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Members of the public listen to a presentation during a meeting of the Toronto Transit Commission Feb. 2, 2011 at City Hall. (Moe Doiron/Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail)
Members of the public listen to a presentation during a meeting of the Toronto Transit Commission Feb. 2, 2011 at City Hall. (Moe Doiron/Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail)

TTC going ahead with bus-service cuts Add to ...

Contentious reductions to late-night and weekend hours on 41 little-used TTC bus lines are going ahead, despite more than six hours of pleading from riders who wanted to salvage the routes entirely.

The Toronto Transit Commission voted in favour of curbing the service and shifting $4-million in savings to overcrowded routes this fall.

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"The ridership is not there. It's just not there," TTC Chair Karen Stintz said of the underperforming lines. "At a time that we have the highest [system-wide]ridership growth that we've seen in our city, it's not on these routes ... We need to put the resources where the greatest good will be served."

The transit authority's decision Wednesday actually slashed fewer routes and hours than first floated when Rob Ford unveiled his budget last month.

The public outcry over the original plan to scale back 48 routes - and plow $7-million into more buses on the busiest routes - prompted TTC staff to offer a compromise that retained all of seven of the targeted routes and part of 19.

Still, the compromise didn't satisfy the 78 people who signed up to speak to the TTC about the cuts, many of whom waited hours to address a commission meeting that lasted until after 9 p.m. Wednesday.

Kenadee Moffitt was one of them.

She may not ride the 101 Downsview bus, but the route is so important to her junior roller derby teammates that she waited hours to beg the Toronto Transit Commission to save it.

"Safety is a major concern," the 12-year-old said. "We know Downsview isn't the safest place during the night ... it's very, like, demeaning to walk in an area with barely any lighting."

Kenadee is the co-founder of the Toronto Junior Roller Derby League, a fledgling team of 40 rock-em-sock-em roller skaters who practice at The Hangar at Downsview Park.

The 101 Downsview route, which serves the recreational complex, was one of 48 targeted for reduced night and weekend hours when Mayor Rob Ford introduced his first budget last month.

In the case of the 101 Downsview, the original proposal cut the route entirely from September to May; the new plan approved Tuesday saves Saturday and Sunday service during those months.

The nearest bus drops passengers about a kilometre from the facility.

"While [the new plan]is definitely better than the previous plan to axe the route entirely, it does little to help those of us who don't have a car and use that facility on weeknights for our recreational sports," said Saira Peesker, captain of Chicks Ahoy!, an adult Roller Derby team that also plays at The Hangar.

As the day wore on, speaker after speaker lamented how shorter bus hours would hurt the poor, students and shift workers, even in ritzy pockets of the city.

Councillor Joe Mihevc, for example, pleaded to keep the late-night and weekend service on the 33 Forest Hill bus, which the commission voted to cancel on weekends and holidays and after 7 p.m. on weekdays.

"Sometimes we call it the nanny bus because it [serves]the employees that service Forest Hill homes," said Mr. Mihevc, a former TTC vice-chair who represents Ward 21 St. Paul's. "They're the ones that are, in the end, being penalized by not being able to access public transit in the evenings when they work longer days."

The TTC's original proposal - the one that targeted 48 routes - called for cutting hours of service in which 15 or fewer people board a bus per hour on a given route.

The compromise approved Tuesday reduced that standard to 10 per hour where the nearest alternate stop is more than 600 metres away. No routes were axed outright.

Commissioner Denzil Minnan-Wong, who supported scaling back all 48 routes as first proposed, said: "It's politics, I understand it, we're going to keep the routes. But for those people here who think they're pro-transit, at a global level you're not helping the system. You're actually hurting the system because we're not putting into where growth is taking place."

New TTC headquarters nixed

The TTC won't be moving to a gleaming new headquarters after all.

Members of the commission voted in a closed-door session Wednesday to break a conditional lease deal on a new head office at 4050 Yonge St., sources say.

Build Toronto, the city's real-estate corporation, is developing a seven-storey office complex on a commuter parking lot at York Mills station.

Build had hoped the TTC would be the anchor tenant for the tower, but the agency's officials have previously said they would have no trouble attracting a major private-sector company to the site.

The TTC had been shopping for a single home for about 1,000 engineers, designers, lawyers and other office staff who are currently scattered across five leased locations and two TTC-owned buildings, including its headquarters atop Davisville subway station.

However, TTC staff recommended against 4050 Yonge St. back in August because they believed the lease rate was too high.

Former mayor David Miller and his onetime protégé Adam Giambrone championed the controversial new headquarters anyway, and the commission narrowly voted in favour of it a few months before Rob Ford romped to victory in the election.

Kelly Grant

Follow on Twitter: @kellygrant1

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