TTC errors, fighting contributed to nightmarish January commute: Report
New report details causes behind Jan. 30 crowding incident, says TTC will look into better bus service and different fare structure to address problem.
|Report an Error|
Share via Email
A new TTC report has provided further details into the causes behind a severe crowding incident on the subway system three weeks ago, revealing that as delays piled up, the agency decided to have trains bypass St. George station for 20 minutes, pouring riders onto already packed platforms at Bloor-Yonge.
The report, which will be debated at the TTC board Thursday, also recounts how packed conditions at stations likely sparked a fight between two passengers that further contributed to the delays.
All told, 16 separate problems within 3 ½ hours on the morning of Jan. 30 conspired to wreak havoc on the subway network.
The episode has raised safety concerns among transit users and prompted the mayor to launch an action plan to tackle crowding.
TTC spokesperson Brad Ross said the agency has protocols in place to safely address overloaded stations, but is also learning from what went wrong.
“There’s a lot of procedures and policies that we do have already. The question is, were they followed?” he said.
The TTC has previously acknowledged that due to overcrowding at St. George, one of two main transfer points between Line 2 (Bloor-Danforth) and Line 1 (Yonge-University-Spadina), the agency directed that trains on Line 2 bypass the station. That caused more riders to disembark at Bloor-Yonge, the other main transfer point.
The new report reveals that trains bypassed St. George for a full 20 minutes, between 8:51 and 9:11 a.m. Ross estimated that at least six eastbound trains could have passed through St. George headed for Bloor-Yonge during that time, each of them with a capacity of 1,000 passengers.
Overcrowding soon worsened at Bloor-Yonge, where delays on Line 1 were affecting service and trains weren’t clearing platforms fast enough. Soon the TTC had to bypass that station as well, for 15 minutes between 9:22 and 9:37 a.m.
The problem was eased when two southbound trains at St. Clair and Rosedale stations were ordered to offload all their passengers, and proceed to Bloor-Yonge empty to take on as many riders there as possible.
The report acknowledges that the TTC should have bypassed Bloor-Yonge as soon as it made the decision for trains to avoid St. George.
“If we’re going to bypass one, we’ve got to bypass the other. That’s absolutely what we should have done,” said Ross.
“We should not be simply moving the problem from St. George to Bloor-Yonge, because that’s what happened.”
Roughly 26,000 people use Bloor-Yonge during a typical morning rush hour, and 22,000 pass through St. George. Gaps between trains that are as short as seven minutes can cause “crowding and difficult passenger circulation conditions.”
As previously reported, the Jan. 30 delays began with a frozen switch near Wilson station at 5:21 a.m., which was compounded by door problems, emergency alarms, and TTC employees’ ill-advised decision to attempt to move a faulty train to a yard for repairs. The train began smoking and became disabled, causing a 20-minute delay on Line 1.
At 8:18 a.m., someone activated an emergency alarm on a southbound train at Museum station. The incident caused a 21-minute delay, during which time the train offloaded all of its passengers at Museum, causing a large crowd.
Minutes after that delay cleared, passengers on another train, which had been stuck in a tunnel for nine minutes, set off another emergency alarm because a fight broke out between two riders.
According to the report, the fight was “likely exacerbated by crowding.” The alarm caused a 13-minute delay.
In an interview, Raewyn Jackson, the TTC’s head of subway transportation, described the sense of alarm at transit control as employees struggled to cope with the cascading problems.
“You felt like you were sinking. You felt like it was quicksand, and you were trying your best to get out of it, but you couldn’t turn trains fast enough. You couldn’t get them in the spot that you wanted them to make any real significant difference,” she said.
On Monday, Mayor John Tory launched a 10-point plan to address crowding, which included some measures the TTC was already considering or planned to undertake. He also backed a successful motion at council to include an additional $3 million in the agency’s $578.8-million subsidy to tackle the problem.
The mayor’s strategy includes proactive checks on equipment, deploying more staff at stations, enhancing communication with customers, studying the use of express buses to complement subway service, and exploring a new fare structure that would encourage customers to travel outside of peak hours.
According to the report, the TTC will look at using express buses coupled with “transit priority measures” on Yonge St., express buses from stations on Line 2 to provide direct service downtown, and streetcar service improvements.
“It is important to note that enhanced bus or streetcar services can only provide a relatively small increase in capacity, compared to the subway,” the report notes.
Transit staff will report back on bus and streetcar enhancements in May, and on possible changes to the fare structure in July.
More on Metronews.ca