On August 27, the TTC announced that it will begin to recall workers who were laid off in April due to a dramatic drop in demand on the transit system.
450 drivers were laid off, and of these 150 will be recalled to provide extra resources for the demand school opening will bring in September.
TTC ridership had dropped to between 15 and 20 per cent of normal levels in the spring, but now sits in the 35 to 40 per cent range across the system. From previous announcements, we know that growth is strongest on the bus system, and crowding problems there have been reported often by riders even before any school traffic returns.
The TTC has not yet announced where service will be added as this depends on plans by school boards that have not yet been finalized.
As ridership continues to grow, more drivers will be recalled and the intent is to have all employees back to work when the system reaches 50 per cent of its pre-pandemic demand.
The TTC has enough buses to operate full service, and with the change in peak demand to a flatter service design, the fleet can go further to provide capacity than it did before. For off-peak service, the question is less whether TTC has the vehicles, but whether they have the drivers and budget headroom to use them.
Many routes currently operate with “trippers” that under normal circumstances would only run a few hours a day in the peaks, but now operate roughly seven hours at a time roughly between 6 AM and 1 PM, and again from 3 PM to 10 PM. The marginal cost of running longer “peak” service is actually less than it might seem because drivers spend more of their day driving on routes rather than to and from garages, and premiums associated with longer split shifts do not apply.
The challenge for 2020 and especially 2021 will be whether the funding level from various governments will allow the TTC to stay ahead of growing demand, and for how long a comparatively uncrowded transit experience will be possible.