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Budget could squeeze TTC commutes - Toronto Star

September 12, 2011
Tess Kalinowski
Transportation Reporter
Toronto Star

A proposal to alter the TTC’s crowding standards could put the squeeze on the commutes of the growing numbers of Torontonians who ride the transit system.

A report on Toronto’s core service review, released Monday by the city manager, also proposes charging a premium fare for Blue Night bus service and pushing more Wheel-Trans users onto the regular system.

According to transit workers union president Bob Kinnear, the recommendations amount to “a war on commuters, low-wage workers, the disabled and the environment.”

The TTC’s standard for what constitutes a crowded bus — based on the average number of people per hour riding a particular vehicle — was improved to 48 riders from 53 between 2004 and 2007. Regularly exceeding that number should trigger an increase in service on that route.

The move was part of a Ridership Growth Strategy designed to attract more riders, after a period in the 1990s when fares rose and service was cut, driving thousands off the system.

In 2008, TTC bus service hours were also extended to match subway operations. A plan to increase the minimum bus frequency from 30 minutes to 20 minutes never materialized, however.

Relief to streetcar crowding has been constrained by a lack of vehicles.

To lower crowding on the subway, the TTC adjusts the intervals by which trains move through the system. But the Yonge line is at capacity and the Bloor-Danforth line is very close during peak periods.

Ridership has been growing steadily since 2003, said TTC spokesman Brad Ross, who acknowledged that many riders consistently experience the TTC at well above the crowding standard.

Even fare increases and higher unemployment numbers — factors that traditionally reduce transit ridership — have failed to reverse the growth trend. It’s expected to continue next year when the TTC anticipates a 3.1 per cent increase — or 15 million more rides.

“I don’t think there’s much TTC service that people would say is operating above standard that needs to be rolled back,” said transit advocate Jamie Kirkpatrick, of the Toronto Environmental Alliance.

“The Blue Night network is really vital for people who don’t work 9-to-5 jobs and have to get to work for a shift that starts late in the evening or early in the morning. It does also play a role in guaranteeing a safe ride home for people who have had a night on the town,” he said.

Kirkpatrick called the proposal to shift Wheel-Trans riders to the conventional system “just cruel.” Budget constraints have repeatedly prevented the TTC from improving the accessibility of its regular service.

The proposal shows a lack of “decency and respect” for disabled riders, said Kinnear.

“What this report says is: Let’s punish low-wage night shift workers who cannot afford cars and let’s cram more commuters into already intolerably crowded rush-hour vehicles,’” he said.

The TTC will hold a special meeting Friday to deal with its operating, capital and Wheel-Trans budgets.

As originally published here: http://www.thestar.com/news/article/1052569

2011-09-12 Budget could squeeze TTC commutes _Toronto Star_.pdf17.59 KB