By PAT WATSON
Only one day after the Toronto Transit Commission made public the decision to saddle commuters with a heavy fare increase, the heavily used Yonge line from Bloor St. north to Eglinton Ave. was shut down as a safety measure after outside workers, purportedly from another company, cut a hole in the road surface somewhere near the Yonge/St. Clair intersection. The concern was that it could have become a danger to passengers using trains running below, should slabs of concrete have fallen. Some would call this karma, except that along with the public relations mess that it was for the TTC, it was also a six-hour annoyance for the hundreds of thousands who depend on public transit.
Following the mess that was last week Wednesday’s rush hour, the TTC declared that staff handled the situation like clockwork and things went very well. But if you ask those who were mightily inconvenienced by the incident you would get a different interpretation of the climate along that stretch of Yonge St.
As if commuters weren’t inconvenienced enough, one bus crammed to the rafters with passengers was actually surrounded, pulled over, and then entered by police, further delaying traveling time because, for some unknown reason, the bus was flashing a “Call 9-1-1″ sign. “It’s just like we’re in a movie,” one amused passenger blared into her cell phone.
Then, the day immediately following that major inconvenience, there was another TTC delay at Sheppard station and buses once again had to be brought in to shuttle commuters around that disruption of train service. That could not be blamed on “third party” workers. And again, the day after that, there was yet another service disruption. The near unintelligible announcement coming over the public address system would have bordered on the humorous, were it not a matter of interest to those using the trains.
For this we are being made to pay more?
The many who use public transit and who do not have deep pockets find the Jan. 3 fare increase unbearable. The funding system for the TTC has to change. In no other city in North America are commuters paying 70 per cent of the operating budget for public transit. To add insult to injury, just about anyone who can think back a few decades will say that the service is not as reliable as it used to be.
People complain about the rate of pay that TTC workers have managed through their union to negotiate. But why begrudge them their wages? The real difficulty is the funding arrangement that takes those wages almost completely out of the pockets of TTC users. We pay over and over again in various ways for this essential service; first through federal, then provincial, then municipal taxes and again directly out of pocket.
We’ve heard the argument that given the current recession the federal and provincial governments are hard pressed – actually resistant to kicking in any more for local public transit. At the same time we are aware that some of the funds that have gone into TTC infrastructure have been poorly spent. One case in point is the refurbished line along St. Clair Ave. West, now two years past its planned completion date and, at $75 million so far, over budget by $10 million. While that money does not come from the operating budget it is an indication of the kind of laxity that occurs in TTC spending. There have also been other imprudent uses of funds.
Now, the TTC has stopped the sale of tokens, replacing them with tickets in order to stop people from hoarding tokens. But why limit the sale of tokens at a time when the sale of tokens is actually going up? Why would an increase in sales lead to a $5 million loss as TTC Chair Adam Giambrone has speculated? Won’t the inevitable counterfeit tickets do that?
With this kind of clumsiness holding sway, we can see why the TTC has a budget shortfall. If Giambrone does run for mayor, his campaign will be hamstrung by this fare increase.
On a note of support…
Way to go Michael Jameson, point guard on one of the basketball teams organized by the Youth Association for Academics, Athletics and Character Education. The C.W. Jeffreys C.I. grade 10 student is out and about taking real steps toward achieving his goal of participating in the provincial championship by raising funds to make the trip with his team – raising funds and building character. Good luck to all the YAAACE b’ball teams.