TORONTO — Photos of a packed early morning bus prompted Toronto's transit authorities on Thursday to promise more vehicles in service but the union said it has been sounding the overcrowding alarm for a year.
In a statement, the Toronto Transit Commission said the system has been using a demand-based service model during the COVID-19 pandemic and has increased bus service in recent months.
Photos of a jammed 5 a.m. bus on Bloor Street West circulated on social media Tuesday.
Carlos Santos, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 said it been asking for more buses on overcrowded routes since the start of the pandemic.
"We have been concerned for the safety of TTC workers and riders when bus routes are too packed, such as those in recent photos circulating online," Santos said in a statement.
"We're encouraged that the TTC will increase service on overcrowded routes after a year of ATU Local 113 and many riders advocating for such."
The TTC said it had retrained more than 50 streetcar and subway operators to drive buses and hiring new drivers, with 26 currently in training.
The agency also said 95 per cent of all bus trips have fewer than 25 people on board — half a vehicle’s capacity and as many as 140 buses available each day to address unforeseen ridership spikes.
The transit union said it would monitor the TTC's implementation of increased service. It also urged the provincial government to prioritize transit workers for COVID-19 vaccines as it is doing for people who live in pandemic hot spots.
"Many TTC workers operate within these same areas transporting essential workers to their employment and providing transportation for essential errands to thousands of community members in Toronto," Santos said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 15, 2021.
The Canadian Press