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The TTC/TPS Event Support Buses

Text by James Bow

Late in 2017, the City of Toronto and the Toronto Police Service decided to improve security for people at large civic gatherings. This was in response to incidents in Europe and the United States where crazed individuals drove large vehicles into crowds of people. These acts of terror unfortunately arrived in Toronto on April 23, 2018 when a van driver mounted the sidewalk on Yonge Street near the North York Civic Centre and deliberately targetted pedestrians, killing ten and injuring sixteen.

The first time Toronto Police Services used TTC buses as barricades to protect large crowds was on July 31, 2017, at the Toronto Pride Parade. There, active TTC buses and City of Toronto maintenance vehicles were loaned to the police for the event. Fortunately, they were not needed, but their usefulness as a passive and fairly benign-looking barrier convinced the Toronto Police Service to request other buses from the TTC that could be used for future events. Not only that, but such buses could be used to efficiently transport a large contingent of officers to such events.

A New Life For Old Orions

In August 2018, the TTC officially retired six Orion VII buses, numbered 7900-7905, from revenue service. Although these buses were nearing the end of their service life, they were still in drivable condition, and likely to remain so, given that they would no longer have to travel the many miles of daily public transit service. The TTC retained the responsibility of maintaining the buses, housing them at Birchmount Garage, and TTC special constables would be responsible for driving them (as they had the training to handle these vehicles, as well as being trained in public safety), but they would be operated at the behest of the Toronto Police Service, and paid for out of their budget.

The vehicles were officially renumbered ES-0 to ES-5 and were initially painted in a plain all-over metallic grey, matching the colours of Toronto’s police cruisers. However, in November 2018, the buses were repainted, taking on the design of the Flexity LRV livery, but in light grey rather than red, making them more visible to pedestrians at night. They appeared in those colours in support of Remembrance Day ceremonies at Queen’s Park and Toronto’s Old City Hall on November 11, 2018, and were used in many large events in the city afterwards.

Although they no longer drive as far or as often as a typical TTC bus, they can take a beating. On Thursday, June 13, 2019, they were placed around the downtown core and Union Station as tens of thousands of Torontonians came out to watch Game 6 of the National Basketball Association finals. When the Toronto Raptors beat the Golden State Warriors to clinch the championship, the street parties ran well into the night, and these buses were soon swarmed with celebrants climbing onto and dancing on top of their roofs. One was damaged and graffittied by “a small handful of people that get out of hand”, but the others made it through the night. Surrounded by revellers, these buses entered Toronto’s history books.

The Toronto Police Services Bus Fleet

The TTC’s Event Support Buses aren’t the first buses to be operated by or for Toronto Police Services. In 1981, Toronto Police Services purchased two Orion I vehicles direct from Ontario Bus Industries. They served in the force until 2006, when they were auctioned off. Later, the TPS received ex-TTC #7930, a GM “New Look”, to augment its fleet. After it was retired, another ex-TTC bus, New Flyer D40-90, was donated to the TPS in 2003.

After this, Toronto Police Services received three MCI suburban-style buses from GO Transit, which were assigned with the imaginative fleet numbers of 01 (ex-GO 1466), 02 (unknown ex-GO), and 03 (ex-GO 1466). Vehicle 01 was auctioned off, but buses 02 and 03 remain with the TPS.


TTC/TPS Event Support Buses Image Archive

References

  • “Toronto Transit Commission 7900-7979.” Toronto Transit Commission 7900-7979 - CPTDB Wiki, Canadian Public Transit Database, 10 June 2019, cptdb.ca/wiki/index.php/TorontoTransitCommission7900-7979#ES-0to_ES-5.