'Duct tape used as a sealant': Toronto councillor pushes for full release of Scarborough RT repair report
TORONTO -- A Toronto city councillor says he wishes a TTC report describing the sorry state of maintenance of the Scarborough RT — including some parts held together with duct tape — had been released years earlier in the hopes it would have spurred action to replace the line.
Instead, transit riders in Scarborough will be on buses for at least seven years, waiting for a promised subway extension to be operational, Councillor Josh Matlow said, pointing to the Bombardier report as an early warning that was never properly heeded.
“It’s a boondoggle,” Matlow told CTV News Toronto. “The community is being left on the bus when they could have had a rapid transit system many years ago.”
Matlow had been calling for the release of the report in city council motions, so CTV News Toronto filed a freedom of information request and obtained 34 pages of the 627 page report from the TTC.
The report, the “Integrity Assessment for Life Extension” was written in 2016, with the goal of providing advice to the TTC on how to “operate the Scarborough Rapid Transit system safely and reliably while extending the system life.”
The report said the TTC would like to extend the system’s life for an additional 20 years — though in the parts of the report that are public, it indicates some major challenges to doing so.
The trucks were designed considering a 30 year service life, the report contends, and by the end of 2015 they had been in operation for 31 years. Some had a remaining fatigue life of just 3.4 years -- or about halfway through 2018, the report says.
The track and disc brakes are “very heavily worn but did not exhibit significant signs of damage,” the report says, while the brake calliper interfaces are “damaged and display signs of corrosion” — a sign that the components will be “challenged to reach 20 years.”
"The doors are in poor condition” the report says, “which could lead to a failure of door retention and the door could become separated from the train.” Three of four doors tests did not close after “manual pushback.”
Generally, the electrical wiring could last another 10 years, though there are parts requiring “urgent attention,” the report says.
“Typically, a piecemeal approach has been used in maintenance. This is evident most notably among the cables and harnesses, where duct tape has been used as a sealant, electrical wiring is exposed,” the report says.
The onboard communications system should be able to last 20 years “with sufficient replacement of failed components and regular maintenance,” the report says.
“Generally with infrastructure, the words ‘duct tape’ and maintenance should not be your leading terms,” said Matti Siemiatycki, a professor of urban planning at the University of Toronto.
But he said it’s unlikely that a report could have changed the path the city and its politicians were heading down.
“There is another path that we could have gone on. We could have envisioned what a world class RT could have looked like. That would have been one path. But as soon as we became anchored to subways as the key technology, it was going to be difficult to go back,” he said.
One transit rider, Rishi Ojha, told CTV News Toronto that when the line shuts down, it’s going to affect his life a lot. He said he takes the train twice daily for work and for errands.
“If it shuts down, it really hampers not only me, but all the people in this area,” he said. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
Matlow said even the revelation that engineers pointed out duct tape was used in maintenance was something already clear to those who ride it every day.
“They’ve seen the duct tape holding the trains together. They know how unreliable it is. They’ve seen how it’s falling apart,” Matlow said.
In last week’s city council meeting, TTC executives were asked about the report but all said they were not aware of it as it predated their time at the organization.
The TTC said there is an ongoing appeal process to release the report after another appeal to Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner but it could not give more details or a clear timeline.
City councillors voted this week to conduct studies to explore the possibility of converting the SRT line to a bus rapid transit system.