The chief executive of the Toronto Transit Commission has pledged to try to "strengthen" the agency's policies in response to persistent questions about why two buses, carrying passengers, were diverted from their routes by police in order to shelter the members of the high-school football team coached by Mayor Rob Ford.
Andy Byford, who has been at the helm of the TTC for about eight months, said in an e-mail to the councillors who oversee the commission that the episode has damaged the reputation of public transit in Toronto. "I am not happy about that and I am certainly not happy that fare-paying customers were inconvenienced under these circumstances."
The TTC has also released a statement attempting to explain why the agency re-directed the buses to the west-end highschool, where a game between Mr. Ford's Don Bosco Eagles and Henry Carr Catholic School had been called early on account of rainy weather and rising on-field tensions.
Eight police officers – including two officers already stationed at the school – were dispatched to the field after a verbal altercation between the referee and the coach of Henry Carr. The Toronto Catholic District School Board has said the police officers requested an emergency bus to shelter Mr. Ford's Don Bosco players because the schoolbus scheduled to drive them back to their school wasn't due to arrive for another 45 minutes.
The first bus dispatched to the field had been driving the 36 Finch West bus route, the statement said. When the driver had difficulty locating the field and the players, police called the TTC a second time, and operators dispatched a second bus, this one servicing the 46 Martin Grove route. Before it arrived, though, the 36 Finch West bus found the field and the second bus was sent back on its regular route.
The TTC has not said how many passengers were forced off the vehicles, but the agency says that it receives, on average, two requests per week for shelter vehicles from Toronto police and the fire department.
The statement says that at no time was anyone from TTC "frontline personnel" aware of the reason for the request, but the agency has acknowledged that Mr. Ford left a voice-mail message on Mr. Byford's phone after the first bus was delayed in arriving.
In his e-mail to councillors, Mr. Byford said that more senior oversight may be necessary to prevent such incidents in the future.
"For the record: I had no idea that two buses were used nor that customers were inconvenienced," he wrote.