A transit advocacy group is calling for more funding from the provincial government for the TTC in a bid to prevent overcrowding amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“As we know, the buses are packed. In fact, I’ve renamed the Lawrence bus. I call it the 54 COVID east,” said Austin Jafri of TTC Riders.
“Our buses are overcrowded. We need more TTC service now. It is not a joke.”
Jafri spoke at a rally outside of MPP Vijay Thanigasalam’s Scarborough office on Saturday.
Thanigasalam is the parliamentary assistant to the minister of transportation, Caroline Mulroney.
“TTC Riders wants more government funding for TTC so riders pay less and get better service,” Jafri said.
Last month, photos surfaced on social media appearing to show some overcrowded buses, though the TTC has insisted that their cleaning protocols and mandatory mask policy ensure the transit system is safe.
Earlier this year, Toronto received hundreds of millions of dollars from the provincial and federal governments to assist the TTC with a loss in revenue amid a drop in ridership due to the pandemic. TTC Riders wants funding from the province to be permanent and ongoing so that more buses can be added to the streets.
In response to Saturday’s demonstration, Thanigasalam’s office referred to a Ministry of Transportation statement that discussed the emergency funding being provided to cities by the provincial and federal governments. Thanigasalam did not address calls for permanent, ongoing funding.
“The Ontario government, in partnership with the federal government, is providing up to $4 billion in urgently needed assistance to Ontario’s 444 municipalities,” the statement read.
“In collaboration with our federal partners, the province is delivering up to $2 billion to help Ontario municipalities keep their transit systems running and relieve financial pressures created by COVID-19 as part of the Safe Restart Agreement.”
Meanwhile, Toronto Mayor John Tory applauded the efforts of the demonstrators.
“It has long been his view that a transit system which normally moves 1.8 million people a day in Canada’s largest city should receive ongoing operating funds from the other governments. That discussion is still ongoing,” said Lawvin Hadisi, a spokesperson for Tory.
“In the meantime, the TTC continues to restore service and recall workers as the economy reopens. Just this week, service levels were raised to 90 per cent as schools reopened and as soon as ridership reaches 50 per cent of normal, full service will be restored.”
Hadisi said Tory spoke with TTC CEO Rick Leary Saturday morning and received assurance that more buses are being assigned to routes that are seeing an increase in ridership.