Pale Horse Roller Derby Blog
By Roadside BombShel
Feature photo by Aperture 13 Photography
Rob Ford has declared war on roller derby.
I’m in a blind rage right now over the proposed cancellation of the 101 Parc Downsview Park bus, and therefore oversimplifying (but only by a little). Allow me to explain:
As a way to make up for budget shortfalls, the Rob Ford administration has decided to cut service from 48 different bus routes that were deemed “unproductive” due to low ridership. On the chopping block is the 101 Parc Downsview Park bus, the only public transportation route that directly services The Hangar – the venue that is home to Toronto Roller Derby (ToRD) the largest roller derby league in Canada. Simply put, he’s cancelling the bus that takes us to see roller derby in Toronto! And this is a call to arms.
I spoke to Candy Crossbones, Captain of the Chicks Ahoy!, about the bus route cuts and how it could affect ToRD. Candy Crossbones, who daylights as Saira Peesker, is a hot jammer and has been playing with ToRD since its inception in 2006.
ToRD currently has approximately 120 skaters, and more than 50% of them take the bus at least once a week to and from practise, said Crossbones, herself included. Most skaters commute for at least an hour from the downtown core to the Hangar. It’s a long trip, but one that Crossbones and dozens of others are willing to make because The Hangar is the only space that is big enough for a full sized track that is not iced over for hockey in the winter months. This makes the space indispensable.
The kids wont be all right
In addition to the better known adult league, ToRD has a junior league for kids ages 9 – 18 who want to do the derby. Toronto Junior Roller Derby (TJRD) is fairly new initiative but has been overwhelmingly positive for the kids involved and coaches alike. According to Coach Vader, known in the civilian world as Lesia Malanchuk-Stephens, the cancellation of this bus would impact them greatly because it would cut off, “the skaters who are able to take the bus on their own to TJRD practice with permission from their parents.”
She added, “if there is no safe alternative route, our league might not continue to grow at such a rapid and exciting rate.”
Alternative routes don’t suit: a walk through the park is a walk in the dark
Crossbones’ primary concern is the safety of players coming to and from practise. Without the direct service route, girls will have to walk from the entrance of Downsview Park at Sheppard for approximately 20 minutes in pitch black industrial wasteland. If you’ve never been to Downsview Park – it looks like it could be a film set for a script calling for a “scary, desolate place” where a body is dumped.
METRAC would have a field day with that place. It will be downright dangerous for derby babes to be walking along there at night trying to find a bus stop. Hide your TJRD, hide your (derby) wife, and hide your derby widows. Fo’ real.
Not just the Derby that will be affected
A concerted effort is being made to develop Downsview Park into a sustainable community. There are plans to build housing, live/work spaces, shops, restaurants, services, and spaces for community groups in the Park. In addition, there were plans to build an actual subway station in the Park as part of a master plan to expand subway service directly to York University. Having a massive athletics facility accessible to the public would be an asset to community development, a fact stated by the planners of the area on their website. Removing public transit from the area will hamper its growth because it will become difficult to access. This all begs the questions – how can the city be so short sighted? What factors went into the decision to cut the 101 Parc Downsview Park bus?
According to Steve Munro, a well known transit blogger based in Toronto, the TTC used a flawed formula to determine service cuts. Munro points out that the TTC’s haphazard formula has already been disproven using the 101 bus specifically as an example.
He writes, “on early Saturday evenings, the 101 Parc Downsview Park bus carries 267 riders in the three hours between 7 and 10 pm, or almost 90/hour. Saturday daytime, it carries 176 in the 13 hours from 6 am to 7 pm, or 13.5/hour. However, it is likely that a good deal of this riding is concentrated later in the day, and it will be easy to get over the screen-line by taking this into account.”
The 101 Parc Downsview Park bus ridership is highest after regular work hours when many people would want to partake in the sporting activities that are offered. The application of the formula is flawed because in the evenings this route has a robust ridership and is perfectly productive., according to Munro.
It is unlikely that the city would want to actively curtail user-ship of the Downsview Sports complex, and no one wants to have women walking around alone at night through high risk areas. Munro concludes that, “the TTC’s analysis shows the hallmarks of something pulled together quickly as a way to satisfy a demand for cuts without taking care to look at what is happening or to validate the accuracy of the calculations.”
Packing up and hitting back: Angry chicks make bad enemies
Rob Ford’s team has thoughtlessly fired a shot across the bow of Toronto Roller Derby with the proposed cancellation of the 101 Parc Downsview Park bus. And the community has responded to the threat in true derby form by packing up and hitting back. They have launched a petition to Save the 101 Bus (which you can sign here)and are attending public meetings next week with the intent of making deputation’s and raising hell.
The roller derby community is just an example of one cross section of people who are negatively impacted by cuts to public transit, but there are certain to be many more pockets of people and communities who will be affected. Toronto will not benefit from careless cuts designed to meet short term budget goals. Instead we should be implementing the Transit City plan and investing in long term solutions for public transit that make sense. Until then, it’s on like (B)onkey Kong.
I for one will be in the trenches with my sisters in arms.
You can follow RoadsideBombShel on twitter @RoadsideBomShel