Kent Bennett of Toronto writes, “It would be interesting to see what the TTC does to clean the inside of their trains and buses. Do they regularly wipe down the surfaces with disinfectant? Sometimes the subway poles feel clean and sometimes ... not!”
Jim Fraser, the TTC’s general superintendent for Rail Cars and Shops reports, “All rail vehicles go through a ‘Sweep and Dust’ cleaning every night.
“This cleaning is comprised of removing all garbage from the cars, sweeping the floors, spot mopping the floors where liquids have been spilled, dusting seat ledges, window friezes, stanchions (poles) … and cleaning any stains/sticky surfaces.
“Every 22 days a Major or Minor Clean is performed.
“Both cleans include wiping all of the interior surfaces of the cars with a cleaner.”
Some riders may want to know what substances are used. Fraser replies, “the predominant cleaning solutions are Mirachem 500 and Wipeaway.”
It seems the interior of streetcars and the RT are dealt with similarly. I don’t yet have the full details for buses — but they are extensively cleaned four times a year, including shampooing the seats.
Fraser adds TTC personnel have started going on board subway trains at end terminals after the morning rush, where they “clean out the newspapers, cans, bottles, etc.”
He says crews have also begun tidying trains that return to subway yards between the morning and afternoon peak periods.
From what I see, there is less litter on train floors than a year ago — but riders can help by taking more responsibility for newspapers and garbage.
Fraser continues, “There was a comparison done by one of the television channels approximately two to three years ago where the cleanliness in terms of germs was conducted on a TTC subway car, a (taxi) and a personal automobile.
“The cleanliness of a subway car was the best, automobile second and the cab was third.”
I haven’t confirmed the above account, but a December 2006 CityNews report (search under “filthy” at indicated subway poles, escalator handrails and even tokens carry less bacteria than we think.
Dr. Allison McGeer, director of infection control at Mt. Sinai Hospital, tells In Transit, “Surfaces on the TTC are not the things that pose risk.”
She says people often “equate dirt with the threat of infectious diseases and bacteria. They’re not particularly correlated.”
She says, “Even if they never cleaned the subway,” the physical environment “would not be a risk to you — particularly if you wash your hands five times a day. The risk might not be zero, but it pales in comparison to coming in contact with people.”
She says hand-sanitizing lotions also remove bacteria provided they contain 60 to 90 per cent alcohol, although she warns to keep these away from small children.

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