Shelter Bus Protocol Review and Events of November 1

On November 3, I wrote to you and committed that staff would review TTC protocols regarding shelter bus requests from police, fire and EMS, as well as the events of November 1. I asked staff to expedite this review. Below are our findings.

On November 1, 2012, TTC’s Transit Control Centre received a call at approximately 3:45 p.m. from the Toronto Police Service requesting a shelter bus to attend a high school near Finch Ave. W. and John Garland Blvd. The TTC immediately began the process of dispatching a bus to accommodate this request.

Buses Involved
Only one bus was ultimately used to transport the students, though two buses were dispatched by the TTC. The initial bus was having difficulty finding the school. Sensing the urgency of the situation, a decision was made by frontline TTC staff to dispatch a second bus in order to expedite the request. The first bus, however, did eventually locate the school and the second bus was cancelled and returned to service.

Apology to Customers
Regrettably, there were customers on board the first bus that was dispatched, a 36 Finch West bus. The bus was full with approximately 50 customers. I want to offer my sincere apologies to those customers for enduring this inconvenience. Removing a full bus from service is something the TTC diligently works to avoid. The second bus dispatched – a 46 Martin Grove bus – had no customers onboard.

Selecting Shelter Buses
Whenever possible, the TTC dispatches shelter buses in the following order: 1) from a garage, 2) end-of-line (subway station or loop), 3) a mid-route, in-service bus.

TTC staff, in attempting to satisfy the shelter bus request, selected a mid-route, in-service bus that was in close proximity to the school. I stand behind TTC staff’s decision to expedite the request by utilizing an in-service bus given the urgency conveyed in the initial call for a bus. The TTC believes the order in which shelter buses are dispatched does not require a change. We must allow frontline supervisors to use their best judgment in such cases given the information they have at the time.

Voicemail from the Mayor
As has been accurately reported by media, the mayor left me a voicemail inquiring, on behalf of police, the whereabouts of the shelter bus.

The bus, as we now know, was having difficulty finding the school. At the time of the call to me from the mayor, I was unaware of the police request. Upon hearing the voicemail, I called the Transit Control Centre to inquire about whether they had received a request for a bus. Staff confirmed a shelter bus was requested and advised that it would arrive within five minutes. At no time was the mayor’s name invoked. I returned the mayor’s call and advised him of the status of the bus. He thanked me and the call concluded.

Review of Shelter Bus Protocol
TTC staff have reviewed all aspects of our shelter bus protocol and see no need for change. The system of inter-agency co-operation works well between the TTC and the city’s emergency services. The TTC does not have the expertise to determine what constitutes an emergency and, therefore, the need for a shelter bus. The TTC must rely on our emergency services to make these decisions on behalf of the public. To change, alter or add a layer of oversight to shelter bus requests could, unwittingly, cause harm to those most in need of a shelter bus. As well, the TTC bears the costs associated with shelter bus requests and does not foresee a need to change this aspect of our protocol.

The shelter bus protocol is sound. While I very much regret that customers were inconvenienced during this incident, I believe that TTC staff made the decisions they did in good faith. The TTC has a good working relationship with the city’s emergency services for which the residents of Toronto are well served. To complicate the shelter bus protocol with a bureaucracy of approvals or review prior to releasing a bus to an incident scene, would, in my view, hinder, not enhance or improve, this important service to the people of Toronto.

Andy Byford
Chief Executive Officer

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