Earlier this month, the TTC announced two main strategies to meet Mayor Rob Ford’s budget targets. The first, a ten-cent fare hike, was hastily averted with last-minute creative accounting. The second proposal, to cut back on routes in periods of lower ridership, remains on the table after being deferred to February’s Commission meeting. The public meetings to discuss the route changes are ongoing this week, and it is still unclear what will be forwarded for consideration on February 2.
It is without question that a cash-strapped transit system should ensure that its services are being sufficiently utilized to maintain financial standards. However, in service periods such as the late evening, a greater emphasis should be placed on guaranteeing a basic level of access to mobility for all residents. The TTC’s current financial standards translate to provision of transit for a minimum of roughly twelve to fifteen passengers per hour. However, there is no specific service standard to ensure transit service is available during regular hours.The Ridership Growth Strategy [PDF] expanded service to match subway service hours on numerous routes—many of the which are now on the chopping block—but this was not enshrined as a service standard.
Plotting the proposed route cuts geographically is one way to assess their potential impact. The above map shows TTC bus routes that will continue to run during the late-evening period, with the routes and sections that are proposed to be cut in grey. The buffers represent a 450-metre distance from the route (an approximately five-minute walk). Based on this analysis, it is clear that the majority of the cutbacks will not significantly impact most of Toronto—there will be alternative routes and it will be a matter of changing travel patterns. The main concern lies in the dark hatched areas, which show where existing late-evening service will be lost completely.
Given the basic mobility needs the TTC fulfills, should it be a right for all Torontonians to be within walking distance of a bus route during regular service hours? It is possible that a compromise to the proposed service cuts can be made if we enshrine that right and only make cuts where there are alternative services within walking distance. This already exists through the Blue Night network, where there is a service guarantee of a fifteen-minute or less walk to an overnight route. Given this precedent, perhaps the customer service–minded administration will consider such a provision to maintain service for their customers.