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Better way burdened by workload

By Rob Granatstein
Toronto Sun

TTC ridership is booming and the better way can’t handle the workload.

Compared to the late 1980s, when ridership and the number of TTC streetcars and buses peaked, the TTC now has almost 300 fewer buses and 30 fewer streetcars.

People assume that because you were able to carry 465 million riders in 1989, there should be no problem when your ridership is at 410 million passengers, says TTC general manager Rick Ducharme. “The budget cuts have come back to haunt us.”

With fewer vehicles on the road, the TTC is having trouble dealing with the good times. It cut the number of buses in its fleet by 350 between 1989 and 1996 due to fewer riders and budget cuts. Now riders are flocking back to the TTC, but buses can’t be built or paid for quickly enough to adapt.

The other problem is the buses themselves.

All the buses the TTC is now buying and will continue to buy are accessible, low-floor buses, with 15% less capacity than the old ones, because the wheel wells protrude into the bus.

“If we get fewer people on each bus, but carry the same number of people, we have to get more buses,” says Mitch Stambler, the TTC’s manager of service planning. “That means expenses go up.”

He says the other problem is the buses being made are pretty much garbage.

The TTC’s double buses were pulled off the road because they were rotting out, 30 buses with natural gas tanks made with kevlar had to have their tanks replaced because they couldn’t hold the pressure of natural gas, and low-floor buses were found to have too much weight placed on the back wheel, causing the rims to crack.

The TTC has hit such a desperation point, it is rebuilding its scrapped double buses yet again, just to keep up with passenger loads. Keeping the buses on the road longer isn’t an option because their lifespan is already 18 years.

The Sheppard subway, slated to open in 2002, will not help the situation greatly. “Because the Sheppard line is so short we’re only taking 21 buses off the street,” Stambler says.

“That’s a fraction of what happened on Bloor and Danforth when that subway was built.”

It’s just another reason the TTC is so desperate to be given better treatment on the roads.