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TTC board to meet as questions linger about major outage Monday

The TTC board is meeting Wednesday as questions linger about the cause of a serious service outage earlier this week that impacted thousands of commuters.

Board members, also known as commissioners, will gather at city hall, where an update is expected after subway service was shut down between Broadview and St. George stations for much of Monday following a fluid spill on the tracks from an overnight work car.

The TTC has been criticized for the disruption, which is the latest in a string of reliability issues on the city’s transit system, including a bike on the tracks and a fire at Bloor-Yonge station.

Mayor Olivia Chow apologized to riders for the issue, saying earlier this week that she is working to improve reliability.

“We need more investment,” she said, asking the provincial and federal governments to contribute more to the system. “And without that (the TTC) is not as reliable as we want.”

Chow said the outage comes the same week as councillors consider a report about the state of the city’s crumbing assets. The TTC requires billions more to address its state of good repair backlog, she added.

“In terms of public transit in the city of Toronto, it’s still excellent. Can we do a lot better? Absolutely. Can it be more reliable? Yep.”

TTC chair Jamaal Myers said earlier this week that he has received a general overview of the incident and why the spill took so long to clean up. But he is still waiting for a full investigation. 

“I share everyone’s concern [that] these types of … incidents seem to be more frequent than previously,” Myers said.

Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie said it will be important for the city to dig into the reason behind the latest service disruption.

“Well it’s always important that we do lessons learned and that we look at how we can plan better for those unexpected outages,” she said. “Certainly, I think we’re all be watching very closely to see what happened and importantly how we can do better next time.”

Key questions remain about incident: advocate

Transit advocate Steve Munro said he’s eager to hear what staff have to say about the issues. He’s critical of how the agency communicated with riders during the outage.

“I have to ask, where was (TTC CEO) Rick Leary?” he said. “You don’t like a major upset like this, but just the fact that you make the effort to communicate changes the relationship.” 

Munro said that a full accounting of what occurred is important. This latest service outage raises many of the same questions for him that other outages have. 

“What are all the problems?” he said. “Are they equipment failures? Are they track blockages? Are they infrastructure problems?”

Those are important questions to answer since problems seem to be occurring much more regularly and resulting in serious disruptions, he added.

“We’re no longer dealing with this maybe once a year, where you have a humongous delay,” Munro said. “These are happening all the time.”

At last month’s TTC board meeting, the head of the transit workers union raised questions about a hydraulic fuel spill on subway tracks that limited the ability to slow trains. Marvin Alfred, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Unit 113, called on the TTC board to launch a “full and independent review” of the agency’s safety and maintenance practices.

“The connecting theme linking all these incidents is TTC management prioritizing statistics and savings over providing a consistently safe and unreliable service,” he said. “The culture of secrecy of the TTC is preventing the full story from coming out.”

“These allegations are unfounded,” TTC spokesman Stuart Green said in a statement, referring to Alfred’s comments. “This issue will be addressed at the board tomorrow.”

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