Riders to face more 'short-term pain' of subway closures, streetcar diversions in 2023, TTC warns

TTC CEO Rick Leary says closures will be required overnight and on weekends on parts of the transit system this year to conduct repairs. Leary says the closures will inconvenience riders but are worth it in the long run.  (Dean Gariepy/CBC News - image credit)
TTC CEO Rick Leary says closures will be required overnight and on weekends on parts of the transit system this year to conduct repairs. Leary says the closures will inconvenience riders but are worth it in the long run. (Dean Gariepy/CBC News - image credit)

Repair work on Toronto's transit lines this year will cause dozens of weekend subway closures and streetcar diversions as the city spends approximately $800 million to replace aging parts of the system.

TTC commissioners approved a plan at their meeting Thursday to make the work possible over the next 12 months. CEO Rick Leary stressed that repairs and upgrades are necessary to help keep the system in good working order.

"It's critical to the improvement of service," he said. "There's a lot of benefits to doing the work. It is an inconvenience, we acknowledge that."

Leary said the work is part of the TTC's $1.3-billion capital spending plan for 2023, which also includes a number of other items like new vehicle purchases. Overall, the TTC has a 10-year $12.5-billion capital plan.

Fort Monaco, the TTC's chief operations and infrastructure officer, said the volume of work is similar to last year, but instead of focusing on the subway system, streetcar track repairs and upgrades will be slightly emphasized in 2023.

"As you can see, it is going to be another busy year," Monaco said. "Pretty much every line is going to have some impact of some sort."

15 full weekend subway closures for Line 1

This year, there will be 15 full weekend closures on the Yonge-University subway line, or Line 1, and nine full weekend closures of the Bloor-Danforth line, also known as Line 2. The service also plans a combined 116 early evening shutdowns on those lines to give crews more time to work.

On the city's streetcar routes, there are capital projects scheduled for the 501 Queen, 504 King, 506 Charlton, and 512 St. Clair. There are also two dozen nightly diversions on the 501 Queen and 504 King lines, with 33 planned for the 510 Spadina route, on the TTC's long list of repairs.

Dean Gariepy/CBC
Dean Gariepy/CBC

For a full list of the closures, see here.

Much of the work scheduled is related to replacing tracks, repairing electrical lines and other maintenance. But some of the subway closures this year will also give crews time to install the automated train control system in the eastern-most stations of the Bloor-Danforth line. That will provide better service in the long-term, Leary said.

Over the last few years, there have been a significant delays on the subway because of the old signal system, he said.

"It was beyond its useful life," Leary said. "We did all those weekend diversions to install the automatic train control system. And now we (have) more trains going through Yonge and Bloor than ever before."

"It's fluid, better movement of trains. It's a safer system now and the public sees that," he said.

Commissioner urges better communication with riders

Julie Osborne, a TTC citizen commissioner, asked administrators to communicate clearly with riders about the work and the delays it will cause.

"I would just encourage us, in particular for these large scale closures, to have information out so that people understand that this is a good thing," she said.

Showwei Chu/CBC
Showwei Chu/CBC

"It may be some short-term pain, but there is some significant long-term gain."

Monaco said one weekend subway closure gives maintenance crews 50 uninterrupted hours of work — compared to the hour and a half window they have after the service shuts down each night..

"Once we're in the closure, … it's 50 hours, and it's all guns ablazing," he said.

'We just don't have the facilities'

Coun. Gord Perks, who represents Ward 4, Parkdale-High Park, said the repairs will be a tough pill to swallow for transit riders. He said the growing amount of repair work is due to years of under-investment in the service.

"It's going to mean that if we don't put more money in, we're going to be locked into not being able to increase service as more riders come back on the transit system," he said.

"We just won't have the facilities to support them and the vehicles to support them."

Perks said Toronto needs stable, predictable funding from upper levels of government to help address the TTC's state of good repair and provide quality service. The TTC also needs a commitment to quality service from the city, he said.

"We're in for a few years of rough rides," he said.

"And until we make it a priority here at city hall and get the federal and provincial governments to understand that cutting a ribbon isn't as important as keeping the system we've got in good shape, it's going to continue to be bad."