only people who can fit comfortably side by side without sitting on the seat dividers are skinny small girls. Have you seen how people sit these days on the forward/backward facing seats? It's an interesting evolution of seating behaviour. Plus the overhead poles are useless for short people; the vertical poles work much better, not for traffic flow I know, but for hanging on and not landing in people's lap when the driver decides to have fun.

I'd be interested in looking at Steve Munro's website. Could you provide the address? Thanks!

James Bow said...

Steve Munro's site is at http://www.stevemunro.ca. You should check it out.