Editorial Archive

CEO’s Report – June commentary

Commission seal 6/11/20 3:49 PM

With the state of emergency extended to June 30, I would like to begin this month’s commentary by acknowledging the approximately 60 TTC employees who have tested positive for COVID-19 (as of the second week of June). These employees are in our thoughts every day. Fortunately, to date, about 30 have returned to work, and we wish everyone recuperating at home a complete and speedy recovery.

From the beginning of this dreadful pandemic, it has been the tireless dedication displayed by our frontline workers, and many others behind the scenes, that has kept the TTC a resilient and reliable option for those in our city who rely on us most. I am deeply grateful to our staff and customers for their vigilance and ongoing efforts to practice proper physical distancing, wearing face coverings while riding the system, and doing those basic things to keep safe and well.

The safety of customers and employees is the cornerstone of everything the we do at the TTC. The commitment to safety guides the actions taken to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and ensures the TTC has put appropriate measures in place to protect customers and employees as the Province of Ontario lifts restrictions in order to restart the economy.

As the province and city begin to reopen and customers return to the TTC, it will be impossible for customers to maintain physical distancing – already we are seeing bus ridership jump to its highest levels since the province shut down in March. For many, public transit is the primary mode of mobility and the TTC will play an important role in the restart and recovery from COVID-19, which is why the TTC has put a multi-point plan together that focuses on the following key actions:
> The enhanced and continued cleaning and disinfection of all public places, stations and vehicles with a focus on touch and grab points, such as buttons, railings, handles and straps;
> Making face coverings mandatory as of July 2;
> Distributing one million masks to customers;
> Building on employee safety initiatives, including continued distribution of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits for Operators that include gloves, disinfectant wipes, reuseable masks, hand sanitizer and face shields as well as installing barriers at workplaces;
> Customer education and awareness campaign;
> Hand sanitizer is being made available throughout the subway system; and
> Subway stations are being equipped with floor markings and directional signage to help direct traffic.

Now while we’ve all been working hard to stop the spread of COVID-19 here at home, we have all been watching the disturbing and heartbreaking events taking place in the U.S. over the past few weeks.

George Floyd’s death is one of the most recent instances in a long history of terrible tragedies and while this particular incident took place in the United States, we need to recognize and address the fact that anti-Black racism exists here in Canada, and yes, here at the TTC.

As we all know, change is needed. Anti-Black racism deeply harms our Black employees, customers and communities, and it affects us all. Moving forward, we want to make it clear that racist actions will be called out and will not be tolerated. To address this, I think it is important that you know what we are doing to make change happen at the TTC.

To bring awareness to all levels of the organization, the TTC has begun the rollout of several training sessions in partnership with the City’s Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit starting with TTC Executives, senior leadership group, Managers and Supervisors as well as both Fare Inspectors and Special Constables.

The TTC has several action items identified in Toronto’s Action Plan to Confront Anti-Black Racism. To address these actions, the TTC has joined the Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit’s City Leads Circle, which encourages collaboration between City Divisions, Agencies, Boards and Commissions.

The TTC has engaged Arleen Huggins, who is a partner at Koskie Minsky LLP and head of the firm’s Employment Law Group, where she specializes in employment law and human rights. Arleen will assist in advancing our work to combat anti-Black racism on the frontlines and across the various levels of the organization and to promote greater diversity and inclusion at the TTC.

Earlier this year, TTC employees submitted an application to start the first international chapter of the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO). COMTO is an organization that develops and advocates for its members by helping to foster barrier-free access to career advancement opportunities within the transportation industry for all people of racialized and marginalized groups.

This grassroots initiative is the kind of change that we need and support. It was created by TTC employees who were looking for ways to leverage the experience of the COMTO organization to bring about change and growth opportunities for all marginalized groups working in the transportation industry in the GTHA.

I recognize that these events are weighing heavily on our employees, as well as in the communities we serve. That’s why it’s so important that our workforce and our customers know that the TTC is serious about making change.

One positive outcome from the pandemic has been the ability to significantly advance our state-of-good-repair (SOGR) schedule as a result of a severe decline in ridership. In May, the TTC began operating at reduced service levels to match the decreased ridership. The reduction in service has presented opportunities to accelerate repair and maintenance activities to our fleet of buses, trains and streetcars as well as our SOGR and Capital Program. We will be able to advance an additional 25 per cent of our asset maintenance and SOGR work plan for 2020.

TTC staff have been working to identify outstanding projects that can be addressed during this service reduction. For instance, the accessible streetcar fleet needed repair and maintenance work. Due to the drop in the peak service requirement this temporary reduction has resulted in an extra 19 streetcars available for repair and maintenance activities, in addition to the pre-COVID spares normally available for maintenance and repair. Ultimately, these efforts could bring the fleet of accessible streetcars to a standardized configuration and improve service reliability of the earlier production vehicles a year-and-a-half sooner than originally scheduled.

As well, we are advancing timelines at Chester Station. Reduced ridership has allowed us to close the station for two weeks in order to advance construction work on elevators and other easier access features. As a result, the station will become accessible in early fall, well ahead of schedule.

The TTC strongly believes that all customers should enjoy the freedom, independence and flexibility to travel anywhere on its transit system, and is currently making Toronto’s transit system barrier-free by implementing changes that will make all of its services and facilities accessible.

And finally, I would like to take this opportunity to formally introduce Gary Downie as the TTC’s new Chief Capital Officer combining the position with his previous role of Chief of Major Projects. Gary takes over from Susan Reed Tanaka who retired last month after 30 years of dedicated service at the Commission.

The past few years have brought about many exciting changes, challenges and opportunities for the TTC and for public transit overall. Gary’s experience and leadership in delivering major transit projects will be instrumental in his new role as Chief Capital Officer as he leads his team through the challenges ahead and oversees various infrastructure, accessibility and SOGR capital projects.

These are unusual times, but I am sure that with our combined efforts, we will be well-positioned for our customers to come back to the TTC in a way that is safe and welcoming for everyone.

Richard J. Leary
Chief Executive Officer
June 2020

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