News / Toronto

TTC subway service improving, but maintenance program has to wait

A $7.7 million bus maintenance program didn't make the budget cut.

torstar news service

Mayor John Tory is touting a $50 million increase in TTC service this year — money that he says will add reliability to subway and streetcar service and pay for the subway to open earlier on Sundays.

But much of that funding will go to the $95 million annualized cost of service improvements announced last year — free rides for children 12 and under, as well as more frequent and less crowded service across the system.

The mayor downplayed the items that have fallen off the TTC’s wish list for 2016 because they don’t fit within the city’s $10 billion operating budget.

Among them is a $7.7 million bus maintenance program that transit officials believe would save money over the long term and prevent buses from breaking down on the road.

“There is still a substantial amount of money being allocated to bus maintenance. We’re buying new buses which are meant to be more reliable by definition because they’re brand new. I’m confident (TTC CEO Andy Byford) will do the excellent job in making sure buses are on the street, properly maintained,” the mayor said at the TTC’s Davisville subway car house Monday.

In addition to an across-the-board $5 million cut on the TTC’s $1.75 billion operating budget, other items that will have to wait include:

  • A $2 million program to reduce short-turns and bunching on buses.
  • $1.6 million for new and enhanced express buses, although five new routes announced last week are covered.
  • A plan to recertify drivers every three years instead of every five at a cost of $1.8 million annually.
  • A track worker safety program worth $1.8 million that is to prevent incidents like the death of a TTC employee near Yorkdale in 2012.
  • Councillor Josh Colle, TTC board chair, said he will continue to push the bus maintenance plan “because that’s what a modern system does.”

    “Our system right now is fix-upon-fail and that’s really not sustainable. If we want to be reliable and provide that level of service this is an investment we have to make,” he said.

    Byford said he’s cognizant of the city’s wider budgetary pressures but stressed that the TTC will continue to improve its bus reliability within the resources it has.

    It has already made improvements. Where buses used to break down about every 6,000 kilometres, it’s now about every 7,500 km. But Byford wants to improve that to every 12,000 km.

    “Had that additional money been coming there was more that we could do but we will continue to do everything possible to drive up bus reliability in the same way we have with subway reliability,” said Byford.

    He said he will reconfigure the TTC’s remaining budget to ensure the trackside safety program that requires one or two track workers to monitor crews at work sites move ahead anyway.

    Sixty per cent of TTC riders use the bus at some point in their journey. Transit group, TTCriders, has said that 80 buses break down in service each day inconveniencing 5,600 riders who have to wait at the curb for another vehicle.

    Meantime, subway delays are down noticeably, stressed the mayor. Delays on the Yonge-University line declined 25 per cent last year, compared to 2014 and down 9 per cent on the Bloor-Danforth subway.

    TTC workers are addressing the root causes of signal failures, keeping garbage off the tracks to prevent fires, reducing unnecessary emergency alarms and keeping the public off the subway tracks, said Byford.

    “The real solution is to replace the signaling system, which we’re doing. Line 1 will be re-signaled by the end of 2019,” he said.

    Last year, the TTC introduced $95 million in annual improvements including free rides for children 12 and under, the restoration of service that was cut in 2012, increased late night bus service, new express bus routes and 10-minute or better service on routes around the city.

    The TTC’s subsidy from the city will be about $493 million on its $1.75 billion 2016 operating budget.

    It has already raised cash fares this year by a quarter to $3.25 and increased the cost of tokens by a dime to $2.90.