TTC Transit Control wanted Carol Holgate to declare her Finch West bus out of service, kick about 50 passengers to the curb, and hurry to an Etobicoke high school.
“I can’t,” Holgate responded. “I have a full bus. Do you want these people to lynch me?”
The Transit Control staffer told her there were three buses right behind her. She was unswayed. “Why me?” she said. “Why you pick my bus?” Told that her bus was the only option, she said, “Can’t I refuse?”
“No,” a Transit Control staffer said. “It’s a shelter (bus), it’s an emergency, we have to do it right away.”
Holgate’s reluctance to inconvenience paying customers is one of several revelations in a TTC-produced transcript of calls related to the controversial incident involving Mayor Rob Ford’s football team. The transcript provides the most complete explanation yet available of what actually happened on the chaotic and heavily scrutinized afternoon of Nov. 1.
It does not, however, include the two most intriguing calls: those from Ford to the cellphone of TTC chief executive Andy Byford.
The first Ford call, in which he and Byford had a conversation Byford has described as “garbled,” was not recorded, unlike the calls involving Transit Control and other TTC departments. The TTC says the second Ford call, a voice mail message, “was deleted and cannot be retrieved from the server, as confirmed by Telus.”
The transcript, obtained through freedom of information law, shows that the justification Ford offered for making his calls was incorrect.
Ford emphatically told reporters that he only called Byford because “there was a 20-minute delay” after the initial police call. Ford actually made his first call less than nine minutes after the police call — and, at most, seconds after Holgate was told to head to the field, possibly even before she was contacted.
The incident occurred after a football game between Ford’s Don Bosco Eagles at the campus of their Etobicoke rivals, the Father Henry Carr Crusaders. The game ended slightly earlier than expected after a Crusaders coach confronted the referee.
Don Bosco’s chartered bus was expected at 4:30 p.m. The police called the TTC at 3:42 p.m. Ford called Byford at some point before 3:51 p.m.
Byford responded to that Ford call with an attempt to help the mayor — but also with skepticism. He asked Transit Control’s Jerry Wing to try to find a private bus company that he could put in touch with Ford.
“Jerry, do you have a number, do you have the number for school bus companies, you know, like yellow buses, the big long yellow buses. . . someone like Grey (sic) coach. I do need a vehicle to an intersection but I do not want to use a TTC bus,” Byford said.
After Wing called him back five minutes later to say that he had found a company with buses available, Byford replied, “Thanks mate, you’re a star.”
But the private bus was never sent. Byford learned minutes later that the request for a TTC bus was not merely coming from the mayor: the police had called Transit Control and requested a “shelter bus.”
Such requests usually follow genuine emergencies. The TTC’s protocol, which Byford reaffirmed following a post-incident review, is to provide a shelter bus whenever the police ask.
“Apparently the (police) — ’cause, ’cause it’s apparently some brawl broken out between the school kids — the police are saying get those kids out of here straight away or else they will not be able to control the crowds,” Byford told Transit Control. “So could you try to see what you can do to get a TTC bus there as soon as possible to pick these kids up?”
A staffer replied, “Oh, we do have a bus en route.” Byford responded, “We do?”
Shelter buses provide a stationary refuge for people who have been forced out of their homes. The TTC almost never provides free emergency shuttles. In this case, however, Holgate drove the football team — which she mistook for a track and field squad — back to their school.
When she reported that had done so, a colleague at her TTC facility on Arrow Rd. expressed bewilderment.
“What happened was, there was an altercation between the two coaches at their track and field, so to avoid the kids from getting injured they had to bring them over here to Don Bosco,” Holgate said.
“So we did a chartered run for them,” her colleague replied.
“Well, that’s what the police told me,” Holgate said.
“You gotta be — okay, that’s interesting,” her colleague said.
“I didn’t mind, though,” Holgate said.
“I don’t understand that, hang on for a second,” her colleague said. The colleague then asked an unnamed person: “The police demanded a shelter bus for a school . . . then they had our bus drive them over to another school. What’s that about?”
It remains unclear why the officers feared post-game violence. There was no fight between Don Bosco and Henry Carr players, and multiple officers remained on the scene after the game. But in the initial 3:42 p.m. call, the police caller told Transit Control, “The football teams — I guess things may have gotten out of hand and they separated them but they need to get them shelter and out of the way.” In a follow-up police call at 3:52 p.m., the caller said officers at the field were clamouring for “an ETA” for the bus.
TTC actually sent two buses: Holgate’s, at 3:50 p.m., and an empty bus from the Martin Grove route at 3:55 p.m. While an official TTC statement said the second bus was dispatched because the first got lost, the transcript shows that the second bus was actually sent to the scene before Holgate struggled briefly to find the team.
Asked Thursday why the second bus was thought to be needed, spokesperson Brad Ross said, “It may have been some miscommunication … all decisions were made at the local level based on a sense of urgency, I suppose, that the dispatchers felt.”
Holgate, who could not be reached for comment on Thursday, warned her colleagues that she would not tolerate any poor conduct from the players.
“They better behave themselves,” she said. “They better, ’cause if they don’t behave themselves I’m putting them off the bus. I don’t take no behaviour.’”
She pronounced them “noisy,” but she reported no problems. At 4:35 p.m., 45 minutes after she was unwittingly drawn into the world of Rob Ford, she was told to return to her regular duties.