Toronto Councillor Maria Augimeri says it’s time to start tracking the use of buses as shelter in emergencies and the financial burden this service is placing on the transit system.
Ms. Augimeri, a TTC commissioner, plans to make her request at the commission’s next meeting in response to an emergency call from police at a football game last week that asked for a bus to take Mayor Rob Ford’s high-school team home.
That request – which resulted in two buses being pulled off their routes during the rush hour, forcing about 50 commuters into the rain – has led to questions about the appropriate use of emergency buses.
Police initially said the bus was required to shelter the cold, wet teenagers when the game ended because of a dispute between an opposing coach and the referee. They then said this week it was required for a combination of factors, but mostly because of concern for “community safety.”
While the mayor called the cellphone of TTC CEO Andy Byford twice from the field to find out why the bus had not arrived, police say Mr. Ford had no role in the decision to call the bus. After a review of the incident, Mr. Byford said he had no plans to start second-guessing requests for buses from emergency personnel, but he did ask Mr. Ford to stop calling him directly on matters that could be perceived to affect the mayor directly.
Ms. Augimeri said Thursday that there needs to be a way for the cash-strapped transit system to recoup some of the costs of meeting emergency requests. “If police are going to exercise this privilege, we should have a way to alleviate the costs.”
Regular reports on when and why buses are requested will serve as a check on possible or perceived abuses, Ms. Augimeri said.
“There was a public kerfuffle about what may or may not have transpired from a political office,” she said. “We need to learn from what has happened, turn the challenge into an opportunity and strengthen our resolve that it not reoccur.”
Members of the Toronto Police Services Board also have asked Chief Bill Blair for a report on the use of the buses for Mr. Ford’s team.
TTC chair Karen Stintz said Thursday she does not see a need to put the issue on the commission’s agenda, given that Mr. Byford review concluded no change was needed. She also refused to comment on the calls made by Mr. Ford to Mr. Byford, who was at City Hall at the time, preparing to answer questions on a $8.4-billion deal for light rail lines.
“I never got a call. I did not hear the call. I was not near Andy when he took the call,” she said. “We discussed the call. That is as far as I am willing to go.”
“How the mayor chooses to contact Andy is between Andy and the mayor," she added.