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A silver lining for the TTC


A columnist I have particularly enjoyed over the years is Royson James, of the Toronto Star. Other than the time he wrote that Councillors should be hanged in Nathan Philips Square — somewhat traumatizing my teenaged daughter — he generally presents criticism I find constructive. After we finished a TTC Board meeting this week that had a packed agenda of action items, I was keen to read James' thoughts in his next column. Instead I came across his column from last weekend about transit in general. It returned to some familiar territory.

Recurring themes Even us amateurs can write a column about failed leadership on delivering Toronto transit. James has a veteran journalist’s way with words but it boils down to the same three recurring themes:

We’ve read columns like this before. They are always discouraging. What you may find encouraging is the work being done behind the scenes to improve your transit experience. The deal between Mayor Tory and the Premier leaves new lines and extensions with the province — to my mind, this means there are no more distractions keeping the Commission from focusing on local transit improvements over the next five years.

A good start In our first meeting since Council adopted the 2020 Budget, TTC staff and commissioners made a pretty good start. Here are a few examples. Capacity improvements: We received an update and approved funding to proceed with substantial design work for capacity improvements to the Bloor-Yonge subway station. This is a huge project in our five-year capital plan. There can be no safe expansion of Line 1 without improving the way riders move through this busy subway station.

eBuses: The Board received an update on the TTC's Green Bus Technology Program. The TTC is working to meet its goal of attaining a zero emissions bus fleet that delivers safe and reliable service. A few models of eBuses are being piloted, and we learned those buses have been delivered and are on the road. We are now evaluating them and installing garage charging sites. Wheel-Trans: We approved the procurement of 111 new Wheel-Trans vehicles. This will be the first vehicle purchase from the Mayor’s new City Building Fund. Later this year we will use that same Fund to purchase more buses and streetcars. Fare evasion: Members of the public expressed their concerns with anti-Black racism, classism and ableism in our transit system, fare evasion and the TTC's Revenue Protection Strategy. The Board agreed that enforcement and inflated fines alone will not change the culture of fare evasion, and Commissioners will form a working group to advise and oversee the TTC Staff action plan addressing these concern

DVN Connects: I introduced a motion to have TTC staff study the recommendations developed in our local transit roundtable, DVN Connects. Most of the recommendations are focused on Sheppard Avenue. Staff have agreed to study how our growing community can keep moving despite the fact that the Sheppard subway extension slated by the provincial government is set to come much later than originally proposed. Any improvements or changes TTC staff may recommend as a result of the DVN Connects study will be communicated to all of you for broader public consultation.

Investments: Lastly, the CEO’s monthly report was 69 pages of performance indicators with detailed information on everything from track work to employee training upgrades. I was up very late last weekend highlighting and writing questions all over this huge document. The Mayor and Council have invested heavily in our current TTC through the City Building Fund. To keep up with it, I expect more late-night reading as the CEO provides reports on how quickly he can implement these investments so riders can feel it. Silver lining These are just a few examples from a busy TTC agenda. I told you when I was first appointed to the TTC Board that my focus would be on improving your everyday ride on the system we already own. It's finally feeling like everyone is on the same page and the Mayor and Council is right there with us, investing in the system. Now let’s see if we can make improvements so great that even the most grizzled columnists may have to admit there is some good news about transit.


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