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TTC workers want limit of 10 passengers per bus to prevent overcrowding


Overcrowding on the TTC has been a hot topic over the past 24 hours thanks to a now-viral tweet from the agency’s customer service account saying social distancing will no longer be possible and riders should simply get off a vehicle and wait for the next one if they feel unsafe. 

The tweet sparked outrage from residents who say it’s both the city and the TTC’s responsibility to keep transit users safe amid the pandemic, and Mayor John Tory has since referred to the comment as “insensitive.”

In light of the current conversation surrounding overcrowding on the TTC, ATU 113 Toronto, the TTC workers union, is calling on the transit agency to limit regular buses to just 10 riders at a time and articulated buses to 15 passengers, in addition to bringing back all laid-off workers and restoring full service levels. 

“With coronavirus cases surging in Toronto, TTC management must enact and manage these important passenger limits to make buses safer for workers and riders,” said Carlos Santos, ATU Local 113 president, in a statement. 

“The TTC can put more vehicles on the road tomorrow by bringing back the 168 laid-off workers who are still at home and ready to move Toronto.”

Back in April, the TTC temporarily laid of approximately 1,200 workers as ridership dropped to record-low levels. 

Nearly all the operators and staff members have since returned to work, save for the 168 people who remain on furlough. 

But speaking on the subject during the city’s COVID-19 press briefing Wednesday afternoon, Mayor John Tory said bringing back workers wouldn’t necessarily solve the bus crowding issue since employees are rehired based on seniority and not their position. 

In other words, bringing back laid-off workers would not necessarily mean more bus drivers on the job. 

And, at the end of the day, Tory said the main issue is that the city simply does not have enough buses to allow for social distancing on all vehicles at all times.

He added that the few buses that are left in the garage at the moment, which are to be used for emergencies such as subway service shutdowns, are simply not enough to solve the issue of crowding. 

Officials have also said introducing a capacity limit on buses would prevent many from utilizing the transit system they rely on to get around, something Toronto Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa said is important to remember when balancing public health and the need for accessible transit.

But the TTC workers union says more public safety measures absolutely have to be introduced amid the second wave of COVID-19, including capacity limits on buses to ensure social distancing is possible and bringing back all workers so service levels can return to 100 per cent. 

With ridership levels sitting at roughly 37 per cent of normal at the moment, the TTC is providing approximately 94 per cent of pre-covid service levels. TTC CEO Rick Leary has said service will resume in full once ridership reaches 50 per cent of normal. 

“Now more than ever, the TTC must do everything it can to provide a safe transit system for TTC workers and riders and prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” said Santos.

“While wearing masks on the TTC helps reduce the spread of the coronavirus, it’s not enough. It’s time for the TTC to get their pandemic response right by bringing back laid-off workers, increase service on busy routes and enforce passenger limits.”

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