Best Laid Plans

My latest for NOW Toronto looks at the historical pattern of bold transit plans conceived when times are good that inevitably crash into the hard reality of economic upheaval every decade or so.

There will be less money sloshing around in the economy for many years, and the many expensive projects on our transit and other political menus are unlikely to proceed as planned.

The challenge for those who believe transit is an essential part of our future is to rethink priorities and focus on advocacy for meaningful, widespread transit improvements. This will be a difficult road.


28 thoughts on “Best Laid Plans

  1. There will be less money sloshing around in the economy for many years, and the many expensive projects on our transit (and other) political menu are unlikely to proceed as planned.

    This might be a silver lining to an otherwise bleak scenario for the building of new transit infrastructure in Ontario. By axing the latest imbroglios planned (SSE, Ontario Line, et al) something far less ludicrous might be the outcome, and perhaps, just perhaps, with a greater federal component to it that rationalizes the planning and funding.

    Since ultimately it’s the Feds who control the majority of the purse-strings, they couldn’t do any worse than what Queen’s Park is now doing, and most likely a lot better, combining planning and use with VIA and others.

    It’s early times, but what’s clear is that the Feds have little choice but to plunge further into debt (and I agree with this, caveats pending) and with that, they will exact much greater regulation of where and how the money is spent, and into what infrastructure, and the pending next reign of Del Duca as Ontario Premier will be far more willing and able to complement that, rather than confound it.

    As an adjunct to this answer, here’s a very telling statement just published in the UK Guardian: (I leave it to Steve to truncate as he sees fit, but hopefully it can remain fully intact, I see this as prescient)

    Air pollution from petrol and diesel vehicles is likely to increase mortality from the novel coronavirus in cities, public health experts have warned, AFP reports.

    The European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) warned that dirty air in urban areas that causes hypertension, diabetes and other respiratory illness could lead to a higher overall death toll from the virus currently sweeping the world.

    Emissions from petrol and diesel engines were still at “dangerous” levels that could imperil the most vulnerable during this and future pandemics, said the European Respiratory Society (EPS), which is a member of the EPHA.

    “Patients with chronic lung and heart conditions caused or worsened by long-term exposure to air pollution are less able to fight off lung infections and more likely to die,” EPS member Sara De Matteis said.

    “This is likely also the case for Covid-19,” added de Matteis, who is also an associate professor in occupational and environmental medicine at Italy’s Cagliari University.

    While there is currently no proven link between Covid-19 mortality and air pollution, one peer-reviewed study into the 2003 SARS outbreak showed that patients in regions with moderate air pollution levels were 84 percent more likely to die than those in regions with low air pollution.

    According to the European Environment Agency, air pollution leads to around 400,000 early deaths across the continent annually, despite European Union air quality directives.

    One Covid-19 hotspot, northern Italy, has particularly high levels of PM10 – microscopic particles of pollution due largely to road traffic.

    The number of fatalities in Italy shot up by 368 to 1,809 on Sunday – more than half of all the cases recorded outside China.

    Steve: The quote from The Guardian is/was on a page that is constantly updated. Stephen Saines pulled the text above at 1:04 pm March 16.

    The source article is on the EPHA website.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ironically right when this whole pandemic thing resolves itself would be the optimal time (from a stimulus standpoint) to invest in large scale infrastructure projects such as transit. Unfortunately many of the investing powers that be don’t rank transit on the same level as 400 series highways, bridges, (and corporate tax cuts). More selective austerity to come.

    Steve: Another problem with “stimulus” is that some projects simply cannot be started “tomorrow” because of lead times for engineering. Conversely, pet projects should not be allowed to consume stimulus dollars that are sequestered for years waiting until projects are “shovel ready”. This was a problem with the federal PTIF funding. Toronto simply could not spend the money quickly.

    Transit spending is something that should be ongoing, not spiking in reaction to economic problems that require quick actions.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As an economist I would take a different view here. Large scale infrastructure spending, financed by debt, may be exactly what is needed to get the economy moving again once the crisis passes. But as a long-time resident of Toronto, I fear your gloomier take may well turn out to be correct!

    Steve: Please see my response to the previous comment. There is a big problem with lead times for large transit projects. It is very difficult to turn on the tap quickly, and there is also a danger that what we actually build in the name of “stimulus” addresses a political problem (getting votes) rather than building what is needed. Shiny and new might be less important than increased state of good repair for aging infrastructure (and that applies well beyond transit). I am thinking much more broadly than transit: public buildings, water and sewer works, and, yes, roads which are an important part of the transportation network on a provincial and national level.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. If we lived in a rational world we might expect that the inevitable ‘re-think’ that you predict would see the most desirable projects proceeding and those that offer less would be scrapped. Of course, we all realise that our politicians will probably do the exact opposite.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. As you write in the article Steve:

    “GO Transit’s network expansion plans might well be replaced by more road building. Counterproductive though that may be, it buys votes in areas where cars dominate for personal travel.”

    This type of thinking and mindset is I think the crux of the issue. If people look at transit as something that’s “nice to have” rather than something we “need to have” the things you describe in the article will keep happening. When times are tough, you cut the extras – not what you think is essential. If transit projects were thought of as being essential, they would not be cut. All places that have built exceptional transit infrastructure have done so because they have sustained it through economic good times and tough times – since they saw it as necessary.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Steve is absolutely right in that big transit projects make for lousy unemployment relief projects. Not only because of their long lead times, but also because there tends to be a mismatch between the skills required to build the project and the skill set of unemployed people. In other words, design and construction of a big transit project usually requires a lot of engineers and skilled construction workers. That usually does not describe most of the unemployed people.

    However, there are some transit projects that have short lead times, although the skills mismatch issue may still apply. The best one is to tackle the backlog of deferred maintenance. Yes, how unsexy. But a good way of spending stimulus dollars quickly.

    We could also give Bombardier the contract to manufacture 60 additional streetcars in Thunder Bay. Quite frankly, their lousy performance makes me really not want to do that, but, hey, it means jobs in Thunder Bay. Never forget that rural areas are over-represented in Ontario’s parliament. Rest assured that politicians do not.

    I note that Steve is quoted in this CBC article from January 26 saying that Bombardier finally got their act together and should get the contract.

    The King Street transit priority project could also be extended to other congested streetcar routes. This could be done quickly, and delivers a huge value for money. Ironically, too good of a value for money for very much stimulus. But hey, a few million here, a few million there, it soon adds up to real money.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. So for the last 5/6 years I’ve been pushing for surface relief function vs. Suspect Subway Extensions and even finding fault with the Relief Line subway proposal, though absolutely we need Relief. Part of it is time – we’re out of it, climatically speaking, and part of it is providing a more robust network from silver buckshot, and not a Huge Megaproject or two, though yes, we do need robust capacity and it’s worth the investment vs. penny-wise Ford-foolish cheapness in the core, and not lower-density suburbs. But a third motivator is a concern and worry about the immense cost, capital and operating, of more than a few of these Big Schemes, where the folks voting and planning for them don’t actually have any personal payment into them, nor any real repercussion if, oop$$, pick any number of reasons, many valid – especially with larger projects involving digging.

    Most everyone has been uninterested in the Keep It Simply Surface approach for faster done and faster sub-regional transit on the under-used corridors in east-of_yonge TO of parts of the Don Valley including Parkway south of Thorncliffe to core, and the Gatineau Hydro corridor, which goes all through Scarborough on an off-road diagonal.

    So part of me is quite appreciative of finally – a meltdown! Though once again, those that have brought us the mess aren’t really paying for it, and let’s hope it soon translates in to a housing price slash and rental expansion. It may be too much to hope that the Ford government will be willing to stop sub-braying for suburban votes, and the federal Liberals may not be any better, but they are thankfully in a minority situation and have to do some realisitic and good things on the climate file, where it would be really helpful to have whatever statements the public health people have said on the climate emergency brought forward.

    They’ve been kinda silent it seems like on the traffic violence file – we really should have a Coroner’s Review of traffic enforcement in Caronto through the last decade as one example. And with bike safety, it too is lagging, including on main roads with streetcar tracks where a LOT of the edges of the concrete tracks are in very rough shape and we at times need a bit fo wiggle room to escape a door, or construction occupation of the entire curb lane.

    And yes, people are likely going to try biking not the transick.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Slightly aside to the string’s premise, but in light of present events:

    I can’t help but wonder, with the agreed need of ‘social distancing’ by everyone, that the TTC and GO are making a bad move by reducing service.

    Yes the demand is going to be greatly reduced, but the need for social distancing dictates more vehicles to carry this reduced demand. It’s needed for essential services alone, let alone those who must still work or have family and community responsibilities.

    With all the talk of massive cash infusion impending, perhaps now is the time to spend a fraction of that, an absolute pittance of the $Billions being discussed, to safely carry people now at a ‘safe distance’ from each other.

    Why something so glaringly obvious has escaped administrators is…well…typical.


  9. Hamish posted: And yes, people are likely going to try biking not the transick.

    With “biking” = This New York Times article on bicycle commuting

    Many thumbs up! Not only did I read it, I forwarded the link to many others. The obvious exposure on the TTC got me cycling down to Kensington instead of braving the frantic supermarket next door. I feel human again…

    Another ‘silver lining’ to this chapter.


  10. We should be able to get quickly to shovels in the ground – if we brought back Sheppard east LRT and reverted to the Scarborough LRT – and frankly the rest of the Scarborough portion of the Transit City proposals. We should also be able to push without too much delay an extension of Finch west LRT – to the Airport, although that cannot happen instantly, as I doubt highly it is shovel ready.

    The completion of signaling on line one – could permit the immediate follow up with platform edge doors at a number of busy stations – especially Yonge Bloor. Granted that the doors cannot be installed until ATC is possible in the stations in question. Eglinton – could be considered now, before the LRT starts to operate, we need to get ATC at Bloor to make this possible as part of the work.

    However, billions can be spent for state of good repair, that need to be.

    Lots of projects should be being readied for spending that are rapid transit.


  11. There are at least a few shovel-ready or near shovel-ready projects across the country that the government could get a jump on to help stimulate the economy. The various projects around Toronto awaiting funding (Eglinton East, Bloor/Yonge, new streetcars and buses and garages, GO RER, elevators and second exits in subways stations), Vancouver’s Broadway Subway and Canada Line improvements, Calgary’s Green Line and Edmonton’s LRT network expansions (that were ready to go until Kenney cancelled them last year), Montreal’s Blue and Orange line extensions… A wise government would devote some resources to ensuring that once this crisis is over, it’s ready to act on some of these needs while interest is low and the economy needs the jolt. (Ditto also for other needed but unrelated infrastructure, like public housing, power/roads/water/internet to First Nations communities, etc…)

    Steve: The $1.5 billion Bloor-Yonge project already has funding committed by all three governments. Design work is in progress.


  12. @RobSalerno: You forgot to state the Scarborough subway extension. It has funding from all levels of government, design work has been well underway, and construction starts in early 2021. This is the project least likely to be cancelled.


  13. TTC has announced all door boarding for all vehicles including subway trains, RT trains, streetcars, and buses. This will speed up boarding and improve travel times. Good move by the TTC. I hope that this change is permanent.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Hans: It’s the least they can do. Guelph Transit, OC Transpo and others have gone free until this episode is over.

    Guelph Transit reducing service, going free to slow coronavirus spread
    It’s one of many changes designed to combat coronavirus spread
    NEWS Mar 17, 2020
    Guelph Mercury

    I’m still seething over this:

    GO Transit spraying disinfectant that lasts up to a year
    Toronto Sun

    At the time of that release, I Googled thoroughly to check the veracity of the claim. It’s virtually BS. Any claim the manufacturer can make for Microban is limited by law to “microbal” and that’s not in a hygenic sense, but for odour control.

    Metrolinx either got played as a sucker, or more likely, tried to play us all as suckers. At the time and until quite recently, TTC, Metrolinx and Toronto Health were all extolling how “low risk” travelling in jam packed rush-hour trains and buses was.

    The ruse has come to an end. As to how *anyone* could have believed persons jammed face-to-face within inches was a “low risk” situation, even before fully understanding the aerosol and droplet propensity of this particular virus, boggles the mind.

    There’s a massive amount of blame to go around, and transit and health authorities are going to have to own up to theirs.

    Steve: Do you mean “microbial”, not “microbal”?


  15. @YorkUniversityStudent: I was trying to focus on unfunded projects that are ready to get going and aren’t already part of the baseline program for the economy, but since you bring it up, is Scarborough ready to go? I thought we were still years away from shovels in the ground. I haven’t seen any station designs for Sheppard and Lawrence.

    Steve: Scarborough is some time away from actually starting and, yes, the station designs are not finished. This could affect the tunnel alignment plans too. Remember that despite the hoopla about an RFQ for potential tunnel builders, the opening date is still pegged at 2029-30 and that implies a drawn out schedule. In turn, I suspect that was intended to avoid having too many projects on the go at once. Scarborough is important politically, but more for the optics of getting “something” started to show faith in the project, and to let Doug Ford cut a ribbon if only in front of a digger and a dump truck while he is still Premier.


  16. If we were, or had been smarter, and had surface Relief in the Don Valley, with connection to RIchmond Hill GO line as per 1995 OPlan, and some other measures or Relief function, I think we could squeeze the billions of the Bloor and Yonge money pit. And since many of us only see robust transit as subway, why not explore a subway on the Don Valley Parkway instead of the OL and Yonge/Bloor? The overload on to only two spines is Wrong.

    The Stupid Subway Extension has backed us all in to a corner; and now it’s oh ‘safety’, but we don’t take safety issues with climate breakdown at all seriously to think of shutting down the Pearson Airport as a containment/preservation measure. We don’t even measure the GHGs in our national or City profile – not good for getting votes.

    A smaller relief measure is a continuous Bloor/Danforth bikeway, and if the transit weren’t so relatively light (I haven’t been on), it should be done as a coping/health measure. But we’re incapable of doing even a small part of Bloor St. E. in the 2001 Bike Plan for maybe $50,000 – though it’s a logical follow-through of the existing Viaduct lanes.- in existence for 20-ish years.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Steve writes: Do you mean “microbial”, not “microbal”?

    Indeed, an early morning typo on my behalf. Retracing my link for veracity, however, the TorSun story containing the “Aegis Microbe Shield Antimicrobial Spray” link has gone dead. It was to the purported Cdn licensee.

    It was live a week ago, at which time I traced the product to the US manufacturer’s source, and checked the EPA status. Rather than dwell on what I found there, I managed to find the CBC story.

    It’s a much more comprehensive story on the TTC’s and Metrolinx’ claims, the TTC using a different disinfectant. Aikins appears to be walking back claims made either earlier or mistakenly in the TorSun article:

    From the CBC article:

    […][Aikins said Metrolinx conducted a pilot project using a “long acting” antimicrobial agent on 12 coaches of a GO train, then on Saturday morning, it decided to use it on its buses and trains. She said the product is not toxic and can provide an extra layer of protection.

    Metrolinx will apply the product on all of its buses and trains over the next two weeks, she said.

    The agency will continue to monitor the effectiveness of the product.
    “Toronto Public Health recommends cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces in general,” Dr. Vinita Dubey, associate medical officer of health in Toronto, said in an emailed statement.

    “While, the COVID-19 virus does not likely live on surfaces for longer than a few hours, the best intervention to prevent the transmission of this virus in public places and from public surfaces is frequent handwashing, or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.”

    Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, infectious disease expert at Trillium Health Partners, said it’s still unknown if the disinfectants being used by the transit agencies will work to combat COVID-19 because there are still so many unknowns about the virus.

    “When it comes to the coronavirus, we don’t exactly know how it acts yet. We do know the primary way that it’s transmitted to others is through droplets, when you cough, when you sneeze. How it works in terms of touching other surfaces is not entirely clear.”

    Chakrabarti said the most important thing is to remember to wash hands frequently.]

    Interestingly, the TorSun story is dated March 4, and the CBC one March 3, updated the same day.

    Googling to get more background on this, it seems a lot of disinfectants aren’t certified to be effective.

    Rather than my dismissing the efficacy of any, best to flip this over, and the TTC and Metrolinx should take note:

    […][Although there’s good evidence the novel coronavirus is one of the easiest types of viruses to kill, scientists are still determining its exact nature and how big a role surface transmission plays in its spread. As researchers rush to understand the new pathogen, the US EPA is working to provide the public with information about disinfectants that can help slow its spread. Such claims won’t be allowed in brick-and-mortar stores, though, until more testing can be done.][…]

    Source: Chemical & Engineering News


  18. York University Student said “You forgot to state the Scarborough subway extension. It has funding from all levels of government, design work has been well underway, and construction starts in early 2021. This is the project least likely to be cancelled.”

    You might want to check the history of the Eglinton West subway before making brave statements like that.


  19. This is so true, even if it is satire…

    The Beaverton: TTC adequate for first time in 40 years

    Steve: Alas despite the satire, there have been shuttle buses and signal failures and “operational problems” aplenty. And a transit Nirvana should not come at such a horrendous cost.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Spurr writes for TorStar:

    Metrolinx drops commitment to give face masks to GO workers
    By Ben SpurrTransportation Reporter
    Sat., March 21, 2020

    Which directly contradicts statements made to Spurr two days previously:

    Metrolinx gives GO Transit staff face masks, effectively stops fare enforcement amid COVID-19
    By Ben SpurrTransportation Reporter
    Thu., March 19, 2020

    Both are non-paywall, so I’ll only quote the points to highlight:

    Today’s article, the former linked above, states:

    But in a video message to employees posted Friday, Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster said the agency won’t be distributing masks “because there isn’t any medical advice that suggests that it’s necessary to do so.”

    The masks the agency had said it would distribute are the higher-end N95 models with respirators, which are designed to protect wearers from viruses. They have become difficult to find since the start of the outbreak.

    “because there isn’t any medical advice that suggests that it’s necessary to do so”. Actually that’s highly debatable, and a subject flaring on the internet and in medical circles right now, but that isn’t the sciatic nerve that made Verster jerk in anguish. Just remember that there’s absolutely no medical proof for the “one year anti-microbial spray” discussed in prior posts here either. Metrolinx just babbles and makes things up as it goes along.

    From the earlier story: (Aikins states)

    “We are well-stocked with masks, respirators, gloves and hand sanitizer and are working with our local, provincial and federal partners to ensure a constant supply is available.”

    Keep in mind these are the N95 masks. Emphasis on “We are well-stocked with masks”. Uh Oh! That’s something that Verster really doesn’t want divulged if true. Or the present Ford regime. To the presently abjectly under-equipped medical front-line workers, that’s a slap in the face.

    Perhaps Ms Aikins could offer to spray the workers with something that will “last a year”? It seems to eradicate union relations quickly and exquisitely.

    I suspect there’s a lot more to come out about this little imbroglio…

    Today’s Spurr article:

    (Verster) appeared to blame the media for any confusion around the issue, saying Metrolinx wouldn’t give out masks “despite what you read in the press.” He didn’t address the email one of his vice presidents had sent to union leadership.

    There’s a saying that “there’s nothing like a crisis to bring out the worst in people”. So true. Stand by for more…


  21. With cancellations, and yes, Suspect Subway Extension is a prime candidate in my view, or should be, though we have to spend on transit there and elsewhere, we should learn what to look for in contracts from the Sorbara Extension, another too-political subway with too high a set of public costs, and some ongoing. Getting the extension up to York U made some sense, but to actually get into Vaughan and the vicinity of some land holdings? Nope. So contracts were all structured to interlink somehow, so that it wasn’t possible to interfere with the whole package, so we were $crewed. Odds are this could occur again, though with SSE, it’s the entire concept in favour of other options.

    And to tie in to public health, the size of the proposed bus terminal, and all those diesel buses will be a Problem, not that we really do much worrying about emissions it seems. And there’s the over-concentration of interchange as well.

    So diffuse lines and transfers – a network even – are far more resilient than Major spines, which with SSE, concentrates further load, or will, on to the Danforth end, and nope, not too much Relief out there, as Eglinton won’t help that much especially if it feeds in to Yonge, not really planned for either.

    Meanwhile, we still lack that bit of Bloor St. E. for bike safety, though in the 2001 Bike Plan, for maybe $25,000 or $50,000. And all of Scarborough could have had a connected on-road bike network, though just paint, for modest millions by now, hardly even the cancellations fees.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. “There’s a saying that “there’s nothing like a crisis to bring out the worst in people”. So true. Stand by for more…”

    I’d say it’s more like “There’s nothing like a crisis to find out who the flaky a-holes are.”

    There’s a lot of stand-up folks out there, from TTC operators to healthcare staff to grocery store staff to garbage collectors. All staying at it for us. I’m sure a lot of them would like to be at home hiding, like the rest of us, but they’re the heroes. Now, once you get into management…well a-holes are a lot easier to find than heroes.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Me: You forgot to state the Scarborough subway extension. It has funding from all levels of government, design work has been well underway, and construction starts in early 2021. This is the project least likely to be cancelled.

    Nick L: You might want to check the history of the Eglinton West subway before making brave statements like that.

    There is no connection between the Eglinton West subway or the Scarborough subway extension. I am confident that construction on the Scarborough subway will start soon. The finishing time is some time away but it is important to start construction ASAP to avoid political interference from any future governments although it is difficult to see how the NDP under Andrea Horwath or the Liberals under Steven Del Duca can win. I would say that the NDP could defeat Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives but not under Andrea Horwath who has lost four successive elections.

    Steve: In a failed re-election attempt, David Peterson announced a network of subway lines going into the 1990 election. Bob Rae inherited the plan and embraced it as a job stimulus package, but most of it never got beyond the design phase.

    Eglinton West was cancelled by Mike Harris. He wanted to cancel the Sheppard line too, but is was far enough along, and he needed Lastman’s support for the megacity legislation, so he let it go. However, the funding tap was turned off and the line ended at Don Mills.

    It’s a long time from now to fall 2020 when Metrolinx hopes to call a Request for Proposals, and a good year to the point where they would award any contracts (this applies to the Ontario Line too). Priorities could change even under a Ford government, let alone any of the opposition parties.


  24. In a Mar. 4 Toronto Sun article, Metrolinx media spokesman Anne Marie Aikins said,

    “Metrolinx is spraying all GO Trains and buses with a new surface disinfectant that lasts up to a year in the wake of escalating concern about the coronavirus, says spokesman Anne Marie Aikins.”

    That statement about lasting up to a year is wrong and misleading; she was either misinformed by her staff or she is exaggerating its efficacy and duration just because it sounds good.

    There is nothing in Microban Co. literature, the maker of Aegis Microbe Shield, stating that period of effective duration. They state in their website, “AEGIS® technology has a history of safe use and durable, ensuring long-lasting antimicrobial efficacy.”

    Microban Co. just issued a memo on its Aegis Microbe Shield stating,

    “Recently, many of Microban’s customers have questions about the effectiveness of Microban’s built-in antimicrobial technologies against coronavirus COVID-19. Microban is the world leader in antimicrobial technologies and odor control solutions. Microban also has other product lines related to disinfection. Our built-in antimicrobial technologies are effective against a plethora of product damaging microbes, but are NOT currently proven to have any antiviral properties when built into products. The active technology itself MAY be effective against viruses in pure state, but NOT when incorporated into a product. Microban antimicrobial product protection works to minimize damaging microbial growth on the surface of products, ensuring they remain cleaner and fresher between cleanings. The technologies also help to reduce the risk of premature product degradation.

    Regularly cleaning surfaces with disinfectants can help.

    Our built-in antimicrobial technologies are effective against a plethora of product damaging microbes, but are NOT currently proven to have any antiviral properties when built into products. Microban antimicrobial product protection is NOT intended to control disease pathogens.”

    Two key lines from the memo are:

    • Our built-in antimicrobial technologies are effective against a plethora of product damaging microbes, but are NOT currently proven to have any antiviral properties when built into products.
    • Microban antimicrobial product protection is NOT intended to control disease pathogens.

    Anyone proposing its use against Covid-19 virus is wrong and offering false hope and promise.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Bill writes: I’d say it’s more like “There’s nothing like a crisis to find out who the flaky a-holes are.”

    There’s no shortage of them in management it seems, albeit I suspect there’s actually some very competent but sidelined management at Metrolinx, especially in their planning and technical department. But they’re muzzled.

    I’ve thought about Aikins and Verster’s comments, and Aikins gets herself into many awkward situations, and she’s certainly misspoken more than a few times, the Coronavirus situation prompting a number from her, but Verster has truly put his hands to his face on what’s reported by Spurr, where Verster could very easily have taken the situation well in hand in a sanitary way by stating something to the effect of:

    We made an announcement two days ago, which unfortunately, we have to walk back. It was made in haste and with the best of intentions for our employees’ health, but with further consideration and discussion with Queen’s Park, and those on the medical front lines desperate for the N95 masks, we’ve determined the best way forward for all concerned is to issue, or allow the use of, surgical type masks for our front-line employees, and the bulk of the N95 ones will be put aside for the emergency needs of the medical teams until such time as our stock can be replenished.

    Verster’s snapping at Spurr indicates very poor management skill. A classic ‘shoot the messenger’ reaction. It’s far from the first time Verster has done that, as Steve knows all too well, and many others.

    Personally, for the life of me, I can’t understand why the TTC or Metrolinx would forbid the use of masks by employees on the front line, let alone the company provide them.

    Every pic of airline employees embarking, disembarking or in flight shows them wearing issued surgical masks. I even seen them on the UPX and at Bloor station wearing them.

    The TTC is now allowing employees to ‘wear their own’. Metrolinx? I withhold further comment for now…


  26. Bob: Many thanks for that! I had to put together a case from widely Googling, and using subtractive logic. You nailed it. No wonder the TorSun link went dead to the purported supplier to Metrolinx.

    There’s very real concern as to the wholesale spraying of *any* substance in a wild attempt to ‘kill the beast’. It can do more harm than good, especially for people with existing breathing issues, rendering them even more susceptible to the ‘stickiness’ of the Coronavirus.

    Steve: Not to mention the well-known problem of ineffective “cleaning” that leaves the most robust variants alive.


  27. Why are people discussing medical issues on a transit site? Let us focus on transit. My question is how is the TTC going to spend the millions extra that the TTC is collecting thanks to yet another fare increase that was shoved down our throats? I hope that the TTC will spend the extra cash wisely on increasing service rather than on increasing salaries as usual.

    Steve: The discussion was about the credibility (or lack of it) of Metrolinx claims for disinfecting its vehicles, and more generally of their tendency to be bearers of “good news” even if it’s inaccurate.

    As for the TTC’s fare increase, they are already in the hole on revenue thanks to the drop in riding. The budget did have provision for some added service, although frankly not as much as there should have been. We continue to suffer from the somewhat artificial constraint that we don’t have enough vehicles to improve service, but don’t build new capacity to hold a larger fleet either.

    Even the discussions about electric buses focus on replacing existing vehicles, not on fleet and service growth.


  28. Steve said: “It’s a long time from now to fall 2020 when Metrolinx hopes to call a Request for Proposals, and a good year to the point where they would award any contracts (this applies to the Ontario Line too). Priorities could change even under a Ford government, let alone any of the opposition parties.”

    You also forgot the big point about the Eglinton West subway; shovels were already in the ground when it was cancelled. If memory serves, they were only a few months away from the point where it would have been cheaper to complete the line rather than filling in the hole. So simply being shovel ready is not immunity to having a project cancelled.

    And continuing the point quoted above, the Ford Government has been gaining political capital from the Covid-19 crisis. If they don’t screw it up by the fall, they may feel confident that they no longer need to build subways to win votes and kill off all subway projects to get the deficit under control.

    Steve: No, only a small amount of work happened on Eglinton, unlike Sheppard where there was a real push to get it to the point of no return before the election. And, no, I did not forget it.

    In the current crisis I will be surprised to see contracts let for either the Scarborough or Ontario Line projects.


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