Editorial Archive

CEO’s Report – August commentary

Commission seal 8/18/20 12:27 PM

I am extremely pleased to begin this month’s commentary by expressing our appreciation to the provincial and federal governments for the first $404 million in recovery and relief funding coming to the TTC under the Safe Restart Agreement. This is the first installment of a two-phase announcement that will help us address the unprecedented revenue losses and unexpected costs we have incurred as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

This is good news for the TTC and we are truly appreciative to know this support is coming soon. We will continue to work closely with all orders of government on the exact details and timing in the weeks to come.

Even though addressing the COVID-19 pandemic has become a top priority at the TTC this year, we have also been working closely with Toronto Hydro over the past three years to successfully deliver a charging system infrastructure for our first 60 zero-emission, battery-electric buses (or eBuses).

This work is recognized across the transit industry as the most critical and challenging aspect of fleet electrification. As we look towards full electrification of our bus, Wheel-Trans and non-revenue fleets over the next two decades, it is clear that we need to continue to build on our work with Toronto Hydro and expand strategic partnerships with our utility providers.

With this in mind, and in preparation for our report back to the TTC Board, we continue to explore potential partnership opportunities for delivery of eBus infrastructure with Toronto Hydro and Ontario Power Generation (OPG). This has the potential to result in Canada’s first tri-party agreement between a transit agency and its utilities to jointly implement full-fleet electrification.

This agreement would outline the roles and responsibilities for an innovative capital delivery model between public agencies and corporations. Toronto Hydro would deliver increased electrical service capacity to each of our garages ahead of the electrification schedule.

In turn, OPG would design, build, operate and maintain all on-site charging infrastructure under a co-investment and co-ownership model. A high-level overview of this potential opportunity will be included in our report to the TTC Board in October and a settled agreement is tentatively targeted for review and approval by the Board in Q1 2021.

In addition to having the largest fleet of eBuses in North America, the TTC is the only agency with buses from three manufacturers – BYD Canada (BYD), New Flyer Industries (NFI) and Proterra – allowing for the transit industry’s first head-to-head evaluation of long-range eBuses.

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

A critical piece of the TTC’s restart and recovery plans is our capacity to accelerate state-of-good-repair and capital projects at a time when ridership is low.

Since the start of the year, when the final low-floor streetcar entered service, TTC streetcar crews have been jointly working with Bombardier to complete outstanding vehicle modification programs, address warranty items and strengthen the inventory supply chain.

The procurement of the our first accessible streetcar fleet has been, and continues to be, a major transformation at the TTC. Significant changes were required to infrastructure, processes and employee development. As a result, TTC staff developed a seven-point action plan focusing on the following areas:
> Maintenance facility renovations;
> Streetcar way and overhead conversion;
> Vehicle maintenance state-of-good-repair program development and implementation;
> Vehicle maintenance tooling, equipment and maintenance systems upgrades;
> Operational process changes;
> Employee training and development; and
> Business transformation review.

Over the last few months, streetcar staff have taken advantage of reduced ridership and service levels to accelerate state-of-good-repair work that falls under both Bombardier’s and the TTC’s areas of responsibility.

Starting with the Major Repair Program, the TTC and Bombardier have been accelerating repairs on the first 67 streetcars. By increasing the number of vehicles in the program to a high of 22 from seven originally, we are advancing the completion of major repairs by two years – to the end of 2021 rather than 2023. Opportunities are being explored to accelerate the program by an additional six months.

With regards to the subway, I wrote previously in my commentary about the extended subway closure we undertook in late June. We continue to take advantage of low ridership. It has proved very productive in the volume of work accomplished to repair and renew tunnel and track infrastructure.

In early August, the Automatic Train Control (ATC) Project team performed revenue speed testing for the next phase of the project between Queen and Rosedale. The tests performed bring us one step closer to extending ATC service on Line 1 from Vaughan to Rosedale.

The project is on track for completing the next phase of revenue service to Rosedale in November 2020.

Every year teams of skilled workers carry out complex installations and overhaul of track, signals and other safety-critical equipment across the subway network. Regular repair and renewal of our subway infrastructure and rolling stock is absolutely critical to maintaining safe and reliable service.

I am proud of the work we do here and will continue to advocate that safety remain our priority.

In June of last year, a PRESTO update was provided to the TTC Board, which highlighted key contract deliverables that had been met as well as some outstanding items that were yet to be delivered as part of the Master E-Fare Agreement. The TTC and Metrolinx have worked with urgency and commitment towards this settlement recognizing that both organizations want to spend time focusing on moving forward and improving the customer experience in fare payment on the TTC.

Over the last five months, the TTC and Metrolinx staff have been participating in ongoing discussions. The discussions have been focused on the following:
> Resolving financial claims related to PRESTO contract as well as other TTC and Metrolinx rapid transit construction issues related to the Eglinton Crosstown and Finch LRT programs;
> Receiving from Metrolinx a delivery plan and schedule of the remaining contracted items from the Master E-Fare Agreement;
> Developing a new governance structure for the TTC/PRESTO agreement that will ensure effective input and oversight;
> Agreeing on improvement to the dispute resolution process to more effectively address future disputes;
> Assessing a revised method of managing and reconciling fare revenue collected by the PRESTO system; and
> Confirming the roadmap and procurement strategy for the modernization of PRESTO technology (including Open Payments) with inputs and direction from the TTC’s 5-Year Fare Policy and 10-Year Fare Collection Strategy.

The new governance structure will allow greater bilateral decision-making involving both TTC and Metrolinx.

While there is a great deal of work ahead, progress to date on all of these issues has been positive and we will be bringing a PRESTO update to the September Board meeting. The report will update Commissioners on these discussions and highlight the advancements and progress that have been made since the last PRESTO update in 2019.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the TTC has proactively increased its scheduled cleaning routines to mitigate the spread of this dreadful disease and protect both our employees and customers. We are disinfecting common touch points on vehicles and in stations multiple times daily.

As we continue to put safety first and foremost, the TTC purchased almost 600 foot-activated hand sanitizer dispensers from a local Canadian company called Canadian Mill Nettclean Supply Inc. to distribute throughout the system.

With Toronto and the rest of the GTA now in Stage 3 of the Province’s economic recovery plan, public transit continues to play a vital role during reopening of our city and region. By wearing a face covering, our customers are doing their part to make sure the virus has nowhere to go.

Nearly 95 per cent of customers riding the TTC are wearing a face covering since they became mandatory on the TTC at the start of July. Even before face coverings became mandatory, our Research and Analytics staff started conducting regular observations at key locations across the system.

Having said that, I need to emphasize that there are exceptions to wearing a face covering on the TTC; for example, people with medical conditions and TTC employees working behind physical barriers. It is important for all of us to keep this top of mind while using our services.

Last month, accessibility in the subway received a lift – two actually – when a pair of elevators entered service at Wellesley Station.

Wellesley became our 47th accessible subway station. A new emergency exit was also opened at this location. Easier access at Chester and Dupont stations is nearing completion while work continues at Wilson, Runnymede and Bay where elevators are scheduled to be operational by year’s end.

With contracts approved by the Board in July, construction at Donlands and College is scheduled to start in Q3 2020, which will also involve building new emergency exits. Elevator construction continues at Yorkdale, Sherbourne, Keele and Lansdowne.

We have accelerated the Easier Access Phase III Project to ensure that all remaining subway stations become accessible by 2025, in compliance with provincial legislation.

This brings me to a deeply tragic episode in the TTC’s long history. On August 11, the TTC lowered our flags to half-staff in remembrance of the three people killed in the Russell Hill subway tragedy 25 years ago.

I want to extend my heartfelt sympathy to the families of the three women who died in the accident. I know that memories of the accident remain fresh for many. The crash at Russell Hill remains a tragedy and our thoughts are with all those affected by the event.

As you know the safety of customers and Operators is paramount to all the TTC does. Actions taken by the TTC in the wake of the tragedy included new protocols and procedures for subway operations, the signalling system, track and vehicle maintenance, subway communications and employee training.

Since then, the TTC has made state-of-good-repair a priority for capital investments, including an upgrade to the signals on Line 1 to an Automatic Train Control system. In 2019, the TTC produced a $33.5-billion Capital Investment Plan that identifies much-needed infrastructure upgrades and repairs. Earlier this year, the City of Toronto approved a new City Building Fund that will allocate billions of dollars to that work.

And finally, at September’s Board meeting we will be bringing forward our third COVID-19 report to provide a full update. Stay safe and I look forward to our meeting on September 24, 2020.

Richard J. Leary
Chief Executive Officer
August 2020

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