By Ben Spurr, Transportation Reporter
Mon., July 13, 2020
The TTC’s push to make Toronto’s transit system fully accessible by 2025 is in jeopardy, with the agency warning it will be “very challenging” to make the required improvements at two subway stations by the provincially set deadline.
In a report that will be debated at the TTC board on Tuesday, the agency notes that while its official schedule “currently indicates completion” of all remaining stations by 2025, which is the date set out by the Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act, there are significant obstacles to completing the necessary work at Islington and Warden subway stations on time.
Part of the problem is that both stations have bus bays that feature individual staircases to each platform from the subway below. Replacing each staircase with an elevator isn’t practical, and instead the bus bays at both stops will have to be rebuilt.
Complicating matters is that CreateTO, the city’s real estate arm, has designated both stations as the site of future developments into which work for the accessibility improvements will have to be integrated. The need to co-ordinate with CreateTO and the city’s planning and transportation departments is expected to push back the start of construction.
“Because of this late start and the complexity of these station redevelopments, Warden and Islington will be very challenging to complete by 2025,” the report states.
David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disability Act Alliance, a volunteer advocacy group, said the TTC has “absolutely no excuse” for not meeting the 2025 deadline, which the province set in 2005.
“They were given 20 years” and any delay is a result of the transit agency “not doing its job,” he said.
“This is not news. We didn’t just invent people with disabilities or wheelchairs.”
Lepofsky argued that making the transit system accessible is not only the TTC’s legal obligation, but a moral imperative. More than 2.6 million Ontarians have disabilities, he said, and many of them live at or below the poverty line and rely on public transit.
And while people with disabilities are in the minority, many Ontarians will experience accessibility challenges as they age.
“Somebody who can ride the TTC today is just one accident, illness (or age-related problem) away from not being able to ride it tomorrow,” he said.
TTC spokesperson Stuart Green said in an email that making the system accessible “is a priority commitment” for the agency, but it has long been known that Warden and Islington would be difficult to complete.
“We’ve said for some time that these two stations are, by far, the biggest challenges we face due to the individual bus bays and multi-level station layouts,” he said.
Green said the TTC is exploring options to speed up accessibility improvements at the two stops, including “building a temporary bus loading area that would make the stations accessible” until permanent structures could be completed.
Through its “Easier Access” program, the TTC has made 46 of its stations accessible, and has 26 more to complete by the deadline. The required work varies depending on the station but can involve constructing elevators and accessible doors, widening fare gates, upgrading power supplies, communications and HVAC systems, and removing existing stairways and escalators.
The complex work has been broken into phases, and the current stage, which is the third, has a budget of $837 million. However, the report notes agency staff expect that as design and planning work proceeds the budget will need to be increased “to accommodate more complex requirements.”
Ben Spurr is a Toronto-based reporter covering transportation. Reach him by email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @BenSpurr