TTC board approves mayor's 10-point plan to improve service after last month's chaotic commute

The TTC board has given its stamp of approval to Mayor John Tory's 10-point plan to make sure Jan. 30 doesn't happen again.

Mayor John Tory touted his plan to fix the TTC's problems after a nightmare commute on Jan. 30

A Twitter user captured this shot of a crowded subway platform along Line 1. (Tariq Fancy/Twitter)

The TTC board gave its stamp of approval Thursday to Mayor John Tory's 10-point plan to make sure Jan. 30 doesn't happen again. 

The transit chaos began that day at 5:21 a.m. when a buildup of ice caused a signal malfunction at Wilson station  As that was being remedied, there was a switch failure at the Wilson Yard, also due to ice. 

Ice was also to blame for signal failures near Davisville station that caused sporadic three-minute delays for each train passing though. 

Between 7 a.m. and 9:15 a.m. the emergency alarm was activated seven times, including once for a fire at Eglinton station, three false alarms and once for a fight between two customers on the platform at Museum station

That fight was "likely exacerbated by overcrowding," TTC spokesperson Brad Ross said.

All that crowding nearly forced the TTC to shut down and evacuate Bloor/Yonge station — the country's busiest transit hub.

Tory's $3 million plan to relieve overcrowding is divided into initiatives that can be implemented immediately and for future roll-out. 
Councillor Mary Fragadakis says she fears falling onto the subway tracks from overcrowded platforms. (Bruce Reeve/CBC)

The TTC will do the following right away:

  • Add two trains to Line 1, allowing the TTC to move 2,400 more people.
  • Make adjustments to overnight maintenance schedules.
  • Do more proactive checks on operating equipment, especially during periods of extreme cold. 
  • Add more platform staff at Yonge/Bloor and St.George stations to manage crowding. 
  • Improve the monitoring system at the Transit Operations centre allowing staff to react faster to problems. 

In the coming weeks and beyond:

  • Enhance communications with riders via system-wide announcements. 
  • Study possible options for lower fares during off-peak hours.
  • Use "enhanced" express bus service to relieve overcrowding on the Yonge Line during peak hours.
  • Mayor Tory will meet with the minister of transportation and the premier on how they can help ease overcrowding.
  • Tory will chair monthly meetings with senior city, TTC and Metrolinx officials to check in on transit expansion projects such as the Downtown Relief Line

Shelagh Pizey-Allen of the group TTC Riders considers this plan smoke and mirrors, saying some of the items were already included in the 2018 budget.

"What we need is for all three levels of government to commit to funding the relief line as soon as possible," she told reporters outside the committee meeting Thursday. 

Subway platform safety a top concern

With the completion of the relief line over a decade away, Pizey-Allen  worries about commuter safety in the short term. 

"It's not just January 30th. There was a man who broke his elbow a couple weeks ago at St.George station." 

TTC board member Coun. Mary Fragadakis also worries about the safety of crowded platforms.

"Bloor and Yonge station has a platform that's not that big and when there's a lot of people on it. I know I get frightened that I might fall into the track," she said. 

TTC Chair Josh Colle is hopeful that between now and the day the relief line gets built, the switch to automatic train control, along with the addition of express buses, will help relieve overcrowding. 

Colle says he realizes it annoys people when subway lines close on a weekend for signal work and other improvements, but it's all in a good cause.  

"They're going to have a more reliable ride and certainly days like we experienced a few weeks ago should be less frequent than they are."