TTC Cuts, We Bleed

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TTC Cuts, We Bleed

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Photo of a locked-out Keele Station during last year’s strike by David Topping.
Yesterday’s announcement of budget cuts to the TTC garnered a visceral reaction from just about everyone (and not just angry Globe & Mail readers): a normally cool-headed Adam Giambrone proclaimed that “this is a horrible day…This is going to have a dramatic effect on Torontonians, not just TTC riders.” Transit advocate Steve Munro weighed in, too, in a piece detailing what the TTC’s next steps ought to be, nearly matching Giambrone’s rhetoric in saying that “this is a black day for the TTC,” but adding that “if the City is going to walk away from supporting the TTC, then the real alternative is higher fares, not service cuts. Better we have a transit system that people want to use than one that comes a distant fifth in preference after driving, walking, cycling or cabs.” Oh, and, of course, a Facebook group called “Save The TTC” popped up.
The budget cuts—needed to fill in the holes that an impending deficit of $130 million over two years will create—were all but forced on the TTC as a result of Toronto council’s vote on Monday to delay a land transfer tax and a vehicle ownership tax until October, taxes that were supposed to give the city an extra $356 million each year. So the big question mark looming over our city’s head now is what changes they TTC will have to implement. Everything from completely shutting down the underused and underloved Sheppard Subway to halting all future development to lay-offs to fare hikes seems all but likely.
A few minutes from now, at 1:00 in City Hall’s Committee Room 1, the TTC will hold an emergency meeting, and we’ll all find out what the future of public transit in our city is.The question is not, it seems, if the news will be good or bad, but just how bad it will be. Torontoist is there and will provide you with updates, in this article, as we get them. Stay tuned…
After just under four hours, the TTC’s “emergency meeting” is over. Our coverage, which continued throughout the afternoon and into the evening, can be found after the fold. In brief: the TTC is awaiting consultation on canceling any and all service improvements, increasing fares, eliminating twenty-one bus routes, and shutting down the Sheppard subway line. The consultations are all slated to be finished by mid-September. In the end, there is very little conclusive news coming out from the meeting beyond this: there will be no employee pay cuts, there will be no improved service this year to deal with overcrowding, and the Mt. Dennis bus garage won’t open until 2008.


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Photo by neuroticjose from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.
2:25 p.m.—As we wait for word on the outcome of the meeting, the CBC is reporting that Greg Sorbara, the Ontario finance minister, announced today that the province will send experts—not money—to help Toronto. Remember Bob and Bob from Office Space? It’s kind of like that, except less helpful.
3:25 p.m.—Still waiting. In the meantime, an anonymous commenter just reprinted a letter apparently sent out by City Manager Shirley Hoy today to “the heads of all Agencies, Boards and Commissions.” Hoy advises that all the organizations freeze hiring, reduce service, eliminate “discretionary spending,” and cancel all advertising and marketing.
4:18 p.m.—The meeting is still underway, but we’re getting word from the scene now thanks to Jonathan Goldsbie and Stacey Kityana. Instead of reaching any firm decisions today, the TTC has delayed much of the larger plans until they can, uh, consult.
Among the changes to be consulted on:

  • Canceling service improvements. There is no word on how far this will spread, so it could mean any or all of the following: no improved service on any routes to keep up with demand, no Station Modernization Project, no new Light Rapid Transit vehicles or routes, no extended subway route up to York University, certainly no fixed-up St. Clair elevators, and, potentially, and particularly frustrating to us, no new TTC website. Gary Webster, the TTC’s General Manager, explained that the cuts will mean a “180-degree shift” for the transit system, from building to cutting.
  • Fare increases. Anywhere from 10 cents or up, depending on need. All they’d need to do is sell one $130 million fare, and they’d be set, so they should just do that.
  • Bus routes. The TTC has a policy in place that prevents them from canceling any bus routes without public consultation (and public consultation and Giambrone, if Lansdowne is any indication, has not gone well for the TTC Chair). Nonetheless, at least 21 bus routes are probably going to get shut down.
  • The Sheppard subway. The line may very well be shut down, as expected.

It seems that the TTC wants to have all of their consultation work done for mid-September, probably September 12.
Steve Munro also apparently gave an excellent deputation, for the most part re-stating what he wrote on his blog yesterday: he said that the TTC should raise fares rather that cut service, called the TTC’s decisions in the past few days “irresponsible” (stopping short of calling it fear-mongering) and told the councilors and TTC directors, half-seriously, that he wished them “a plague on all your houses.” And Glenn De Baeremaeker asked to be exempt from the plague because he voted in favour of the land transfer tax. No, really.
5:03 p.m.—The meeting’s done. We’ll have additional notes up soon; suffice to say, though, that the previously-mentioned matters going to consultation are the big news items of the day. Strangely, though, we’ve heard no mention of lay-offs…
9:42 p.m.—The day is done, finally, and as the last news trickles in, there’s little more to report beyond the bits and pieces we’ve needed to fill in the blanks.
Aside from the slew of changes that need to be consulted on, a few things were definitively agreed on: all service additions planned for this year to reduce overcrowding will be deferred indefinitely (Joe Mihevic said that, as a result, he will commit to wearing cologne and deodorant whenever he rides the TTC, something he should probably be doing anyway), and the opening of the Mt. Dennis bus garage will be postponed until at least January of next year.
Frustration and flabbergastronomy seemed to be the order of the day, with several councilors objecting to the meeting being called so soon. Michael Thompson said that he was “flabbergasted and frustrated” that the media was the first to inform him of the chaos and subsequent emergency meeting, but Giambrone defended its quick scheduling, saying that if the organization needed to defer improvements, it had to do so now. The problem, Giambrone said, wasn’t created overnight—they all knew in May that the TTC would need the money from the land transfer and vehicle ownership taxes. In the end, then, Giambrone said that he wasn’t surprised by the city’s decision so much as he was by its “magnitude.”
Not surprisingly, the motion to consider a TTC worker pay cut was extremely unpopular at the meeting, and was not passed. Mihevc said that he simply does not want to add labour conflicts to the organization’s growing pile of problems.
For now, at least, we’ll call it a night. You can always join next weekend’s makeshift protest, though we recommend holding off until the TTC actually reaches a decision in September to begin rioting.
Many thanks to Torontoist contributors Jonathan Goldsbie and Stacey Kityana for reporting from the scene throughout the day, and Mathew Katz for additional research.

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