Do you feel the TTC manages its money reasonably well?
How people answer this question makes a difference, especially now that the commission is considering fare hikes and cuts to bus service.
Transit employees and riders regularly send me observations of inefficiencies and cost-saving suggestions that range from a few hundred thousand dollars to millions. It’s a long list, and still might not yield enough savings to cover proposed cuts to the TTC — one estimate claims a hundred million dollars must be chopped in 2008. Yet there is an impression that enough money can be found lying around to at least forestall bus cancellations.
Both the TTC and the city of Toronto have not effectively responded to criticism of wasteful spending. For example, too few people are aware that the TTC has an extensive team of internal auditors — and how closely Toronto’s auditor general Jeffrey Griffiths works with his TTC counterpart, Dick Beecroft.
This week I had a chance to discuss cost control with both of them and became convinced that many of the large- and small-ticket items are indeed being scrutinized and evaluated, and that there are valid — if sometimes unexpected — reasons why apparent waste can in fact be justified. Often, it’s because the alternative would cost a lot more. But we do not have easy access to answers about cost questions. Politicians or journalists claiming, “There is no more fat to cut” is not enough, nor are big, complicated reports.
Show people that credible audits are being done. Publicize a list of common complaints about waste. If not, too much discussion will focus on relatively small expenditures and ignore the larger questions about how to properly fund an overcrowded transit system.