Posts Tagged ‘cost’

LTC’s Threatened Fare Hike

September 10, 2008

I’ve thought for quite a while that the senior management at the LTC is clearly incompetent, but the news that a fare increase is being proposed (“LTC wants 10% hike in fares“; London Free Press; 2008/09/04) is remarkably stupid even for them.

The LTC’s Larry Ducharme is quoted as saying that “This is a reality check, a watershed budget.” Well, here’s a reality check for Larry…

When LTC made a decision to increase user rates in 1988, the results were predictable. Ridership decreased year after year for the next 8 years from it’s peak 1988 level of 18,761,000 to only 11,905,000 in 1996. And as bad as those raw numbers might appear, the reality is even worse.

“Whereas the 18,761,000 riders in 1988 represented a very modest mode share of 10%, the 18,276,000 riders which the service attracted in 2005 only represent a mode share of 7%. In order to match projected population growth and simply recapture the 10% share, the TMP estimates that ridership has to grow an average 600,000 additional rides per year, every year, until 2024.”01

Do we even know what the ridership numbers really are? Larry Ducharme has been going around touting a great ridership increase for some time now, but can we believe him?

Let’s review the communication that I sent Mr. Ducharme more than a year ago. The one that nobody at the LTC has replied to despite several follow-up inquiries …

Date: Mon, 27 Aug 2007 10:40:42 -0700 (PDT)
From: “Gregory Fowler”
To: “Larry Ducharme”
Subject: LTC Ridership


In the past, I have communicated my concern to you that raw ridership numbers are relatively meaningless, because they do not reflect the corresponding increase in the city population. However, it did not occur to me that there was any reason to question those raw numbers. I simply accepted them at face value.

Having re-examined all of the staff reports re ‘Financial Update – Passenger Riding’ which are available on the LTC website as part of your meeting agendas, I now have a question with respect to the accuracy of the reported raw ridership numbers.

By your own admission, there has been a marked trend “away from the cash and ticket categories to the pass category.”

Although the cash and ticket categories can be very accurately measured, ridership for the pass category can only be calculated.

As I understand it, you have created something that you call “ride factors” which are based upon “expected usage” of those passes, and you then pad (fudge?) the measured ridership (cash & ticket) to arrive at your published ridership numbers. Worse still, “factors are adjusted as required…”

Required for what purpose? So that it will appear that you are experiencing a growth in ridership?

How hard would it be for you to take an actual head count? An accurate measurement of the number of individuals who actually board LTC buses month by month? Instead of simply guessing?

Greg Fowler
962 Eagle Crescent
London, Ontario; N5Z 3H7

We are also aware that Council identified “building a progressive transportation system” as a strategic priority within its 2007-2010 strategic plan, yet London remains the lowest contributor among its peer municipalities… if City Council ultimately abdicates its leadership by maintaining a 3.5% cap, we urge you to resist making up the gap on the backs of students, and other transit riders.
(source: UWO Students’ Council)

But even if you want to give Larry Ducharme the benefit of the doubt and assume that the LTC’s ridership guesses are accurate enough, how does that justify a rate increase? Mr. Ducharme has repeatedly said that transit users in this city pay more per-capita than users in other cities. In other words, despite it’s rhetoric, City Council has been underfunding the LTC for years.

It was only last April that our City Council spent all of the $5.8M that it got from the province for rehabilitating paved roads.02

Right now, London is flush with at least $33M from the upper levels of government for transportation-related projects.03 Shouldn’t a large percentage of that be used to improve services for pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transit users? Should the city have to be threatened with lawsuits before it will spend money on important alternative transportation needs like walkway lighting and maintenance?04

And then of course, there’s the argument that always gets ignored. The fact that those citizens who are most in need, use public transit the most. Because they have to. Because their lives depend upon it. You heard about the supposed need for a fare increase, but did you hear anything about the plea for public transit funding for the disabled?05

Some progressive cities aren’t afraid to admit that reality, and to recognize that our society cannot afford the escalating social cost of the disparity between rich and poor. Just last March, Hamilton began providing half-price passes for employed but poor residents. An increasing number of cities are studying the common-sense idea of free public transit (see links below).

Where are London’s progressive politicians?

01. 2007/01/06 – FMBS: My public letter to Paul Berton
02. 2008/04/07 – CityLondon: ETC agenda item #9
03. 2008/08/26 – FMBS: What to do with $33M?
04. 2008/08/26 – FMBS: Should London be sued?
05. 2008/07/31 – LTC: Funding Public Transport re ODSP/CPP-D

Other Links:
2006/02/18 – FMBS: Joanna Kurowski’s convoluted answer
2007/12/19 – FMBS: Shooting for Free Transit
2008/01/09 – FMBS: Ted Kheel’s Fight for Free Public Transit
2008/01/28 – FMBS: CUPE’s Poverty Reduction Proposal
2008/04/20 – FMBS: Increasing Credibility of Free Transit

Toll Roads: Part of a Smart Anti-Congestion Plan

February 25, 2008

You may recall that I’ve previously suggested that toll roads (congestion fees) would be a good thing for London. 01 Now Toronto’s Mayor has joined the choir; David Miller thinks that tolls would be good for his city too. 02

It isn’t a new idea. In 1700s Britain “turnpike roads…were private businesses that maintained roads using the income obtained from charging for its use…” Over the past +100 years most new roads have been built “using funding from income tax and other government taxes.” But increasingly, old is becoming new again, as cities struggle to cope with serious congestion problems. “Toll roads like the M6 Toll are funded in a different and much fairer way. The cost of building and maintaining them is borne by the developer who recovers his outlay and interest charges by levying tolls on the traffic which uses the road – in exactly the same way as turnpike roads were operated 400 years ago. Thus toll roads are paid for only by the people who use them.” 03

01. 2008/01/09 – FMBS: Ted Kheel’s fight…
02. 2008/02/23 – Toronto Star: Mayor backs serious look at road tolls
03. M6toll

Other Links:
Toronto 407 ETR
Indiana Toll Road
Harris County (Greater Houston) Toll Road Authority
Cobequid Pass (Nova Scotia) Toll Road
(Orange County CA) Transportation Corridor Agencies
(Denver) e-470
2008/02/29 – Toronto Star: Strong premier would steer toward road tolls
2008/04 – Toronto Life: Toronto’s Traffic Time Bomb

FCM National Action Plan for Housing

January 30, 2008

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Perhaps this new plan will have some positive impact where others have failed. One thing’s for sure… the problem is not new, it’s real, and it’s growing.


Civil ‘Justice’ Reform Project

January 15, 2008

Here’s a media release from the office of Ontario’s Attorney General. Read the first paragraph, but I’m not sure that you have to go any further than that.

   TORONTO, Jan. 15 /CNW/ - Ontario is looking for input from legal
associations, lawyers and judges on how to make the civil justice system
faster and less expensive.
    "Our goal is to help Ontarians resolve disputes faster with lower costs
by simplifying the civil justice system," said Attorney General Chris Bentley.
    Bentley is holding focussed discussions in communities across Ontario
following the release of the Civil Justice Reform Project: Summary of Findings
and Recommendations, a commissioned report from the Honourable Coulter
    The Attorney General will begin his tour today in Toronto, and continue
over the next two months with stops in a number of communities across the
    In November 2007, the government released Mr. Osborne's
81 recommendations touching on 18 areas of procedural and substantive law,
including small claims, trial management, appeals, technology, civility,
unrepresented litigants and proportionality.
    To develop his recommendations, Mr. Osborne carried out province-wide
consultations, researched reforms in other jurisdictions, struck three
advisory committees and reviewed over 100 submissions.
    The summary report is available on the ministry's website in both French
and English at
    Public comment on the Civil Justice Reform Project: Summary of Findings
and Recommendations can be sent to
    "Our civil justice system exists to serve the people of Ontario," added
Bentley. "I'm interested in hearing how Mr.Osborne's recommendations will
improve the speed and affordability of our system."

Keeping Watch on SpeedWatch

December 23, 2007

Acc. to the Mayor of the City of Pickering, “We’ve been looking at technologies, this one [a new integrated, solar-powered LED radar board] is very cost-effective and low maintenance and I think it will work well” (‘Pickering cracks down with high-tech radar‘; Toronto 24 Hrs; 2007/12/23).

The solar-powered boards “can run for up to three days before recharging and require zero electricity” and the Pickering project’s [startup?] cost was reported to have been $15,000.

Although Mike Pelzowski (Coordinator, Traffic Operations; City of Pickering) didn’t provide any financial detail in his 2007/12/27 email to me, he did identify that the manufacturer of the radar board is Dorman Varitext.

This is interesting… Pickering has something it calls a Neighbourhood Traffic Watch Program. Residents use a speed display board to “track and record all vehicles traveling in excess of 10 km/hr above the maximum speed limit…for a minimum of two hours a day for a consecutive five day period.”

photoIt’s been almost 2 years since Sgt. Tom O’Brien told me that LPS only had a single SpeedWatch trailer to deploy, so I thought that this would be a good time to revisit the file. I’ve sent the Sgt. an info request and I’ll update this post for you if I get a reply.

Appended 2008/08/20: No reply so far 😦

Changing Urban Perceptions

December 20, 2007

One of today’s articles (‘Prestige About Being in the City‘; National Post; 2007/12/20) quotes James McKellar (Academic Director; York Univ. School of Business). Here are some comments that I think are worth taking note of:


Shooting for Free Transit

December 19, 2007

“If the bus to work or play was free, would you leave your car at home? Would it be worth paying $150 more in property taxes?”


Exporting Our e-Waste Problem

December 8, 2007

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Although “the environmental and human health costs” of unregulated handling of e-waste “are huge,” many Canadian and U.S. jurisdictions “are caught in a ‘secret cycle’ ” of unsafe disposal that often includes meagerly-paid workers in “China… India and some African nations” (“Chipping Up Computers“; Hilary Feldman; AboutMyPlanet; 2007/12/02).

2006/12/19 – AMP: Many “Recycled” Computers Go To Digital Dump

Placemaking Design Issues

December 7, 2007

I note with considerable interest, the direction given to city administration by Planning Committee at it’s 2007/11/26 meeting, with respect to the “integration” of certain “design issues into the planning process in the future.”

Administration was directed to “prepare a report which describes how new forms of parks, such as parkettes, commons areas, and urban parks may be incorporated into new communities in London. At a minimum, this report should consider the costs of such park spaces (both capital and operating) and describe how such parks could impact municipal budgets relating to parks operations.”

Administration was also directed to “prepare a report which investigates opportunities and costs of enhancing the public realm in new communities – including widened boulevards, planted medians, enhanced landscaping, decorative street lighting, community entry features, gazebos, hard surface plazas, decorative street crossings, street furniture and other amenities.”

This is all very well and good, and I’m keen to see what the reports have to say when they come back to committee. But where is the pedestrian community in all this investigation and planning? Isn’t this just one more good reason why it’s important that London have a Pedestrian Committee?

Loretta Lau’s Timmy Petition

November 30, 2007

care2Petition logo I’d like to draw your attention to an online petition which attempts to influence Tim Hortons® (Canada’s largest food service operator) to do more toward addressing it’s harmful behaviour than simply putting anti-litter messages on it’s packaging (click HERE to view the petition).

logoI’d also like to highlight a similar initiative by a group of local student activists. EnviroWestern’s Mug Team is trying to get “as many as people on campus to utilize travel mugs as possible.” Very nice.

Why are we so complacent in the face of commercial enviro-assaults? Have we convinced ourselves that nobody will pay more than lip service, or that we’ll only be ignored completely? Too busy to bother, do we assuage ourselves into believing that somebody else will eventually confront the problem?

Please have a look at these petitions and consider giving them your support. It doesn’t take a lot of time or effort, it doesn’t cost you anything, and it’s a whole lot better than doing nothing. Because, by remaining silent, you’re still making a statement. But, is it the one that you want to make?

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2007/11/28 – FMBS: Making a difference …
2007/11/30 – Gazette: Curb waste with biodegradeable cups

Making a Difference, One Cup at a Time

November 28, 2007

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paper cup graphicThrow it on the compost pile and it breaks down and nourishes life. International Paper’s coffee cup, the Ecotainer, is also cost-competitive with regular cups. Why is your local coffee shop not using them?” (‘We Can Be Garbage Free‘; The Tyee; 2007/11/28)

International Paper: ecotainer™ FAQ

Tomorrow’s LTC

November 15, 2007


Buses are sort of like teleporters with a time delay. Think about it; you arrive at a certain location, enter a steel vessel, wait a few minutes, exit the vessel, and you’re at a completely different location from where you entered. I’m telling you, kids, the future is now.” (source: Phronk)

Although the promise of a ‘new and improved‘ public transportation system sounds like Christmas come early for those many Londoners who, like myself, depend upon it to get around town, will the millions of dollars being spent on ‘Smart Bus‘ technology give us the best bang for those gas-tax bucks? When all is said and done, will the real-life experience of it’s users be measurably better than today’s inadequate service?

In “Smart Money For Transit” (Joe Matyas; London Free Press; 2007/11/08), we’re told of LTC General Manager Larry Ducharme’s admission that “we have 2,500 stops in our system, train level crossings and fender-benders all the time that slow down our service and frustrate our passengers.” Well, I’m one of those frustrated passengers. But I’m not so sure that I buy Larry’s contention that it’s trains and accidents that are to blame for the time that it takes me to get anywhere via LTC. I’m not so sure that it wouldn’t be wiser to use the money to put more buses on the road and reduce the wait time between them (review this previous post and this one and this one).

We need to get away from the dated notion that Dundas/Richmond is the center of the universe where so many routes converge, and adopt a grid system instead (see this post), supported by customer-friendly policies re transfer between buses at major grid intersections (Dundas/Adelaide, Dundas/Highbury, Oxford/Richmond, etc).

Mark Spowart tells us (“London Transit hopes… “; The Londoner; 2007/11/14) that the 1st phase will include the appearance of 8 “wayside signs” like the one at Dundas/Richmond. Well, I’d like to ask Larry how much each one of those is going to cost, what they’re going to do to prevent vandalism, and if they’re actually going to display all of the location-specific information that customers expect them to?

With respect to the project’s 2nd phase, Mark quotes the Mayor as saying that “data will be accessible by ridership over the webbeing able to get it (information on your bus) on the spot wherever you are…” So, what I’d like to know from Larry or the Mayor is, are we getting public WiFi as part of this? Or, does that maybe mean ‘wherever you are, so long as you’re on a bus at the time’? Or some other fine print that nobody’s talking about yet?

Mark concludes his article by tossing around some ridership numbers, as if there’s no dispute about their validity. Which brings me to the final point that I’ll make for now. If the LTC wants to reduce customer frustration, another one of the changes that it’s going to have to make is to be more transparent and accountable. Instead of ignoring/dismissing customer inquiries as is too often the case (see this post and this one).

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Nutritious Food Basket

April 27, 2007

A follow-up to my last post on the subject (“London’s Board of Health re Social Assistance Rates”), this information comes from Heather Thomas (Public Health Dietitian, Middlesex-London Health Unit).

The Nutritious Food Basket is completed annually as required by the Ministry of Health Promotion (and previously the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care).

The Ministry requires the costing survey to be completed annually between May and June.

The list of 66 foods is determined by Stats Canada based on expenditure patterns of Canadians.

There are some limitations to the protocol and it is currently under review by the Ministry of Health Promotion. For example, the list of 66 foods may not be entirely reflective on your diet or my diet, may not meet one’s needs if they are on a special diet, may not be reflective of one’s multicultural background, and does not include foods that may be obtained as gifts, through hunting, or the like.

While it is not perfect, it is meant to provide a snapshot of trends in food costs over time.

Cheap Cars are a Hoax

April 16, 2007

According to “The race to build really cheap cars,” France’s Renault-Nissan and India’s Tata are leading a race to produce “basic cars that combine modern comfort with safety at a fraction of today’s cost.” The target is a sticker price as low as $2,500, and “there’s no lack of potential customers: Hundreds of millions of Chinese, Indians, Brazilians, Russians, and others…”

Of course, what media reports always fail to mention is the true cost of automobiles, which includes such incidentals as maintenance, insurance, fuel, road construction and repair, environmental degradation, etc.