Introduction    

Publicly-funded transportation for people with disabilities has been provided in Toronto since 1975, when a pilot project provided service for a small number of non-ambulatory people making a limited number of trips. Since that time, TTC services that accommodate ambulatory and non-ambulatory people with disabilities, on both specialized and conventional services, have grown tremendously.

Virtually all TTC customers benefit from the accessibility features being implemented on conventional services, including accessible low-floor vehicles, elevators, escalators, automatic accessible doors, and improved customer information systems. However, for many seniors, and others who have limited agility, strength, and balance, these features are essential. Therefore, while planning for improved accessibility naturally focuses on overcoming impediments to travel by people with disabilities and seniors, all TTC customers will be better off with improved system accessibility.

In 1989, the Choices for the Future study concluded that the demand for transit trips by people with disabilities in Toronto could be met through the integration of the TTC's specialized Wheel-Trans service and with twenty ‘key' accessible subway stations. The TTC's Easier Access program was initiated to address the accessibility of these key stations with the objective of providing people with mobility limitations with an alternative to travelling solely on the specialized service. This reduces the segregation of people with disabilities and provides the potential for spontaneous travel without pre-booking trips on the TTC's specialized Wheel-Trans service.

Over the years, the program to make stations accessible was expanded to include eventually retrofitting all existing subway stations with elevators and accessibility features and requiring all new rapid transit and LRT stations to be accessible. The TTC also took the initiative to implement a policy requiring all new vehicles to be accessible. This decision was implemented a number of years before the Provincial accessible transportation standard was in place.

As a result, thirty-one existing stations are now accessible, 55% more than was originally envisioned in 1989. In addition, all of the stations on the Sheppard Subway were constructed with elevator access, and all the stations in the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension are being built to TTC and AODA accessibility standards.

Advisory Committee on Accessible Transit (ACAT)   

There are many types of mobility difficulties experienced by individual TTC passengers, and it is a complex task to accommodate all of these needs. The TTC has established an ongoing process for consulting with, and tapping into the expertise of, people with disabilities and to enlist their support in the search for solutions that work for everyone. This is primarily accomplished through consultation with the TTC's Advisory Committee on Accessible Transit (ACAT), a 15-member group representing a broad spectrum of people with disabilities, and seniors.

ACAT and its subcommittees meet regularly and provide advice to TTC staff regarding communications, design review, service planning, and Wheel-Trans operations matters. The time and commitment made by members of the ACAT has been, and will continue to be, invaluable in implementing the TTC's accessibility plans.

Accessible Customer Service Initiatives   

Several customer service initiatives related to accessibility were launched in 2012. In March 2012, the TTC formed its first Customer Liaison Panel (CLP), which was a key recommendation of the 2010 report of the Customer Service Advisory Panel. The objective of the CLP is to provide a mechanism for on-going customer participation in the TTC, and it includes one member representing ACAT.

A key goal for the TTC is to ensure that its elevators and escalators are always available. To further this goal, the TTC is now producing a Daily Customer Service Report which provides the latest information about the TTC's system performance. This report includes information on the availability of elevator and escalator service in the TTC's rapid transit stations. In 2012, the TTC also implemented a new feature on its e-Alerts subscription service, allowing customers to be automatically notified by email about elevator outages as well as elevators returned to service after repairs.

Enhanced sensitivity training continues to be provided to Operators in addition to on-going ACAT initiatives to discuss accessibility issues one-on-one with Operators at the divisional level.

System Accessibility Status   

Exhibit 1 illustrates that accessible conventional transit service is now being provided in most of the City of Toronto. The elements which are not yet accessible are the streetcar network and approximately half of the TTC's subway stations. Current plans call for the streetcar network to begin to become accessible in 2014, and to be fully accessible by 2019. All subway stations are to be accessible by 2025. Work is ongoing to advance both of these initiatives.

Exhibit 1 Map of TTC Accessible Network January 2013

Accessible Stations and Facilities

As of 2012 "Easier Access" upgrades have been fully implemented at thirty-one TTC stations. Upgrades completed at each of these stations have included the installation of one or more elevators, new accessible turnstiles, automatic doors, and new signage and wayfinding. In 2012, St Andrew Station became accessible with the installation of a new elevator to platform level. Table 1 lists the TTC stations with elevators in operation at year-end 2012.

Bus-platform level accessibility features have also been implemented on an accelerated basis at ten additional subway stations. These improvements, which allow for accessible bus-to-bus and bus-to-street transfers, complement the system-wide introduction of accessible buses. This means that transfers between accessible bus routes within these subway stations, and fare gates and doors to the street, are accessible in advance of the installation of elevators and the other features involved in the complete retrofit program. All of the new accessibility features at these stations were completed in 2009 and 2010.

Table 1: Elevator and Easier Access Installations Completed To Date

Location Number of Elevators Year of Completion
Location: Queens Quay Station * 1 elevator Completed in 1990
Location: Downsview Station 3 elevators Completed in 1996
Location: Yonge / Bloor Station 5 elevators Completed in 1996
Location: St Clair West Station * 1 elevator Completed in 1996
Location: Union Station 3 elevators Completed in 1996
Location: Queen Station 2 elevators Completed in 1997
Location: Spadina Station 3 elevators Completed in 1997
Location: Kipling Station 2 elevators Completed in 1999
Location: St George Station 2 elevators Completed in 1999
Location: Finch Station 4 elevators Completed in 1999
Location: Kennedy Station 3 elevators Completed in 1999
Location: Bathurst Station 2 elevators Completed in 1999
Location: Scarborough Centre Station 2 elevators Completed in 2000
Location: Queen's Park Station 2 elevators Completed in 2002
Location: Davisville Station 4 elevators Completed in 2002
Location: Sheppard Station 7 elevators Completed in 2002
Location: Bayview Station 4 elevators Completed in 2002
Location: Bessarion Station 2 elevators Completed in 2002
Location: Leslie Station 2 elevators Completed in 2002
Location:Don Mills Station 5 elevators Completed in 2002
Location: Dundas West Station 2 elevators Completed in 2002
Location: Dundas Station 1 elevator Completed in 2002
Location: Eglinton Station 1 elevators Completed in 2004
Location: Main Street Station 2 elevators Completed in 2004
Location: Eglinton West Station 2 elevators Completed in 2005
Location: Broadview Station 2 elevators Completed in 2006
Location: Jane Station 3 elevators Completed in 2006
Location: Osgoode Station 1 elevator Completed in 2006
Location: York Mills Station 2 elevators Completed in 2007
Location: St Clair Station 2 elevators Completed in 2007
Location: North York Centre Station 2 elevators Completed in 2009
Location: Victoria Park Station 3 elevators Completed in 2011
Location: St Andrew Station 1 elevator Completed in 2012

   *Elevator only

As illustrated in Exhibit 2, the long-term commitment to equip all existing stations in the system with elevators and easier-access features is proceeding on a schedule to have all of the stations complete by 2025. This schedule is based on station Easier Access priority rankings which were developed in consultation with ACAT, taking into account ridership, geographic location, and other criteria. These priority rankings are reviewed periodically.

Exhibit 2 Chart of Accessible Subway and RT Stations projected to 2025

There were 31 accessible stations in 2012, or around 45% of the total subway and RT system. It is projected that all 69 stations will be accessible by the year 2025.

Design and construction work is underway at several TTC subway stations to implement the next phase of the Easier Access program. Exhibit 3 shows the expected date of completion for elevator installation in the remaining 39 stations.

Exhibit 3 Chart of Easier Access Phase 3 2013 - 2025 Schedule

Chart displays start and completion dates for the Easier access projects for various stations.  Elevator Access will be available upon completion of each project. Pape Station 2012-2013. Lawrence West and Dufferin Station 2012-2014. Coxwell, St. Clair West, Wilson, Ossington, and Woodbine stations 2012-2015. Royal  York, King, St. Patrick, Yorkdale, Bay, and Runnymede Stations 2013-2016. Lawrence and Dupont Stations 2014-2017. Landsdowne, Sherbourne, College, Spadina, Keele, and Donlands stations 2015-2018. Lawrence East and Greenwood stations 2016-2019. Castle Frank, Wellesley, and Christie stations 2017-2020. Rosedale, Chester, and Museum stations 2018-2021. High Park, Summerhill, and McCowan stations 2019-2022. Old Mill and Glencairn stations 2020-2023. Midland and Ellesmere stations 2021-2024. Islington and Warden stations 2022-2025.

Previous plans called for all stations to be accessible by the end of 2020. However, recent budget constraints have resulted in an extension of the completion target to 2025. All future subway expansions, including the University-Spadina subway extension from Downsview Station into York Region, will also have stations built to TTC accessibility standards.

Toronto Rocket Subway Cars

All TTC subway and Scarborough Rapid Transit cars have level-boarding and are accessible to ambulatory and non ambulatory customers. However, the subway cars are better equipped and more-readily meet the needs of customers with disabilities.

In 2011, new Toronto Rocket subway trains began entering revenue service. The accessibility features for these state-of-the-art subway cars include eight double-sliding side doors for entry and exit by people with mobility devices and others, end door/emergency detrainment ramp at each end of the train, a wheelchair accessible interior layout, digital and audio communications systems along with video surveillance, multiple video screens and electronic trip maps, a passenger assistance intercom system and passenger assistance alarm strips. At the end of 2012, there were twenty-seven Toronto Rocket train sets available for service on the Yonge-University-Spadina subway line.  As more Toronto Rocket trains enter service, the older H5 series subway cars, which are accessible but do not have a designated seating area for mobility device users, will be gradually retired from service.

The initial response to the Toronto Rocket trains by the public, including the TTC's customers with disabilities who use the subway system, has been positive. However, based on ACAT and customer feedback, design work is now underway to implement additional modifications to further improve the level of accessibility provided by these trains, including exterior chimes at each door and an improved guide/barrier external to the train at inter-car locations.

Accessible Conventional Bus Services

In 2011, the TTC reached an important milestone in achieving a fully-accessible fleet of buses. This was the culmination of a 15-year process of purchasing accessible buses to replace older vehicles in the fleet, as illustrated in Exhibit 4. The first accessible conventional bus route was in place in 1996 - the same year the first accessible subway station was opened. Procurement and design is now underway for the TTC's first accessible articulated buses, which are expected to be delivered in late 2013.

Exhibit 4 Chart of Accessible Conventional Buses

In the year 1994, 0% of Conventional Buses were accessible. As of the year 2000, approximately 20% of Conventional Buses were accessible. By 2006 that number had grown to approximately 55%. By 2011, 100% of Conventional Buses were accessible.

TTC buses are equipped either with a ramp, or a lift, which is a motorized unit that the operator deploys on request. This equipment is normally reliable and functions well. However, if a motorized ramp is not functioning, it can be deployed manually by the operator, as required. Repairs to the ramp mechanism are then made in the garage at the end of the day. The TTC also operates a limited number of lift-equipped buses, although these buses will be phased out of the fleet in the next four years. If a motorized lift is not functioning, arrangements are made to accommodate the passenger on a following bus, or on Wheel-Trans, and the equipment is repaired when the bus returns to the garage.

Ramp and lift serviceability is checked in several ways.  Operators cycle the ramp/lift during their circle check before leaving the garage.  If it will not deploy as intended, the bus does not go out into service until it is repaired.  If a ramp or lift is deployed in service and will not stow properly, the bus is taken out of service and maintenance crews are assigned to attend to the bus and probably change it off for another one. Within the garage, the preventive maintenance program assesses ramp functionality and structural integrity every 10,000 km, as well as during the comprehensive Semi-Annual Inspection every six months. As well, due to their additional complexity, lift systems are further maintained during a separate prescribed maintenance program every six months, during which access to the mechanisms is gained for cleaning, lubrication, and adjustment. Defects found during any of these inspections are repaired before the bus is released again for service.

Accessible Conventional Streetcar Services 

The current inaccessible streetcar fleet will be replaced with 204 modern, accessible low floor streetcars starting in 2014, with complete replacement scheduled by 2019. These vehicles will provide accessible service on the entire streetcar network and will be a major step forward for the TTC towards making all of its conventional transit services accessible. The first new low-floor streetcar arrived on TTC property in September 2012 and will be undergoing a series of performance, reliability, and safety tests throughout 2013 before entering revenue service. ACAT will assist the TTC in 2013 in evaluating the accessibility features of the new streetcars and will recommend design changes as necessary.

In conjunction with the introduction of the new low-floor streetcars, modifications will be made to existing streetcar platforms and on-street stops to implement accessibility features. In 2012, work was undertaken on the Spadina streetcar right-of-way to prepare for the new low-floor streetcars, including platform and shelter adjustments. The City of Toronto will begin the process of installing curb ramps at existing on-street streetcar stops starting in 2013. PRESTO fare-vending machines will also be installed at high demand stops as part of this work.

Wheel-Trans Services

In 2012, the TTC's Wheel-Trans operation provided to the door service for 46,800 active registrants who have restricted physical functional mobility, an increase of 17% from 2011. Ridership in 2012, on the TTC's Wheel-Trans services, was 2.9 million trips, which is four percent more than the number of passengers carried in 2011. To provide quality service to these and future registrants, 201 new low-floor specialized buses were acquired over the past four years to completely replace the fleet of older Wheel-Trans buses.

Wheel-Trans is committed to improving customer service for its registrants. In 2012, Wheel-Trans launched a significant improvement to its booking service, allowing registrants to book trips up to seven days in advance. Wheel-Trans also piloted a new trip integration program in 2012 to encourage Wheel-Trans registrants to make more extensive use of conventional TTC services.

Additional customer service initiatives are underway for 2013:  as of January 1, Wheel Trans service is available 24 hours per day, matching the hours of service of the conventional system and, in order to reduce wait times for Wheel-Trans customers, a "Call Ahead" service is under development, which will inform customers just ahead of a pending trip arrival. It is anticipated that this service will be in place by fall 2013.

In order to forecast Wheel-Trans demand, Toronto population projections and census data are reviewed annually. The number of new Wheel-Trans registrants each year is projected based on historical data and by matching the effect of an increase in population by age group against an increase in active registrants. The projected average number of trips demanded per registrant for years 2013-2023 is based on 2007-2011 historical data.

Improving the accessibility of conventional services will allow a larger percentage of current and future Wheel Trans registrants to make more use of the conventional system and to benefit from spontaneous trip-making and more-flexible travel options. This is a factor when developing the Wheel-Trans demand forecast as it is anticipated that the integration of the TTC's conventional and to-the-door services will make it more-practical for some Wheel Trans registrants to travel on the conventional system. While improving the accessibility of conventional services will never eliminate the need for all to-the-door services, the improvements to conventional services will permit a larger percentage of people with disabilities to travel on accessible conventional services.

The increased use of accessible conventional services will also have a financial benefit, because it will moderate the increasing demand for to-the-door service, which is expensive on a cost-per-trip basis. It also provides the opportunity to improve the efficiency of Wheel Trans services through better integration with conventional services.

Accessibility of Rapid Transit Expansion Projects

Work progressed in 2012 on the 6.2-kilometre Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension with opening day for the line planned for late 2016. The extension will go from Downsview Station (to be renamed to Sheppard West Station), which is already accessible, northerly to York University and Vaughan Metropolitan Centre Station.

Exhibit 5 shows the six new accessible stations that will be added to the subway system when the project is completed. All the stations will be constructed to TTC accessibility standards with elevators, escalators, accessible doors, accessible fare lines, visual and audible messaging systems, tactile paths and platform edge tiles, high levels of lighting, etc. The new commuter parking lots will have designated accessible parking spaces for people with disabilities. The designs for the stations were reviewed by ACAT at critical points in the process to ensure that each station will provide a high quality of accessibility.

Exhibit 5: Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension

The new stations on the subway extension will be fully accessible. This includes: Downsview Park, Finch West, York University, Black Creek Pioneer Village, Highway 407, Vaughan Metropolitan Centre.

The TTC will also be collaborating with Metrolinx to ensure that all new light rail stations, along the Eglinton Crosstown LRT and other LRT lines, including subway interchanges and bus terminals, are accessible and provide a seamless customer experience throughout.

All of these new accessible stations will provide further opportunities for the integration of accessible conventional and specialized services in Toronto and from other jurisdictions which use the stations and facilities.

Public Forum on Accessible Transit Service

In addition to working with ACAT and its various subcommittees, the TTC also uses a number of other methods to provide information and obtain input from the public on accessibility issues. In May 2012, the TTC held its fifth annual public forum to discuss TTC accessible conventional and specialized services, vehicles, and facilities. This event, which is popular with TTC's customers with disabilities, provides an opportunity for TTC senior staff and ACAT representatives to hear directly from customers about their complaints and commendations, requests for change, and accessibility priorities. TTC's management and ACAT take this input into account when assessing TTC services and in the development of plans and budgets. Table 2, ‘Public Forum – Summary of Responses in 2012', provides a summary classification of the comments received.  This summary was developed with the assistance of a subcommittee of ACAT through an assessment of all of the individual comments received.

Table 2: Public Forum - Summary of Responses in 2012

Specialized (Wheel-Trans) Service:
Category Number of comments Percent of all comments
Category Reservations/Appointment Bookings 45 comments 10.0%
Category Marketing/Customer Service 97 comments 21.6%
Category Level of/Extensions of Service 13 comments 2.9%
Category Service Reliability 7comments 1.5%
Category Vehicles (Buses/Taxis/ Minivans) 7 comments 1.5%
Category Other (Specific policy, fare issues, etc.) 13 comments 2.9%
Subtotal 182comments 40.4%
Conventional Service:
Category Number of comments Percent of all comments
CategoryMarketing/Customer Service 42 comments 9.3%
Category Level of/Extensions of Service 24 comments 5.3%
Category Stations/Terminals/Stops 32 comments 7.1%
Category Access (Elevators/Escalators/Lifts) 22 comments 4.9%
Category Vehicles (Buses/Streetcars/Subway) 49 comments 10.9%
Category Other 16 comments 3.6%
Subtotal 185 41.1%
Other Categories:
Category Number of comments Percent of all comments
Category Other (General policy, fare issues, etc.) 31 comments 6.9%
Category Conduct of the Fourm 52 comments 11.6%

Total Concerns: 450 (100%)

Commendations: 36

Total Comments Received: 486

Funding for Accessible Services   

The rate at which the TTC's conventional services can be made accessible is highly dependent on the level of funding provided for accessibility initiatives. The TTC's Capital Program includes two major projects that will significantly improve accessibility on the system: the replacement of the existing fleet of streetcars with low-floor accessible streetcars, and the continuing construction of elevators in stations. In 2010 and 2011, pressures on the TTC's long-term capital budget resulted in the program for the retrofitting of stations with elevators having to be extended by five years, so the completion target for the program has slipped from 2020 to 2025.

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) and the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR)

The Province of Ontario has enacted AODA regulations establishing Accessibility Standards for Customer Service, as well as accessibility standards for transportation, information and communications, and employment, which have been implemented together as the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR). Standards related to the built environment are currently under development: final exterior built environment standards were released in December 2012 as an amendment to the IASR and interior standards are currently expected to be incorporated into a future revision of the Ontario Building Code. These standards apply community-wide, and they will directly affect the TTC delivery of accessible services including operating costs and the timing and priority of implementation of TTC initiatives.

Implementation of the IASR began in 2011 and will be phased in over the next several years. The TTC already complies with many of the IASR requirements and will comply with the remainder of the requirements as they become applicable.

TTC staff continue to be concerned that some elements of the IASR will be challenging for the TTC to address. The TTC has asked that the Province take the lead on implementing specific elements of the standards rather than down-loading the responsibility and costs onto service providers. In particular, the TTC has asked that the Province put in place a provincial designation process related to support persons to make it feasible to implement the requirements of the regulations related to support persons in a practical, effective, and consistent way.

The Ministry of Community and Social Services has also, repeatedly, been made aware of the potential cost of implementing the regulations and that these costs may result in reduced transit service and the need to increase fares. However, to date, the Province has not responded positively to the TTC's request regarding leadership or funding related to the implementation of the standards being imposed.

The Canadian Urban Transit Association and the Ontario Public Transit Association, in consultation with the TTC and other service providers in Ontario, are undertaking assessments of a number of the requirements of the IASR in order to achieve uniform approaches and to minimize inconsistent implementation of accessible transportation standards for people with disabilities. The results of these exercises and the resulting implications for the TTC will be reported in future updates and accessibility plans.

Summary   

The TTC is committed to creating a transit system that is universally accessible for everyone, regardless of ability. Following the implementation of a fully-accessible bus network in 2011, the TTC will continue to make further accessibility improvements on conventional services and to integrate services for Wheel-Trans registrants. Nearly half of the TTC's subway stations are now accessible, and additional stations will become accessible every year until the system is fully accessible in 2025. The first low-floor accessible streetcars will enter service next year and other accessible service initiatives are also underway. As a result of accessibility improvements to the conventional system, greater use of accessible conventional services by people with mobility difficulties will become increasingly feasible and attractive.