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TTC faces driver dilemma as ridership rockets

Last Updated: Monday, January 8, 2007 | 3:02 PM ET
CBC News

Toronto’s public transit is riding a wave of unprecedented growth — and with it comes a problem: finding enough drivers to operate all of the new buses set to hit the streets.

The Toronto Transit Commission will add about 100 new buses to its fleet in September to deal with increasing demand and a growing population.

The TTC is experiencing a growth rate nearly twice the typical rate of other transit systems across North America.

TTC ridership is expected to increase by about 10 million this year, bringing the total number of people riding the rocket to between 452 million and 454 million.

“It’s a huge demand on us this year,” said TTC acting chief general manager Gary Webster. “We have to ratchet up our training program to deal with that.”

In the coming year, the TTC will require roughly 560 new drivers to operate the new buses and meet the hiring demands caused by normal attrition. But finding enough drivers isn’t easy.

About 30 per cent of applicants never make it into the driver’s seat because they either quit training or fail the tests.

Dean says many entering training sessions think it will be easy — until they try to manoeuvre a 40-foot-long vehicle on busy city streets.

“The real issue is people’s ability to do a number things all at once — to be able to look forward and judge traffic, adjusting your rear-view mirror, watching your side mirrors,” said Dean. “There are just some people that are unable to do that.”

Because of the high failure rate, TTC officials estimate they will require at least 700 trainees to meet their hiring needs.

Despite concerns over the high failure rate of applicants, no major changes are planned for the TTC’s hiring process.

“We don’t want to lower the standards that we’ve set for qualifying,” said Dean. “We need to make sure that when an individual finishes the training program and becomes a bus operator and is carrying passengers every day that they are capable of doing so safely.”

However, the TTC is looking for better ways to screen applicants and plans to introduce a performance interview.