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Lesbert Campbell rides the Dufferin bus south after finishing work as a cleaner in downtown Toronto. (Charla Jones/The Globe and Mail/Charla Jones/The Globe and Mail)
Lesbert Campbell rides the Dufferin bus south after finishing work as a cleaner in downtown Toronto. (Charla Jones/The Globe and Mail/Charla Jones/The Globe and Mail)

TTC operations are next stop on city's cost-cutting route Add to ...

Scrapping night buses, privatizing routes and contracting out cleaning and maintenance jobs will be some of the cost-cutting measures on the table when consultants hired to find savings at city hall turn their attention to the always contentious topic of Toronto's transit system.

The TTC options are part of an extensive KPMG review of more than 150 services provided by the city and will be released Thursday. A source familiar with the study outlined the findings to The Globe and Mail, saying it zeroes in on a handful of operational changes, including the late-night service.

The Toronto Transit Commission is one of the final stops for the city's core service review, part of an effort by Mayor Rob Ford to find gravy in Toronto's operations and close an estimated $774-million funding gap in next year's budget. Rather than gravy, the consultant's report, released in stages over two weeks, has classified most city services as essential.

Even so, the review has generated a long list of penny-pinching proposals including selling old-age homes, slashing daycare spaces and taking fluoride out of tap water. The report's last and likely most contentious menu of options will come Thursday when consultants focus on the city's agencies, boards and commissions, which include the TTC as well as police - two services many regard as being at the heart of what the city does.

Ending the TTC's "Blue Night Network" bus service that kicks in during the wee hours when subway lines stop, is likely to provoke outrage from the public. As well as revellers and other nighthawks, the all-night routes are a mainstay for shift workers in marginal jobs who cannot afford cars or cab fare. "That service is really there for the most vulnerable," the source explained.

Earlier this year, TTC commissioners learned firsthand what a hot political potato cutting bus service can be. As part of this year's budget review, late-night and weekend service cuts were proposed on 48 little-used routes. Faced with public outcry, commissioners settled on a compromise that rolled back the planned service reductions.

The KPMG report classifies the barriers to cutting the overnight routes as "low," but estimates savings will be small, as well.

At the other end of the scale, privatizing some bus routes would create large savings, but would be difficult because of language in the TTC collective agreement, the source quoted the report as saying. Earlier this year, at the request of the city, the province declared the TTC an essential service and it would be difficult if not impossible to negotiate the privatization of routes in contract negotiations, the source said.

Contracting out cleaning and maintenance is an easier option that could be done under the collective agreement, the source said. The contracting out option also is offered up by consultants for outside maintenance, such as grass cutting on TTC property.

The report also suggests selling parking lots as a way to raise cash. The transit commission already is pursuing that option for specific sites, the source said, but added that some lots at the end of subway lines are in high use by commuters and that parking fees generate millions for the system annually.

The findings on possible savings at such arm's-length bodies as the TTC and Toronto Police will be included in the agenda for the powerful executive committee, chaired by the mayor. The committee will hold a special meeting to consider the cost-cutting options next week. Representatives from the various commissions, agencies and boards are expected to attend that meeting to share their views on the proposed options with committee members - the mayor's inner circle on city council.

After the meeting next week, TTC cuts and all other options proposed by the consultants will be considered by a meeting of the executive committee in September and a special meeting of city council.

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