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TTC worries work-from-home trend will keep ridership way down for good

It's not all that surprising that TTC ridership has been abysmally low as a result of ongoing pandemic lockdowns, but the transit agency is noting that numbers are down even more than expected by this point, and that they may be down permanently.

Working from home has gone from something temporary amid stay-at-home orders to something permanent for the foreseeable future as companies forfeit their office spaces, residents move out of the city and we all get used to the comfort (and safety from viruses) that home can offer.

According to a new report from the TTC Board titled "COVID-19 Response and Recovery Update," the city's public transit is seeing only 26 per cent of the customers it did pre-pandemic, which is lower than the board anticipated to see this far into the health crisis, and which is creating a huge budget shortfall.

With many businesses now considering full or partial remote work permanently, the board fears that this sort of impact could be not just for the remainder of the time that COVID-19 remains a threat, but potentially for good.

"It is expected that this pattern will generally hold until COVID-19 restrictions are substantially lifted, and downtown office work, in particular, returns... [and] there is an expectation that there will be a 'return to office' once it is deemed safe to do so," the report states.

But, it goes on to add that, "based on insights gathered from Statistics Canada’s Canadian Survey of Business Conditions, it is expected that many employers will offer increased flexibility with respect to working from home, which will have some long-term effect on transit demand."

There is also the fact that, as the board notes, many former TTC commuters have switched to driving, walking or cycling due to their perceived safety while a communicable disease is going around — this factor has reduced transit demand by an estimated 12 per cent.

The commission does hope that the resumption of things like in-person classes, in-store shopping, and the opening of other types of businesses and services after the provincewide emergency shutdown and stay-at-home order are lifted will help ramp up its numbers.

Unfortunately for all of us, it looks like that elusive reopening date may be further into the summer than originally planned.

Lead photo by

A Great Capture

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