November 6, 2012
Cops stand behind bus decision in Ford football fiasco
By Don Peat, QMI Agency
TORONTO — Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) CEO Andy Byford has asked Mayor Rob Ford not to call him in the future on transit matters that could be construed as personal.
Byford revealed he made the request in the wake of about 50 riders being dumped off a bus to respond to a Toronto police request to pick up Ford’s high school football team.
“I have asked that, in future any matters that can be construed as being sort of personal to the mayor, I would rather he did not call me,” Byford said Tuesday.
Byford said it wasn’t appropriate for Ford to call him about the police-requested shelter bus.
“If it is a legitimate issue around why is there a delay on the Yonge-University-Spadina line, that the mayor has legitimate reason to speak to his head of transit -- no problem with that whatsoever,” he said. “If it relates to something that is or could be perceived to be as personal to him, then I’ve asked that not happen in (the) future.”
The TTC dumped fare-paying riders off the 36 Finch West bus last Thursday to respond to a police request for a shelter bus at Father Henry Carr school, where Ford’s team was in a semi-final playoff game. When the first bus had trouble finding the school, another bus - without any riders - was pulled off the 46 Martin Grove route and sent to the school. The Finch bus eventually arrived and was used to take Ford’s football team, the Don Bosco Eagles, back to its school.
The transit boss revealed for the first time Tuesday that he had a “garbled” conversation with Ford about a TTC bus for his football team before receiving a voicemail from the mayor explaining that police had called for the bus.
“It seemed to me he was asking for a bus and I said to him, ‘No way, we’re not providing a TTC bus,’” Byford said, adding he phoned transit control and asked for a number for a school bus he could provide to Ford.
When he received the mayor’s voicemail, he understood what Ford was trying to say.
“In the voicemail he was not happy because he wanted to know where his bus was,” Byford said. “It was at that point that the penny dropped, what he was talking about, he wasn’t asking me for a bus. He was trying to say that the TPS had asked for a bus, where the hell was it.
“(Ford) was frustrated because he could not ascertain the whereabouts of the bus,” he added.
Byford apologized to riders who were booted off the bus.
The TTC said Tuesday that a review of the Red Rocket’s shelter bus protocol shows it is sound and there is “no need for change.”
“The TTC does not have the expertise to determine what constitutes an emergency and, therefore, the need for a shelter bus,” Byford stated in a memo to commissioners. “The TTC must rely on our emergency services to make these decisions on behalf of the public.”
Since starting with the TTC last year, Byford said the shelter bus protocol has “only gone wrong once.”
George Christopoulos, Ford’s press secretary, said the mayor viewed the call as “strictly business.”
Christopoulos said he’s spoken to the mayor about Byford’s message.
“I haven’t got a response from the mayor,” he said.