Update: see previous posts – September 15, 2011 TTC delays and Road Closures – Weekend of Sept. 16 -18/11, December 17, 2010 TTC Streetcar & Bus Collide, Injuring TTC Passengers et al, June 11, 2010 Idling Laws – Toronto, October 12, 2009 T.T.C’s Fines Increase effective October 12, 2009
As City of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford asks his City departments to cut services and eliminate human resources, the Toronto Transit Commission (the “TTC”) wrestles with its’ growing service demands and lack of money to fund those service demands in the upcoming city budget. The new year will see a 10 cent increase in fares, less buses, less TTC employees, longer waits and pre-2008 loading standards and just overall poor service standards.
The TTC has passed its’ budget, which will reduce service to 50 bus routes and eliminate 300 TTC jobs.
The new year will be a return to the past for a record number of TTC riders who will be crammed tighter onto buses and left standing longer at the curb after the TTC board agreed to lower its service standards Friday.
City councillors on the transit commission will wait until December before deciding whether to implement a 10-cent fare hike that would fill the remaining $30 million shortfall in the system’s 2012 operating budget.
Meantime transit officials will search for savings elsewhere in the system.
At least one city councillor on the Toronto Transit Commission believes that it’s the province frustrated riders should hold to account for lower service levels and job losses.
Councillor Maria Augimeri lost her bid at Friday’s special commission meeting to defer cutting $70 million from the TTC and Wheel-Trans operating budget next year until after the provincial election.
Residents should be shouting to provincial election candidates in the street, she said.
“We have to make drastic steps to make the provincial government see what they did in the past was absolutely sinful to the people of Toronto. They ought to be paying at least 50 per cent of operating budgets as they did in the past. They ought to be paying 75 per cent of (TTC) capital” spending, Augimeri said.
The TTC will begin notifying 251 non-union employees on Monday that their positions are being cut to help save about $14 million annually. Sixty other jobs were identified earlier. It will also offer a voluntary separation package. A further 171 operating positions will be eliminated by attrition to save another $14 million. With fewer buses on the street, fewer operators will be required, but no operators will be given notice, said TTC spokesman Brad Ross.
About 500 more jobs are expected to disappear as the TTC explores contracting-out opportunities in the maintenance and other areas to save $5 million to $7 million annually.
City Councillor Karen Stintz, who chairs the TTC board, stressed that no bus routes have been cut and the Blue Night bus network will remain intact.
But she wouldn’t guarantee that 800 dialysis patients won’t lose their Wheel-Trans service in January to save the system $5 million.
“We’re working very hard with not just the provincial government but with the Kidney Foundation (of Canada) to find ways that we can
continue to service dialysis patients,” she said. But if no funding is found, “that’s a decision we’ll have to wrestle with in December.”
The TTC cuts will mean a return to pre-2008 loading standards — the average number of riders on a bus per hour that signals when a route is due more service. The TTC had reduced the average to 48 from 53.
Eve Flores, who rides the 34 Eglinton East bus every day for work and on most weekends, said she often has to watch two buses fill with riders before she can board her bus.
“This is not good,” she said after hearing her bus will likely become more crowded and her wait on the curb even lengthier. “The situation is already bad. We already wait such a long time.”
While in line for a bus at the Eglinton station, Cherry Vicente shook her head over the TTC board’s move.
“It is very crowded now,” she said, noting her bus is usually packed shoulder-to-shoulder with riders. “The driver just yells for us to move back behind the line.”
Regular rider Ron Sinnaeve wondered how getting more people on his bus would be possible.
“My true concern is about safety,” Sinnaeve said as he lined up for the 34 Eglinton East bus. “Riders need to have safe entry and safe exit and be safe in transit on the bus. Unless they guarantee buses get more seats, how can they (the TTC) guarantee our safety?”
Although further crowding is expected to drive away about 4 million riders, the TTC still expects to deliver about 3.3 million more rides next year — about 503 million in total.
TTC May Exclude Dialysis Patients (who don’t use mobility-aids) from its Wheel-Trans Program
The TTC is considering cutting dialysis patients from its Wheel-Trans client roster, to reduce its’ upcoming costs and to save $5 million dollars.
If the TTC changes its eligibility rules, 800 dialysis patients who rely on wheelchairs or walkers would still be able to ride Wheel-Trans. But those who don’t use mobility aids would no longer qualify. They are the only exceptions to the minimum paratransit criteria that require riders to rely on mobility devices.
800 dialysis patients likely to be cut off Wheel-Trans in January because they don’t use a mobility aid.
Those who are eligible and receive benefits via the Ontario Disability Support Program qualify for a taxi reimbursement, however, you have to have the money up front for the taxi, and afterwards you can fill out the forms, submit the claim and then patiently wait for reimbursement.
Wheel-Trans clients are allowed to ride anywhere, just like on conventional transit. But dialysis patients who don’t use mobility aids can only use the service to get to their treatments. They can’t go to the store or visit friends.
TTC officials are sympathetic. But the demand for Wheel-Trans – which costs $31 a ride on average – is rising so rapidly they are struggling to contain costs.
Before the mid-1990s the only real criteria for Wheel-Trans was a doctor’s note. As demand grew, stricter rules were enforced but dialysis patients were made an exception to the mobility criteria.
The TTC expects to deliver 2.9 million Wheel-Trans trips this year — 19 per cent more than last year, when the number increased 12.5 per cent over 2009.
Based on current eligibility criteria, the system would be providing 5.3 million trips a year by 2020.
About 1,800 Wheel-Trans customers account for 210,000 trips annually.
Even if Wheel-Trans were integrated with the rest of the TTC, only 9 per cent of those rides could be funneled to conventional transit, according to the TTC.
Wheel-Trans handles about 30,000 calls a day.