The plan to cut services along 48 bus routes went under public scrutiny when the Toronto Transit Commission held their first of four open houses on Monday night.
Public meetings were scheduled through most of this week to help transit riders understand how their commutes would be affected.
Scores of people gathered at Toronto’s Metro Hall Monday night, many of whom complained that the proposed changes would reduce their access to everything from hospitals to recreational events.
The plan includes cutting the 5 Avenue Road bus after 7 p.m. and during the weekends, cutting the 8 Broadview bus after 10 p.m. and on weekends and the 127 Davenport bus after 10 p.m. and on weekends.
TTC spokesperson Brad Ross said by reducing service along the underused routes, they will free up $7 million that will be re-invested into busier lines.
“We acknowledge that people will be inconvenienced, absolutely. We know that,” Ross said Monday night.
‘We wish that we were flush and could run even more service, because we want to build a transit lifestyle for people. We want people to rely on transit at all hours of the day and night. But the reality is that we can’t do that.”
The 48 routes are considered underutilized because less than 15 people get on the bus over the course of an hour.
The TTC expects a record-setting ridership of 487 million in 2011. Ross said that will put even more of a strain on busy routes during rush hour.
“When you have the budget crunch that we do, you need to find some budget savings and reallocated that savings to where the ridership is going to be needed the most,” Ross said.
The TTC’s entire operating budget is $1.4 billion. By reducing services along the 48 underperforming routes, they shore up $7 million that can be reallocated to busier areas.
Ross said a number of busy routes will see services improve later this year. Some routes have already received a bump.
Coun. Janet Davis (Ward 31 Beaches-East York) said the TTC’s budget limitations were frustrating considering Mayor Rob Ford rushed to cut a vehicle registration tax that injected $64 million into public coffers.
She said that the vote to approve the tax cut passed before council was made aware that it would come at the expense of transit riders.
“I think that if councillors had known that the $64 million that was cut with the vehicle registration tax was going to come off the backs of transit riders, there might have been a different vote,” said Davis.
Ross said the TTC’s budget issues have nothing to do with Ford’s decision to do away with the vehicle registration tax and that the TTC is doing the best it can with the resources it has.
Coun. Josh Matlow (Ward 22 St. Paul’s) said the proposed cuts were going to hurt a number of his constituents, including the elderly.
“We need to be responsible with taxpayers’ money. But the TTC is not only a business, it is also a service,” Matlow said. “It is not always going to make money. In some cases it just needs to be there in order to be accessed by the people who rely on it as their basic mode of transportation.”
The route changes were first announced at a TTC board meeting on Jan. 12, but the final decision was deferred until Feb. 2. The changes, if approved, would take effect in May.
The meetings will be held:
- Tuesday – 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., at North York Central Library, Memorial Hall, 5120 Yonge St.
- Wednesday – 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., at Scarborough Civic Centre, rotunda, 150 Borough Dr.
- Thursday – 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., at Elmbank Community Centre, lower level, 10 Rampart Rd., southeast corner of Finch Avenue West and Martin Grove Road.
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