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Tory’s surging ride-share bills before quitting

Above: A column chart showing Uber/Lyft expenses incurred by John Tory’s mayoral office from 2014 through September 2022. Source: City Hall Watcher

View an interactive version on Datawrapper

by Matt Elliott

“Never let a good chart go to waste” seems like a pretty good motto. In that spirit, I bring you a chart I’ve been planning to put together for a while now, showing the Uber and Lyft costs John Tory’s team has expensed to taxpayers annually since 2014.

Matt Elliott, City Hall Watcher Photo: LinkedIn

I was planning to wait until the final expense data for 2022 was posted. I also intended to do a more in-depth exploration of whether it matters that mayoral staffers have increasingly relied on a private transportation option to get around while doing their jobs — in the midst of TTC ridership struggles — but recent happenings have caused those plans to change. This data, after all, will be way less relevant with someone else in the mayor’s seat.

Still, I think the data is interesting.

Soon after Council regulated ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft in 2016, Tory’s office started racking up significant charges, with the total increasing each year except for the peak-pandemic year of 2020.

The mayor’s office has expensed approximately $11,968.64 in total Uber and Lyft charges, as of expense receipts submitted through last September.

Despite only having partial data for expenses in 2022, the mayor’s office set a record for their use of app-based transportation last year. Their monthly average of $319 was running about $100 higher than the monthly average in 2021.

Some of this is due to surge pricing. For example, on June 18, 2022, a mayoral staffer incurred a $16.64 charge to take an UberX 1.45 kilometres to attend the opening of a “rainbow wing” at a long-term care home, thanks to a 1.9x surge price factor in effect for the afternoon trip.

On April 28, 2022, the same staffer encountered 2.3x surge pricing, which led to the bill for a 5.19-kilometre trip coming to $27.73, for attendance at an event celebrating the Trans Canada trail.

And some of the charges seem, well, like trips that maybe should have been made by transit, if only for sheer optics. On August 20, 2022, for example, a mayoral staffer spent $26.43 travelling 5.13 kilometres from the TTC’s Hillcrest complex to City Hall — after attending an event marking the TTC’s 100th anniversary.

I’m curious to know how readers feel about this data.

I’m certainly not suggesting all these trips could be made by transit or active transportation. The mayor’s team often needs to lug around placard signs and other materials. But these trips presumably could have been made by taxi. And the year-over-year trend suggests an increased reliance on Uber and Lyft for trips that presumably were made by other means beforehand.

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Matt Elliott is a Toronto’s “City Hall Watcher” — columnist, journalist and analyst. He publishes the weekly email newsletter, “City Hall Watcher,” available by subscription. This article is used with permission.