A higher than expected increase in ridership has the TTC looking to add additional buses and streetcars to routes in the fall.
The Toronto Transit Commission is recommending a $2.1-million increase to its 2012 operating budget to accommodate the additional riders, according to a report released Friday.
The TTC is expecting that a resulting $9-million surplus in fare revenue will take care of its funding needs.
"So we're not asking for more money from the city of Toronto," TTC spokesman Brad Ross said. "What we're asking for is the surplus revenue for 2012 to be applied to an increase in service. So take the surplus we have in revenue and allow us to spend that on service to meet the ridership demand."
Toronto's transit system is designed to carry 503 million passengers – the TTC's original 2012 target – but new projections estimate it will carry 512 million passengers this year.
The steady increase of transit users has been occurring across the city, on both central and suburban routes, yet budget cuts last fall meant reduced service on dozens of routes. Even though some were saved, some areas still experience lower levels of service.
In order to put service back on the street to meet ridership demand and stay within the TTC-approved vehicle crowding standard, the report recommends hiring 44 operators and 10 mechanics.
"So that's where our costs are. That's what the revenue would be used to pay for: the labour costs and some fuel. But it's labour – that's where our costs are. I mean, to drive the bus and to maintain it," Mr. Ross said.
The increase in service won't happen for a few months, he said. "We can't just put new service on the street immediately – it does take time to plan it, so that's why we're talking September/October." This also gives enough lead time for city council to approve the request, he said.
The current ridership growth rate is "well above industry-wide trends," the report advised – a 38 per cent increase when compared to 372 million riders in 1996 – and transit service needs to improve to a level appropriate for the passengers it anticipates carrying in 2012.
Off-peak ridership is growing at a faster rate than peak ridership, the report says, which means that people are choosing transit more often for leisure activities like shopping, entertainment and recreation.
The TTC's investment in off-peak service to encourage transit-oriented lifestyles – the Ridership Growth Strategy – seems to be paying off while the transit authority gets more use out of its existing busses, streetcars, and subway lines during these times.
"You've got more riders squeezing onto fewer buses ... we have to put the service on the street to meet that demand," said Mr. Ross.