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Andy Byford, CEO of the Toronto Transit Commission, says a subsidy increase is needed because of rising ridership.Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

The Toronto Transit Commission is asking for an additional $27-million from the city for its 2014 operating budget – a 4.1 per cent increase in the subsidy it currently receives.

TTC chief executive officer Andy Byford, who appeared before the Toronto City Council Thursday to outline his proposal, called this a "defining moment" for the commission, arguing that the subsidy freeze the TTC has seen for the past two years, coupled with ever-increasing ridership, means that it is struggling to keep up with demand.

Late last month, the TTC announced a five-cent fare increase to help meet this demand, but Mr. Byford said Thursday an increased subsidy is also needed.

"If your customer numbers are rising and your subsidy levels remain frozen," he said, "that is essentially a subsidy cut."

Since he joined the TTC in 2011, Mr. Byford said, ridership has increased from 500 million each year to 528 million by the end of this year. And that number is expected to rise to 540 million by the end of next year.

The proposed subsidy increase would go toward adding service along existing routes, he said, and not toward expansion.

But Councillor Doug Ford, who serves as vice-chair of the budget committee, questioned the proposal, suggesting that the TTC needs to cut managers before it asks for more money.

He pointed to a figure from the TTC's proposal, which suggests that more than 2,500 of the commission's 13,000 full-time staff are managers and supervisors, as proof.

"We have one manager to every five employees. Something's wrong," he said. "You go to any corporation out there, one in five just doesn't cut it."

But Mr. Byford said that this is misleading, and that the 2,500 figure includes all non-unionized staff at the TTC, not just managers.

"The vast majority of that 20 per cent are people like clerical assistants and other administrative functions," he said.

Mr. Byford added that, since 2011, he has cut 214 management and administrative jobs at the transit commission, while adding 647 front-line positions. "I think my record stands for itself," he said. "My policy is to put more people on the front lines, and less people in back offices."

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