Editorial Archive

CEO’s Report – May commentary

Commission seal 5/7/21 6:00 PM

The road to recovery for the TTC will be largely dependent on the revival of downtown and discretionary trips returning. We know that this recovery may be longer than we had initially thought when the global pandemic first hit Canada last year.

Despite the dramatic changes in our ridership the pandemic has caused, we have seen our crews and fleet continue to work hard to ensure our customers making essential trips can get to where they need to go – whether it be jobs, medical appointments or the other necessary trips they rely on us to provide.

COVID-19 has demonstrated that the TTC’s bus fleet is the true workhorse in the network when it comes to supporting the essential travel needs of our customers. Overall, the bus fleet has been picking up 57 per cent of all customer boardings, compared to 33 per cent on the subway system and 10 per cent on the streetcar network. This is in contrast to pre-pandemic service when bus boardings were 42 per cent of all daily boardings. The subway, so vital to our downtown core, represented 46 per cent of daily boardings.

Last September – our busiest point during the pandemic – the were providing roughly 637,000 customer revenue rides a week across all modes with our bus services supporting 53 per cent of those trips. In the deepest phases of provincial stay-at-home orders last spring, when only the most essential trips were being taken, there were still between 300,000-400,000 daily trips on the TTC.

Over the coming months, we hope to see our customers return. As demand picks up, staff and operating crews will continue to monitor trends and provide a demand-responsive service on the busiest routes across the network. We will continue to report back on these trends, and I look forward to the day when the global pandemic is behind us and we return to normal service levels.

People Group

Mental health and wellness outreach with TTC employees
The May 12 Board meeting will mark a full year since we started conducting public meetings virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Virtual meetings are just one of many measures we’ve put in place at the TTC to ensure the safety of our employees and our customers.

We recognized Mental Health Week on May 3. The past year has been hard on our workforce, as it has been hard for people across the province. We have been taking the time to reach out to employees and ensure they know the mental health and wellness supports that we have available at the TTC. We know the surge in the variants has been particularly challenging and we’re continuing our outreach efforts.

COVID-19 has caused many hardships for our workforce and their families. As an essential service, the TTC has had to figure out how to keep functioning this past year – we’ve had to be nimble and adapt very quickly. I want to take this opportunity to once again thank all employees for the work they do.

Safety and Environment Group

Vaccine information campaign for employees
As Ontario continues its second phase of vaccinations, the TTC has been proactive in providing information to employees as well as directing them to government sources to ensure they have up-to-date information. Based on the provincial government’s most recent announcement, we know that over 85 per cent of our workforce currently qualifies for a vaccine based on their age or residence.

In May, more TTC employees will become eligible for vaccinations:
> Transit workers who do not work from home will be eligible to book through the provincial booking system as early as the week of May 10.
> Those 30 and older will be eligible to book through the provincial booking system as early as the week of May 17.
> Those 18 and older who live in a designated hot spot are now eligible to book through the provincial booking system or directly through their public health unit. Those who do not live in a designated hot spot will be eligible as early as the week of May 24.

Answers to frequently asked questions have been provided through the TTC’s various internal communication channels. In the meantime, we continue to remind everyone to follow public health protocols.

Strategy and Customer Experience Group

Free Wi-Fi pilot on buses update
Later this month, the TTC will be launching free public Wi-Fi on TTC buses on key routes as part of a phased proof-of-concept trial. The TTC will begin testing on the 35 Jane route at the end of May followed by the 102 Markham Road route in early June. The proof-of-concept will be tested on over 60 buses that operate on the Jane and the Markham Road routes.

Over the summer, staff will also work with external vendors using their equipment and Wi-Fi network to further explore the TTC’s options for providing internet access on its vehicles. Wi-Fi buses will be specially marked with decals to identify them as internet ready.

During the proof-of-concept, staff will evaluate the performance of the equipment on the vehicles and gather customer feedback to help inform a Request for Proposal (RFP). The objective for the RFP will be to support a fully managed customer Wi-Fi network on the buses and streetcars. The RFP will be issued later this year.

This work will ultimately better meet the needs of customers as well as increasing digital equity and access as part of the City of Toronto’s ConnectTO program.

Vehicles Group

TTC hosted Instagram Live virtual event on Earth Day
In celebration of Earth Day on April 22, the TTC held a virtual question-and-answer session for the public and media on Instagram Live. It featured TTC subject matter experts discussing our many environmentally conscious programs. The recorded session has received over 1,500 views.

We received numerous audience questions about our eBus fleet, which is the largest battery-electric fleet in North America. Vehicles Chief Engineer Mike Macas provided online participants with an impromptu tour of a TTC eBus and charging station, highlighting all the vehicle’s current features, as well as exciting possibilities for future models. I’d like to thank Mike, Vehicle Programs Head Bem Case, Construction’s Project Manager Jason MacDonald, Corporate Communication’s Hayley Waldman and Marketing and Customer Experience’s Emily Pickles and Maria Khan for engaging the community with an informative discussion on what we’re doing to secure an emissions-free fleet by 2040.

Engineering, Construction and Expansion Group

Extended subway closures
At the time of writing this commentary, the TTC was in the midst of an 11-day closure, on Line 1 between Sheppard West and Wilson stations, to carry out track work and track switch installations and replacements.

The TTC has been capitalizing on reduced ridership due to the pandemic and accelerating vital state-of-good-repair work with minimal inconvenience to customers. In fact, during the previous two extended closures, staff took the opportunity to survey customers on their satisfaction with our service, including shuttle-buses, and whether they were supportive of the 10-day closures given that they would be spared 25 weekend closures by the end of next year. Responses were very favourable.

Of the 1,420 customers who were surveyed during the March closure, 93 per cent of weekday customers were satisfied with the service and 84 per cent supported the closure. Weekend customers were 81 per cent satisfied with service and 83 per cent supported the closure.

During the earlier April closure, 1,513 customers were surveyed; 88 per cent of weekday customers were satisfied with the service, and 82 per cent supported the closure. By time of day, morning and midday customers were 97 per cent satisfied, and 93 per cent supportive of the closure. Customers riding in the p.m. peak, early evening and late evening were 82 per cent satisfied.

When the TTC performs a closure on a portion of the subway, we always try to maximize the work performed. By taking advantage of the reduced ridership, we are continuing to advance essential system improvements that will minimize customer inconvenience in the longer term. The last two extended closures included terrazzo flooring installation and repairs, asbestos removal, station cleaning as well as electrical lighting and traction power work.

The next 10-day closure on Line 1, between St George and St Andrew, is scheduled to start on May 17, 2021. Due to the success we have had on the previous two single platform closures, we will be carrying out asbestos abatement works on two platforms in this closure. This will complete the asbestos removal within this area.

The benefits to the overall network when asbestos abatement work on all four platforms are complete will be a reduction of 75 to 100 weekend closures over the next few years.

When the finishing contract is finalized later this year for these two stations, an update can be provided on the project plan and related costs savings.

The next Board meeting on May 12 is scheduled for 10 a.m. and will be live-streamed on the Official TTC YouTube Channel.

Richard J. Leary
Chief Executive Officer
May 2021

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

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