In the face of growing ridership, the TTC said it is planning to recall its remaining employees who were temporarily laid off due to the pandemic in the first week of November.
The transit agency said the decision was made as the daily boarding capacity on the TTC’s bus routes has now reached at 50 per cent.
The TTC said they have also observed trips evenly spread throughout the day instead of having the traditional peaks.
The recall will include 97 bus operators, the transit agency noted. This is in addition to the 280 drivers already brought back since restrictions were loosened.
The TTC previously said all operators are expected to be brought back when the TTC reaches 50 per cent of pre-pandemic ridership levels.
“Throughout the pandemic, we have continued to monitor ridership in real time and adjust service to meet demand,” TTC CEO Rick Leary said in a statement. “We’ve also been looking for opportunities to take advantage of the reduced ridership to advance major capital work at a time it would inconvenience the fewest customers.”
The move was also made in anticipation of delays that will be brought upon by a proposed advance major asbestos removal program that will see Line 1 between Finch and Sheppard shut down for 10 days in December.
The TTC noted it will require shuttle buses running between those stations during the closure.
The transit agency is also expecting the need for buses to increase later in November when a new cohort of high school students will return to in-class learning.
There will also be operator retirements later this year, the TTC said, adding that the recruitment and training of new operators are underway.
“Recalling the employees is part of the TTC’s continuing commitment to providing safe and reliable service for the hundreds of thousands of customers still relying on public transit during the pandemic,” the TTC said in a news release.
The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 113, which represents TTC workers, said the recall is great news for the employees and the people of Toronto.
“Since that announcement, our members and transit allies have been urging the TTC to restore full service to protect public health and prevent overcrowding on a growing number of routes. Today, the TTC has met our demands and finally done the right thing.” ATU Local 113 President Carlos Santos said in a statement.
The recall comes in the wake of the agency telling riders that physical distancing will no longer be possible in its vehicles.
A concerned customer tweeted the agency on Tuesday about her trip on a TTC bus with a photo of people standing shoulder to shoulder attached.
In response, the agency said, “As the city re-opens, social distancing will no longer be possible on our vehicles. As such, if you feel that a vehicle you are on is overcrowded, I would suggest getting off and boarding the next one. Apologies for the inconvenience.”
The reply sparked criticisms, with even Mayor John Tory saying that it was insensitive.
However, Tory said the TTC had been upfront about the lack of physical distancing in some routes.
Leary also apologized for the “poorly worded” tweet on Wednesday and said that they are constantly rebalancing service levels on major bus routes based on demand.
“There are many areas today where we have more buses than pre-COVID,” he said.