Editorial Archive

CEO’s Report – September commentary

Commission seal 9/19/19 6:34 AM

I would like to officially introduce Rich Wong as the TTC’s Chief Vehicles Officer. Rich was appointed to the position in late August after serving as Acting Chief for eight months. Rich has 20 years of experience at the TTC and has held progressively responsible positions across the organization over the course of his career.

Rich is part of the Executive Team. His role sends a strong message to customers, and our workforce, that the TTC’s multi-modal fleet, which safely moves 1.7 million customers a day, is maintained in a state of good repair, sees fewer in-service breakdowns and is replaced with new, modern vehicles as needed.

I am pleased to report that Gary Downie, the TTC’s Chief Transit Expansion Officer, is remaining with the TTC in the role of Chief of Major Projects, effective September 8. Gary has over 35 years’ experience delivering major projects – in both the public and private sector – 18 of which have been managing the infrastructure upgrade and expansion projects for large-scale transit providers in dense metropolitan areas. His prior experience includes Head of Delivery of Major Projects at Transport for London. Gary is a mechanical engineer and has an MBA from Edinburgh Napier University.

The TTC also recently congratulated Dwayne Geddes as the new Head of Wheel-Trans. Dwayne joined the TTC as a Streetcar Operator in 2004. During his 15-year career, he has held several supervisory and management positions, including roles in Streetcar and Bus Transportation, Operations Control Centre, Employee Relations and Wheel-Trans. Dwayne had been serving as Acting Head since March. Dwayne is leading our paratransit division through a vitally important transition, integrating Wheel-Trans and the conventional network via Family of Services as part of our Wheel-Trans Transformation program.

Dwayne will be making a presentation at the Public Forum on Accessible Transit at the Beanfield Centre at Exhibition Place on September 25. The purpose of the forum is to provide an update on accessibility initiatives at the TTC and to gather feedback from the public. Everyone is invited to attend.

The TTC had a very busy summer season. Since the last Board meeting in July, the TTC and the City participated in numerous meetings and discussions with the Province on realignment of transit responsibilities.

We were elated to hear the Government of Canada announce on August 26 priority funding consideration for the expansion of Bloor-Yonge Station under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Plan.

We also retired the last of our 30-year-old articulated streetcars while we continue to receive new replacement buses and streetcars.

In my last several reports, I have provided an update on the ongoing discussions the TTC is participating in with the City and the Province of Ontario with respect to the realignment of transit responsibilities.

As previously reported, on July 23 the Province enacted a regulation (O. Reg 248/19) that designated the Scarborough Subway Extension, Yonge North Subway Extension and Relief Line South and North as ‘sole responsibility projects’ of Metrolinx. Under the legislation, the Province has the authority to transfer assets, liabilities, rights and obligations related to the projects from the TTC to Metrolinx.

As a result of the regulation being filed, effective August 30 consultant contracts related to the three transit expansion projects have been reassigned to Metrolinx from the TTC. Consultant staff under these contracts have now relocated to Metrolinx offices.

The TTC is still engaged in discussions with Metrolinx on a potential staff services agreement for TTC staff to provide support to the transit expansion projects that are now under Metrolinx authority. The parameters of such an agreement are still being discussed. In the interim, the TTC is putting a priority on ensuring TTC capital project resource needs are met and my Executive Team has begun the process of identifying opportunities to realign resources internally. Regular meetings with impacted staff have been occurring to provide information as it becomes available.

As previously reported, the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) has retained a third party consultant to undertake an asset condition inspection of the TTC’s subway assets and an asset valuation exercise. Over the month of August, the TTC provided comprehensive safety and system training for a small team of MTO-led inspectors. The TTC has also provided access to over 250,000 documents requested by the MTO, which the provincial team is currently in the process of reviewing.

On-site inspections commenced in early September and are expected to conclude by the end of the month. The inspections are focusing on a sample of specific asset categories, such as stations, vehicles, wayside, tunnels, tracks and bridges. Inspectors are accompanied by assigned TTC staff at all times and have been paired with subject matter experts in each asset category.

I remain committed to providing regular updates to the Board and TTC employees with respect to ongoing discussions and activities with the Province. Further updates will be forthcoming once more information is available.

At the time of writing this commentary, Nova Bus had delivered 124 of 200 hybrid-electric buses scheduled for delivery this year. The remaining hybrid bus deliveries are on schedule.

These latest generation hybrids are performing well above the TTC’s reliability target of 12,000 kilometres mean distance between failures. The latest measurements indicated that they are consuming 25 per cent less fuel than the most advanced clean-diesel buses in our fleet, and are 46 per cent cleaner than the buses they are replacing. Staff has calculated that the reduction in fuel consumption has cut our greenhouse gas emissions by well over 48 per cent.

By mid-August,10 all-electric buses (eBus) were delivered by New Flyer Industries. Nine of them have been commissioned and are now serving five different routes. These buses are being maintained and stored at our Arrow Road Garage. Staff has reported that the New Flyers are achieving a range of 200 kilometres under load (with air conditioning) and are consuming on average 1.45 kilowatt hours per kilometre, which is 10 per cent better than initial modelling estimates.

As of September 12, six of 10 eBuses from Proterra arrived at Mount Dennis Garage and are all undergoing commissioning. Details on the launch date of the first bus and its first route will be known soon.

All 10 eBuses from the third manufacturer, BYD, are being completed at its finishing facility in Newmarket. The first BYD eBus is scheduled to arrive in early October.

The installation of charging systems at three of our garages (Arrow Road, Mount Dennis and Eglinton) continues. Arrow Road Garage supports 20 all-electric buses, Mount Dennis Garage supports 14 and, by mid-September, Eglinton Garage will be equipped for 10.

Construction of the McNicoll Bus Garage is approximately 60 per cent complete. Over the summer, underground work was completed and the contractor is now grading the bus roadway and employee parking lot in preparation for paving. The white cool roof has been fully installed and vegetation is being placed on the green roof. The solar thermal wall is complete and almost all windows have been installed. All concrete floor slabs are in place and significant progress has been made on the installation of electrical wiring and mechanical systems.

Major building equipment has also been installed. The Environmental Compliance Approval for the facility was received from the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. Within weeks, permanent electrical power will be turned on and commissioning of selected equipment and systems will begin. The contractor will complete the building exterior this fall, which will facilitate installation of the remaining equipment, systems and finishes over the winter and spring. A project update was sent to the local community and posted online in June.

Earlier this month, we welcomed representatives from the East Japan Railway Company to the TTC. They were a technical committee interested in learning about our experience with Automatic Train Control (ATC) systems. We shared information on our legacy signalling system and our current transition to ATC. The group was given a demonstration at Wilson Yard and on the Line 1 extension. We had a great exchange of information, as challenges and lessons learned regarding each other’s ATC systems were shared.

Our ATC project is progressing well with the next phase of implementation to Queen Station on schedule to be commissioned in Q1 2020. Testing of this phase is well underway at 70 per cent with more than 500 low-speed test cases completed last month. The results of the low-speed testing will feed the development of the high-speed software. After the functional software simulation is completed, high-speed testing will start in Q4 2019.

Results from the high-speed testing will feed the development of the revenue service software enabling ATC up to Queen Station in Q1 2020.

Installation activities in the subsequent phase from Queen to Rosedale stations is nearly complete at 99 per cent. Testing activities of ATC assets has also started and is at five per cent.

Construction teams have taken advantage of the good summer weather and have started installation activities outside the tunnels in the Davisville Station area. Over 4,000 feet of cable trough has been installed along with 75,000 feet of cable. The overall installation of the Rosedale to Eglinton phase is at 12 per cent.

Our subway maintenance vehicles continue to be commissioned with Automatic Train Protection (ATP) to allow greater travel speeds within the ATC portion of Line 1 for maintenance activities. One additional workcar was commissioned with ATP last month, bringing the total number of workcars with ATP to five.

The project team continues to assess project risks and is nearing completion of the quantitative risk assessment. The ATC budget is also being reviewed as part of the assessment and will be reflected in the 2020 Capital Budget as noted during the 2019 budget process.

To optimize the benefits of the ATC system along the stretch of track north of Eglinton, a number of switches and crossover track need to be replaced. To perform that work, a restricted speed zone will need to be implemented. The work plan and scheduled dates in the fall will be announced soon. Our aim will be to minimize the impact on our customers by keeping the restricted speed zones as short in duration as possible and at the highest speed possible while maintaining safe track conditions for our workers.

Fort Monaco, our Chief of Infrastructure and Engineering, will provide a short presentation on this work at our October Board meeting.

Since the PRESTO fare payment system arrived at the TTC, we have been working very hard to encourage customers to make the switch from legacy fare media and to modernize our station staff model from Collectors in booths to mobile Customer Service Agents.

With PRESTO readers on every bus, streetcar and fare gate, and with PRESTO fare vending machines and self-serve reload machines at every station, the provincially-led fare card system has given our customers many benefits, but also many challenges.

Over the summer, I met with Metrolinx President and CEO, Phil Verster, to discuss the outstanding claims between the parties and the status of the outstanding deliverables of the contract for the implementation of PRESTO on the TTC. It is clear from our discussions that Metrolinx considers the contract deliverables complete.

So, while these discussions were informative about the positions of each organization, we were not able to reach a common understanding and agreement. We did agree that the next step is to proceed with arbitration, which is the dispute resolution process provided in the contract.

We are working with external counsel to review the process and finalize material and submissions. As we outlined in our report to the Board in June, the TTC does not consider the contract closed. Rather, there are significant deliverables outstanding, including open payment and account-based technology (which includes equipment), equipment to provide PRESTO Tickets on buses and streetcars, an acceptable third-party distribution network and Service Level Agreements for all equipment.

As we work with Metrolinx to resolve the issues noted above, we continue to make headway in our transition to PRESTO. Before the year is over, we will reach another major milestone when we stop selling tickets, tokens and our remaining pass products. The PRESTO adoption rate is now over 80 per cent with many customers still using legacy fare media to access our system. When ticket, token and pass sales are discontinued, we want to ensure the move to PRESTO is as seamless as possible for these customers.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be rolling out a comprehensive marketing and communications plan with the objective of further driving PRESTO adoption. We will announce an official stop selling date as we progress.

Despite being only one day into the fall season when the TTC Board convenes at City Hall on September 24, winter preparations are already underway at the TTC. Getting service ready for the winter starts in the summer and fall.

The same intensive preventative maintenance program that we conduct for extreme hot temperatures is carried out in anticipation of those biting cold days that lie ahead.

Crews in Subway and Surface Operations each have long checklists of activities that begin as early as July. Some of the items that have already been completed trackside include: inspections and repairs to heating equipment on Lines 1 and 2; replacement of power rail heating equipment on Line 3; and tree pruning along the open cuts on Line 2.
From September through to November the checklist includes:
> Subway yard trackside heating checks.
> Snow fence installation in yards and mainline stretches.
> Switch heater element and infrastructure replacement and trailing switch installations at Leslie Barns.
> Leaf cleanup along tracks.

With more than 2,400 revenue vehicles including buses, streetcars, subways and paratransit vehicles in the fleet, maintenance crews have a lengthy list of inspect- repair-test programs. Examples of these activities include, but are not limited to:
> Heating system (cab, passenger and door threshold heaters inspection and testing).
> Cab defroster (inspection and testing).
> HVAC filter (cleaning and replacement).
> Ramp system (cleaning, testing and lubrication).
> Windshield wipers and fluid top ups.
> Pneumatic system (air dryers’ desiccant replacement, filter change and testing).
> Installation of winter tires on articulated buses.
> Installation of anti-icing tanks on T1 and TR storm trains.

In addition, winter preparations are also conducted on our fleet of automotive and rail non-revenue vehicles. These include inspection, testing and installation of auxiliary equipment such as plows, snow throwers and salting equipment on pickup trucks, dump trucks and rail workcars.

I would like to quickly highlight that our on-time performance for our streetcar fleet has shown continuous improvement over the last few months. We have implemented new route schedules and a narrowed management focus on affected routes, which has led to better performance despite challenges faced by construction and annual summer events in the city that impact service. For example, the 501 Queen streetcar service has experienced better performance thanks to improved route management oversight. This has resulted in more on-time departures and reduced short- turning of streetcars. We are expecting these positive trends to continue.

On October 13, we will be introducing service reliability improvements on the following routes: 12 Kingston Rd, 16 McCowan, 17 Birchmount, 34 Eglinton East, 47 Lansdowne, 51 Leslie, 66 Prince Edward, 71 Runnymede, 75 Sherbourne, 77 Swansea, 79 Scarlett Rd, 83 Jones, 87 Cosburn, 96 Wilson, 98 Willowdale-Senlac, 100 Flemingdon Park, 102 Markham Rd, 108 Driftwood, 165 Weston Rd North, 506/306 Carlton, 509 Harbourfront and 510 Spadina.

At the same time, as a result of implementing the recommendations of the Junction Area Study, the 30 Lambton route will be changed to the 30 High Park, the 40 Junction will be renamed 40 Junction- Dundas West and we will be introducing a new service named 189 Stockyards.

In May 2015, we implemented a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to manage and keep track of complaints, suggestions and inquiries. Customers can reach out to us on a variety of channels, including telephone, our website and social media. Once their message is received, it is categorized in the system (i.e. subway delay, fare dispute, etc.) and forwarded to the appropriate department for a response, or acknowledgement.

Although we monitor and respond to customer complaints on a daily basis, we wanted to take a deeper dive into CRM historical data to better understand evolving customer expectations and assess the impact some improvement initiatives have had on the customer experience over time.

Since 2016, the top four complaint categories have remained unchanged:
1. Surface delay (reliability)
2. Discourtesy
3. Vehicle operation
4. Bypassing of customers

Although the top complaints have held fairly constant, the following complaint categories have trended down in the past two years:
> Fare or transfer disputes
> Complaints about the condition of our vehicles
> Early departure complaints

In Q1 and Q2 of 2019, we saw an 11 per cent decrease in overall complaint volume compared to the same time last year. Complaints about subway delays and short turns have both decreased this year, suggesting our service improvements are having a positive impact on customer experience.

At our October meeting, we will be sharing a presentation with the Board on our CRM data analysis. It will include findings and insights on high priority issues, and how we plan to leverage this valuable data source going forward to improve the experience for our customers.

We are looking forward to our meeting with the Board this month after a long summer break.

Richard J. Leary
Chief Executive Officer
September 2019

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