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TTC is working on new plan for Variety Village

by David Nickle

The Toronto Transit Commission has voted to take six months to find a way to make Variety Village more accessible to the disabled young people who use the Danforth Avenue facility.

Commissioners voted to give staff the time to do the work, after staff reported that a request from Variety Village to put a stop outside the facility’s entrance would cause too much inconvenience to regular riders on area buses.

Currently, the best staff could offer was an extension of a special shuttle from Main Station, that currently delivers riders to the front door of Variety Village. The plan is to extend that service from 7 to 10 p.m.

Other routes passing by such as the 20 Cliffside and 12 Kingston Road buses, would have to divert from their routes - making each trip four to five minutes longer.

But according to local Ward 36 (Scarborough Southwest) Councillor Gary Crawford, that wasn’t good enough.

Crawford’s daughter suffers from cerebral palsy, and he identified himself as both a concerned parent and a local councillor.

“I drive my daughter to Variety Village frequently to access needed therapy,” he said. “If I was not able to drive her she would not be able to get to Variety Village. The lack of access is preventing individuals from having opportunities to access these programs.”

He pointed out able-bodied riders are much more able to accommodate inconvenience than disabled riders.

“Why is it that businesses will inconvenience able-bodied people with parking restrictions to help those who need to park close,” he said.

“Why is it that public institutions will spend millions of dollars to ensure buildings are accessible even when those features are used infrequently. Why is it the TTC should be any different? Variety Village needs a bus stop at its entrance.”

TTC Chief General Manager Gary Webster said the hours extension of the special shuttle bus should be sufficient.

“We’re extending the hours from 7 to 10 p.m.,” he said. “I don’t think putting in new stops is a good idea, but extending the hours of operations should work. We’ll monitor the ridership on the shuttle pick up and report in June, and we’ll try to improve the access on the walkways. And in June we’ll report back and have the opportunity to determine and make some changes.”

The question of what to do about Variety Village came to a head in September, when Mayor Rob Ford, then a city councillor and candidate, met with the TTC staff to come up with solutions for problems that Variety Village had had with transit.

Ford had been pressing to have a bus stop constructed.