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Tory to Byford: End Ford-era TTC Service Cuts

For the second time in a row, a new mayor of Toronto has launched his term of office making a significant statement about public transit in the city. But whereas on December 1, 2010, Rob Ford announced the cancellation of the Miller-era Transit City and proclaimed “the war on the car is over”, John Tory’s announcement is more modest, and likely to be welcomed by TTC riders and transit activists. According to the Toronto Star, Mayor-elect Tory has asked TTC CEO Andy Byford to reverse cuts to TTC bus service that were made by the Ford administration in 2011 and 2012. During those years, as part of a city-wide reduction of department budgets, TTC service was reduced or ended on 41 routes throughout the city.

The details of the restoration are yet to come about, but the request has the support of CEO Byford, who said “Those cuts in 2011, 2012, did have a very hurtful impact upon the travellers.” For TTC passengers and transit activists, the hope is that Tory’s request is coupled with an acknowledgement that these service reductions can only come through a budget increase, and that funds will be made available as soon as possible.

Indeed, Toronto City Council has some catching up to do in order to restore the same quality of service Torontonians had before Rob Ford took office. Since 2010, TTC ridership has increased from 477 million to over 525 million, an increase of almost 50 million passengers. With service levels cut in 2011 and 2012, this has meant increased crowding throughout the system. Worse, the inability of the Ford administration to provide sufficient budget for the TTC to increase its bus and streetcar fleet has meant that the TTC has had to recently cut service on a number of bus routes, increasing crowding beyond the TTC’s restricted guidelines, because insufficient vehicles were available to provide the service to the standard the TTC requires.

To get the TTC fleet up to the number of buses and streetcars required to reduce wait times and crowding to 2010 levels, much less improve things beyond that, newly elected mayor John Tory must be willing to pay for a significant increase in the TTC’s capital budget, to clear through critical maintenance that is underfunded, as well as providing more garage space for an expanding bus fleet, more buses, more streetcars, and the personnel to drive them.

However, Tory’s acknowledgement that the Ford-era cuts to the TTC needed to be reversed is a welcome signal to transit riders across the city that their concerns are at least being heard by the new administration, rather than being ignored altogether. It’s a good first step that offers hope for further steps in the future.

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