As students in Toronto prepare to head back to school on scattered dates over the course of the next week, the TTC is working on improving service and safety on the transit system.
Torontonians have been regularly expressing concerns about crowding on TTC vehicles throughout the pandemic, with many fearing the situation would only worsen when students returned to school.
But in a news release published Friday morning, the transit commission said they're making a number of changes to to accommodate anticipated service demand this month.
"Since January, we have been making sure we are ready to manage any challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has presented to our customers and employees with additional cleaning and continuation of service where it is needed most," said TTC CEO Rick Leary in the release.
"With schools in Toronto re-opening over the next week, we are making sure we'll be ready to meet an expected increase in ridership head on."
First and foremost, the TTC says they're deploying an additional 110 special buses to manage anticipated high school student ridership, and they're also communicating with school boards to determine hot spots, student volumes, as well as start and dismissal times.
The agency is likewise adding staff at stations with increased student use to monitor for crowding, continuing enhanced cleaning and disinfection of all public places and vehicles, and continuing to stock hand sanitizer in every station and on every streetcar and Wheel-Trans vehicle.
They say they're also maintaining service flexibility and implementing demand-responsive bus service to supplement scheduled service, and they add that some service will need to be deployed in real-time and will not appear on schedules or transit apps because of increased demand.
The TTC has been operating with reduced service since ridership first dropped drastically thanks to COVID-19, and Leary has made it abundantly clear that full service will only be restored when ridership reaches 50 per cent of normal — despite countless calls to do so now.
The TTC has also acknowledged that due to reduced service levels, social distancing may not always be possible on board vehicles, making their mandatory mask policy all the more important.
Masks or face coverings have been mandatory on all TTC vehicles since July 2, and the agency is also distributing free masks throughout the system to ensure as many riders have their faces covered as possible.
"Over the past few months, our City has been working to help the province and school boards prepare for back to school to help keep students safe," said Mayor John Tory in a statement.
"We have worked to ensure the TTC continues to provide a safe and reliable ride to and from school. I continue to encourage residents to follow public health advice and wear a mask when using the TTC to help protect everyone."
by Mira Miller via blogTO