Incoming mayor John Tory wants to reverse bus service cuts made under Rob Ford as a quick way to improve life for transit riders if the money can be found.
In a “state of the city” address four days before he takes office, Mr. Tory laid out a sobering vision of a metropolis beset by housing, infrastructure and poverty problems. But he made clear that transit remains the top priority it was during his campaign. Mr. Tory said that he would ask the Toronto Transit Commission to look at ways to reverse the service cuts on more than 100 routes and find more buses.
“The system, the TTC system, is still reeling from operating cuts,” he said, with TTC head Andy Byford at his side. “I have asked Mr. Byford and his staff … to look at ways to restore service along these routes and to source the necessary vehicles, since we don’t have any sitting around just waiting for a call, and if possible to do this in a way that would make an immediate impact.”
Council-imposed funding cuts in 2011 and 2012 resulted in service reductions on 104 bus routes and allowed more crowding across the bus fleet, saving $18-million a year. Mr. Byford said the cuts had a “hurtful” impact on riders.
“What we’re looking to do is, first off, restore … the service cuts that were imposed upon us,” Mr. Byford said on Thursday. “But also to restore the ridership standards – in other words, to cut crowding, which is one of the biggest sources of complaint from TTC customers.”
Prominent transit blogger Steve Munro, who has advocated for more and better bus service, said there wasn't enough information yet to judge the possible impact of Mr. Tory's proposals.
"Some routes do deserve to be restored based on accessibility criteria which the TTC conveniently ignored when they were cut in 2011," he wrote in an email exchange. "Other routes would benefit from better service, even if this can only be provided, today, during off-peak periods."
During the election campaign, opponents panned Olivia Chow’s proposal to expand bus service. The TTC said it did not have enough buses, and rival mayoral candidates questioned the city’s ability to pay for more.
In briefings with the mayor-elect, though, the TTC made clear that there was a legitimate need for more buses.
It is too soon to know how many the TTC would seek, said spokesman Brad Ross, who added that the decision would be part of the budgeting process.
A bus costs $650,000. As the fleet grows, another facility to store them will eventually be needed. A proposed bus garage is in the long-range plan, but $100-million of the cost is unfunded.
“What I’m encouraged by is the fact that here we have a mayor coming into office who believes in public transit,” Mr. Byford said. “And I’m very keen to work with him to make … improvements for my riders.”
In his remarks, Mr. Tory focused largely on current projects, barely mentioning the rail plan that was the centrepiece of his campaign. He raised concerns about the Spadina subway extension being finished on time and whether the Union Station overhaul would have more cost overruns.
He is asking the TTC whether it is possible to move more quickly on a new signalling system that will allow trains to run more frequently, now scheduled to be complete in 2020. And he will press the province about reducing the traffic impact of the Pan American Games next summer.
Mr. Tory also reiterated his campaign support for a host of transit improvements proposed in the summer by the TTC, provided money can be found.
These improvements – options from time-based transfers to all-door boarding – would have capital costs of $288-million over five years. Their operating cost would climb from $19-million next year to $69-million in 2018.
“I’ve asked Mr. Byford to tell us which things he could implement as quickly as possible and whether he can find some buses and this sort of thing,” Mr. Tory said. “But I have to now, in the budget process, together with my colleagues on city council, see what we can do.”
The mayor-elect was asked several times about his campaign promise of a transit-fare freeze. He did not repeat the pledge, but noted that he was “on the record” as having said it.Report Typo/Error