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Crowded subway platform shows TTC needs to do more to make transit safe

As the TTC faces the prospect of even further service cuts to assuage the tens of millions in losses it incurred during the health crisis, transit-goers continue to call for the complete opposite, citing overpacked vehicles and subway platforms that make sufficient physical distancing nearly impossible.

Though the commission has several new measures in place —such as passenger limits and mandatory face masks for riders — residents still have health concerns because of the serious overcrowding they've encountered while waiting for or riding transit in the city.

Photos of commuters packed into busses like sardines have been popping up on social media for months now, but it appears that not much has been done aside from monitoring certain busier routes — namely, full pre-pandemic service has yet to be restored despite TTC staff calling for it to be.

“Public transit workers are reporting regular overcrowding on more TTC routes, putting themselves and riders at risk of catching coronavirus,” reads a statement from transit workers union ATU Local 113 last month.

“Toronto needs more TTC vehicles on the road to keep up with demand while providing as much physical distancing as possible."

There are also parts of the commission's plan for tackling overcrowding amid the pandemic that haven't seemed to be implemented properly, such as their mandate to "disallow customers from waiting on subway platforms in cases of emergency overcrowding" and "direct customers to leave subway or bus stations in cases of emergency overcrowding," as complaints continue to arise.

The transit agency has said it will consider ramping up scheduling when ridership reaches half of what it was pre-COVID, but people still seem wary of taking transit (or no longer need to now that they're working from home) and these numbers are still not rebounding: ridership was down 75 per cent from typical levels in June, the most recent month of such data from StatsCan.

The TTC, as a result, has been running at around 85 per cent of its usual capacity, and 450 workers remained laid off.

It did receive $400 million in much-needed emergency funding from the province in August, but that means it is subject to some guidance from Premier Doug Ford and his team for things like substituting micro-transit for lesser-used routes.

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