Publicly-financed 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 disabled people, 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.

The 1989 Choices for the Future study concluded that the demand by disabled people for trips on public transit services could be met through the integration of the specialized Wheel-Trans service and the provision of accessibility features at only 20 ‘key’ subway stations. The TTC’s Easier Access program was initiated to address the accessibility of these key stations. However, over the years, the Commission decided to not only increase the number of accessible stations and require all new stations to be accessible, but also directed that all new vehicles acquired by the TTC be accessible. The Commission has also, progressively, greatly increased the amount of to-the-door service provided to Wheel-Trans registrants.

Accessible Stations and Facilities

The Easier Access II program, which initially was a commitment to retrofit 20 stations with elevators and accessibility features, has been expanded to include all newly-constructed stations related to subway expansions as well. All of the stations on the Sheppard Subway, for example, are accessible to TTC standards. The TTC will have 30 accessible stations in operation by 2010.

Table 1: Easier Access Phase II - Elevator Installation Schedule

  • Downsview Station: 3 elevators, in service date 1996
  • Yonge/Bloor Station: 3 elevators, in service date July 22, 1996
  • Union Station: 3 elevators, in service date July 22, 1996
  • Queen Station: 2 elevators, in service date April 15, 1997
  • Spadina Station: 3 elevators, in service date 1997
  • Kipling Station: 2 elevators, in service date March 26,1999
  • St. George Station: 2 elevators, in service date July 27,1999
  • Finch Station: 4 elevators, in service date May 21,1999
  • Kennedy Station: 3 elevators, in service date May 28,1999
  • Bathurst Station: 2  elevators, in service date November 24, 1999
  • Scarborough City Centre Station: 2 elevators, in service date June 9, 2000
  • Queen’s Park Station: 2 elevators, in service date April 2, 2002
  • Davisville Station: 4 elevators, in service date June 18, 2002
  • Dundas West Station: 2 elevators, in service date November 24, 2002
  • Dundas Station: 1 elevator, in service date December, 2002
  • Eglinton Station: 1 elevator, in service date September 10, 2004
  • Main Street Station: 2 elevators, in service date October 6, 2004
  • Eglinton West Station: 2 elevators, in service date September 9, 2005
  • Broadview Station: 2 elevators, in service date January 27, 2006
  • Jane Station: 3 elevators, in service date April 24, 2006
  • Osgoode Station: 1 elevator, in service date December 29, 2006
  • York Mills Station: 2 elevators, in service date February 9, 2007
  • St. Clair Station: 2 elevators, in service date August 10, 2007
  • North York Centre Station: 2 elevators, planned in service date September, 2009
  • Lawrence West Station: 1 elevator, planned in service date December, 2010

The program was expanded in 2006 and the Easier Access III program and station development priorities, which were developed in consultation with the Advisory Committee on Accessible Transportation (ACAT), will result in all the existing stations being accessible by the end of 2020. Subway and Transit City LRT system expansions, including those which extend beyond the boundaries of the City of Toronto, such as the Spadina Subway from Downsview Station into York Region, will also have stations built to TTC accessibility standards.

Accessibility features at the bus-platform level of subway stations are being accelerated at ten stations to allow for accessible bus-to-bus and bus-to-street transfers by the end of 2010. This means transfers between accessible bus routes within certain subway stations will be facilitated before all the elevators and other features are installed at all stations.

Accessible Conventional Bus and Streetcar Services

The first accessible bus route was in place in 1996 - the same year the first accessible station was opened. The TTC has made great strides in increasing the number of accessible buses in the fleet and the number of accessible bus routes since then, and will continue to do so in the future.

In December, 2008, approximately 86% of the TTC’s conventional bus fleet was accessible. At that time, the TTC operated 239 non-accessible conventional buses and 1498 accessible conventional buses. The figures above do not include the accessible buses used in community bus and to-the-door service provided by Wheel-Trans. If these vehicles were included, the proportion of the buses owned by the TTC which are accessible would be higher.

Out of 168 bus routes at the end of the year (including 5 Community Bus routes and 22 Blue Night routes), 127 were accessible (i.e. 75%). This will grow to 83% by mid-February, 2009, when 13 more routes are planned to be designated as accessible.

A total of 146 new accessible buses will be added to service in 2009: 16 in the first quarter of the year and 130 from mid-2009 to the last quarter of the year. This will be followed by another 120 new accessible buses in 2010. The vast majority of the bus fleet and bus routes will be accessible by the end of 2010.

The TTC is continuing to experience higher-than-expected growth in ridership. New accessible buses are being purchased and brought into service by the TTC, but there are not enough new buses on order to keep pace with the current and expected increases in overall system ridership. Additional new buses cannot be purchased fast enough to avoid a shortage of buses in the next few years. Therefore, a decision has recently been made to refurbish a small number of older buses in 2009 to address anticipated overcrowding. These older buses are not accessible. At the most, the refurbished buses will constitute about 3% of the total fleet, and this will decrease between 2010 and 2012 as these old buses reach the end of their added 2 -3 years of service life.

The current non-accessible streetcar fleet is planned to be replaced by modern, accessible low-floor light rail vehicles (LRV’s) between 2012 and 2018, which will provide accessible service on the entire streetcar network.

Wheel-Trans Services

In 2008, the TTC's Wheel-Trans operation provided to-the-door service for 55,000 registrants who have restricted physical functional mobility. To provide quality service to these and future registrants, a number of improvements will be made, including obtaining 110 new low-floor specialized buses to be put into service in 2009 and 2010. There is an option to acquire another 88 buses from 2011 to 2014.

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. 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 large 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 very 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.

Training and Communications Initiatives

The TTC is improving the accessibility of its conventional services by training front-line personnel, and developing effective ways of communicating with passengers. For example, in 2008, all TTC vehicles had automated stop announcements to inform all passengers of the name of the next stop. This benefits all passengers but, in particular, people who cannot see the upcoming stops. Improvements to the TTC website, including the efforts to make the information more-easily obtained by customers using readers and other technological advances, will help people with disabilities learn of the services available to them.

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 numerous projects that will, in aggregate, significantly improve accessibility on the system. These include:

  • The purchase of 440 low-floor accessible buses (delivery started in 2008 and continuing into 2010), at a cost of $297 million.
  • The replacement of the existing non-accessible streetcar fleet with 204 new accessible low-floor Light Rail Vehicles (LRV’s) at a cost of $1,250 million. The conversion of the streetcar fleet to low-floor vehicles is planned to be complete by 2018. Funding for new LRVs is not yet confirmed, however, and the lack of accessibility on the current streetcar network remains the single largest gap in the TTC’s overall plan for system accessibility. This large accessibility gap will be addressed when funding for the planned purchase of accessible low-floor light rail vehicles is confirmed by Metrolinx and/or the Province of Ontario and/or the Government of Canada.
  • Constructing elevators and other accessibility features at the 41 existing subway stations that have not yet been made accessible, at a cost of $346 million. To date, 28 stations have been made accessible, which is 41% of all stations.
  • A contract for the delivery of up to 198 replacement and growth buses for Wheel-Trans at a cost of $76 million with delivery commencing in 2009.

Other Initiatives

Not all of the initiatives being undertaken by the TTC to improve accessibility require capital funding. The TTC is undertaking a wide range of non-capital initiatives which also will improve accessibility, including:

  • implementing standards for design and construction which reflect the input received from the Advisory Committee on Accessible Transportation (ACAT) and the community regarding appropriate design features to improve accessibility; and
  • providing improved information to passengers about accessible services, including a special information line to provide up-to-date information about escalator and elevator availability, the development and distribution of brochures about accessibility features, and information on accessible services on the TTC's web site.

Advisory Committee on Accessible Transportation (ACAT)

There are many types of mobility difficulties experienced by individual TTC passengers, and it is a complex task to accommodate all these needs on conventional TTC services. 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. The time and commitment made by members of the TTC’s Advisory Committee on Accessible Transportation (ACAT) has been, and will continue to be, invaluable in implementing the TTC’s accessibility plans.

The TTC also uses a number of other methods to provide information and obtain input from members of the public including community meetings, and newsletters. In May, 2008, the Commissioners and TTC staff participated in the extremely well-attended 2008 Public Forum on TTC accessibility held at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind facility. The 2008 event was jointly undertaken by the TTC and ACAT and was the first of what will become an annual event. A second open meeting on accessibility was held in October, 2008, and was hosted by Chair Giambrone and TTC staff. The Commission received a report in December, 2008, on the results of these community outreach meetings.

Summary

The TTC will continue to make the best possible use of new accessibility resources as they come on-stream by implementing accessibility improvements on conventional services and integrating services for Wheel-Trans registrants. Encouraging greater use of accessible conventional services by people with mobility difficulties will be a prime objective of the TTC in the coming years.