subway ttc

New study finds air on the TTC is now cleaner than ever

Though COVID-19 fears and the work-from-home trend have led to a severe decline in TTC ridership over the last 16 months, anyone who has worries about virus transmission and air quality on Toronto public transit — the subway line in particular — can rest assured that the network's air is cleaner than ever.

A new study has revealed that the TTC's subway platforms have better air quality than systems in New York City and Boston, and that it has also vastly improved in recent years.

In an analysis conducted over the course of 2018-2020, the measurement of tiny airborne particles — which contain metals like barium and iron oxides — on Line 1 was an entire 30 per cent lower in station platform areas than previously measured in 2010-2011.

On the subway cars themselves, the air was found to be a whopping 50 per cent cleaner.

Scientists from U of T attribute this change to new subway trains and advancements in braking technology that lead to fewer particles released into the air during vehicle operation, among other things.

(No mention was made or correlation was drawn to the court case a retired employee launched against the commission a few years ago alleging harmful contaminants in the system's air and residual health effects from breathing that air long-term.)

The TTC has now said it's planning on using the findings to continue to improve air quality across the network, something that people are definitely paying far more attention to amid the health crisis.

System upgrades, particularly in the form of new vehicles and acceleration, deceleration and braking protocols, will serve to this end.

The research also showed, per Mass Transit, that the levels of the particles of concern are now as much as 10,000 times lower than measured back in 1995, and are well below recommended exposure limits.

Proper air circulation and ventilation, things perhaps not paid much mind to in the past, have become key concerns in settings such as classrooms and workplaces given the threat of COVID-19.

The fact that Ontario will continue to mandate the use of masks in indoor public settings — including on transit vehicles — even after we move out of Step 3 will hopefully also ease people's minds in this aspect, as will the fact that the TTC is disinfecting its vehicles so often and so thoroughly that it's actually causing service delays.

Lead photo by

Dominic Bugatto

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