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, this program was expanded to include the eventual retrofitting of all existing subway stations with elevators and accessibility features. The Commission has also committed to making all new rapid transit and LRT stations accessible and ensuring that all new vehicles acquired by the TTC are accessible. The Commission has also, progressively, greatly increased the amount of to-the-door service provided to Wheel-Trans registrants. 

As the system has expanded, new facilities have been constructed to provide a high standard of accessibility. For example, all of the stations on the Sheppard Subway were constructed with elevator access. This policy continues, and all stations currently being designed for the Spadina Subway extension to Vaughan Centre, the light rail underground stations, and the Yonge North subway extension include elevators and easier access features.

Accessible Stations and Facilities

The TTC’s program to retrofit stations with elevators and easier access features, which initially was a commitment to retrofit 20 stations, has been expanded to include retrofitting all existing stations and all new subway and LRT stations as well. Table 1 lists the TTC stations with elevators in operation at year-end 2010.

Table 1:  Elevator and Easier Access Installations Completed To Date

  • Queens Quay Station: 1 elevators, Year completed 1990 (Elevator only)
  • Downsview Station: 3 elevators, Year completed 1996
  • Yonge/Bloor Station: 5 elevators, Year completed 1996
  • St. Clair West Station: 1 elevators, Year completed 1996 (Elevator only)
  • Union Station: 3 elevators, Year completed 1996 
  • Queen Station: 2 elevators, Year completed 1997
  • Spadina Station : 3 elevators, Year completed 1997 
  • Kipling Station: 2 elevators, Year completed 1999 
  • St. George Station: 2 elevators, Year completed 1999
  • Finch Station: 4 elevators, Year completed 1999
  • Kennedy Station: 3 elevators, Year completed 1999
  • Bathurst Station: 2 elevators, Year completed 1999
  • Scarborough City Centre Station: 2 elevators, Year completed 2001
  • Queen’s Park Station: 2 elevators, Year completed 2002
  • Davisville Station: 4 elevators, Year completed 2002
  • Sheppard Station: 7 elevators, Year completed 2002
  • Bayview Station: 4 elevators, Year completed 2002
  • Bessarion Station: 2 elevators, Year completed 2002
  • Leslie Station: 2 elevators, Year completed 2002
  • Don Mills Station: 5 elevators, Year completed 2002
  • Dundas West Station: 2 elevators, Year completed 2002
  • Dundas Station: 1 elevators, Year completed 2002
  • Eglinton Station: 1 elevators, Year completed 2004
  • Main Street Station: 2 elevators, Year completed 2004
  • Eglinton West Station: 2 elevators, Year completed 2005
  • Broadview Station: 2 elevators, Year completed 2006
  • Jane Station: 3 elevators, Year completed 2006
  • Osgoode Station: 1 elevators, Year completed 2006
  • York Mills Station: 2 elevators, Year completed 2007
  • St. Clair Station: 2 elevators, Year completed 2007
  • North York Centre Station: 2 elevators, Year completed 2009 
  • No additional stations in 2010

Plus all five (5) Sheppard Subway Stations under separate initiative

Accessibility features at the bus-platform level of selected subway stations have also been accelerated at ten stations: High Park, Old Mill, Runnymede, Keele, Rosedale, Castle Frank, Wellesley, Lawrence East, Greenwood, and Donlands. 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.

As illustrated in Exhibit 1 below, the expanded Easier Access III program is a long-term commitment to equip all existing stations in the system with elevators and easier access features. Station development priorities were developed in consultation with the Advisory Committee on Accessible Transportation (ACAT).

Exhibit 1

Exhibit 1 - Line Chart - Accessible Subway and RT Stations - 1994-2009, projected to 2024. 0% Stations are accessible 1994, 40% in 2010, and a projected 100% (69 stations) in 2024.

Table 2 lists the stations which are currently planned for elevator installation over the next five years. Previous plans called for all stations to be accessible by the end of 2020. However, recent budget constraints have resulted in the completion target now being pushed back to 2024. Subway and light rail system expansions, including those which extend beyond the boundaries of the City of Toronto, such as the Spadina Subway extension from Downsview Station into York Region, will also have stations built to TTC accessibility standards.

Table 2:  Planned Installations: Elevators and Easier Access Features

  • Victoria Park Station, planned in service date 2011
  • St. Andrew Station, planned in service date 2011
  • Lawrence West Station, planned in service date 2012
  • Pape Station, planned in service date 2012
  • King Station, planned in service date 2012
  • Ossington Station, planned in service date 2012
  • Wilson Station, planned in service date 2012
  • Dufferin Station, planned in service date 2013
  • St. Clair West Station, planned in service date 2013
  • Coxwell Station, planned in service date 2013
  • Yorkdale Station, planned in service date 2014
  • Woodbine Station, planned in service date 2014
  • College Station, planned in service date 2014
  • Royal York Station, planned in service date 2014
  • Donlands Station, planned in service date 2015
  • Bay Station, planned in service date 2015
  • Runnymede Station, planned in service date 2015

Accessible Conventional Bus Services

The first accessible conventional 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.

As illustrated in Exhibit 2, below, in December, 2010, 97% of the TTC’s conventional bus fleet was accessible. At year-end, the TTC operated 1764 accessible conventional buses and 45 non-accessible conventional buses. These figures do not include the accessible buses used in Community Bus and to-the-door service provided by Wheel-Trans, all of which are accessible.  

Exhibit 2

Exhibit 2 - Line Chart - Accessible Conventional Buses - 1994-2010, projected to 2012. Line at 0% buses are accessible in 1994, approx 97% by 2010, and a projected 100% by 2012.

As shown in Exhibit 3, below, of the 169 bus routes which were operated at the end 2010 (including 5 Community Bus routes and 22 Blue Night routes), 161, or 95%, were accessible.

The accessibility of TTC bus services will be improved further with the additional 95 accessible buses to be in service by year-end 2012.

Exhibit 3

Exhibit 3 - Map showing TTC Accessible Network by at the end of 2010.

Accessible Conventional Streetcar Services

The placing of an order for 204 low-floor streetcars in June 2009, to replace the TTC’s aging fleet of inaccessible streetcars, was a major step forward for the TTC in making all of its services accessible. The current non-accessible streetcar fleet will be replaced with modern, accessible low-floor streetcars starting in 2012, with complete replacement scheduled for 2018. These vehicles will provide accessible service on the entire streetcar network.

In conjunction with the introduction of the new streetcars, improvements are being planned for existing streetcar platforms and many on-street stops in the streetcar network to improve accessibility to the new low-floor streetcars fleet. Engineering and design work is underway to move this initiative forward.

Wheel-Trans Services

In 2010, the TTC's Wheel-Trans operation provided to the door service for 41,100 active registrants who have restricted physical functional mobility. To provide quality service to these and future registrants, 110 new low-floor specialized buses have been delivered in 2009 and 2010, and another 48 will be delivered this year, and 40 more in 2012.

Ridership in 2010, on the TTC’s Wheel-Trans services was 2.7 million trips, an increase of approximately 12% over the previous year.

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 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.

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 accessible buses:
    - 440 new low-floor conventional accessible buses were acquired in 2008 – 2010.   There will be an additional 35 new accessible buses delivered in 2011 and 60 more in 2012; and
    - delivery of replacement and service-expansion buses for Wheel-Trans which started in 2009 and will continue into 2014 at a cost of up to$76 million. 
  • Construction of elevators and other accessibility features at the 40 existing subway stations that have not yet been made accessible, at a cost of $346 million. To date, approximately 43% of all stations are accessible to TTC standards.

As reported previously, pressures on the TTC’s long-term Capital Budget resulted in the program for the retrofitting of stations having to be pushed back by four years, so the completion target for the program is now the end of 2024 rather than 2020.

Development of Regulations Related to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA)

The Province of Ontario has enacted an AODA regulation regarding accessibility standards for customer service, and is moving forward with regulations for four other sectors: transportation, information and communications, employment, and the built environment. These standards apply community-wide, and the TTC has been working with the City of Toronto, and other transit agencies, to provide input on the overall standards and on issues and concerns that are specific to the transit industry and the TTC.

In particular, staff have requested that the various draft regulations being developed be harmonized to ensure consistency before additional individual regulations are finalized, and that the Province take the lead on implementation of elements of the standards rather than down-loading the responsibility and costs on to service providers.

The standards will affect the TTC’s schedules, priorities, and operating expenses. The Ministry of Community and Social Services has repeatedly been made aware of the potential for the costs of what may be imposed to result in reduced transit service and increasing the need to increase fares. Through the previous Commission report on the TTC’s 2009 accessibility plan, that message has also been relayed to the Ministries of Transportation, Energy and Infrastructure, the Ontario Human Rights Commission, and Metrolinx.  

In compliance with the recently-enacted customer service regulations, the Commission developed and approved a corporate policy regarding customer service accessibility, which is available on the TTC’s web site. This ensures that training is provided to all staff, contractors and consultants directly involved with the public, and management staff who have input into the development of policies or procedures that could affect people with disabilities.

Rapid Transit Expansion

The TTC is working with its funding partners at the City of Toronto, Metrolinx, the Province of Ontario and the Government of Canada to undertake a program of expanding rapid transit services in the City of Toronto and beyond. Detailed design is proceeding for the extension of the Spadina Subway line to York University and Vaughan Centre, with opening day for the line planned for late 2015. The TTC has also completed Environmental Studies and initial design work for the construction of four priority light rail lines. A review of the overall light rail plan, and potential subway alternatives, is underway, the results of which are expected in 2011.

Regardless of the results of the current program review, any facilities constructed will be designed to provide excellent accessibility for all travelers including those with mobility limitations. Expanding rapid transit services in Toronto so that they are broadly available would dramatically increase the number of destinations that are easily accessible to people with mobility limitations. 

Public Consultation and the 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 June 2010, the Commissioners and TTC staff participated in a well-attended Public Forum on TTC accessibility, held at Exhibition Place. This was the third annual forum jointly undertaken by the TTC and ACAT.  These forums will be held in May or June of every year. 

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.