When news of the 2023 municipal budget came trickling down in January, the blatant snipping of TTC services in the form of fare increases and cuts to services came as a shock to many. However, there are individuals who have rallied together to protect transit users and raise awareness of city policy.
The new TTC budget includes a 10 cent fare increase. It also reduces service during off-peak hours to manage revenue, which means the TTC will be more crowded, less dependable and less frequent. Service on some routes has already been reduced as of mid-February, and more reductions are happening.
“There will be ten-minute waits for subways,” says Marvin Alfred, President of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 113, which represents 12,000 public transit workers in Toronto and York Region, including TTC workers.
“The other unfortunate consequence is that our members are often victims of violence due to these cuts — an issue that is entirely out of their control. Nonetheless, anger from the general public is directed at them both verbally and often physically. Our members become scapegoats for the City of Toronto’s inability to allocate appropriate resources to operating transit efficiently.”
Shelagh Pizey-Allen, Executive Director for TTCriders, says this could just be the first round of cuts if the provincial and federal governments do not provide more support. “We could even see a further round of cuts later this year,” Pizey-Allen said.
TTCriders is an organization that safeguards transit user rights. When news of the city’s budget broke, the organization quickly mobilized itself in order to swerve the public eye to the upcoming harm that could potentially impact transit users if new cuts are implemented.
“There has been a real abdication of responsibility from the mayor and all three levels of government when it comes to winning back transit ridership,” says Pizey-Allen.
The anxieties of both Pizey-Allen and the TTCriders team stem from the inevitable damage that the new TTC policies will cause to the health and wellness of the city, as well as its commuters, as a lack of trust in public transit will result in more vehicle congestion, which will then directly correlate to an increase in general emissions.
Beyond large-scale consequences for the city, Pizey-Allen is better focused on how a kneecapped TTC will impact the everyday commuter.
“Safety concerns are not new, and they haven’t been taken seriously. Safety means everything, from waiting for a night bus that will end up becoming over an hour late, safety also means a TTC that’s free of racism.”
Pizey-Allen points to the increase of anti- Asian discrimination that was seen at the height of the pandemic that bled into public transit. And the TTC has been generally inconsistent in its disclosure of recorded incidents of public transit violence.
“There hasn’t been any public data released about the ratio of incidents since November 2022,” says Pizey-Allen.
This coincides with the increased police presence on the TTC due to an increase in violent incidents across Toronto. Pizey-Allen remains perplexed, as the city aims to increase fares and slash TTC services, but allocate a huge lump sum towards additional police spending.
With TTC representatives keeping their lips sealed and city funds continuing to shuffle across the board, Pizey-Allen remains focused on how TTC services can be remedied, and more importantly, what exactly that will cost.
“The best case scenario is that the city council moves towards a motion that approves bringing the TTC back to pre-pandemic service levels,” says Pizey-Allen. “We know it will cost $61 million dollars but experts have been warning that cuts drive more users away and generate a downward spiral in ridership. We are at a very critical moment for public transit.”
This article appears in the February – March 2023 Issue. The article was originally published by The Hoser at thehoser.ca.
Media’s focus on TTC violence
Is the TTC really more dangerous than it used to be? If we’re going by what we hear from the police, John Tory, and the news, we would have reason to think so.
But what if it’s not so much an increase in violence as it is an increase in its reporting?
Managing editor of the online media outlet Passage (now The Maple), Davide Mastracci, recently dug into the data.
Looking a few years back, between the years 2019 and 2020, and accounting for the drop in ridership due to the pandemic, offenses against customers reported by the TTC increased by more than 100 per cent.
This jump, Mastracci found, translated to 13 per cent more news coverage.
Yet, an 18 per cent increase of offenses between 2021 and 2022 translated into a whopping 300 per cent increase in news articles about it. This includes 191 news articles containing the words “TTC” and “violence,” according to Mastracci’s search of the Canadian Newsstream database.
In January 2023 alone, the month the new municipal budget was announced, there were 180 media hits.
By comparison, there were only 82, 93 and 63 such articles in the entire years of 2019, 2020, and 2021, respectively.
So, what gives?
There may be more violence on the TTC. But the huge spikes in media attention aren’t necessarily proportional.
In any case, stay safe out there.
This article appeared in the 2023 Feb/Mar issue.