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TTC CEO apologizes for major outage Monday, plans to open review

TTC CEO Rick Leary apologized during a board meeting Thursday for a serious service outage earlier this week that impacted thousands of commuters. 

Leary said about 200 litres of oil leaked from a subway work car on Monday, shutting down subway service between Broadview and St. George stations for much of the day.

“One of my core commitments as a CEO is to provide the very best customer experience possible,” Leary said during the meeting Thursday.

“On mandate, we fell short in that regard, and for that, I sincerely apologize.” 

Monday’s incident is the seventh hydraulic leak in the TTC since the beginning of the year, Leary said. There have only been 10 leaks in the past five years, he said, calling the uptick concerning. 

“It’s very uncommon in our business.”

The TTC is opening a review to determine the root cause behind these leaks, he said. Each leak took place in a different location and they did not all cause service disruptions, he said. 

During Thursday’s meeting, city councillor Dianne Saxe, who represents University—Rosedale, questioned why the leaks are happening when the equipment is not out of date and has undergone preventative maintenance. 

“What is the systemic root of this extraordinary series of letting the public down?” Saxe said. 

“Those answers will be brought to your attention when we have the review,” Leary responded. A forensic expert has been hired to help conduct the review, he said. 

Chow apologizes to riders for disruption

The transit agency 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.”

Leary marked 10 years with the TTC on Thursday. He was presented with a pin at the start of the board meeting. 

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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