You know that feeling when you're in a public place and a young child is being an absolute nuisance? And your first impulse is to get upset at the child? Then you realize that the child is only partially to blame for its behaviour, and your frustration is best directed at the child's parents? Strange analogy, yes, but pretty accurate in this case: I'm angry with the TTC, but really, I'm mad at Toronto's Mayor, Rob Ford (the analogy fails because between Ford and the TTC, it's Ford who's the child).
So what did he do this time, he who is at war with everything but the car (after proclaiming that the war on cars is over)? As part of his misguided attempt to stop the gravy train at City Hall, he has asked the Toronto Transit Commission to cut their spending by 10%. This, when ridership is at an all-time high, overcrowding is standard on many routes, and more and more disgruntled drivers seek an alternative to their usual nightmare commute - the average is 80 minutes, longer than New York, Montreal, Berlin, L.A., and London. Shameful.
Back in September, the TTC came up with a solution that would help it meet its new budget: altering load standards. In other words, switch from more vehicles with fewer passengers to fewer vehicles with more passengers, which allows the TTC to avoid cutting out entire routes to save money. What it also provides is longer wait times and, tragically, more overcrowding. For those of us living in Toronto and using transit on a regular basis, it's hard to image how more people could be crammed onto buses and streetcars. Maybe TTC staff will stand on the loading platforms and push us in like they do in the Tokyo subway system?
When a document was leaked yesterday showing the planned service changes, my heart sank. There will be cuts to 56 bus routes and six streetcar lines as of January 8th. Several high traffic routes are affected, and while it may seem that lengthening the wait times along those routes by just one minute is no big deal, I challenge you to get on a bus or streetcar that is running a minute later than normal during the morning rush in this City.
All three bus routes and the streetcar line near my home will suffer. And while it's true that I'm upset with the TTC for further ruining their service rather than increasing our fares (though those are much too high for what we get - still, I'd rather pay more than face this), my anger is actually directed at Mayor Ford. It's not okay to impose budget cuts on a poorly-functioning transit system in a city as big as Toronto. Transit is not gravy. Gravy is the luxury leaf collection program in Ford's home neighbourhood of Etobicoke, which costs $500,000 per year and is, unsurprisingly, not on the chopping block, not even up for consideration. I'm so angry.
Photo of Fordzilla eating a streetcar used under Creative Commons from malstad (flickr).
Photo of crowded TTC streetcar used under Creative Commons from Tina Li (flickr).