The Toronto Transit Commission
This has to be almost the most nonsensical statement ever issued by the Toronto Transit Commission.
In the first place, to claim that the simplest option has a cost and not to use this as a reason for looking at a not-so-simple-but-cheaper plan is smoke and mirrors.
In the second place, I concede that this is a truncated report in a newspaper, but the truth is that when I go out for dinner tonight it could cost me between two hundred and four hundred dollars. It won’t, of course, because we will end up in a prix fixée restaurant and leave thirty dollars on the table. Just because something COULD cost twenty million dollars doesn’t mean that it has to cost twenty million dollars.
In the third place, I suspect that this statement is just another stonewalling tactic by the Toronto Transit Commission, whose motto is “When faced with the possibility of improvements to the existing system, raise objections”.
More about pricing, costs and sharing in the next item ...
The Toronto Transit Commission
As soon as the Toronto Transit Commission starts trotting out numbers in the units of cents you realize that the Toronto Transit Commission has not quite yet grasped the concept of computers. Here. Let me help them:-
Computers are good at doing boring and repetitive tasks and doing them quickly.
There; that wasn’t so hard, was it?
Here’s how you go about taking care of pricing, fares, costs, subsidies, allocations, and any other term that you would care to throw into the mix.
(1) You buy a laptop computer. Doesn’t have to be state-of-the-art. Has to have enough RAM and hard-drive memory to accommodate any version of Windows from 3.1 onwards and any spreadsheet processor from 1993 or thereabouts. A 2GHz/2GB 1TB machine is definitely overkill at $399 (tax not included)
(2) You set aside ONE DAY to meet in a sealed suite with ONE representative from each of the participating operators. In our case that would be Burlington, Oakville, Mississauga, Toronto, Pickering, Durham Region and York Region. If I’ve missed on I apologize, but you get the idea. About eight people in a sealed suite. The suite has a washroom and tea/coffee facilities. One sandwich/sald lunch will be provided.
(3) The representatives spend the day hammering out a draft spreadsheet (not a draft specification for a draft spreadsheet).
(4) The spreadsheet contains quantities for each operator’s current ridership and anticipated ridership after one, five, and ten years of the integrated fare system. These are estimates, not promises.
(5) The spreadsheet contains quantities for each operator’s current costs and anticipated costs after one, five, and ten years of the integrated fare system. These are estimates, not promises.
(6) The spreadsheet contains a simple formula for distribution of revenues after one, five, and ten years of the integrated fare system. These are projections, not promises.
(7) Once all the representatives agree that they would like to go home to their families, books and music, the suite is unsealed and the spreadsheet is revealed to the world. Or at least to the GTA
(8) The integrated system is implemented within two months. It will be a simple system with much human overhead until the completely automated system is in place, but here’s the clincher:-
(9) Because the original data and the formula is computer-based, it can be tweaked NOT on an annual basis, nor monthly, but in real-time, should we care to do so. If after a month an operator can prove (to the remainder of the group of seven representatives) that they are under-compensated, then the computerized worksheet is tweaked to favour that operator. If after a month the group of seven representatives claims that one operator is over-compensated, then the computerized worksheet is tweaked to dis-favour that operator.
(10) The tweak is announced to the GTA so that travelers know in advance that fares will float upwards at the start of next month, or downwards. That is no different from fluctuating exchange rates for folks who go on holidays overseas, or fluctuating bank rates, or the change in the cost of a pound of bananas at your local supermarket. Or the fluctuation in the price of gasoline that drives you to the supermarket
(11) Over a period of perhaps five years, the integrated fare system will settle into a steady-state where fares fluctuate very little, probably always upwards (like gasoline, bananas, books, houses and so on). During that period the province may need to step in with short-terms loans to keep the systems afloat while the spreadsheet is tweaked for higher fares. Fare adjustments could be dampened by law to be no more than 2% (pick your figure) upwards per month. Two percent per month compounded is about 25% at the end of the year, quite high. Downwards adjustments could be dampened to be no more than a 3% per month, or about 40% at the end of the year. I would make downwards adjustments greater than upward as a political move to make the deal appear sweeter to the consumers.
You can implement this scheme on a $399 laptop computer available from the stores along College Street at Spadina Avenue.