Coun. Josh Matlow at a TTC bus stop outside City Hall on Mar. 7, 2011. CITYNEWS.CA/Marcia Chen.
by Marcia Chen
Midtown councillor Josh Matlow says the TTC ignored the people who rely on a well-used bus line in his ward when it decided to cut evening service.
Starting May 8, the Mt. Pleasant 74 – which runs from St. Clair station, past Mount Pleasant Cemetery and four seniors’ homes, and then loops at Eglinton Avenue – will stop running at 7 p.m.
“It seems like it was a very hasty decision – very little consultation, very little study,” Matlow told CityNews.ca. “Many seniors and all the other riders who use the Mt. Pleasant 74 in the evening have been left out on the curb.”
It was in early January, amid Rob Ford’s stern budget-trimming, when talk of reducing TTC routes first came up.
The city had called off a 10-cent fare hike hinted at a day before, and Commission Chair Karen Stintz said she had few other options for meeting the mayor’s target of cutting spending in all departments by five per cent while maintaining the current level of service.
“We are struggling to figure out how we’re going to make it all work,” she had said at the time. “The mayor has been on the record saying he doesn’t want a fare increase and we take that under advisement.”
Days later, the TTC announced 48 routes were due for “service allocation” in slow periods and then – after a series of town hall meetings – reinstated full or partial service on 26 routes.
According to new criteria, buses would continue operating if there were 15 or more riders boarding a bus each hour, unless the nearest alternate route was more than 600 metres away. In that case, the quota is only 10 customers per hour.
The TTC says 74 people got on the Mt. Pleasant 74 between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. when it did a count last June – 41 of which “don’t have another nearby service which they could reasonably choose to use.”
Does that mean the service should be restored, since the 10-person-per-hour tally appears to have been surpassed?
The Commission isn’t saying. But spokesperson Brad Ross suggested recently that reexamining anything at this point would be complicated.
“To revisit this route, or any other, would require a reopening of the entire matter,” he said in an email to CityNews.ca. “The TTC’s 2011 operating budget has been adopted, so this course of action would be problematic, as changes, i.e. adding back service, would require cost savings to be found elsewhere within an already approved budget.”
Matlow says he understands the need for cuts when they make sense, but that a public service like the TTC owes it to its patrons to follow a logical process. He figures the numbers likely vary from one night to the next, and instead of arbitrary rules and random counts, officials should establish a pattern and actually figure out whom the route serves.
In addition, when his assistant rode the bus himself one Monday in January, he found 93 passengers boarded the bus between 7 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. – more than the TTC’s numbers in a shorter period of time.
And Matlow points out that keeping the early evening service on the Mt. Pleasant 74 would cost only $64,000 a year, and the alternative, Wheel-Trans, costs 11 times more per rider to operate than buses. The Commission, however, rejected his request to review the issue.
“I don’t think the TTC is interested in knowing a truth that may contradict what they’re trying to achieve, which is to just balance their budget,” Matlow said.
But he wants the bean-counters to realize one thing: when evening service on the Mt. Pleasant 74 bus stops next month, the riders who need public transit the most will be left stranded.
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