John Tory's office spent over $12,000 of taxpayer money on Uber and Lyft
Now-former Toronto mayor John Tory never shrugged off the opportunity to boast about the TTC as a world-class system, but it appears that his office spent thousands on ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft , all the while touting the supposed accessibility and convenience of the city's public transit network.
In the latest edition of Matt Elliott's City Hall Watcher newsletter, city-published expense receipt findings show that the mayor's office expensed approximately $11,968.64 on Uber and Lyft trips from the start of his first term in 2014 to September 2022.
Though this figure is spread out over a long period of time, data reveals that much of the spending came after Council regulated ride-share/ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft, removing them from a legal grey zone and allowing city officials to adopt them en masse without fear of repercussions.
Only $34.44 was spent by the mayor's office on these services in 2016, but following their regulation, use increased dramatically almost every year, with expenses of $1,509.13 in 2017, $1,861.53 in 2018, and $2,427.69 in 2019.
Usage dropped off in 2020, because of that whole 2020 thing, with the mayor's office spending just $621.47 that year. But the expenses continued on their upward trend the next year, with $2,642.76 expensed in 2021, and $2,871.62 expensed in just the first ten months of 2022.
Last year, the mayor and his staffers were spending an average of $319 per month on Uber and Lyft fares, about $100 higher than the monthly average just one year earlier — despite the improving public health situation and recovering TTC ridership.
For reference, LowestRates estimates the average Toronto resident pays $279 on monthly transit costs, and that figure represents just one person, as opposed to the $319 per month statistic, which is spread across an entire city office.
But how this money was spent could raise more eyebrows than the actual totals.
Some of the standout fares include exorbitant surge prices for short distances, like a June 2022 fare where a mayoral staffer expensed $16.64 to travel just 1.45 kilometres to attend a long-term care centre expansion opening at a 1.9x surge price.
Just under two months earlier, the same staffer expensed almost $28 for a 5.19-kilometre trip at a 2.3x surge price.
Another staffer expensed over $26 to travel just over five kilometres from the TTC's Hillcrest complex to City Hall after attending an August 2022 event commemorating the transit agency's 100th anniversary.
So, just to underscore the obvious irony here, this staffer was unwilling to take the TTC to an event literally celebrating the TTC, instead expensing city coffers over eight times the cost of a Presto fare to get from A to B in the convenient comfort of some random person's car.
The 2022 mayor's office operating budget, which includes the staffing budget, was set at $2,567,004.74 last year. That means, despite the seemingly high costs of transportation, the mayor's office spent approximately 0.11 per cent of its annual budget on transportation costs.
blogTO reached out to the mayor's office — which continues on with the same staff in the wake of Tory's resignation — seeking answers as to how many members of staff is this collective bill spread across, and why members of the (former) mayor's office — who frequently touted Toronto's transit accessibility — required these alternative forms of transportation over getting around via the TTC.
Though a representative of the mayor's office acknowledged the inquiry, there has been no explanation as of writing.
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