Editorial Archive

CEO’s Report – September commentary

TTC streetcar scene 9/19/20 8:00 AM

As fall quickly approaches, and Commissioners resume the business of the TTC at their next scheduled meeting on September 24, I hope that everyone had a safe summer.

It has been a challenging year for the TTC – perhaps the most difficult in our long history. Like so many organizations and businesses in our city, we’ve dealt with the realities of the global pandemic and have focused on protecting our customers as well as our employees while continuing to move Toronto forward. Safety is a core value at the TTC – in fact it is paramount in all that we do.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been the professionalism of our front line, and those behind the scenes, that has kept the TTC a resilient and reliable option for those in our city who need us most. As we learned more about the coronavirus, our workforce helped us to quickly modify operations, in close collaboration with health experts, to ensure that we maintained a healthy and safe system. They also blocked the transmission of the virus, managed incidents of worker illness and protected our most vulnerable riders.

TTC employees are in the unique position to see the need that is out there in our community. I’m extremely proud to report that volunteers from our transportation divisions, and TTC members from the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) Toronto and Region Chapter, raised more than $9,600 and filled 800 backpacks with school supplies, TTC face masks and PRESTO cards for school kids in the Mount Dennis community.

As well, I’d like to say a big thank-you to crews in our Operations Training Centre who have been working with Toronto Paramedic Services to help transport hundreds of people from various shelters and encampments to hospitals, medical buildings or cooling centres in specially retrofitted buses.

COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on our business. At the height of the pandemic we were at our lowest point in ridership, carrying only about 15-to-20 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. While ridership is still below 50 per cent of normal on all modes, we’re slowly rebounding and continuing to move hundreds of thousands of customers around the city on a daily basis.

While solutions to combat the COVID-19 crisis have been both costly and labour intensive, the TTC continues to work hard to ensure our riders can get to where they need to go – whether it be jobs, schools or the numerous other essential trips they rely on us for.

We’re continuing to work in close partnership with the City and Toronto Public Health officials, especially as students return to school. We’ll keep running a demand-responsive service, and introduce service reliability improvements, which gives us the flexibility to adjust to changing conditions and travel demands.

We’ve also recently introduced further protective measures for all TTC employees in response to increasing ridership, schools reopening and the potential resurgence of COVID-19 in our city.

As part of RapidTO, with the introduction of the Eglinton East Priority Bus Lanes in October, the 86 Scarborough and 116 Morningside services will begin operating in dedicated lanes on Eglinton Avenue, Kingston Road and Morningside Avenue.

Customers will have faster and more reliable journeys along these corridors. The efficiencies realized from priority bus lane operations will be used to restore the 905 Eglinton East Express and 986 Scarborough Express services, which will also take advantage of the priority corridor.

As part of the 2021 Annual Service Plan, the TTC is currently collecting feedback from customers on service proposals for the RapidTO corridors on Eglinton East and on Jane Street. Building on these consultations, on September 17 the TTC will host the first of two rounds of stakeholder meetings to discuss broader service initiatives in the 2021 Plan. This is part of the TTC’s 5-Year Service Plan and 10-Year Outlook commitment to reach out to stakeholders and the public to receive feedback to refine our services as required. Following the stakeholder meetings, there will be an additional online public survey where we will seek feedback on broader service initiatives proposed for next year.

By the end of September, the TTC will have 60 battery-electric buses in service. In addition to having the largest fleet of eBuses in North America, the TTC is the only agency with vehicles from all three builders of long-range electric buses – BYD Canada, New Flyer Industries and Proterra. The result is the transit industry’s first head-to-head evaluation.

Over the next two years, the analysis will include:
> Assessments of customer and employee satisfaction;
> Engineering tests of both vehicles and charging system performance; and
> Evaluation of vendor performance.

Our thanks to the Government of Canada’s Public Transit Infrastructure Fund (PTIF) and the City of Toronto for investing $140 million to make this happen.

I’d like to add that through PTIF and gas tax funding, the TTC has benefited significantly in recent years thanks to investments from our partner at the federal level. It has enabled us to start addressing the backlog of critical state-of-good-repair work. And we hope to continue building on this partnership.

Capital investment and oversight by this Board has directly contributed to significant on-time performance improvements across all modes of service over the last five years. The TTC Board’s backing of capital projects has helped to achieve safe operations of trains on closer headways through new signalling; to grow an accessible and reliable vehicle fleet; and to expand station capacity and accessibility of the network.

The base capital investments that we’re making today will go a long way to maximizing the life of our system’s assets, enhancing the customer experience and preserving the quality of life in our great city.

Since the TTC Board last met in July, we’ve opened elevators at both Wellesley and Chester stations, our 47th and 48th accessible subway stops, respectively. While construction on the secondary entrance and exit at Chester continues into 2021 as scheduled, the two-week station closure in June helped to complete the elevator construction ahead of schedule.

Easier access work continues at Dupont, Wilson, Runnymede, Bay, Yorkdale, Sherbourne, Keele and Lansdowne stations. With the contracts approved by
Commissioners last July, construction at Donlands and College stations is scheduled to start in Q3 2020, which will also involve the building of new secondary exits/entrances at each location. Next year, construction is scheduled to start at eight more stations: King, Spadina, Castle Frank, Christie, Greenwood, Lawrence, Rosedale and Summerhill.

We have a great deal to say about accessibility initiatives at the TTC so I’d like to encourage everyone to tune in to the Annual TTC Forum on Accessible Transit on October 1 for the latest news. It’s the public’s chance to voice their comments and opinions about our service. This year’s forum is virtual and will be live-streamed, starting at 7 p.m. Everyone is invited to join in.

I look forward to seeing everyone at the virtual meeting next week.

Richard J. Leary
Chief Executive Officer
September 2020

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