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Bus routes given reprieve but face uncertain future

(Posted Date: Wednesday, October 3, 2007)

By Karolyn Coorsh

Bus routes in danger of cancellation were left unscathed during a Sept.12 TTC budget meeting, but at least one member of the commission says future service cuts are not out of the question.

“We are not out of the woods yet,” said St. Paul’s councillor Joe Mihevc, in a phone interview hours after he and fellow board members unanimously voted to hike TTC fares rather than cut service. “There is still more work to be done.”

Faced with a $94 million shortfall in their budget, commissioners were forced to make a decision on how to handle the cuts after the city announced a $575 million deficit in July.

A public survey posted online and in bus stations asked riders how they felt the shortfall should be handled, whether by a tax increase, fare increase or service cuts. More than half of about 17,400 riders who filled out the survey in late August and early September said they prefer a raise in taxes to fare hikes or service cuts.

More than 30 bus routes deemed at risk due either to low ridership or low profitability were also listed in the survey. Local routes like the 14 Glencairn, 5 Avenue Rd. and part of 109 Ranee were on the list.

The fare hike, expected to account for $35 million, will come into effect in November. While cash fares remain unchanged at $2.75, quantities of tickets and tokens will rise 15 cents to $2.25 each. The price of a monthly Metropass will increase from $99.75 to $109.

Mihevc says even if the city allocates an additional $35 million (derived from new tax measures), the TTC will still be $25 million in the hole. although it would be unlikely that the commission would be forced to make service cuts.

The TTC must now wait until Oct. 22, when council revisits two new taxes — a proposed land transfer tax and personal vehicle registration fee — that were deferred in July.

“If the new tax tools do not come forward, then obviously we will be behind the 8-ball either to dramatically cut services or further increase fares for the second time in one year,” Mihevc said.

Service cuts should be avoided at all costs, he added.

“We should be building these routes,” he said. “One person’s poor-performing route financially is someone else’s…essential lifeline for access to Toronto.”

The TTC was asked to slash $30 million from this year’s operating budget and $100 million next year.