Mayor John Tory has unveiled a 10-point plan to address crowding on the TTC, two weeks after subway delays almost prompted the evacuation of a busy downtown station.
Ahead of a council meeting Monday to decide on the city’s 2018 budget, the mayor announced at a city hall press conference he would support a motion to add $3 million to the TTC’s budget to address crowding.
Tory said it would be up to the transit agency, which, before the meeting, was set to receive a city subsidy of about $577 million this year, to decide how best to use the extra money.
“I’m dedicated to making sure that the TTC is doing everything possible to minimize delays, and to ease crowding, and doing those things as soon as possible,” the mayor said.
“I understand how frustrating delays and crowding can be for people. I know that people want an expanded transit system as soon as possible. I know how maddening it can be when traffic and transit don’t move properly in this city.”
We have a plan to help relieve crowding on the TTC. Here are parts 7 to 10 of the plan. pic.twitter.com/8ikTgDTFXt
— John Tory (@JohnTory) February 12, 2018
The mayor’s announcement came three weeks after the city budget committee, which is chaired by Tory’s hand-picked budget chief, voted down a similar motion that would have added $3.2 million to the budget to tackle crowding.
Since then, the subway network’s capacity has come under renewed scrutiny, thanks to a series of delays on Line 1 (Yonge-University-Spadina) during morning rush hour on Jan. 30.
Bloor-Yonge station became so overloaded that the TTC came close to taking the unprecedented step of shutting down the stop and evacuating passengers.
Councillor Gord Perks (Ward 14 Parkdale-High Park), a vocal critic of the mayor, said that Tory’s administration was “four years late and tens of millions of dollars short” in addressing the crowding problem.
“Like the way they handle every other issue, they wait until there’s an unbearable crisis and then they put a token amount of money in to give the appearance of action,” he said.
Other than the $3-million funding boost, the mayor’s plan doesn’t include any new dedicated funding, and several of the proposals were measures the TTC was already exploring or had planned to carry out.
The plan includes deploying two extra trains to Line 1 during morning rush hour, adjusting overnight maintenance schedules to ensure repair work doesn’t interfere with daytime service, and adding staff at the transit operations centre to ensure the TTC can react faster to service problems.
As part of the plan, Tory reiterated his promise to meet with Ontario Transportation Minister Kathryn McGarry and Premier Kathleen Wynne in the coming weeks to discuss ways to address transit issues across the region.
He also pledged to hold monthly meetings with senior transit staff at the TTC and Metrolinx to track the progress of new transit projects, including the relief line subway, in an effort to speed them up.
The relief line is considered by most experts as the city’s top transit priority, and would help alleviate overcrowding on Line 1 by giving riders an alternate route downtown.
Tory has come under fire from critics who charge that progress on the new line has been hindered by his administration’s pursuit of other projects, such as his SmartTrack proposal and the Scarborough subway extension.
The mayor denies those claims and maintains he’s doing everything possible to advance all projects in the city’s transit network plan.
“I want every single project in that plan, led by the relief line. I want them all built as quickly as possible,” he said Monday.
Tory’s new strategy doesn’t include the creation of a dedicated planning team for the relief line, something former chief city planner Jennifer Keesmaat has said could accelerate the project.
Some of the mayor’s proposals appear unlikely to yield tangible benefits any time soon.
The 10-point strategy supports the TTC taking another look at introducing lower fares during off-peak hours, which would give passengers an incentive to travel outside of the busiest periods.
A report on crowding the transit agency published last month said that idea was “not reasonable” in the immediate term, and would require more study and investment before it could be implemented.
Another part of Tory’s plan is exploring the use of express buses to relieve subway crowding on Yonge.
That echoes a previous decision of the TTC board, which last month voted to look into supplementing its busiest subway routes with bus service, despite the crowding report recommending against it.
The report noted the plan would require dedicated bus lanes on Yonge and a much larger fleet, and stated Yonge bus service would be “unattractive” to customers because travel times would be “considerably longer” than on the subway.