by David Nickle
The Toronto Transit Commission is going ahead with cuts to 41 bus routes, in a move that’s expected to save $4 million but brought out riders from across the city pleading with commissioners to reconsider the plan.
The commission spent Wednesday, Feb. 2, afternoon and evening listening to about 90 people – transit riders, advocates and politicians – all urging them to reverse the plan to trim the 41 under-performing bus routes to help balance the TTC’s 2011 operating budget.
The commission was originally planning to slash service on 48 routes that had low ridership at particular times of the day. But TTC staff changed the criterion they used to measure under-performing routes. Originally, it was routes carrying 15 people or less each hour.
The new criteria spares bus routes where there’s no alternative service within 600 metres. But any service with less than 10 riders each hour is still being cut.
The hearings went on for hours Wednesday, as residents and politicians questioned the wisdom of cutting bus service at all – particularly in higher needs areas.
The commission also heard from women’s roller derby participants – who tried without success to save the Downsview bus that services Parc Downsview Park. Young women participating in roller derby events there told the commission the walk from their facility is dangerous in the under-lit park.
“We know that Downsview isn’t the safest place during the night,” said Kenadee Moffitt, a junior roller derby enthusiast. “It’s very demeaning to walk in an area with barely any lighting – abandoned warehouses everywhere basically – and the place is basically in the middle of nowhere. Please don’t get rid of night service through the week. There’s practice there every night of the week.”
Malvern resident Rathika Sitsabeaisen told the commission that she’d polled her neighbourhood Sunday morning and obtained signatures on more than 50 letters asking that the routes in Scarborough not be cut back.
“In Scarborough, we don’t have a subway – it stops at Kennedy and Eglinton and that’s just entering Scarborough,” she said.
“We don’t have an LRT – we’re told that’s not going to happen. We have a dilapidated RT. We are reliant on buses. Do not cut buses in Scarborough. Do not continue to take services away from us in the north and east of the city.”
Ward 22 Councillor Josh Matlow argued that the TTC’s methodology in calculating bus rides was off the mark, pointing out that a staff member of his did a head count of riders on the Mt. Pleasant 74 bus.
“What is clear is that although the TTC numbers estimated that the bus should have only 43 riders from seven to 10 p.m., we found there were clearly more than that,” he said. “So a few nights later my assistant went out and counted every single rider. What he found was not 43 riders, but 95 riders on the bus.”
But the commission eventually voted with TTC staff’s recommendations.
Commissioner Peter Milczyn said the staff used objective criteria to make their decisions – and pointed out that the commission would be moving additional service to high-needs parts of the city.
“Where will we get additional service? Scarborough and the north-west – the two areas we know required the most,” he said. “It’s not about being against the suburbs, it’s not against neighbourhoods – it’s for neighbourhoods that need the services.”
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