TTC looks to electric buses to cut emissions

Want to commute in an electric vehicle but can’t afford that Tesla? The TTC might soon have you covered.

TTC board approves purchase of battery-powered vehicles

The TTC hopes to have 30 fully-electric vehicles on Toronto's roads by early 2019. (Reed Saxon/The Associated Press)

Want to commute in an electric vehicle but can't afford that Tesla? The TTC might soon have you covered.

The transit agency's board voted Monday to buy 30 new electric buses, with the possibility that initial purchase could be doubled.

The decision highlighted a busy meeting where a number of key issues were also brought up, including concerns over stagnant ridership, the possibility of allowing two-hour transfers across the city and a plan to mind the gaps between subway platforms and trains.

Here are five issues that will matter to Toronto transit riders:

TTC to electrify more buses

The TTC is also increasing the number of hybrid-electric buses on the roads. (TTC)

The TTC wants all 2,000 of its buses to be emission-free by 2040, and it took a step toward that goal on Monday.

The board approved $50 million in spending to buy 30 battery electric buses — likely 10 from each of the three companies building the vehicles. Coun. Glenn de Baeremaeker moved a motion to double that initial purchase, however, TTC staff will first study that to see if it's feasible.

"I think certainly the revolution is happening," said de Baeremaeker, adding he believes the battery-powered buses will be better for the environment and cheaper for the TTC to run.

The buses are expected to arrive by March 2019, and once they do the TTC will compare them based on:

  • The infrastructure needed to keep them up.
  • How much they reduce emissions, and what effect that has on air quality.
  • How well the vehicles perform and whether or not they run reliably enough on the TTC schedule.
  • The life cycle cost of the buses.

The TTC will also spend $230 million on 230 more second-generation hybrid-electric buses, which will replace aging vehicles in the coming years. These buses are considered the lowest greenhouse gas-emitters of all "proven" bus technologies, say TTC staff.

The city is hoping to use federal transit infrastructure money to cover up to half of the cost — something that would require Ottawa to make that funding more flexible.

Meanwhile, Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong moved a motion that would give "points" to any company willing to build its vehicles here.

"If we're putting in multi-million dollar orders for rolling stock, why not make some jobs for folks in Toronto?" he said.

Group demands 2-hour fares

A new group reiterated calls for the TTC to allow two-hour transfers citywide to improve the lives of riders and the profits of local businesses — something that could cost the city some $20 million.

Representatives from, a new coalition that includes members of advocacy group TTC Riders and also the Toronto Association of BIAs (TABIA), held a news conference ahead of the board meeting

"Two hour fare transfers would be a very smart way to attract new riders to the TTC and help us have a race to the top to a world class public transit system, instead of continuing this race to the bottom of stagnating ridership, budget shortfalls, service cuts and fare hikes," said Jessica Bell, of TTC Riders. 

TABIA's John Kiru says the city has made it clear the two-hour window won't be considered during this year's budget process, but he still wants to hold the city's feet to the fire.

Ridership concerns growing

The TTC board was set to debate a ridership growth strategy at this meeting, however that has been pushed back.

TTC CEO Andy Byford's monthly report shows ridership is 1.7 per cent behind the transit agency's target, and actually down 0.3 per cent from 2016.

In real numbers, that means people will be taking some eight million fewer trips on the TTC this year, a worrying trend in a city that's growing and trying to get more people onto transit to combat traffic congestion.

Coun. Joe Mihevc says he's concerned overcrowded routes are playing a big part in the "flat ridership," and he wants the TTC to take some action to address this soon.

2018: Year of the subway closure

The TTC's chair says the series of closures is unfortunate but necessary. (Giordano Ciampini/Canadian Press)

There will only be nine weekends all year when there isn't some sort of closure on the TTC's subway system, so if you aren't already in the habit of checking to make sure your routes are clear you'll want to start.

TTC Chair Josh Colle says it's "unfortunate," but track and signal work that had been put off for years now has to get done.

"We don't want to continue to provide service that's not as reliable as it should be," he told reporters.

Colle estimates a number of the closures will be related to Metrolinx work on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, which is expected to open in 2021.

Mind the gap

Accessibility advocates successfully pushed the TTC's board to set targets for how large gaps between subway platforms and trains can be.

The new goal is an interim target of a maximum horizontal gap of 89 mm, and a vertical gap of 38 mm for 90 per cent of every subway platform.

The TTC will begin corrective work right away at some stations, including St. Clair, Union, Davisville and Dundas. It will also launch a major study to look at subway gaps across the system, which will come back to the board in 2019.


John Rieti

Senior producer

John started with CBC News in 2008 as a Peter Gzowski intern in Newfoundland, and holds a master of journalism degree from Toronto Metropolitan University. As a reporter, John has covered everything from the Blue Jays to Toronto city hall. He now leads a CBC Toronto digital team that has won multiple Radio Television Digital News Association awards for overall excellence in online reporting. You can reach him at


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