Toronto's transit agency says it plans to reduce service temporarily on specific routes starting Nov. 21 to cope with labour shortages expected from its mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy.
In a service update on its website, the TTC said the reductions will happen on Line 2, Bloor-Danforth, one streetcar route and 57 bus routes. Full details can be found here.
"Provisions have been made to protect service on the busiest corridors in the system during the busiest periods," the TTC said in the update.
Subway service on Line 2, Bloor-Danforth, starting Nov. 22, will be reduced during all periods from Monday to Friday. In the daytime, service will be reduced from every three to four minutes to every four minutes. In the evening, service will be reduced from every six to every seven minutes to eight minutes.
The TTC has said employees who are unvaccinated or haven't declared their vaccination status by Nov. 20 will be placed on unpaid leave until they receive all their required vaccine doses, or Dec. 31 — whichever comes first. The policy officially takes effect on Nov. 21.
Shabnum Durrani, spokesperson for the TTC, said the transit agency expects unvaccinated workers to get immunized due to the policy.
"As people become fully vaccinated, they will be coming back to work. We will be working to increase service," she said.
'Cuts will cause chaos for working people,' group says
But TTC riders, an advocacy group of transit users in Toronto, says the cuts will negatively affect Toronto residents, causing disruption for working people.
The group noted that the TTC did not make an announcement but instead chose to release its plan quietly through a service update on its website.
"TTC cuts are not an option. Cuts will cause chaos for working people who depend on the TTC every day to get to work, school, and groceries," TTC riders said in a statement on Tuesday.
The advocacy group said the transit agency has had months to get ready for an anticipated labour shortage but has been operating "just enough" service due to underfunding.
"The TTC should be trying to win back riders. Cutting service now will have long-term negative consequences for the climate and every Toronto resident, because those who can afford to will switch to cars. Riders need reliable, frequent service and lower fares now, not cuts."
TTC Riders said the cuts represent a "total failure of leadership" from the city, provincial and federal governments. It urged Toronto Mayor John Tory to extend the TTC vaccine mandate deadline and for all levels of government to extend transit operating funding on an emergency basis.
The group added that the transit agency could implement regular testing, a hiring blitz and continued education about vaccination instead of reducing service.
As of Tuesday, 90 per cent of active TTC employees have disclosed their vaccination status. Of that number, 85 per cent are fully vaccinated.