A favourite word of mine is "prevarication." It's got two "r"s, a nudge from the "c" in the middle to keep it gliding on the outer consonants, like a subway's third rail.
Its original usage means "deviation from a right course," which is exactly what will happen if the TTC decides to go through with its list of bus route cuts.
When those favouring public investment lost the tax vote in July, opponents admonished them for failing to make the case for new taxes or preparing for the alternative. But when the TTC published a list of over 50 routes on the butcher's block, the tax warriors dismissed it as "propaganda." Prevarication: evasion, quibbling.
On September 12, the Commission is going to mull the proposed cuts, following a controversial "consultation campaign" that to my mind contained very little of either.
Commissioner Joe Mihevc says meetings look good on camera but privilege people who work certain hours, allowing only a few voices to be heard. The TTC has focused on surveys handed out at stops to "meet riders where they are," he says. The questions seek to learn if riders favour higher fares, more cuts or more taxes. (See box.)
It's hard to believe that a majority of councillors will take another pass on new taxes in October, but canvassing councillors, it's hard to get a reading. And will any or all these route cuts need to be made if the package is passed? The fact that the TTC has taken its signature bare-minimum approach to its campaign suggests that it is optimistic it won't have to chop everything on the list.
It's operating, perhaps, with a bit of political homeopathy, giving the civic body a dose of what cuts look like so we'll want to do everything to avoid them.
Buses face the axe based on cost allocation. But if the TTC is ever to leave its awkward teen years, it will need permission and courage to think beyond cost. Take the Yonge bus. North of Eglinton, where the subway becomes less a local route than a regional one, it's vital for folks who can't walk 2 kilometres to the subway.
It's also not a money-maker, serving as a great example for the efficiency-at-all-costs crowd. None of the area's councillors are about to (publicly) blow off transit-dependant North Yorkers. The fact is, funding mobility often doesn't make money. (Uh-oh. Maybe... not everything worth doing... makes money.)
Looking at the list, it's easy to see that it's mostly east-west routes considered potentially expendible. But a network is a network - and not just a trellis of overcrowded connections - because it has routes that almost no one uses.
On an impulsive Sunday, I ranged the city on foot with friends. I had a firm appointment that evening but ended up at someone's house out of my normal pathway.
I never would have ventured up there unless I'd known in the back of my mind that the Dupont bus - a potential cut - would be my eject button. I'd never taken it before and haven't since. And here's an argument for keeping underused routes besides the usual ones: they can qualitatively change our experience of the city.
Without that neglected bus route, I wouldn't have had the conversations I had or walked through a new neighbourhood. If the transit network had been smaller on that day, my social network would be smaller on this one. Multiply that by a few hundred thousand and what happens to the city itself?
Maintaining underused service, says Mihevic, "becomes a matter of the integrity of the system. We're very good at documenting the subsidy transit has, and very bad at documenting the subsidy the private automobile has."
"Underperforming" routes let us take chances. They help fulfil the city's promise.
Mihevc says that if new revenue sources are found, we'll see 100 new buses on the road by January, plus "a modest meeting of standards and modest growth." These days, that's Torontonian for "spectacular."
But we deserve more. All this is to say nothing of the Transit City light rail network filtering through the shared imagination. If anything, the problem with this latest campaign isn't that it's shameless propaganda, but that it's only propaganda - and not nearly shameless enough.