On June 17, 2020 we spoke at the Toronto Transit Commission’s Board Meeting to represent your needs. Here is what we said.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak at this meeting. I am representing A Voice for Transit, a student-led transit advocacy group at Ryerson University. We have suggestions and concerns regarding Item 4 – Recovery and Restart Plan and Item 12 – Notice of Motion – Fast-tracking Bus Priority Transit Lanes on Five Critical Suburban Corridors.
On page 6 of item 4 – COVID-19 – Transitioning from Response to Restart and Recovery, it is cited that buses are deployed daily on the busiest corridors. We would like to know how many are deployed and at what time frame (like what’s the schedule they’re meant to be following). According to Sean Marshall in Spacing Magazine, routes serving suburban, industrial areas like the 117 and 119 experienced crowding before 7 am weekdays during the pandemic. Having ridden the bus with some of these workers as part of my daily commute, I know how busy these buses got before the pandemic. If a second wave of COVID-19 occurs, what plan is there to ensure that enough buses are deployed for routes like these? Why does the plan not include a 2nd wave scenario study?
Separately, we would like to know if the needs of post-secondary institutions like Ryerson University are being considered regarding subway service levels come September. A great number of Ryerson University students, staff, and administrators rely on the subway for their trips. We are asking because we are hearing concerns from administrators about operating funding and service levels.
Switching gears, we are pleased with the measures the TTC is taking so far to keep passengers safe during the pandemic. Given that risks posed by COVID-19 will be with us for a while, we encourage the TTC to adopt a new strategy and thinking on hygiene and cleanliness in its system. We have the following questions and suggestions:
- That face shields be considered as a form of PPE for individuals who are not comfortable with face coverings or who may be claustrophobic.
- We want higher visibility of the TTC’s cleaning efforts by seeing information on screens of where passengers can find hand sanitizers at stations and informing the public of when the station was last cleaned. You may also put the information in high-traffic areas (like stairs) where riders transfer from one line to another. Promote your efforts like ads are promoted.
- We also suggest having streetcars cleaned at subway stations termini just like subway cars are at stations like Finch and Vaughan Metropolitan Centre.
- Installing hand sanitizers on buses (behind the white line, of course).
- How often are Presto machines cleaned? Commuters in service/front-line industries may not be signing up autoload and may be at higher exposure of infection from these machines, if they are not being cleaned regularly.
- We have been asking for a year that balances and time left on your trip show up on Presto fare gates. This feature is already available on York Region Transit and GO Transit. We also mention this in our report on transit inequity in Toronto released last month. To avoid having commuters use Presto machines to check balances, we recommend this feature on fare gates be activated.
- What kind of cleaning of buses occurs on buses during the PM time block?
- Lastly, why is UV disinfection of subway and streetcars not being considered? There is a company based in Cambridge, Ontario that is currently applying this technology for groceries as well as N95 masks.
On Item 12 – Notice of Motion – Fast-tracking Bus Priority Transit Lanes on Five Critical Suburban Corridors, we have been supportive of this idea since we first heard about it on June 18, 2019 at the TTC stakeholder consultation in North York. Bus rapid transit lanes are a relatively low-cost and quick to build solution to serve transit riders, particularly for suburban riders. Before the pandemic, bus routes like the 60 Steeles West were packed at rush hour. I know because I have ridden that bus route my entire life. As ridership gradually returns to pre-pandemic levels, forcing the same riders to consider the same options as before risks excluding them from employment opportunities that can enable their social mobility. A BRT on Steeles West, for example, could provide public health benefits as there would be more buses at more regular intervals and less risks of infection of COVID-19. To use a pun, we are totally on board with this.
If there are concerns over its capital costs then, I will repeat the suggestion made in my deputation in North York on the city budget in February 2020: You may also issue a green bond to fund the $50 million request. The City of Toronto has already issued two green bonds and already has a Green Bond Framework, under which relevant bonds can be issued for capital considerations. “Sustainable Clean Transportation” is within the scope of that framework. Thus, it would be possible to issue another bond to fund this project. If you wanted to have electric buses, obtaining the $50 million to fund the electrification of buses on these bus rapid transit lines using that framework is certainly possible.
Thank you for taking the time to listen to my suggestions. I am open to your questions.
Response by Board
Ex-councillor Jim Karygiannis identified face shields having a similar cost to facial coverings therefore alleviating concerns regarding cost alienation for those with health conditions.
The Board requested a written statement of our deputation.