Yesterday it was fare increases that were cancelled, today the TTC voted to put on hold a decision to cut service on 48 bus routes.
The plan was to shorten hours on nearly 50 underused routes starting March 27 and reallocate money to improve service on busy, but unnamed routes this fall.
Residents, transit advocates and councillors made deputations pleading for the commission to reconsider.
“This isn’t the kind of efficiency people are looking for,” said ex-Ward 17 councillor candidate Jonah Schein, who uses the Davenport bus.
Resident Walied Khogali said he found out yesterday his daily Wellesley 94 route was on the list for reductions.
“I talked to people (on the bus) coming to and from work and they had no clue about the service cuts,” he told the commission. “Ride the buses and find out how people will be affected.”
In the end, TTC commissioner and councillor Cesar Palacio moved the motion that deferred a decision on the reduced bus hours until the Feb. 2 commission meeting.If reduced bus hours still proceed the earliest changes would take place is mid-May, said TTC general manager Gary Webster.
TTC chair Karen Stintz said the deferral will allow commissioners and councillors time to hear from transit riders about the planned service cuts.
“There is value in speaking to the public about what these reallocations would mean to them,” Stintz told the media.
Councillor Josh Matlow is pleased with the deferral.
“I have already posted information on the routes that would be reduced, on my website,” said Matlow in an interview. “I will also send an (electronic) newsletter to several thousand residents to give them notice about what’s being considered by the TTC so they can make their voices heard.”
“Over the next two weeks I will visit the bus stations and be visiting some of these routes and speaking to riders. That will help me make a more informed decision when it’s time to vote on this.”
The extra time was also welcomed by St. Paul’s Councillor Joe Mihevc who said in a deputation to the TTC’s board that service should only be cut as a last resort and would rather see the city seek new money from other levels of government or increases fares.
“Look at the list and assess if these cuts are palatable,” Mihevc told the Town Crier. “People who follow these things closely have already been calling my office today. They don’t want that Forest Hill bus closed in evenings because those are the nannies coming to work in our homes. They don’t want Davenport (bus reduced).”
He further said that if evening, weekend and holiday hours are cut or eliminated on these 48 routes it could mean 1.3 million fewer rides per year.
The TTC also planned to increase fares by 10 cents to raise $24 million to balance the operating budget. Instead, the city will chip in an extra $16 million and the commission will make $8 million in unspecified cuts.
“We will be reporting on a regular basis to our board and one of the things we’ll have to report against is how we are doing on the $8 million (cuts),” Webster told the media.
That answer concerns Matlow.
“We have to make deliberate decisions as a council and the mayor very clearly said as one of his four budget directions that we need to source where we are going to be allocating funds from,” Matlow said.
Today, the TTC approved a $1.429 billion operating budget: $1 billion comes from riders’ fares and TTC parking lot revenues, with the city kicking in the rest.
The city’s budget committee and city council still need to vote on the TTC budget between now and Feb. 28.
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