TTC Openly Violates Its Repeated Commitments to Ensure All Subway Stations Will Be Accessible by 2025 – Will Ford Government Do Anything In Response to this Flagrant Violation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Acts 2025 Deadline for Ontario to Become Accessible?

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities
https://www.aodaalliance.org aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/aodaalliance

October 19, 2023

SUMMARY

At its annual Public Forum on Accessible Transit on Monday, October 23, 2023 at 7 pm, will the Toronto Transit Commission come clean on why it is breaking its repeated commitments to ensure that all Toronto subway stations will be accessible by 2025?

For years the TTC, Canada’s largest public transit system, repeatedly committed that it will ensure that all Toronto subway stations will be accessible to passengers with disabilities by 2025. Examples are set out below. As recently as last fall, the TTC told The Local, an online news publication, that it was on track to ensure that all subway stations were accessible by 2025. A September 27, 2022 article in The Local reported:

55 of the TTC’s 75 subway stations are now accessible, according to the TTC, and they are on track to make the remaining stations fully accessible by the AODA’s 2025 deadline.

January 1, 2025 is the mandatory deadline that the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) sets for the TTC to become fully accessible.

Last month, the TTC made public the fact that it will violate the AODA requirement, and its repeated commitments to the public. This is inexcusable and cries out for a public investigation and accountability. In 2005, the Ontario Legislature unanimously gave Ontario, including the TTC, a long 20 years to fulfil the obligation to become accessible to people with disabilities. The TTC was well aware of that deadline as early as October 2004, when the previous McGuinty Government introduced the AODA into the Legislature for debate and eventual passage into law.

The TTC’s contravention of this requirement also violates its obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code (which bans disability discrimination in services like public transit) and Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (which guarantees the right to equality before and under the law, and to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination on grounds like disability).

TTC senior staff in effect admit this violation in a September 19, 2023 report to the governing TTC board (a board which includes several elected Toronto City Council members). Key passages of that report are set out below as well as a September 19, 2023 Toronto Star report on this.

The AODA Alliance calls on the TTC to answer key questions about this violation of the AODA and of its prior public commitments to meet the 2025 deadline. Why did the TTC wait so long to even begin renovation projects at several stations, thereby ensuring that it will violate the January 1, 2025 deadline? When did the TTC staff first know that they would not meet the January 1, 2025 deadline? This could not have just popped up for them in September 2023. Why did the TTC not make this fact public much sooner?

Was the TTC being inaccurate when it earlier pledged to meet the 2025 deadline? If not, then what specific events have intervened to cause its delay in making all its subway stations accessible?

What steps had the TTC taken to ensure that it would fulfil the 2025 deadline? Who made the decision within the TTC that they would not meet the 2025 deadline? When did they decide this? What options were explored before reaching this conclusion? Why were further options not taken? For example, why were some renovation projects not even begun before this year or next year?

We call on the TTC to immediately shelve its so-called Family of Services policy, in which it wrongly and unfairly forces some WheelTrans riders onto the conventional subway for part of their rides. The TTC should not rush to push WheelTrans passengers onto a conventional transit system in which the TTC has failed to meet its own commitments to make that conventional system fully accessible to passengers with disabilities.

The TTC annually holds a public forum to hear from passengers with disabilities about accessibility barriers they face on the TTC. These began as a result of David Lepofsky’s successful human rights complaints against the TTC in 2005 and 2007. The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario found that the TTC had for years violated the human rights of blind Torontonians by failing to consistently and reliably announce aloud all bus, subway and streetcar stops.

At the TTC’s 2017 Public Forum on Accessible Transit, TTC General Manager Andy Byford enjoyed a round of applause when he publicly pledged that all the TTC subway stations would be accessible by 2025. The September 20, 2017 CBC news article included a report that confirmed this:

Byford added that the TTC is on track to meet its 2025 target of making all subway stations accessible.

That pledge has been repeated at these forums in other years. The AODA Alliance calls on the TTC to publicly set the record straight and explain exactly when and why it first knew or suspected that it would not fulfil the AODA and the TTC’s earlier pledges on point.

We hope and trust that the TTC had developed plans to ensure that it would meet the 2025 deadline, before it made these earlier pledges. We also expect that as a responsible public agency, the TTC included contingencies into its plans. It would have been very irresponsible to make that pledge without due diligence to ensure that it would be able to meet that commitment.

In a September 26, 2023 City TV news story TTC will miss 2025 accessibility deadline (in which AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was also quoted), TTC leadership blamed this failure on the Ford Government. However, the TTC had 13 years to comply with the AODA before the Ford Government was elected. That news story included these quotes:

Reporter: Those are stations that we knew were going to take a long time. Why didn’t we get started on that earlier?

Rob Leary: Yes, that’s the question, but they weren’t funded, but we didn’t get funding until 2020. Today we have 15 of the remaining 16 stations under construction.

Reporter: Councillors on the TTC Board are also placing the blame squarely on the provinces shoulders for failing to meet the goals set out by the AODA in 2005.

Josh Matlow: The fact that the TTC is so far behind its goals, state of good repair, accessibility, and so much more is a testament to the provincial government deciding to pull out from its commitment for operating dollars. The lack of funding in general to the TTC.

Diane Saxe: Remember Rob Ford and Doug Ford. Gravy train at city hall! We’re not going to pay for anything, we’re not going to fix anything, we’re not going to build anything. Well, the chickens have come home to roost.

[?]

Josh Matlow: What I’m hearing from staff is that they’re doing the best that they can with what they have.

The AODA Alliance calls on the Ford Government to fulfil its responsibilities to enforce the AODA and to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. The Ford Government should immediately take effective action to get the TTC to live up to its earlier commitments that all subway stations would be accessible by 2025. It should tell the public, including people with disabilities, what it plans to do to address this.

The Ontario Government has been sitting on the final recommendations of the Transportation Standards Development Committee since early 2018. It has done nothing since then to strengthen the Transportation Accessibility Standard that was enacted under the AODA 12 years ago, in June 2011. It is building new public transit infrastructure without ensuring that it will be fully accessible to passengers with disabilities.

In May 2018, the AODA Alliance made public a widely-viewed captioned video that documents the serious accessibility barriers in new Toronto area public transit stations, including new TTC subway stations, that were built or renovated long after the AODA was enacted. The Ford Government has announced no plan of action to rectify those new disability barriers that were created with the taxpayers’ money.

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

For more background, visit the AODA Alliance website’s transportation page.

MORE DETAILS

Excerpt from TTC September 2023 Staff Report

Originally posted at https://ttc-cdn.azureedge.net/-/media/Project/TTC/DevProto/Documents/Home/Public-Meetings/Board/2023/Sep-26/5_EA_Phase_III_Project_Status_Update_September_2023.pdf?rev=bd67db03528c4f44861b9b48c40bdb9a&hash=E711152D166C5C1BC4119B4BE28C9B6D. The EAIII program is an important part of the 2019-2023 TTC Multi-Year Accessibility Plan in its objective to fulfill the provincially legislated requirements in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA).
The objective of the AODA is to ensure that facilities and services in Ontario are accessible by January 1, 2025. The TTC has been working towards achieving this objective by ensuring elevator access at each TTC station.
As a result of the above delay in completing easier access at all stations and in order to ensure that the TTC transit system is fully accessible by 2025, a contingency service plan will be developed for the interim period for each station in which elevator access has been delayed beyond January 1, 2025. The interim service plan will ensure that there is accessibility to the subway system and such interim measures may include bus / shuttle service to and from nearby accessible stations.
Since the last update to the Board, the TTC has undertaken a review covering the following points which have or will impact our ability to make all remaining stations accessible with elevators by January 1, 2025:
* The majority of stations delivered to date have been of a less complex nature, and we undertook an exercise to reappraise the risk profile and time impact on complex station projects either underway or due to go into construction.
* Market conditions have changed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic with respect to the cost of work and the availability of materials.
* The volume of construction activity within the GTA has put a strain on the availability of labour and services.
* Interdependencies with City of Toronto projects, impacts to pedestrian access, and traffic impacts.
Recognizing the level of complexity and effort required, together with the challenges noted above, the following actions were taken to expedite the delivery of the program:
a. At its meeting on July 7, 2021, the Board approved delegated authority to the TTC’s Chief Executive Officer to award future Easier Access III construction contracts provided that the contract award values are within the TTC construction estimates;
b. The delegation of authority to the TTC CEO was updated at the April 14, 2022,, meeting for the remaining stations;
c. Advanced design development to identify requirements early in order to commence with the lengthy process of approvals and property acquisitions in parallel with completing the design and commencing construction;
d. Established a City and TTC Executive Steering Committee to oversee and advance all approvals and property acquisitions;
e. Separated and completed station power upgrades using both external and internal resources in advance to reduce construction complexity as well as performed utility relocations ahead of EAIII construction, where feasible;
f. Increased resources to manage the construction of the remaining stations; and Mitigated encountered delay impacts with acceleration and recovery plans.
g. The CEO directed an independent assurance review be undertaken to assess the performance of the program, and provide recommendations for improvement.
Not withstanding these efforts, a number of challenges remain at 13 stations, which are forecasted to delay construction of new elevators beyond January 1, 2025. Refer to the Program Schedule in Appendix A.
Mitigating steps are continuing to be taken to expedite the construction at these stations to minimize delays to the elevator construction schedules.
The Board was provided with the annual Accessibility Plan Status Update, most recently in July 2023.

Toronto Star September 19, 2023

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/ttc-won-t-meet-ontario-s-2025-accessibility-deadline-staff-report-says/article_a8aac6a6-ae97-5fd8-9972-30e8d1ec26b5.html#:~:text=TTC%20won’t%20meet%20Ontario’s%202025%20accessibility%20deadline%2C%20staff%20report,all%20its%20subway%20stations%20accessible. TTC won’t meet Ontario’s 2025 accessibility deadline, staff report says Shiela Wang

Nearly two decades after Ontario’s 2025 accessibility goal was put in place, the TTC staff have said in their latest report that the transit agency will not be able to meet the province’s target.
A total of 57 TTC subway stations out of 70 will meet the standards of 2005’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) by the end of 2024 while the rest are expected to be completed after the province’s deadline, according to a TTC report.

The document, posted on TTC’s website Tuesday evening, is scheduled to be discussed at the board meeting Sept. 26. Fifty-four stations are said to be already accessible, and three more Castle Frank, Donlands and Glencairn are expected to join their number by the end of next year.

Nine stations’ accessibility renovations are scheduled to be completed within 2025, while Spadina, King and Warden are due to be completed within 2026.

The document says the TTC will develop a contingency service plan for the stations that do not have elevator access by Jan. 1, 2025. The measures may include bus or shuttle service to an accessible station, the report says.

Any delay is really unacceptable, because these stations should have been accessible a long time ago, said Shelagh Pizey-Allen, a spokesperson for TTC Riders, a membership-based group of transit users.

Pizey-Allen said there had been worries about the TTC meeting the accessibility target in the AODA, and this is the first time the TTC have confirmed the delays in a staff report.

She also raised concerns that the TTC’s contingency plan might be accessible on paper, but the reality will be extremely frustrating. A bus or shuttle service is likely to mean slower service longer wait times plus transfer time so it’s in no way a replacement for a fully accessible subway station.

In the report, the TTC staff listed a number of challenges they face in delivering the accessibility program. It’s stated that the majority of the stations that have been completed have been of a less complex nature than the ones that are yet unaltered. The volume of construction activity in the GTA has also put a strain on available of labour and services, the report adds.

We still have a world-class city that doesn’t have accessible transit to a large number of people with disabilities. That’s terrible, said Terri-Lynn

Langdon who is a wheelchair user and transit activist. Langdon who lives near College station, which is currently not accessible said she often wheels to Queen’s Park station to take transit.

What’s so concerning is that the TTC has a plan to shift up to 50 per cent of current Wheel-Trans users onto the conventional system for parts of their trips. And so if the conventional system is not accessible by 2025, then that plan has to be stopped, Pizey-Allen said.

Wheel-Trans has long offered door-to-door transportation to Toronto transit users with physical, cognitive, sensory and mental-health disabilities that make it difficult or impossible for them to use conventional transit, which was built with able-bodied people in mind.

But in recent years, the transit agency has begun offering trips called Family of Services, where Wheel-Trans users take conventional transit for part of their journeys.

A TTC spokesperson did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment Tuesday night.

Sheila Wang is an investigative reporter for the Star. Reach her via email: sheilawang@thestar.ca.

TTC Announcement of the October 23, 2023 Annual Public Forum on Accessible Transit

You are invited to the 2023 TTC Public Forum on Accessible Transit.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Marketplace (for one-on-one discussions): 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Open Public Forum: 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Toronto Reference Library (789 Yonge Street), Bram and Bluma Appel Salon (second floor accessible via elevators)

The purpose of the Forum is to update customers about TTC accessibility initiatives, including the Wheel-Trans 10-Year Strategy, Family of Services, and the Easier Access project, and gather feedback about possible improvements to the TTC’s accessible conventional and specialized services. We are returning to an in-person event along with an option to join us virtually.

Customers can meet one-on-one with TTC’s staff, management, and the Advisory Committee on Accessible Transit (ACAT) between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. The open Public Forum will take place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The Reference Library is one block north of Bloor-Yonge Subway Station, which is on Lines 1 and 2.

Wheel-Trans customers may book trips to the Public Forum starting one week prior to the event. Please note that all return trips will be organized after the event finishes at 9 p.m. and will not be scheduled in advance.

ASL, captioning, and attendants will be available. Refreshments will not be provided.

Customers are encouraged to register and submit questions prior to the event. For anyone unable to attend in person, the livestream will be available with closed captioning and ASL interpretation, starting at 7 p.m.

Customers can also join the conversation on Twitter (@TTCHelps) using the hashtag #TTCAccess, or submit feedback by contacting TTC Customer Service at 416-393-3030, via email at Accessibility.Forum@ttc.ca, or online at ttc.ca.

It would be greatly appreciated if you can share this information with your networks.

TTC’s Commitments to Make All Subway Stations Accessible by the 2025 Deadline

* Accessible Customer Services Policy (last updated December 2016): More than half of TTC’s stations are accessible to and from the street, and bus/ subway platforms. Accessible stations are equipped with elevators, accessible entrance doors, way-finding tiles and signage, benches, and accessible fare gates. All stations are planned to be accessible by 2025.
* Board Meeting April 11, 2018: TTC staff request CreateTO to prioritize the re-development of Warden and Islington Stations in order to allow the completion of the Easier Access work at these locations and meet the 2025 legislated deadline for AODA compliance.
* TTC Board to discuss service options for continued service along Scarborough Rapid Transit corridor February 4, 2021: As well, the report to the Board also details consideration for the TTC’s mandate to be completely accessible by 2025. Four of the six SRT stations do not currently meet AODA requirements. The complete bus replacement option supports the TTC’s goal of making public transit accessible to all by running AODA-compliant, all-accessible buses on the line beginning in 2023. At another point, TTC mentions that the 2025 AODA deadline is a barrier to keeping SRT running until 2023: All TTC stations and vehicles must be AODA compliant by 2025. Lawrence East, Ellesmere, Midland and McCowan stations are currently not barrier-free.
* CEO’s Report, January 2022: TTC adds new accessible stations: Easier access elevators entered service at Sherbourne Station (Line 2) and Yorkdale Station (Line 1) in late December making these our 54th and 55th accessible stations on the subway network. Construction work continues at numerous other stations on the system as we remain committed to fulfilling our mission towards a barrier-free transit system by 2025, in accordance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).
* TTC’s proposed 2023 budget invests in safety and cleanliness, adjusts service to meet new ridership patterns January 4, 2023: Highlights of the TTC’s 2022-2031 Capital Budget and Plan include:
o Funding for essential safety and state of good repair capital work to ensure safety and reliability of our system.
o Funding to meet legislative requirements related to full accessibility of the system by 2025. [?]
* Wheel Trans Eligibility Application: A significant part of TTC’s conventional transit is currently accessible. The remainder will be accessible by 2025.