Saturday, September 17, 2011
Get ready for more crowded TTC buses
City councillors on the transit commission will wait until December before deciding whether to implement a 10-cent fare hike that would fill the remaining $30 million shortfall in the system’s 2012 operating budget.
Meantime transit officials will search for savings elsewhere in the system.
At least one city councillor on the Toronto Transit Commission believes that it’s the province frustrated riders should hold to account for lower service levels and job losses.
Councillor Maria Augimeri lost her bid at Friday’s special commission meeting to defer cutting $70 million from the TTC and Wheel-Trans operating budget next year until after the provincial election.
Residents should be shouting to provincial election candidates in the street, she said.
“We have to make drastic steps to make the provincial government see what they did in the past was absolutely sinful to the people of Toronto. They ought to be paying at least 50 per cent of operating budgets as they did in the past. They ought to be paying 75 per cent of (TTC) capital” spending, Augimeri said.
“We’re coming to a peak of unsustainability in our city in ways we’ve never seen before.”
The TTC will begin notifying 251 non-union employees on Monday that their positions are being cut to help save about $14 million annually. Sixty other jobs were identified earlier. It will also offer a voluntary separation package. A further 171 operating positions will be eliminated by attrition to save another $14 million. With fewer buses on the street, fewer operators will be required, but no operators will be given notice, said TTC spokesman Brad Ross.
About 500 more jobs are expected to disappear as the TTC explores contracting-out opportunities in the maintenance and other areas to save $5 million to $7 million annually.
City Councillor Karen Stintz, who chairs the TTC board, stressed that no bus routes have been cut and the Blue Night bus network will remain intact.
But she wouldn’t guarantee that 800 dialysis patients won’t lose their Wheel-Trans service in January to save the system $5 million.
“We’re working very hard with not just the provincial government but with the Kidney Foundation (of Canada) to find ways that we can continue to service dialysis patients,” she said. But if no funding is found, “that’s a decision we’ll have to wrestle with in December.”
The TTC cuts will mean a return to pre-2008 loading standards — the average number of riders on a bus per hour that signals when a route is due more service. The TTC had reduced the average to 48 from 53.
Eve Flores, who rides the 34 Eglinton East bus every day for work and on most weekends, said she often has to watch two buses fill with riders before she can board her bus.
“This is not good,” she said after hearing her bus will likely become more crowded and her wait on the curb even lengthier. “The situation is already bad. We already wait such a long time.”
While in line for a bus at the Eglinton station, Cherry Vicente shook her head over the TTC board’s move.
“It is very crowded now,” she said, noting her bus is usually packed shoulder-to-shoulder with riders. “The driver just yells for us to move back behind the line.”
Regular rider Ron Sinnaeve wondered how getting more people on his bus would be possible.
“My true concern is about safety,” Sinnaeve said as he lined up for the 34 Eglinton East bus. “Riders need to have safe entry and safe exit and be safe in transit on the bus. Unless they guarantee buses get more seats, how can they (the TTC) guarantee our safety?”
Although further crowding is expected to drive away about 4 million riders, the TTC still expects to deliver about 3.3 million more rides next year — about 503 million in total.