Will the TTC's weekend closures ever end? Not until at least 2019
'I know it's not pleasant but it's absolutely necessary,' says Toronto Transit Commission CEO Andy Byford
Prepare for regular weekend subway closures straight through to 2019 and beyond.
That's the frustrating but necessary reality in order to keep the city's subway service in good repair and to modernize it for a smoother future, says Toronto Transit Commission's chief executive officer, Andy Byford.
"I know it's not pleasant but it's absolutely necessary and people will see that it's worth the pain in the future," said Byford in an interview with CBC Toronto Sunday amid closures between Jane and Ossington stations for track repairs.
"Effectively we're playing catchup," Byford said. "A lot of this work should have been done years ago. So what we're doing now is biting the bullet."
New signaling system on its way
Regularly scheduled maintenance has become something of a theme on weekends, even as Toronto heats up with a roster of summer festivals and events that thousands of transit users will rely on to get to.
This weekend, says Byford, repairs are needed to replace worn out track along a section of Line 2, without which, he says, the rail could eventually break.
So when will the weekend woes end?
Not before 2019, says Byford.
Beginning this fall, the TTC head says, a new signaling system will be installed on Line 1, which will ultimately allow the TTC to run 25 per cent more trains than the current half-century-old system allows.
The work will be done in phases, beginning with a section from Dupont to Wilson stations, followed by the opening of the Spadina Line 1 extension into York Region which will have new signalling from its inception, after which the work will be completed in portions along the remainder of the U-shaped route through downtown and working upwards to Finch Station.
'They've got to fix them at some point'
That should be complete by 2019, but then the same work has to be done on Line 2, said Byford.
So when will it end?
Not before 2019. But Byford promises customers will feel the full benefit once the work is done.
That's okay with rider Karen Conforzi.
"They've got to fix them at some point," she said. "I mean when is it a good time to fix it? Toronto's a busy city.
"Monday to Friday people are going to work. That's an important time for people to be on time, more so than when people are going to brunch or going to see a big duck or take selfies at Nathan Phillips Square," she added.
But others are more frustrated.
Ksenia Naumchik says she's noticed closures virtually every weekend so far this summer and thinks the TTC could do a better job of planning its work to keep the city moving.
Worth it in the end, says TTC
"If there is an opportunity to do some work during the night, I don't know how convenient it is for them, but that would be the ideal solution," she said.
Nirmalan Vijeyakumar of the TTC Riders group acknowledges the transit commission does advertise its closures widely.
But, he says, there's obviously some kind of disconnect given the number of frustrated users he speaks to on the group's Facebook page who arrive at a subway station only to realize their train is shut down.
"We're empathetic to riders at the end of the day and unfortunately these weekend closures do have to occur. But at the same time, we think the TTC could be doing a better job in conjunction with the City of Toronto," says Vijeyakumar.
He says he'd like to see the transit agency consider negotiating so that customers who have to use other means, such as GO Transit, be able to do so on TTC fares.
For now Byford urges customers to continue being patient.
"Once we've got the system back to a state of good repair and get it into a modern state, then we should be able to maintain it overnight."