Editorial Archive

CEO’s Report – June commentary

Commission seal 6/9/21 6:00 PM

Throughout June, the TTC is proud to recognize and celebrate Indigenous History Month and Pride.

As in previous years, we’ve wrapped a TTC bus on the 94 Wellesley route with Pride-themed artwork to celebrate the history, courage and diversity of Toronto’s Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex, Queer and Questioning communities (2SLGBTQ+). If you spot the bus, be sure to take a photo and share it on social media using the hashtag, #TTCPride.

If you’re visiting 1900 Yonge St. this month, look for the Pride Flag, which will be flying from June 1 to 14, followed by the Transgender Pride Flag from June 15 to June 30. These flags symbolize our commitment to combat homophobia, transphobia and biphobia in our workplace and on our transit system.

To honour the rich history of Indigenous Peoples, TTC staff consulted with the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation and an Indigenous Young Elder, Philip Cote, to create an awareness campaign that’s running in TTC stations, vehicles and work locations.

Part of the campaign highlights different spots along TTC routes that have Indigenous significance. We’ve also wrapped five streetcars with a land acknowledgement in the spirit of equity, inclusion and reconciliation. In addition, our new Ride Guide was released this month and features the Medicine Wheel Map on the cover. The illustration is by Que Rock, an Indigenous artist, and is based on the Anishnaabe Medicine Wheel teachings.

This month, we will also be featuring employees who agreed to share their stories of being Indigenous in Canada and at the TTC. I would like to thank Sheldon Morriseau, Karen Hoare and John Robinson for sharing their heritage and their experiences with us.

On June 1 at 2:15 p.m., the TTC brought all of its vehicles to a standstill and paused for two minutes of silence to honour the 215 children whose remains were discovered on the grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School in Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation territory. I want to express my deep sadness on behalf of all TTC employees. While we know our Indigenous History Month campaign will not erase the pain this and other tragedies have caused, we hope that it can help to educate our communities so that we can know and do better moving forward.

I also want to acknowledge the hard work of all our employees, and in particular our frontline workers. They have been through a lot this past year, and we know they continue to face ongoing challenges. Recently, we have seen a rise in assaults against employees across all frontline workers.

This is an issue we take very seriously. Above all else we want to make sure that every single one of our employees makes it home safely. I have been in discussion with both Toronto City Manager Chris Murray and Police Chief James Ramer to see how we can work together to support employees. As well, we are in the process of finalizing a communication campaign reinforcing this message to all our customers. I know the greatest asset our transit system has is our employees and their safety is a top priority for the TTC.

People Group

I would like to take this opportunity to recognize our long-time Chief People Officer Gemma Piemontese, who will be retiring at the end of June. Gemma has served with the TTC for nearly 40 years.

Gemma began her career at the TTC in 1982. She worked in Service Planning and Engineering as well as Construction before joining Human Resources in 1989. She held increasingly senior roles in Employee Relations, Occupational Health as well as Claims Management and Placement Services before being promoted to Head of HR in 2012. Five years later, after a reorganization of departments formed the new People Group, Gemma was promoted to Chief People Officer.

We will be celebrating Gemma’s distinguished career virtually later this month and I look forward to one day recognizing Gemma’s immense contributions with an in-person ceremony.

On behalf of the TTC Executive and all employees, I’d like to publicly congratulate Gemma on a distinguished TTC career and best wishes for a long and fulfilling retirement!

Diversity and Culture Group

On May 25, the Toronto and Region Chapter of the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) hosted its first-ever panel in recognition of Asian Heritage Month.

The virtual discussion, Perspectives for Addressing the Rise in Anti-Asian Hate Crimes, focused on the history of anti-Asian racism in North America, and the increase in anti-Asian racism throughout the pandemic. Offering their insights were: Avvy Go, the Clinic Director of the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic; Kate Shao, a labour and employment lawyer and Board Member of the Toronto Chapter of the Chinese Canadian National Council; and Leslie Woo, Chief Executive Officer of CivicAction.

Within the organization, the TTC recognized Asian Heritage Month in May by sharing the experiences of employees of Asian descent and recognizing the contributions of Asian Canadians and their diverse stories of resilience and perseverance.

Strategy and Customer Experience Group

Free Wi-Fi on the 35 Jane bus route
Free public Wi-Fi is now available on all buses on the 35 Jane route. This marks the beginning of a phased proof-of-concept pilot involving about 100 buses running on the Jane and Markham Road routes. The 102 Markham Road trial is scheduled to start on June 14.

Both the 35 and 102 services operate through a number of key Neighbourhood Improvement Areas in the west and east ends of the city, which will benefit from free internet access.

Customers are invited to provide feedback about their experience by calling our Customer Service Centre or by completing a suggestion form available at ttc.ca.

The pilot runs through summer during which time TTC staff will evaluate the performance of the equipment on the vehicles and gather customer feedback to help inform a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a Wi-Fi network on buses and streetcars. The RFP will be issued later this year.

APTA webinar
I was pleased to take part in a webinar hosted by the American Public Transit Association on May 20. I participated with transit colleagues from Georgia, Virginia and California in a discussion about service integration and new ways of looking at urban mobility.

As North America’s third largest transit agency, the TTC operates an extensive and integrated multi-modal system that carries 85 per cent of all transit trips in the GTA. We are a key connector of people to leisure, services and employment across the region.

Public transit in the GTA is delivered by 10 different agencies, all of which do a terrific job of knowing the needs of their customers and delivering service as best they can in their respective communities. Ultimately, with a more co-ordinated approach, we can improve and integrate without losing that local knowledge or compromising service that communities depend upon.

I speak with the other transit CEOs about this regularly, and we’ve established a peer working group to advance this initiative. We know there’s room for improving cross-boundary journeys and increasing regional transit ridership, and we’re excited to take on this work, starting with a cross-boundary service pilot later this year.

Vehicles Group

Sixty new streetcars coming to the TTC
All of us at the TTC were elated at last month’s decisions by the Board and City Council to approve the purchase of 60 accessible streetcars and upgrades to Hillcrest Complex.

The funding commitments by Federal, Provincial and City partners announced earlier in the month enables the TTC to secure the additional vehicles as well as much-needed investments at Hillcrest, to accommodate an expanded fleet. Our Streetcar Program now gives us the ability to provide reliable and accessible service for decades to come. Streetcar service on a number of routes is currently supported by 50 buses. This $568 million investment will allow us to reallocate those vehicles back to the bus network where they are needed.

Investment in public infrastructure, transit especially, is critical to local and national economies as we begin to put the pandemic behind us and welcome customers back to the system. These new streetcars will contribute to a reduction in gridlock and provide faster, more frequent and environmentally friendly TTC service. Effective transit is an important contributor to the city’s prosperity, and this funding is a recognition of how important it is for Torontonians to be able to get to places efficiently.

The first deliveries are scheduled to start in late 2023. This purchase will bring the total fleet size to 264 in 2025.

Board of Trade panel discussion
On June 1, I had the opportunity to participate in a Toronto Board of Trade virtual event. With support from TTC staff, we delivered a comprehensive presentation on our program to support the City’s climate targets. Green fleets and green energy was the focus of the panel discussion, which included our partners at Ontario Power Generation, President and CEO Ken Hartwick, and Toronto Hydro’s Elias Lyberogiannis, Executive Vice-President, Planning and Chief Engineering and Modernization Officer. As previously reported in the CEO’s commentary, the TTC operates the largest battery-electric bus fleet in North America.

The TTC has an ambitious program underway to achieve a 100-per-cent, zero-emissions bus fleet by 2040.

This includes charging infrastructure at strategic bus garages, stations and transit stops across the network. By 2025, we expect to have about 300 more long-range eBuses running on our surface routes.

Infrastructure and Engineering Group

Late last month, we completed our third extended subway closure on Line 1, between St George and St Andrew stations. This stretch of track was closed for 10 days on two previous occasions this year to perform a variety of essential maintenance and state-of-good-repair work. Some of the major work finished by crews included:
> Completion of 44,000 square feet of asbestos abatement at St Patrick and Queen’s Park platforms, saving about two years of platform closures/trains bypassing at each station.
> Installation of new, high-capacity traction power cables.
> Removal of 3,000 square feet of transite conduit. Transite is a form of asbestos.

Accelerating this work during a period of reduced ridership has spared our customers between 75 and 100 weekend closures over the next few years. Thanks to everyone involved in this massive effort.

During the pandemic, our engineering and infrastructure teams have taken a different and innovative approach to some of our most critical state-of-good-repair work, and we’ve made significant progress. Surveys have shown that customers are supportive of this approach, and we’re truly appreciative for their patience and understanding.

Safety and Environment Group

As announced by the Province, all frontline transit workers who aren’t able to work from home were eligible for their first vaccination last month.

Although at the time, almost 90 per cent of our employees already qualified for vaccination because of age or address, the change accelerated the opportunity for TTC employees to receive a shot.

To further help our employees get vaccinated, the TTC has teamed up with hospitals and health partners to organize first-dose vaccine clinics at our work locations.

The first pop-up clinic on TTC property was held at our new McNicoll Division on May 13, and at the time of writing this commentary, we’ve held seven more clinics for employees and contractors.

We continue to work with our health partners to add more pop-up clinics on TTC properties throughout the city. Employees are participating during their breaks or before or after their shift.

The TTC sends out a big thank you to:
> Scarborough Health Network
> Women’s College Hospital
> North York General Hospital
> North York Toronto Health Partners
> Michael Garron Hospital
> Sunnybrook Hospital

Thanks to these clinics, over 1,700 employees (more than 10 per cent of the workforce) and TTC contractors have received their shot. Getting as many people vaccinated as soon as possible is an important piece of putting this pandemic behind us and having our lives return to normal. With the Province accelerating appointments for second doses, the TTC will look for opportunities to partner with health providers to offer second shots.

The next virtual Board meeting is scheduled on June 16 at 10 a.m., and will be live-streamed on the Official TTC YouTube Channel.

Richard J. Leary
Chief Executive Officer
June 2021

Published in the CEO’s Report, which can be found on the TTC intranet and ttc.ca.

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