Commission maintains that operational staff did not know it was the mayor asking for a bus to be sent to pick up the Don Bosco Eagles.
As has been widely reported, last week a TTC bus was requested by police to pick up the players of the Don Bosco football team—whose coach, famously, is Mayor Rob Ford. It’s not entirely clear why officers judged the special-order bus to be necessary: various spokespeople have alluded to tensions between players at the game, and also to inclement weather.
It is not, says the TTC, unusual for various emergency services to ask the transit provider for what is known as a “shelter bus.” What is less common is unloading passengers from a bus already on the road to fulfill such a request, as happened here—a situation considerably complicated by the fact that when a bus didn’t arrive, Ford called TTC CEO Andy Byford to inquire about its whereabouts.
Below is the full text of a just-released TTC statement on the incident, summarizing remarks they have already made and attempting to allay concerns that the mayor unduly influenced operational decisions.
Last Thursday, November 1, the Toronto Transit Commission’s Transit Control Centre received a call from the Toronto Police Service requesting a shelter bus. The TTC took immediate action to accommodate the request, dispatching an in-service bus from the 36 Finch West bus route. The bus operator was having difficulty finding the location it was asked to attend. After further inquiries by police to the control centre about the whereabouts of the bus, staff dispatched a second bus, this one from the 46 Martin Grove route, also in service. Eventually, the 36 Finch West bus operator found the school and the 46 Martin Grove bus was returned to service.
At no time did TTC CEO Andy Byford order a second bus or give direction to TTC staff. And at no time were TTC frontline personnel aware of why a shelter bus was required, a request the TTC receives, on average twice a week, from police and Toronto Fire. Typically, the TTC tries to send shelter buses from a terminal location (subway station) or bus garage, minimizing the impact on customers. Given the urgency of the police request, operations personnel at the TTC made the decision to utilize buses from nearby routes to meet the request as quickly as possible.
Since this incident, a number of questions about the need for a shelter bus on this occasion have arisen, as well as the reasons why fare-paying customers were displaced from two in-service buses to accommodate the request.
Below is the text of an email sent by Mr. Byford to all TTC Commissioners on the morning of Nov. 3 in response to questions from them about this incident, including whether or not TTC policies and protocols should be changed and/or reviewed.
TTC staff will report to the Commission, and the public, once it determines whether its protocols need to change or if they require strengthening. The TTC will not be providing further comment on this matter until that time.
I will dig out the policy and, if you would like, make a proposal to strengthen it.
(Legitimate) requests come in at any time, often at extreme times of the day. As such, operational staff are best placed to handle them. More senior (TTC staff) oversight/approval may be needed though.
The most unfortunate thing about this episode is the damage done to our reputation after more than a year of careful, painstaking steps to improve it. I am not happy about that and I am certainly not happy that fare paying customers were inconvenienced under these circumstances.
For the record: I had no idea that two buses were used nor that customers were inconvenienced.
Rest assured that I am following this up with TPS and the Mayor’s Office.
Chief Executive Officer