TTC best

TTC's CEO thinks it'll be best transit system in North America by end of year

TTC CEO Andy Byford believes that 2017 will be a huge year for Toronto's transit system. It certainly looks that way on paper. The first addition to the subway route in 15 years is slated to open late in 2017, fare payment will fully convert to a smart card system, and the WiFi rollout is expected to reach every station.

In an interview with the Toronto Star that takes stock of the work he's done to modernize the TTC over the last few years, the Commission's head honcho confidently proclaims his belief that these and other improvements in the works will help "meet the objective of being back to number one in North America by the end of the year."

When exactly did the TTC hold that mantle? Well, it's hard to say officially, but urban planners often argue that during the period between the opening of the subway in 1954 and the completion of the Spadina Line in 1978, the TTC was the model transit system to emulate.

Just think, in a roughly 25 year span, Toronto built almost all of its subway infrastructure. The only major additions since then have been North York Centre (an in-fill station in 1987) Downsview Station (1996), and the Sheppard Line (2002). The Scarborough RT, also worth a mention, came in 1987.

As the Star explains, Byford's belief that the TTC can get back to the top is primarily based on the five year plan he put in place when he joined the Commission. While Toronto is typically quick to criticize the TTC, you'd have to be in a daze not to notice the sweeping changes that have come during this period, from station cleanliness and crowd control to the addition of articulated buses and far better customer service.

Toronto has also, however, taken notice of weekend subway closures, sweltering subway cars on Line 2, and horrendous delays to streetcar shipments. Some of the issues that continue to plague the TTC are out of Byford's control, which is why 2017 might be so decisive.

For the TTC to become the better way in a North American perspective, Bombardier will have to actually make good on its deliveries, Metrolinx will have to solve all the technical glitches with the PRESTO rollout, BAI will have to complete its installation of WiFi and cellular networks in the subway, new signal control technology will have to be completed for Line 1, and the Spadina Extension will need to open without another significant delay.

There are a lot of moving parts, and that's just the big ticket stuff. For many riders, state of good repair maintenance is the most important thing. Byford confessed to the Star that the hot car fiasco last summer was his "biggest disappointment." It certainly underscores that the TTC can't only have its eye on large-scale expansion and improvement.

Will the TTC be the best transit system in North America by the end of the year? You'd probably have a difficult time convincing its riders of that. But, should many of the changes on the docket come to fruition, it might achieve something its lacked for a very long time: a swell in passenger pride.

That would be a major accomplishment in and of itself.

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