In a new report released on Monday, Toronto’s board of health says more needs to be done to improve air quality in the city’s subway system.
The independent study commissioned in 2017 found elevated levels of fine particulate matter air pollution (PM2.5) and high levels of some metal components. The report concluded that the high levels of PM2.5 in the TTC subway system requires action to reduce the severity, especially on Line 2.
Toronto’s medical officer of health is recommending that the board of health approve a number of recommendations to mitigate the issue in both the short-term and the long-term.
The measures included requests to the TTC board to review its own operations including ventilation systems. It also recommended asking the TTC and Metrolinx to take air quality into account when reviewing future plans and modernization projects.
City council is also being asked to request that the TTC Board is required to report on opportunities to improve air quality by reviewing new and emerging information and technology.
While the report has found a need for improvement, it notes that PM2.5 levels are an issue in similar subway systems. It also said in those cities with air quality problems in their subways, some have already gathered information on mitigation strategies.
The TTC Board Chair and Councillor Jaye Robinson said in a statement that while some Torontonians may be fearful of their commutes following the report, public health and transit staff have confirmed the TTC is a safe and environmentally-friendly way to travel.
Robinson also said the TTC has made efforts for the past three decades to improve air quality.
While acknowledging an effort to look at new technology to address PM2.5, she said the TTC has made already made significant progress.
“Current testing shows concentrations of certain particulates in the subway air are now up to 10,000 times lower than they were in 1995,” said Robinson.
Mayor John Tory applauded the findings, noting he had pushed for a new test in 2017. In a statement, Tory said he found it unacceptable that the TTC hadn’t conducted air quality testing since 1995.
While the report found issues with the subways air quality, it also found there are some positive health impacts for subway use. It said compared to personal vehicle use, the subways are safer, promote physical activity, and also reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.