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TTC budget cuts could mean more buses breaking down in Toronto

An average of 80 buses break down every day in Toronto, a number some transit advocates fear could go up if the TTC is forced to trim its budget.

Torstar News Service file

More buses could break down on Toronto’s streets if Mayor John Tory’s budget proposal passes, transit advocates say.

Tory has asked the TTC to trim an additional $5 million from its budget for 2016. In an email to Metro, TTC spokesman Brad Ross said the cuts could come at the expense of “subway safety watchpersons and some bus maintenance initiatives.”

That’s worrisome, said Jessica Bell, chair of the TTCriders advocacy group, given the mayor’s budget priorities, tabled earlier this week, also omits more than $7 million for “preventative” bus maintenance that had been requested — and approved — by the TTC board. 

“The TTC is already the most efficient transit system in North America. I’d be surprised if they can find $5 million and keep service standards where they are,” Bell said.

Tory, meanwhile, insists the cuts will not affect service and has said his budget plan represents an investment in the TTC, including more express bus service and an earlier subway start on Sundays.

According to a TTC report released this week, 80 buses break down “on a typical day,” stranding roughly 5,600 customers.  Bell is concerned the number will go up if the TTC is forced to cut costs.

“The huge subway shutdown that happened in June is a typical example of what happens when we don’t put funding into maintaining the TTC,” she said “So the next time you’re on a bus and it breaks down, you’ll have John Tory to thank for that.”

TTC CEO Andy Byford told Metro he was “loathe” to cut funding from maintenance programs, but wouldn’t rule it out as the transit agency pores over its budget to find savings.

“We will look at everything,” Byford said. “But I do not want it to impact bus maintenance.”

Bus reliability has greatly improved under his watch, Byford said. Buses used to break down after an average of 6,000 kilometres, he said, but that’s been boosted to 9,000 kilometres. He also applauded Tory for restoring some of the bus service that was cut under Rob Ford.

However, Byford acknowledged the TTC’s budget is “right on the wire” and said riders will feel the impact of cuts above and beyond what the mayor is asking.

“There comes a point when you cannot find more and it starts to affect core service,” he said.

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