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TTC delays plan to reduce hours, erases $1-million in potential savings Add to ...

Mayor Rob Ford halted a fare increase, but he couldn't keep a Toronto Transit Commission stacked with allies from postponing a plan to reduce hours on nearly 50 little-used bus routes - a delay that will cost $1-million.

TTC Chair Karen Stintz said the mayor's office wasn't apprised before the commission voted 5-2 to defer the proposal to its Feb. 2 meeting to allow for consultations with passengers who could lose late-night and weekend bus service.

"We're not here to be a business, we're here to be a social service provider," Councillor Maria Augimeri, a member of the commission, told a meeting Wednesday. "People who say a political venue should offer a business-like approach really don't know what they're talking about."

Ms. Augimeri, who wants to prevent cuts to the 120 Calvington and 101 Downsview Park buses in her York-Centre ward, is Mr. Ford's lone opponent on the commission.

But two members of the mayor's own executive - Peter Milczyn and Cesar Palacio - were among the five commissioners who voted in favour of the deferral.

"[If we defer]we can at least go to the public and say we're making an informed decision," said Mr. Milczyn, vice-chair of the TTC. "We can't do that today."

Denzil Minnan-Wong and Norm Kelly, also on the executive, voted against. Ms. Stintz didn't cast a vote.

The proposal to scale back $7-million worth of service on 48 "underperforming" bus lines and shift the money to overcrowded routes was unveiled Monday as part of the municipal government's 2011 budget.

Most of the late-night and weekend hours on the chopping block were added in 2008, when former mayor David Miller expanded bus hours to roughly coincide with the subway's 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. schedule.

Had the commission approved the plan with the rest of its operating budget Wednesday, the reductions would have taken effect March 27.

But the deferral means that even if the commission approves some or all of the cuts on Feb. 2, the changes won't kick in until mid-May because the TTC needs time to implement them.

That erases $1-million in potential savings, which TTC brass now have to unearth elsewhere, possibly by delaying a plan to add extra buses to overcrowded routes in September.

That $1-million comes top of the $8-million in unidentified efficiencies management has promised to find to help stave off a 10-cent fare increase.

"Effectively the [deferral means]it's $1-million less that we've got to allocate to service that needs it, that doesn't meet our current standards," said Gary Webster, the chief general manager of the TTC. "We're going to have to manage that because we can't afford another $1-million in budget cuts."

Several of the councillors and riders who addressed the commission begged its members to consider a compromise on the planned cuts.

Etobicoke Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby, for example, pleaded that the 73B Royal York bus be cut back from 1 a.m. to 10 p.m., instead of 7 p.m., as TTC staff recommended.

The bus is a lifeline for about 3,000 seniors and immigrants in high-rises near Eglinton Avenue West and Royal York Road, she said.

"The bus has been incredibly important for my ward. Incredibly. It services a population that works shift work. We have a lot of seniors. People don't have cars. They're just newcomers," she said.

Meanwhile, Ms. Augimeri - along with members of a roller derby league that plays at Downsview Park - argued against axing the 101 Downsview Park from May to September.

It's expected commissioners will try to hammer out a compromise on some of the lines between now and Feb. 2, before sending their final budget to council

Mr. Ford, whose office was not immediately available for comment, managed to reverse a proposed fare increase barely 24 hours after he announced it Monday.

Mr. Ford's office was not immediately available for comment.

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