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Student with autism left stranded after mixup with TTC bus schedule

Last Updated Jan 4, 2017 at 3:15 pm EDT

A Toronto woman says her son, who has autism, was left stranded when his TTC bus route was put on hold during his last week of school in 2016.

Wendy Stevens said her 20-year-old son Matthew Santos had been taking the 48A Rathburn bus to Michael Power/St. Joseph High School for more than a year. But on the morning of Dec. 19, he was left waiting in the cold at Royal York Station because the TTC had temporarily cancelled the bus due to a mixup with the school schedule.

“The change in the bus schedule completely threw him off — He was beside himself,” Stevens told CityNews.

Stevens, who was at work at the time, said she called the TTC after her son and his teachers called her that morning, upset. She said she was put on hold for a long time and eventually gave up.

She then sent an email to customer service and didn’t hear back.

Eventually, she learned from the TTC that the 48A had been cancelled during the week of Dec. 19 until Jan. 3, which conflicts with the school’s schedule.

“How is the bus running this week if the kids wouldn’t be at school until next week?” Stevens said.

Santos is currently in his last year of school, and taking the bus is one of the many steps which has helped him become independent, Stevens said.

“The route is good for him. He knows it,” she said. “But if something happens unexpectedly, there’s a big issue.”

The TTC has apologized for the mixup, but added the school board is at fault for not notifying them in advance.

“Since setting our schedules, the boards changed the dates of the break,” TTC spokesman Stuart Green said in an email.

“The original information supplied to us was that the school would be back in session this week and operator schedules were set accordingly.”

Green said the school board only told them about the change on Aug. 22, but by then it was too late to amend the bus schedule and assign enough operators to run the route. Four months before the holiday, vacations had already been approved and it was too late to make the change.

The TTC said it would reach out to Stevens and Santos to explain the situation.

“Going forward, we will enhance communication with the school boards to mitigate any inconvenience for our customers,” Green wrote.

Meanwhile, the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) said the TTC hadn’t made its deadlines clear.

“The TCDSB communicates the dates to our various City partners as soon as they have been set,” said TCDSB spokesman John Yan.

“The TCDSB would be pleased to hear from the TTC regarding their recommended time requirements, as it appears in this case four months was not enough advance notice.”

Yan said it’s possible the TTC contacted the Toronto District School Board, which has a much larger student body.

Stevens hopes the TTC takes the matter seriously and that it doesn’t happen again.

“When there’s going to be a change, I need to prepare [Santos] for that, for what’s going to happen,” she said. “Him knowing in advance is crucial to him managing the change.”