ttc overcrowding

The TTC bus on Jane continues to be plagued with overcrowding

Being packed like a sardine onto a busy bus or streetcar during rush hour in any major city isn't exactly a rare phenomenon, but amid a global pandemic, commuters have a certain expectation that transit authorities will make an effort to reduce crowding and keep their vehicles safe.

Though the TTC in Toronto took a slew of steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on its routes earlier this year, residents have still been citing overcrowding that seems to be getting progressively worse while virus numbers in the city and the province steadily rise to never-before-seen levels.

Certain routes have seemed to be particularly problematic, including the 35 Jane and 511 Bathurst buses, among others, according to recent complaints that flood the commission's social media accounts daily.

"When there's crowding, [TTC personnel] will report it to our Control Centre and we'll try to get more buses sent over to where they are needed most. There isn't an exact limit on numbers in a bus, but they should be managing it in a safe way," the TTC Customer Service Twitter account has said to angry transitgoers.

"It's not possible for a driver to keep count of all the people on a vehicle when customers get on and off at every stop, and through 2 different doors. However they are expected to use their discretion in terms of a safety and crowding."

It has also assured passengers that it has recently updated schedules on many routes to add additional buses where they're most needed and help spread people out.

But then there was the now-famous tweet in which a TTC representative stated 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," they continued.

Because of low ridership during the health crisis, the commission cut service levels to make up for tens of millions in financial losses, refusing to ramp back up to full levels until earlier this month, when it reinstated the remainder of its laid off workers in light of the fact that daily capacity on routes had reached 50 per cent.

"Our members and transit allies have been urging the TTC to restore full service to protect public health and prevent overcrowding on a growing number of routes. Today, the TTC has met our demands and finally done the right thing," Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 113 said about the move in a statement.

Still, residents aren't yet seeing improved service levels on some busier lines, and TTC workers have joined in calling for bus capacities to be limited to a specific number, such as 10.

Many are also displeased with the lack of mask enforcement on vehicles, and the fact that they're being told to simply wait for the next bus if they find a vehicle to be uncomfortably crowded (thankfully, there's now an app to track that).

"We know that 93 per cent of all bus trips have fewer than 25 people on board which is half of the bus capacity," TTC spokesperson Stuart Green told blogTO on Monday.

"We are currently putting out 96 per cent of pre-pandemic bus service to meet 50 per cent of pre-pandemic bus ridership levels while targeting additional scheduled and unscheduled service to the busiest routes. That increases to 100 per cent service in early November."

Green added that to help with the issue, some subway and streetcar operators are being retrained to operate buses, and the commission will continue to use real-time passenger counting technology to add relief to stressed routes — including Jane — where it can, and within the network's own limitations.

"Those busy routes are currently getting more service now than they before pre-pandemic but we also have to deliver bus service across the entire network... we operate a large bus fleet in a big city and we need to continue to provide service to all routes."

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