Message from the Executives


The following speech was delivered to the Empire Club of Canada by CEO Andy Byford on April 15, 2016.

The following speech was delivered to the Empire Club of Canada by CEO Andy Byford on April 15, 2016.


Mr. President, MP Vaughan, Councillor Fragedakis, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you for once again affording me the honour of speaking at this, one of the premier institutions of this great country. Thank you, also, to AECOM for sponsoring the event.

Since I last spoke here in May 2013, a lot of water has passed under the TTC bridge. Back in May of that year, I stood up to announce the launch of the TTC’s inaugural Five-Year Corporate Plan, a comprehensive, top-to-bottom modernization of the company to transform the customer experience and to deliver a transit system that makes Toronto proud.

Three years on, and in the penultimate year of that plan, it is good to be able to update you on progress: to celebrate success to date, to acknowledge where we still have work to do and to outline what is coming up as we sprint for the finish.

The plan that I outlined three years ago is what has guided the TTC in the intervening period. Launched to our employees in no less than 83 town hall meetings, it has provided the foundation for steadfast focus on what we need to do – in spite of occasional political turmoil and in the face of relentless criticism.

Anchored around seven objectives, five mega-projects and hundreds of work streams, it has transformed the way we manage our business.

Taking these seven objectives in turn, how are we doing?

In the critical area of Safety, I talked last time about the need to move to a new way of managing safety, based around a concept of quantified risk.

In just three short years, we have made huge progress towards implementation of a modern Safety, Health and Environmental Management System, a first for any North American transit. We have developed a Risk Register to capture and quantify key risks, we have tightened up on all aspects of operational safety and we have embraced best practice in Enterprise Risk Management, to become leaders of city agencies in that discipline.

Under Customer, I announced changes to our station management model, promising a new focus on the customer’s experience. Well, I am very proud of the fact that customer satisfaction is at an all-time high, increasing by a statistically significant five points from 2014 to 2015, and maintaining that high into the first quarter of this year. We are onto our fourth Customer Charter, having delivered around 110 time-bound promises to date.

On People, I stressed the need for a new way of managing and motivating our employees, the most valuable asset we have. Here, our progress has been phenomenal.

We delivered four, four-year negotiated deals with our unions, without recourse to arbitration and within our financial mandate. We deployed an employee version of our Customer Charter, setting out mutual expectations of managers and employees and we carried out the first-ever Employee Engagement Survey to gauge the prevailing mood of the workforce. This has given us invaluable insight into what we need to address to truly motivate our teams, to give them the tools to do the job and to unlock their potential to excel.

With huge change underway and more to come, we recognized the need for dedicated change expertise. So we went out and recruited a top change practitioner to help us embed change and to ensure that improvements are sustained going forward.

Our Change Director represents two other areas of huge progress. Jody Humble came to us from Deloitte, a world-class company and not the kind of place that people used to leave, to join the TTC. Jody is also one of an increasing number of women in an ever-more diverse TTC. Back in the day, the TTC had never had a female on the Executive. Now there is 30 per cent representation and it is not uncommon for men to be in the minority at meetings – whatever next?!!

With Assets, the 2013 challenge was two-fold: make what we’ve got more reliable and achieve a step change in system capability.

The key to reliability is attention to detail. We have changed the way we manage routes, ensuring that our procedures are customer-, rather than production-led. Bus reliability is up, streetcar reliability ditto. Emergency alarm activations on the subway are down, subway punctuality is up and we have delivered reductions on Line 1 Yonge-University delay minutes and overall incidents of 25 per cent and 11 per cent, respectively.

How has this been done? Better management for a start. New blood has been brought in to head up the subway and our surface routes. Our focus is changing from fix-on-fail to fix-before-fail and we have deployed Route Supervisors to actively manage what goes on out on the street.

The dreaded short-turn? Three years ago people still told me it was a fact of life, that bunching was inevitable. Rubbish!

With a new Chief Service Officer (Rick Leary) in place, short turns have been reduced by around 90 per cent, resulting in tangibly improved service for bus and streetcar patrons.

Our Growth objective has faced challenges. We opened the second platform at Union before the Pan Am Games (as promised) and we now have a stunning, state-of-the-art streetcar carhouse down on Lakeshore.

Disappointingly, our new streetcar fleet numbers less than 20, and last week’s news that Bombardier have let their North America CEO go tells me that all is still not well at Thunder Bay. But, the 17 cars we do have are performing exceptionally well and their Toronto Rocket cousins on Line 1 are achieving reliability figures on a par with the best in the world.

The Spadina Extension will now open in 2017 after it proved impossible to overcome issues dating back to its inception. But just wait until you see what Toronto and York Region are getting in terms of a spectacular railway extension.

On Financial Stability, there is good news to report. Our three-year lobbying campaigning came good with a record investment in transit by Mayor John Tory and City Council, enabling us to deliver a huge expansion in service, including – wait for it – earlier Sunday subway service! On the capital front, we await with baited breath, the dollar amount that Ottawa say is coming our way – around $850 million we calculate – for projects this city desperately needs.

Finally, Reputation is really driven by how well we do on the other six objectives and our ability to get things right at least most of the time. The fact that we delivered a flawless Pan Am Games was a real step in the right direction – we just need to make that level of service the norm.

So, three years in, what remains to be done?

Job 1 this year is to finish off the rollout of PRESTO, with our partners at Metrolinx. Around 30 stations are now PRESTO-enabled, including Main Street that features the new-style automatic gates. All streetcars accept PRESTO and we have introduced all-door boarding on all 11 routes, key initiatives to speed up service. We will now finish all stations by the end of the year, and the bus fleet and Wheel-Trans, thereby delivering smart card and the efficiencies that PRESTO brings a year ahead of schedule. At the turn of the year, tokens, transfers and tickets will be confined to TTC history and our Collectors will vacate their booths to offer friendly, proactive service out in the station with their customers.

2017 will see all stations Wi-Fi-enabled by the end of Quarter 1 and cell service on all stations by year end.

This year we will complete construction of TYSSE stations, ready for systems installation, testing and commissioning and trial operations for a December 2017 opening.

That new line will of course need a signal system and that will be the second phase of the new automatic train system currently being installed on Line 1, the first phase of which will go live north of Dupont from the fall of next year.

Throw into the mix, more work to drive up service reliability, more focus on culture and further service improvements and it’s a sprint to the finish.

Of course, this is really only the start. Working with Metrolinx and our partners at City Planning, there is a whole other raft of projects to deliver. The next five-year plan, under development now, has an equally impressive contents list. The Scarborough Subway Extension, SmartTrack, the Relief Line, Waterfront LRT, Crosstown – all must be progressed if we are to maintain the momentum and consensus that seems to have finally been achieved, and the TTC will be front and centre in these signature projects. Further ahead, we are developing a master plan for total route modernization of Line 2 Bloor-Danforth: new trains, new signals, potentially a new yard.

More immediate challenges remain. Our service is not yet as robust as it should be, as we continue to grapple with ever-aging infrastructure and rising customer numbers. I cringe every time we have to run unplanned bus shuttles, and we must continue to drive down the root causes of failure.

Difficult issues must be tackled. No one likes planned subway closures, but they are essential if we are to give our crews the time and space they need to replace worn out track and signals.

And there remains a small minority of employees whose actions embarrass us, that have not yet embraced the new customer service and accountability paradigm. We will continue to cherish, support and stick up for the overwhelmingly majority of TTC staff that do get it and that deliver great service day in and day out. But we will not let poor performers off the hook, especially the few that break the rules and provide fuel for our critics.

Mr. President, we are delivering change to the TTC on an unprecedented scale, a five-year transformation that would take most organizations double that to achieve. And all this, on what is still the least-subsidized transit in North America. It’s why I call the much-maligned TTC staff miracle workers, and I want to salute and thank them for what has been achieved thus far.

Let me finish by describing a future journey on the TTC.

You arrive on a modern, spotlessly clean, articulated bus at a state-of-the-art architecturally stunning station that does not currently exist on a subway extension that is not yet a reality. You use your PRESTO card at the all-new gateline to enter the station and are greeted by a Customer Service Agent in a smart, new uniform, equipped with a tablet to provide up-to-date information.

You go down the platform of this fully accessible station and make a phone call while you wait for the short period for your train to arrive. An immaculately clean Toronto Rocket pulls in, in automatic mode.

It leaves on time and you arrive at your interchange, ready to seamlessly transfer, using your PRESTO card, onto a low-floor, air conditioned streetcar.

Sounds utopian doesn’t it? Well it isn’t a dream, Mr. President, this will be reality in less than 600 days as we drive relentlessly to the finish line, and a transit system that makes Toronto proud.

Thank you.

Cookies help us improve your website experience.
By using our website, you agree to our use of cookies.