POLITICS

TTC Service To be Reduced, Fare Hike Expected

09/16/2011 04:15 EDT | Updated 11/16/2011 05:12 EST
Flickr: TheDanLevy

TTC riders will likely be paying more for decreased service, less space and fewer vehicles to get them around.

The transit commission met Friday to approve its 2012 operating budget — one which meets the directive from Mayor Rob Ford to slash the budget by 10 per cent.

What the commissioners decided is that the TTC will take regressive measures — reduce service, lay-off staff and probably raise fares in the new year — in order to meet that 10 per cent target, or $70 million.

About 50 rush hour routes will see less frequent service and that means more commuters crowding on to fewer buses. The service reductions would also affect 60 routes during off-peak hours.

Commissioners put off a decision on a 10-cent fare hike — but according to Coun. Maria Augimeri that increase is almost certain to be approved by the end of the year "because it was just put off until December."

TTC general manager Gary Webster said a $30 million shortfall still remains and unless there's some economic miracle "we will be recommending a fare increase [in December]."

"The recommendation will make service worse, it will drive customers away from the system, it's clearly not the direction we want to go," said Webster.

"We are changing our service standards. There will be longer waits and fuller buses. We also know that if there's a fare increase it will impact riders," said TTC chair Karen Stintz.

Included in the cuts approved Friday is the end of Wheel-Trans service for about 700 dialysis patients. That will save the TTC about $5 million.

Bob Kinnear, head of the transit workers' union, says the decisions are short-sighted.

"The current situation of transit overcrowding is intolerable — and you want to make it worse?"

Kinnear said it makes no sense for the mayor to "demand that 10 per cent has to be cut — regardless of the consequences to the city. It's intolerable that commuters have to wait for three vehicles before they can squeeze on and get to work."

Less service means less staff will be needed. Commissioners decided pare hundreds of workers from the TTC payroll.

"Non-unionized employees — approximately 251 — will receive notices on Monday that their services are no longer required," said TTC spokesperson Brad Ross.

Union positions will be eliminated through attrition and hundreds more job are being reviewed for possible contracting out.

In total, the TTC said it hopes to reduce its overall staff by about 1,000.

Don Weitz, who has been riding the TTC for decades, says reduced service on busy bus routes will have an impact.

"It puts added stress on me especially," said Weitz, "[the] people who have physical disabilities."