Torontonians want to be proud of their public transport network again, but it’s going to be a huge challenge to reverse years of neglect and inadequate funding.

Last week, the Toronto Star’s Jack Lakey wrote an in-depth series about the twin problems of overdue maintenance and grubbiness throughout the transit system.

It’s clearly time to deal effectively with backlogged repairs as well as increase the frequency of washing, waxing and painting stations. Riders can help on a small scale by controlling our litter, but also by urging Toronto city council to chart a path back to cleanliness and good repair. This will take money and persistence.


TTC chair Adam Giam­brone tells In Transit that ongoing maintenance problems such as leaks or missing tiles promote the feeling a station is dirty — an impression that would persist even if floors were “perfectly clean,” he says.

Several TTC commissioners support hiring more cleaners, but it’s uncertain how many are needed. Funds are expected this year to begin painting ceilings more often and, in 2009, Giambrone hopes to reduce the time between cleaning overhead lights. Of course, brighter lights also illuminate mud or salt stains on platforms — something that’s very noticeable lately.

The TTC chair says, “We’ll have to take a look at our cleaning standard for our floors because I think we probably have some more work to do, although … winter is always going to be a problem. Nobody really wins the war (on dirt) in winter,” adding, “The other issue is really our repairs.”

Giambrone says he and his office staff have toured the system’s stations and identified consistent issues to be dealt with this year, including mismatched tiles and holes in ceilings or walls.

While these may be considered cosmetic blemishes, riders notice acutely when some of the TTC’s heavily used escalators are out of service for long periods, sometimes extending well past the posted re-opening dates.

Giambrone says, “The issue of the escalators is a hard one because they’re getting older. The new ones are even crappier than the old ones,” he admits, acknowledging that elevating devices along the Sheppard subway need more maintenance than those in older stations. “Just putting in new escalators doesn’t actually solve the problem … we have a real challenge there.”

Giambrone says out of 69 subway and RT stops, 21 are in “good to excellent shape” — they are either relatively new or renovations will begin in the next year or so. “What we should have begun doing a decade ago is some major modernization,” he says. “Now some stations are close to 50 (years old).”

It seems we must prepare for years of gradual improvement. But at this pace, how long before Toronto has a gleaming, renewed TTC?

Ed Drass has been covering transportation issues in Toronto since 1998. He has a degree in urban studies from York University and regularly rides transit in the GTA and elsewhere.

Latest From ...