Rob Ford is cutting back on funding for the TTC and it spells dire news for anyone using transit.
According to a draft of a new TTC report, the proposals include reducing the frequency of transit vehicles; raising the price of tokens by 10 cents; eliminating 422 jobs and reviewing 500 others for possible outsourcing; delaying the arrival of dozens of new vehicles; and making dialysis patients without mobility devices ineligible to use Wheel-Trans.
The proposals are intended to address the city’s demand for a 10 per cent cut to the TTC’s $1.4 billion operating budget and to reduce a $1.5 billion long-term shortfall in its capital budget. They will be debated at a special Friday meeting of the TTC’s councillor commissioners.
“TTC management has worked very hard to respond to the fiscal challenges of the city,” said the TTC chair, Councillor Karen Stintz. “And we’ll have to make some difficult decisions on Friday.”
The TTC report is separate from the one released Monday by city manager Joe Pennachetti. His report suggested eliminating the late-night Blue Night bus service, “or making it a premium service by raising fares.”
Faced with a public outcry and squeamish councillors, the TTC softened a proposal earlier this year to save $7 million through cuts to routes with low ridership. Its officials have now attempted to slash TTC spending while leaving routes intact. But they did put forth another idea that will almost certainly prove contentious: lengthening the intervals between vehicles.
“We just wanted to make sure that we continued to offer the same service, that we weren’t cutting back on routes,” Stintz said. “So we may decrease the number of buses that go by in any given hour, but people would be able to rely on the service being there.”
Their buses, however, would be even more crowded, and passengers would have to wait longer for them to arrive. The TTC projects another all-time ridership record for 2012: 502 million rides, a 3 per cent increase.
“It was claimed that we would squeeze gravy from the system,” said Councillor Maria Augimeri, the only critic of Mayor Rob Ford on the nine-member commission. “These recommendations show the only thing getting squeezed will be the riders on packed buses, streetcars and subways.”
In another potential blow to passenger comfort, TTC officials recommended delaying delivery of 15 of the 204 large low-floor streetcars already on order with Bombardier.
They also recommended deferring 134 new buses expected to arrive between 2013 and 2016. And they said the city should buy 10 fewer new Toronto Rocket subway trains than had been considered.
The 10-cent fare hike, which would apply only to tokens, may be another tough sell. A 10-cent hike was abandoned a day after it was threatened in January, and Mayor Ford has since conveyed to TTC officials that he is opposed to any increase.
The TTC has about 12,000 employees, about 10,000 of which are unionized. Of the 422 jobs targeted for elimination in an attempt to save $32 million per year, 171 would be union positions, 251 management positions. The cutbacks would probably involve both buyouts and layoffs of managers, who will receive the details Tuesday.
The cutbacks would target all or nearly all managers at the TTC-owned Toronto Coach Terminal, raising questions about how the facility will function.
Up to 500 additional union jobs may be targeted for contracting-out. These include jobs in maintenance and in trades such as woodworking and welding. “There are some jobs that can be outsourced easier than others,” Stintz said.
Only about 1,800 of Wheel-Trans’ 45,000 customers are dialysis patients. But they make frequent trips — 210,000 per year — and they are the only people permitted to use the service who do not use mobility devices. Rendering them ineligible would save about $5 million per year.
Stintz hinted that the TTC would first ask the provincial government to pick up the cost of serving them. “I think the Ministry of Health would acknowledge that dialysis patients have unique needs, and that they do rely on Wheel-Trans,” she said.
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