Update 4 on February 9, 2011 at 9:30 am:
I have now received the official text of the amendments passed by the Commission to the staff recommendations:
i) That staff review all of the routes and services prior to the implementation date to ensure that no routes were improperly assessed under this criteria.
ii) That service re-allocations, including minor reductions and improvements, be reported to the Commission on a quarterly, or semi-annual basis, based on the service thresholds established by the Commission.
iii) That TTC management staff be requested to report back to the Commission on the accuracy of ridership on transit routes that are affected and may qualify to have the service reinstated where the ridership trend may be justified.
Update 3 on February 5, 2011 at 10:30 am:
A section has been added at the end discussing the proportion of Ridership Growth Strategy service improvements that have not been affected by these service cuts.
It is fashionable in the current regime to knock anything done by the Miller/Giambrone administration at the TTC, of which RGS was a major initiative. Saying that the vast majority of the proposed cuts are (or were) to services that were implemented under RGS gives the impression that RGS was a failure. In fact, half of RGS additions to hours of service, and all of the headway improvements remain in place. One might say that there is a mandate for the Ridership Growth Strategy.
One cannot expect a largely new Commission to be aware of these facts, but it is disappointing that TTC staff never pointed them out either in reports or in responses to questions at Commission meetings.
Update 2 on February 3, 2011 at 5:00 pm: A section has been added at the end of the article reviewing some of the planned cutbacks from the viewpoint of alternative ways to deliver service as well as the compound effect of several cuts on routes serving the same area.
Updated February 3, 2011 at 3:00 pm: A section has been added after the main article detailing the positions taken by each member of the Commission.
February 2, 2011, will be remembered as the longest TTC board meeting to date (and I have been attending since late 1972) starting at 1:00 pm and ending after 10:00 pm, but its infamy rests with the abuse suffered by the public at the hands of the Commission.
Beginning at about 4:00 pm (after a long series of public deputations and a vote on the proposed Ashbridge Maintenance and Storage Facility, about which more in a later post), the Commission began to hear deputations on the proposed service cuts. The speakers list had 140 names when we began. A few were added along the way, and by the end of the deps at 8:49 pm, many had given up waiting for their turn. I will write in more detail about the type of issues raised, but the treatment the public received, especially by the Chair, Councillor Karen Stintz, deserves special mention.
Many people spoke to the hardships that cuts to their bus routes would bring, while many others spoke to the general issue that transit service should exist as a basic part of the city. Some services won’t do well, but citizens deserved access to their homes and workplaces.
Some of the deputants took time off work to attend the meeting and speak out for transit service and most were not, like me, “professional” attendees at the TTC. They waited a long time to speak, and those who stayed to the bitter end, waited even longer to find out if they had been heard.
Stintz agreed that, yes, service “reallocations” were the last choice in the tools available to a transit system in meeting growing demands on the system overall, but argued that what staff had recommended was “the greater good for riders”. Those words will haunt her. They should be posted on every service change notice at every affected bus stop.
For the greater good, you no longer will have service.
By the time she addressed her little homily to the multitude, thanking them profusely for their passion about transit, it was clear from other Commissioners’ comments that reversing any of the proposals was a lost cause. We could have saved a great deal of time if, back at the start of the meeting, Stintz had announced that a straw poll of the Commission showed that all of the cuts would be approved, and the deputants should just leave now.
The real insult came in Stintz’ characterization of riders’ pleas as being from self-interest, from saving their own routes at the expense of riders on busier routes elsewhere. That completely misrepresented the majority of the presentations. Some spoke of special needs for residents in neighbourhoods. Some spoke of safety walking late at night. Some showed that TTC riding counts were clearly off because actual usage was higher than TTC stats claimed.
I will return to the arguments in more detail in an update to this article, but a common thread was that there was more to a transit route than the riding counts, counts that many did not believe anyhow. Given the previous flagrant errors in the TTC’s analysis, it wasn’t a stretch to suggest that the counts were wrong too.
Stintz wished that all the riders who will benefit, eventually, from improved service could have attended to show their support. Of course those riders at least have a bus, crowded though it may be.
A mark of a civilized city is that it looks out for everyone, not just those with power, or money, or those whose demands on the municipal infrastructure can be cheaply served. We built the city as it is, hard-to-serve subdivisions and all, and we are stuck with the legacy of that built form. As a city, we owe decent service to our residents all the way from the thousands on rush hour subway trains to the dozens on late night buses.
Karen Stintz prefers to set neighbour against neighbour with the strong, the numerous, getting not just all of the pie, but the crumbs too.
That’s not my Toronto.