Squeaky wheels grate on riders

Have you noticed a rash of noisy brakes on TTC vehicles — either above or below ground?

A few readers have written me about squealing subways and, on recent occasions, I’ve seen riders covering their ears as a train pulls in.

Maggie Cleveland of Toronto writes that whenever her regular ride, the 79 Scarlett Road bus, comes to a stop “there is this ungodly screeching noise.” She has noticed the problem since the winter, writing, “I have to plug my ears — it is that bad. Maybe I just have sensitive ears.”

She also remarks on travelling the Yonge subway: “That strip of track between Wellesley and College has a screeching noise as well.”

I forwarded several such e-mails to the TTC, and the responses include, “We will look into the buses that are running on Scarlett Road and take the corrective action that’s required now that it has come to our attention.”

Subway officials report that the “S” curve between Wellesley and College has lubricators that need to be adjusted “when the temperature changes.” Track crews are to visit the location and will “make the required adjustments.”

I am also told by the TTC that tracks north of Dupont station had “severe corrugation” and workers performed rail grinding there. Subway riders between Eglinton and Rosedale stops may also have noticed a smoother, faster ride as the agency has recently been “tamping this track and adjusting the alignment and ballast between the rails.”

Back to the squeaky brake issue. TTC spokesperson Mike DeToma reports “no consistent problems with bus or subway brakes,” save for noise from new brake shoes that “quickly diminishes.”

DeToma also passed this along: “Most buses produce some amount of brake noise regardless of age or condition. But it’s not a frequent problem with the TTC bus fleet. If customers or operators or maintenance crews identify noisy brakes, they will be inspected and any required repairs will be performed.”

Asked if there is any regular noise testing, he replies, “The TTC does test levels when specific concerns are received from riders; past experience has come in at below acceptable exposure levels.”
In recent years few people contacted the TTC about noises coming from streetcars or subway trains, and even the “Subway Rail Noise and Vibration” category earned just 121 objections in 2006, 89 in 2007, and 58 so far this year.

I balance these statistics with a refrain often heard from readers — there’s no use complaining to the TTC. A case in point is the Scarborough RT. The few times I have taken the “toy train,” it was quite loud inside — and yet the TTC registered only a handful of complaints in 2006, and none since then. It’s possible RT regulars are just resigned to the whine.

What are the odds that a noise complaint to the TTC is actually resolved? More on that later.

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