It has become a familiar scene now in Toronto: Thousands of people crowding the sidewalks on Bloor Street, elbow-to-elbow, and inching closer to an approaching shuttle bus that ends up being full.
On Wednesday, the Toronto Transit Commission’s Line 2 shut down for the third time in two months. This time it happened during morning rush hour. Ride-sharing services reportedly quadrupled their rates in some cases, making the so-called Better Way the only way.
“It’s a prime example of the need for aging infrastructure,” said TTC CEO Rick Leary.
In this case, the service disruption was caused by a partial derailment of an unoccupied train at Keele Station. Riders were forced onto packed shuttle buses and Bloor Street West was closed by police due to the high volume of pedestrians.
Leary learned about the incident while he was preparing a report to the TTC board on Monday on how the transit agency should spend $4.2 billion to fix the state of good repair.
“Everybody loves a ribbon-cutting for expansion. I really enjoy seeing what we have run flawlessly and provide the customer the service that we advertise, and that’s what we’re focusing on,” he said.
Yet Leary stayed in the office guiding senior staff unlike his predecessor Andy Byford, who would usually face angry riders during situations like this.
“For us, it’s about identifying the need for what has to be fixed. I don’t have to be visible,” he said.
Leary, who is originally from Boston, said he wanted to be Canadian since he was a child. He moved to Toronto 10 years ago and recently received his Canadian citizenship.
He said he understands he isn’t well known as CEOs in the past, but sees his priority as convincing those who hold the purse strings that more money is needed to help a transit system that is nearing the end of its life.
“I don’t have the notoriety of some of my predecessors, that I understand, but the understanding of the business is what I think I’m here to do — to fix this service, to fix this, to make it about customer service is the foundation of everything we do,” Leary said.
“And you have to fix the service to have customer service.”