Transit riders in Toronto can expect longer wait times and more crowded buses and streetcars next year, as the TTC slashes service to cut costs.

Fifty-two bus routes in every corner of the city will see service levels reduced during peak periods starting in January, and another 36 bus and streetcar routes are being reduced in off-peak periods.

The changes are part of the Toronto Transit Commission's plan to meet a reduced 2012 operating budget, after Mayor Rob Ford ordered a 10 per cent cut to city budgets.

The TTC added that 21 bus and street car routes will actually see increased service levels next year.

TTC spokesman Brad Ross told CP 24 Thursday afternoon that the only alternative was to eliminate routes entirely but "that was not something that we wanted to do."

The planned changes will allow the transit service, which expects a ridership of 503 million in 2012, to balance its budget without cutting routes or hours of operation.

The service changes come after the TTC increased its "loading standard" – the acceptable average capacity for during rush hour – from 48 to 53 riders per bus.

"There will be increased wait times on some routes, that is true, there will be some increased crowding, that is also true," Ross said. "But in the end all routes will be saved. There will be no cuts to any routes. No outright elimination of any bus or streetcar routes."

Among the routes slated for changes include the Airport Rocket shuttle service, two Bathurst Street routes, as well as service on Bayview Avenue, Birchmount Road, Carlton Street and two routes on Dufferin Road.

The change is expected to save the cash strapped transit service some $15 million in 2012.

And Ross did not rule the possibility of a fare hike next year as well, noting that a report was due in December to deal with the commission's $30 million shortfall.

"We have always said that (a fare hike) is something that we think needs to occur in the face of a significant financial restraint," he said.

The route changes take effect Jan. 8, 2012.

Notice of the planned route changes came just hours before the transit commission hosted its first town hall meeting giving riders a chance to speak up about the service. Comments from the riders who attended the session ranged from the cleanliness of the washrooms at various subway stations to proposed fare hikes.