Tory says TTC can improve its messaging about lack of distancing aboard buses
Published Wednesday, October 14, 2020 8:00AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 14, 2020 2:00PM EDT
Toronto Mayor John Tory says a recent response the TTC made to a customer's concern about a lack of physical space aboard her crowded Scarborough bus was "insensitive" but there is little more he can do to add capacity to the transit system when it is heavily underutilized.
On Tuesday, a transit rider named Victoria tweeted to the TTC about her Kingston Road bus, with a photo of people standing shoulder to shoulder, asking how she was supposed to maintain physical distance.
The TTC replied in a tweet that "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 exchange sparked a flurry of messages from riders into the CP24 newsroom, with similar observations on their own commutes.
"I feel like the city doesn't care about the working poor who rely on the TTC. I can't get in a car and go to work using it and my coworkers are all in the same boat. It's extremely frustrating. I feel like we have been left behind by the city," Victoria, who has moderate asthma, told CTV News Toronto on Tuesday.
Tory said he would voice his concerns about the social media response to the TTC directly.
"Just to say to get on the next bus is not a sensitive answer to a difficult circumstance for riders," Tory said on CP24 on Wednesday.
TTC CEO Rick Leary apologized on Wednesday for the message Victoria received.
"I apologize for that tweet, I apologize for that tweet because it was poorly worded," he said.
Leary 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.
Tory said that ridership on the TTC system-wide has only returned to 37 per cent of what it was before the pandemic began. The TTC has added 100 buses to its busiest bus routes and is now operating at 95 per cent of its pre-pandemic capacity, and up to 92 per cent of all buses are running half-full or less.
"Yes, there will be a photograph of one where that is not the case."
But he said he and the TTC have been upfront about the lack of distancing on some routes, which is why they made masks mandatory.
"I am not saying it's an ideal situation at all – but we cannot materialize buses out of nowhere overnight."
TTC board member and councillor Shelley Carroll saw the exchange online and remarked that the city was just put under a number of COVID-19 restrictions, and she was not aware that social distancing aboard transit vehicles was no longer a stated goal of the service.