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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Ford government tries to use TTC funding to force privatization of transit routes

TTC Riders and Unifor warn of "microtransit" privatization Trojan Horse contained in new funding proposal for the system already reeling from the financial impact of the coronavirus.

As the TTC reels from the financial impact of the coronavirus crisis, the provincial Doug Ford government appears to be using the situation to try to force privatization of some public transit routes on the city of Toronto. A recent announcement of provincial funding for the system included a Trojan Horse of sorts.

In a letter to Caroline Mulroney, Ontario's Minister of Transportation, Naureen Rizvi, Unifor’s Ontario Director writes:

As per correspondence sent from your office to Toronto Mayor John Tory, we have become aware of specific requirements municipalities looking to receive Phase II of funding for transit under the Federal-Provincial Safe Restart Agreement would need to fulfill. Most troubling are the requirements that municipalities must work with the Province (and Metrolinx where applicable) to determine the feasibility of implementing microtransit (i.e. largely privately-run, on-demand, app-based modes of transportation, such as Uber or Lyft) options on certain routes, as well as reviewing low performing bus routes to determine whether they could also be served better by microtransit. We find this to be alarming for several reasons.
Firstly, your government is using the pandemic as a means to further an agenda of transit service reduction and privatization. The funds under this agreement is public money. It should not be withheld at a time when municipalities and transit systems are in critical need of financial help in order to maintain service levels and jobs. Secondly, the reduction of routes and use of app-based ride-sharing services would result in a loss of good transit jobs and erode employment security for drivers, further harming workers and their families in a time of layoffs, high unemployment and economic uncertainty.
Transit workers are essential workers and have been in the forefront of keeping our communities moving during these challenging times. Finally, reducing transit service levels on supposed ‘low-performing’ routes only further diminishes the quality of life for marginalized communities that often live in areas outside of the city core and requires accessible transportation. Low-income workers, immigrants, students and people with disabilities all rely on and deserve access to quality transit services.

The Toronto public transit activist group TTC Riders, which fights for better transit and lower fares in the city, has launched a very creative "Where's my bus" campaign against any possible elimination of routes in favour of so-called "microtransit".

They identified 24 bus routes that are examples of those likely to be deemed to be "low performing" and are presumably under threat of being axed. A supporter of the group, Henry Lin, designed posters for each of these routes to highlight to users of the routes and the communities in question what could be lost. Two samples are below:

They also note that if "the criterion for cancelling routes is fewer than 4,000 (daily) riders, there are in fact 61 TTC routes that meet the threshold".

You can download these posters for use and sign-up for other ways to help the campaign on their website.

They have also created a petition the public can sign to send a message to the Ford government signaling opposition to "microtransit" that reads:

Buses in Toronto are overcrowded. Transit riders need more service now so we can be physically distant on public transit.
That's why I was angry to learn that the provincial government wants to force the TTC to cancel "low performing" bus routes and replace them with a private company like Uber or Lyft.
Instead of meddling in our transit system, I urge you to fix bus crowding by providing permanent, unconditional provincial funding to the TTC! Permanent funding is needed so that riders get:
- Enough transit service to fix crowding
- Lower fares for all
- Fair fare integration, not fare-by-distance: One fare within Toronto and 2-hour transfers between TTC and 905 agencies
- No privatization or provincial takeover of our public transit system
The Safe Restart funding is a good start, but the TTC will have a $700 million shortfall by the end of 2020. Transit agencies across Ontario need permanent operations funding. Mayor Tory should use provincial and federal funding to bring TTC service levels to at least 100%, and lower fares.
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