By 10 a.m., Doug Smith is halfway through his early shift as a TTC route supervisor.
His feet and fingers should be numb in the sub-Arctic air that freezes the ink in a reporter’s pen.
But both he and Bryan Cross, two of the three route supervisors managing the 501 Queen streetcar route, just smile at the cold. They’ve learned to layer under their trademark red TTC jackets.
“If the weather’s good, Queen’s good,” says Smith.
Snow delays traffic and clogs the sand dispensers under the streetcars that help them maintain traction. That means stopping to clear the pipes, says Cross.
Frequent mechanical problems mean supervisors have to scramble to find another car. These days, the 30-year-old Rockets are failing so fast the TTC expects to be running buses on some routes by the end of the year to keep service levels up.
When he began as a supervisor on Queen 15 years ago, there were 44 cars on the route. Now there are 31, although he doesn’t say whether running the longer (but fewer) articulated streetcars has replaced some of the regular CLRVs.
Since September, Smith and Cross have been on the front lines of the Step Forward program, the code-name for the TTC’s assault on the things that most infuriate Queen car riders: Delays, bunching and short turns.
The official report on its effectiveness isn’t expected until later this month. But Smith, a route supervisor for 20 years, believes Step Forward has cut delays and short turns by at least half.
TTC general manager of operations Rick Cornacchia agrees, weather-related delays notwithstanding.
And December and January were wintery.
“Compared to the fall of 2007, I think (then) we averaged about 575 short turns per week. I think we’re running around 250,” he said.
Riders also can expect to see more route supervisors this year. Pending council approval in March, the TTC expects to hire an extra 20, and that many more again in each of the next two years.
Supervisors could keep service moving more efficiently on some of the city’s busier bus and streetcar routes, which got significant boosts in service last year.
“What we will do is start managing our streetcar and bus routes more effectively over a three-year plan,” said TTC chair Adam Giambrone.
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