CEO Andy Byford’s Address to Toronto Region Board of Trade

CEO Andy Byford delivered the following speech to the Toronto Region Board of Trade on Jan. 17, 2017 at 12:30 p.m.:

View the full address on the Official TTC YouTube channel: Address to Toronto Region Board of Trade

Good afternoon everyone.

Madam President (Janet De Silva), Chair (Josh) Colle, Commissioners, ladies and gentlemen,

It is my honour today to speak at the Toronto Region Board of Trade for the fourth time in my five-year tenure at the TTC, and thank you, Benoit (Brossoit, President of Bombardier Transportation, Americas Division) for that kind introduction – you’re the one with the nice accent, not me.

At my first appearance in March 2012, I had just been elevated, as Benoit said, to the position of CEO and my theme was built around the immediate challenge as I saw it at that point, and which in many ways remains a work in progress. In describing how we were renewing the people’s faith in the TTC, I listed the 10 steps that we needed to take in order to modernize our infrastructure, our processes and our culture, I set out our vision of a transit system that makes Toronto proud and described the key performance indicators that would publicly hold us to account and track progress towards that goal. Quick wins were being delivered to show management intent and immediate improvement, but my fundamental point was the need for a comprehensive corporate plan, a five-year plan to completely modernize the TTC from top to bottom.

My second appearance was on 9th of January, 2014 and in a report on the now in-play Corporate Plan, I described progress on system cleanliness, customer information and on the first Customer Charter, launched in 2013, which, coupled with the then new station management structure, was helping to drive up customer satisfaction. I described on this second occasion in 2014 as a big year for the TTC, given the impending mayoral election,  upcoming negotiations with our four unions on a renewed Collective Bargaining Agreement and on the pressing need to address the TTC’s urgent operating and capital budget pressures – sound familiar?

Now one quote from that speech drew a lot attention from the media and luncheon attendees alike because in refusing to be drawn on my preference for the outcome of the election, I said at that time, and I quote: “We need visionaries in key office that recognize the need for long-term, sustained and predictable funding so that transit can be improved and modernized.”

Most recently, I spoke in November of 2014, just after that mayoral election. Somewhat controversially, in the run up to that vote, the TTC had announced nine initiatives that, in the view of its CEO, could and should be implemented, subject to funding. Now that drew some criticism at the time, but I was delighted to subsequently stand with the new Mayor-elect and hear him, Mayor Tory, commit himself to transit and increased funding at one of his first public appearances, a commitment that continues to this day and that more than met my desire to see visionary leadership at City Hall.

So here we are now in the final, pivotal year of our Five-Year Corporate Plan and in the fast-moving world of the TTC, a lot has happened since I was last here, and we are now on the sprint to the finish to complete what we set out to do back in 2012.

Our plan is built around seven strategic objectives so my brief progress report today will be built around these before I move on to talk about what’s left to do this year, what comes up over the next five years and what keeps me awake at night.

On safety, the need for vigilance is greater than ever in an increasingly troubled world and as we continue to carry evermore customers on an ever-aging system. When I talk about assets, I will describe how we are taking action to maintain the TTC in a state of good repair, but we have laid far deeper foundations than just physical upgrades.

Under Chief Safety Officer John O’Grady’s leadership, the TTC has installed a completely new, risk-based Safety, Health and Environmental Management System in a first for North American transit systems, and with a corporate risk register and a governance structure to support it. Subway stations have been made exponentially safer via locally accountable station staff and a zero-tolerance approach to fire code violations. And our transit officers regained their Special Constable status to enable them to better protect customers and colleagues alike. Assaults on staff remain disgracefully high and that will remain a top priority for us, along with keeping our customers safe.

Under Chris Upfold (Deputy CEO/Chief Customer Officer), customer service has received similar focus and this was reflected in record customer satisfaction scores as recently as last summer, although the much-documented problems with Line 2 (Bloor-Danforth) train air conditioning was a temporary setback. We are now delivering our fifth Customer Charter, meaning that we have already delivered around 120 time-bound Charter promises, tangible improvements over and above our base task of getting people from A to B.

Working with Metrolinx, we have delivered on our promise to have every TTC vehicle, and at least one entrance at every subway station, enabled for PRESTO smart cards by the end of 2016. Now I should acknowledge there have been reliability issues with the equipment in the early stages of rollout, but we are working hard to fix them. Meanwhile, rapid progress is being made on the complete rollout of Wi-Fi to all stations by the end of this quarter in conjunction with our colleagues at BAI Canada.

Subway performance is only as good as the reliability of the assets and people that support it and here again, great progress is being made. Acting Chief Operating Officer Mike Palmer has delivered year-over-year reductions in the number of subway delays and their duration, driven by a 21-per-cent reduction in the number of delays due to subway infrastructure and a 44-per-cent decrease in signal failures. This is encouraging because this shows that our focus on basics is working and that we were right to move to a proactive fix-before-failure approach, rather than the traditional fix-upon-failure adopted in years past at the TTC.

Critical to subway performance is the ongoing renewal of worn out track, signals and other key infrastructure assets, and with the support of Chair Colle and his Board, we are biting the bullet and putting right years of underinvestment – putting right what should have been done years ago to execute and expedite a program of fundamental system renewal. Subway closures to enable this are unpopular, but they will be worth the pain. In 2016, we replaced over five kilometres of rails across Lines 1 and 2 and nearly a kilometre of power rail on Line 3, the Scarborough Rapid Transit line. Using data to inform what we do and where we do it, we have replaced or upgraded critical parts across the network, including overhaul of our most important and heavily used junctions.

In addition, working with our partner Alstom, we have laid over 180,000 metres of cabling and installed hundreds of track transponders in preparation for the new Automatic Train Control system that will go live from Dupont to Wilson this fall, and that will add much-needed capacity and reliability to our busiest subway line, Line 1 (Yonge-University). The second phase of ATC will be delivered concurrent with the opening of the Spadina Subway Extension up to Vaughan in York Region by the end of this year.

Our surface network is receiving similar attention. Under Rick Leary (Chief Service Officer) and Kirsten Watson (Deputy Chief Service Officer), new buses and streetcars have entered service and we have dramatically cut the number of short turns, long the bane in the lives of Toronto commuters. Ground-breaking work is being done to change the way we serve our Wheel-Trans customers, one that will save millions of dollars by migrating those customers that are able to use the conventional system, while continuing to provide personal service for those that can’t. And we are moving ever closer to deployment of a modern surface vehicle control and management system that will revolutionize how we keep customers informed and how we manage our routes.

Our growth portfolio led by Chief Capital Officer Susan Reed Tanaka is busier than ever. With our Bechtel colleagues, we will open the simply stunning Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension later this December. Meanwhile, our Easier Access program continues to make the TTC evermore accessible, we opened the beautiful Leslie Barns streetcar house last spring and we completed the second platform upgrade at Union Station, a hugely complex task. Pape and Dufferin station upgrades wrapped up and we are working with City Planning on a myriad of expansion projects, not least the Scarborough Subway, and more about that later.

Under Chief People Officer Gemma Piemontese, our cultural transformation is making huge strides. We secured four, four-year negotiated deals with our unions, well within our financial mandate – no mean feat in an interest-arbitration environment. Training is being transformed to hardwire a customer-first ethos into new recruits from day one and we have made great strides on succession planning, building greater management capability for the TTC of the future.

Now change is never easy, but we have built an in-house team to help employees through such radical changes and work practices as the introduction of One Person Train Operation last fall – the biggest overhaul of subway working in a generation and one that was safely achieved without loss of process.

Culture change also means making the TTC more diverse and more reflective of the city it serves. In just five short years, we have moved from never having a woman on the TTC Executive Team to nearly 50-per-cent representation – all on merit – and the next levels down show increasing numbers of women and people from diverse groups coming up through the ranks. It was good, therefore, to pick up national awards for our diversity and inclusion program and to break into the list of the Top 100 GTHA employers only a few weeks ago.

In terms of finance, I said I would come back to money, I feel we are in a much better place, thanks to Public Transit Infrastructure Fund support from Ottawa, the support of my Board, again under Chair Colle, and the almost successful navigation, through what has to be said, the toughest budget challenge the TTC has faced, certainly in my time. My CFO Vince Rodo and his team take much of the credit for that and for putting together our PTIF shopping list that will see the TTC receive nearly 800 new buses over the next three years, again continuing that transformation. Meanwhile, I was delighted to see our IT team win a much-coveted national award for excellence in the way we are renewing decades-old systems and processes, including the rollout, finally at the TTC, of SAP.

And lastly: reputation. In a city where transit is always the talk of the town and in the most politically charged environment in which I have ever worked in my 28-year career in transit, and in a company that is never out of the spotlight, I am indebted to Brad Ross, my Exec Director for Corporate Communications, the best in the business I might add, and Joan Taylor, my Chief of Staff, for their tireless work to improve the way the TTC is perceived by customers, media and stakeholders. Successful delivery of the 2015 Pan Am Games was a triumph for the TTC and we have made huge strides in the way that we work with communities and the way in which we keep customers informed. Steps have been taken to improve internal communications too, recognizing that employees need to know what’s going on first in order to keep their customers better informed.

So are we there yet? Well, clearly not. There are still far too many service delays that cause immense frustration to customers and to our stakeholders. Some of them are of our own of our own making, many are not. And we still seem to have a remarkable propensity to shoot ourselves in the foot on occasions with embarrassing incidents that set us back in the eyes of stakeholders, and we must continue to hold our suppliers to account to address delayed vehicle orders and equipment reliability issues.

Looking ahead, what remains to be done?

So Job Number 1 is to finish what we set out to do in those first five years. The key deliverables for me are to open the Spadina Subway Extension up to York Region, to begin the rollout of new the signalling system on Line 1, to complete the introduction of PRESTO – and in doing so, continue to work on making it highly reliable – and to introduce a minimum of 40 new streetcars in 2017 in conjunction with Bombardier.

On that last point, and with Monsieur Benoit Brossoit sitting in front of me today, I can say that, while we have had many problems with the streetcar contract, and while much remains to be done, I feel more confident that we are on the right track. The revised year-end target for 2016 of a minimum of 30 vehicles in service was met, additional capacity has been brought on-stream to enable ramped up production and the original end date of 2019 for the full 204-strong vehicle order still holds. It is critical that this momentum be maintained, and Benoit I looked to your leadership to make sure that happens.

Opening the subway extension up to Vaughan will consume our time – it is not an easy thing to open a subway extension. And while stations are nearing completion, a huge amount of work remains to be done to test and commission literally thousands of assets, to conduct a comprehensive trial operations program and to get the safety paperwork and the approvals all in place before the big day. But when the TYSSE opens, I predict that people will be delighted by both the scale and the quality of the stations, which will be testimony to the TTC’s capability in delivering big projects in spite of the challenges.

PRESTO will transform how people use the TTC. Throughout this year, we will complete the installation of equipment at remaining secondary entrances and we will convert legacy gates to the new paddle-style equipment. Working with Metrolinx, every station will receive automatic card-vending and top-up machines to enable us to phase out tokens, tickets and paper transfers.

In parallel, our all-out assault on getting the basics right and on driving up levels of safety, performance and customer service must continue. I want to see our customer satisfaction score rise to 85 or higher and this will require sustained effort across all departments.

So that’s the remainder of 2017. What’s to come after that?

The next five-year plan is already being drafted ready for our Board to review. We will complete the rollout of Automatic Train Control on Line 1, we will push on with the implementation of One Person Train Operation across the remaining three lines and we will continue to seek other more efficient ways of running the TTC. Building on the success of our Group Station model and with PRESTO as the enabler, Station Collectors will migrate to new, mobile, customer-facing roles, overseen by a network of station control hubs.

We will continue to work on fare integration, both with GO and our colleagues across the GTHA, and we will complete our thinking on a possible cashless TTC of the future.

We will start work on the total modernization of Line 2 (Bloor-Danforth) – new trains, new signals and a new yard. This should be quicker, easier and potentially cheaper than Line 1 as we will have the benefit of lessons learned to date. As mentioned earlier, we will continue the rollout of new buses, we will complete the introduction of the new streetcar fleet and we will finish the gargantuan task of overhauling backroom systems.

The biggest challenge – but I think the biggest opportunity – will be to expand the transit network. And I have been here long enough to know that this is the most controversial subject of all in a city where everyone has an opinion that they are very keen to share!

Job Number 1 is to replace the Scarborough Rapid Transit Line – something that was planned to start in 2015 after the Pan Am Games, and that is the single biggest thing that now keeps me awake at night. Regardless of ongoing controversy, the TTC’s clear mandate is to progress the extension of Line 2 so that’s what we are going to do in conjunction with our colleagues at City Planning. A report will go to City Council to seek final approval on the alignment to then enable detailed work to start.

Now a big step forward over the past 12 months, and for one which I would credit my boss, Chair Colle, is the work undertaken by KPMG to better guide the TTC – and it has to be said other city agencies and departments – to get better at managing big projects. While we have already taken steps within the TTC to improve our project management capability, and while many projects do actually, – you don’t read about them in the media – deliver on time and on budget, there are clearly best practices that need to be adopted across the city portfolio to make on-time, on-budget the norm.

What is crystal clear is this: we must get on with the Scarborough Subway Extension now if we are to avoid the pitfalls of other major projects across Toronto in recent years – no further delay.

In parallel, the other big expansion projects will feature heavily in our next plan. Smart Track, the Waterfront and Finch LRTs, Crosstown integration – they must all be progressed as must planning for the Relief Line and the eventual extension of Line 1 up to Richmond Hill. Now who leads these projects and who operates them must also be clarified, but here’s my pitch as the CEO of the TTC: if we are allowed to get on with what we do best, namely the execution of major projects with a clear, unchanging target and a clear mandate, informed by the KPMG processes that the Chair has secured for us, we will and we can deliver. Similarly, my strong recommendation is to let the TTC continue to operate these lines.

A second challenge is the age-old issue of money. While we warmly welcome the increased capital money from Ottawa and the increase in operating subsidy from the City in recent years, the TTC remains the lowest-subsidized transit in North America. If we are to stop the TTC slipping backwards into the worn out state of just a few years ago, and if we are to expand the system to meet present and future needs, we simply must continue to invest. That means support from the Province, too, in addition to the City and that means finding further ways to improve the efficiency of our operation. On the latter point, we can and will deliver game-changing savings totalling hundreds of millions of dollars over coming years, but to do that, we need the co-operation of our unions to embrace change.

In closing Madam President, I really do feel that the future is bright for what as you rightly said is the third largest transit system in North America, after Mexico City and New York City. Where, in the 1990s, experts stopped coming to see how we do things, they have now returned. Where other agencies stopped asking us for advice, they now actively seek us out and where once we would never have tempted people to join us from blue chip companies, they now send in unsolicited job applications.

A recent newspaper article questioned why I aspired for the TTC to be the best in North America when, surely, just better would do. Well my strongly held belief is that the job of a leader is to present a vision of the possible, to map out a journey, a compelling vision of what can be achieved with determination and a common goal. And that’s what we did back in 2013. My Executive Team and the 14,000 men and women of the TTC have risen to the challenge. I remain convinced that we can deliver on that vision of a transit system that makes Toronto proud and I’m calling on my team for one more big push to end this first five years on a high.

Now doubtless the sceptics will have their say, but I believe that our next five-year plan will elevate us to world class. That’s for the future. But for now, I know we can get back to being recognized as the best in North America.

Watch this space.

Thank you.

Checked against delivery.

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