Coronavirus cleanings are causing major delays on some TTC routes
Panic over the 2019 novel coronavirus — an outbreak of which has infected nearly 70 people across the country as of Monday morning — is beginning to significantly impact the daily lives of people in Canada's largest city.
Toronto Public Health announced on Friday that a recently-confirmed carrier of the deadly virus had been riding public transit buses, streetcars and subways regularly for three days before the time of his diagnosis.
The man in his 40s had returned to Toronto from Las Vegas on February 28 and took the TTC to and from work on March 2, 3 and 4 while experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
The Toronto Transit Commission confirmed in a statement on Friday that it was "in the process of identifying specific vehicles that the individual rode" based on information about his local travel patterns, which involved Bathurst Station, Islington Station, Yorkdale Station, St. George Station, the 108 MiWay bus, the 27 Milton GO bus and the 511 Bathurst streetcar.
"The TTC takes the health and safety of its employees and customers very seriously and is in daily communication with Toronto Public Health," wrote the transit agency. "At this time, the direction is that no additional measures are required. The TTC continues to be a safe method of travel."
Safe? Perhaps. Reliable? Not exactly (though we could certainly say the same thing before COVID-19 was even a thing.)
900 Airport Express: Major delays near Kipling Station due to disinfecting buses.— TTC Service Alerts (@TTCnotices) March 7, 2020
Since January 28, the TTC has been "performing significant additional cleaning and disinfection of all public places with a focus on touch and grab points, such as buttons, railings, handles and straps" in response to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.
It wasn't until Saturday, however, that TTC spokesperson Stuart Green announced crews would also begin disinfecting an Airport Express bus at Kipling Station.
"As an extra measure, and to address employee/customer inquiries, crews will do a quick disinfection wipe down on the #TTC 900 Airport Express at Kipling Stn," he wrote on Twitter. "As we heard yesterday from the city's top doc, #COVID19 risk on transit is very low. It's an extra level of protection."
Seen them doing this last night pic.twitter.com/XfyqLUa2D5— Downsview34 (@downsview34) March 7, 2020
Some TTC passengers are worried that focusing on one airport route isn't doing enough, and suggest that cleaning be stepped up on all buses going to and from Pearson.
"Any plans to do the same to the 52A, 300A, 332 and/or 352 that also go to the Airport?" asked one customer on Twitter in response to Green's announcement on Saturday.
"Not at this time," Green replied. "But as our CEO said yesterday, the situation is dynamic and if we need to review or change practices, we will."
. @TTChelps @TTCStuart— Transit Operator (@TO_TransitOp) March 8, 2020
You're disinfecting the 900 Airport bus @ Kipling Stn every trip, but not 52, 952, 300A & 332 airport buses?
Do the people that take the airport buses cease to be infected once they transfer to other #TTC vehicles?#COVD19 #Coronavirus #Transit #Toronto
Other customers are thrilled to see the TTC taking even more action, but not so much about the delays caused by more frequent cleanings of the 900 Airport Express.
The TTC itself warned of "major delays near Kipling Station" on Saturday afternoon due to the disinfecting of buses.
"Instead of causing major delays, why not have two extra buses at Kipling so when a driver pulls in, he/she takes one of the extra buses and continues his/her crew and then the bus gets disinfected?" suggested one passenger.
The transit agency's customer service account explained that this was not possible due to "a limited number of bus resources — both scheduled and Run-as-Directed for this route at the moment."
It is not yet clear if other routes are running more slowly than usual in light of the TTC's enhanced disinfection regime, as subways, streetcars and buses across Toronto are often delayed for a variety of different reasons, every single day.
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