by Natalie Alcoba, National Post
During a marathon meeting that heard from dozens upon dozens of transit riders and residents, the Toronto Transit Commission voted to cut back night and weekend bus service on 41 “under-performing” routes. The cuts will take effect in May. Staff say the savings will go to boosting service on crowded lines. The commission also voted to proceed with a new storage and maintenance facility at Ashbridges Bay for the incoming light-rail vehicles. Natalie Alcoba reports:
1:05: TTC commissioners start filing in, and face a long list of speakers: 42 on Ashbridges Bay yard, 77 on the bus route cuts. Most, but not all, show up.
1:50: TTC chairwoman Karen Stintz announces the room is exceeding its fire code capacity of 130 people. Someone makes a quip about it being just like the subway.
2:18: Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon argues for a 90-day delay on the Ashbridges Bay LRV maintenance and storage facility, saying it will wreak havoc on Leslieville.
2:48: Caren Court says she isn’t “a professional deputant” but her bedroom is seven metres from the streetcar tracks, and that makes her home the closest to the site. She urged the commission not to “toss $50-60-million away” to remove the soil, given all the concerns raised by the community.
2:55: Councillor Adam Vaughan says he grew up next to a car yard, and he wouldn’t minimize the neighbourhood impact. “No matter where you put it, you’re putting it next to somebody.”
3:43: TTC chief general manager Gary Webster says the Ashbridges plan is already nine months behind, and it has cost $15-million.
4:00: Ms. Stintz speaks in its favour of proceeding as planned. “We need to be clear, if we defer this item for 90 days we effectively defer this item until August and we effectively have to make adjustment to our streetcar order because we will not be able to accept the streetcars on the current delivery schedule. We need to move forward on this item.” Commission awards contract to remove soil at site.
4:33: Councillor Josh Matlow disputes the TTC’s ridership figures, after riding the Mount Pleasant 89 bus himself. His executive assistant, Andrew Athanasiu, counted 93 riders between 7 p.m. and 9:15 p.m., compared with the TTC’s estimate of 43. Mr. Matlow also had a picture of Max, the bus driver, hamming it up with his passengers during an impromptu town hall meeting on the bus. “It was like a John Hughes film.”
5:00: Emily Shelton, a.k.a. “Roadside Bombshell”, speaks in favour of preserving the Downsview Park 101, relied upon by members of a roller-derby league. “I know you guys are laughing, but this is serious. Roller Derby is seriously fun.”
5:13: Joanne Flint, former Don Valley West councillor, returned to City Hall to speak about the cuts to the 115 Silverhill bus. Given the circumstances, she said they’re “reasonable”. Then Ms. Flint settled in for the long haul. “My husband packed me a peanut butter sandwich and he has a frozen casserole, a reminder of the days when I sat here.”
7:05: Rathika Sitsabaiesen points out that a service cut in one neighbourhood is still a service cut, even if it is going to benefit another part of the city. “In Scarborough we do not have a subway. The subway stops at Kennedy and Eglinton. We are reliant on buses, do not cut the buses in Scarborough, do not continue to take services away from us. We are part of the city.”
7:24: Kenadee Moffit, Toronto Junior Roller Derby League member, makes a pitch for the Downsview bus. “I’ve been very political since I was six:”
7:39: Vice-chair Peter Milczyn has devastating news: “We likely have another three hours of deputants.”
9:43: Practically true.