Editorial Archive

A tough week for the TTC and its customers

8/8/14 6:00 AM

It’s been a tough week on the subway with two major incidents during morning rush hours that caused service to be suspended for a period of time.

On Tuesday morning (Aug. 5), flooding was discovered in the tunnel between St Clair West and Eglinton West stations just as trains began to enter service on Line 1 (Yonge-University-Spadina). This area suffers from poor drainage, so additional pumps are in place to divert excess water to the city’s storm drains. After an intense downpour, one of these pumps failed. A 70-strong bus shuttle was deployed while emergency crews pumped the water to allow the safe operation of trains to resume.

On Wednesday (Aug. 6) , just after 7 a.m., a person accessed the track at Lansdowne on Line 2 (Bloor-Danforth) and was struck by an incoming train. Once again, a shuttle bus service had to be arranged with no notice and this shuttle was progressively built up to more than 60 vehicles in order to move customers between Keele and Ossington stations.

Emergency bus shuttles are provided by pulling service buses from routes across the city. At most times – and especially during the peak rush hours – our bus fleet is fully deployed. We do not have the luxury of spare buses or Operators to call on so, when an emergency occurs, a well-rehearsed contingency plan is implemented to commandeer in-service buses to provide the size of shuttle service required. It takes time to get the buses to where they are needed, and there is an obvious impact on the customers on the bus routes from which vehicles have been pulled.

As soon as an incident occurs, emergency and incident response teams are immediately mobilized, both to the incident site and to other stations affected by the disruption. Customer information is posted on a variety of media, including Twitter, ttc.ca and station information screens. Station staff are assisted by colleagues who come from across the TTC. Once buses begin to arrive, the shuttle begins operation. It should be noted, however, that a bus shuttle service can never adequately replace the subway. For every missing train, 12 buses are required so it is impossible to provide the same level of capacity.

What are we doing to minimize such disruption? Line 1’s flooding incident demonstrates the ongoing need to adequately fund the TTC and to continually invest to keep track and other critical infrastructure in a state of good repair. Ultimately, we need to replace the drainage system in the St Clair West area, but in the meantime, we have increased the level of track inspections to minimize the risk of further equipment failure.

Track incursions are more difficult to fix. Many subways across the world now feature platform screen doors that only open when a train is in the platform. The TTC has a long-standing plan to install such equipment, but it is very expensive and is one of the many unfunded items in our capital budget backlog.

In the short-term, we must redouble our efforts to improve the way we manage unplanned disruption. Going forward, incidents such ad these steel my resolve to secure the TTC the sustainable funding it needs to exponentially increase the reliability of your service.

I very much appreciate your patience this week; it has been a challenging one for all concerned.

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