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TTC to spend $500,000 to study subway air quality

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Sep 6th, 2017

Riders wait for the subway at Yordale station in Toronto, February 14, 2010.  The Canadian Press Images/J.P. Moczulski
Riders wait for the subway at Yordale station in Toronto, February 14, 2010. The Canadian Press Images/J.P. Moczulski

Riders wait for the subway at Yorkdale station in Toronto, February 14, 2010. The Canadian Press Images/J.P. Moczulski

Toronto Transit Commission chair Andy Byford is again working to clear the air after a recent study suggested that air pollution in the subway is measurably higher than other environments.

The study, conducted by Health Canada and published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, found that air pollution levels in the tunnels are 10 times worse that what is found outside and comparable to “a typical day in Beijing.” The Urban Transportation Exposure Study found that particulate matter is primarily iron from steel wheels and rails.

At its Board Meeting on Tuesday, the TTC said it would spend upwards of $500,000 and work with outside consultants and Toronto Public Health to do its own updated study.

The TTC has conducted three air quality studies but the last one was done back in 1995.

Byford says since then, there have been a number of improvements to air quality, including buying new, cleaner-running trains, but it won’t stop there.

“We have been removing detraitis from the tunnel, clearing the tunnel walls of what’s called ‘tunnel fur’ which hasn’t been done before, to my knowledge,” said Byford. “We’ve also finished the rollout of the rocket trains. We’ve removed lots of garbage from the stations, which can potentially cause fire or dust.”

Councillor Joe Mihevic says he wants to ensure that the TTC is a safe environment for frequent riders and subway workers. Mihevic says he expects recent improvements, including a tunnel vacuum train that’s on it’s way, will help air quality.

“If it was something that really was an important key issue right now, I’m sure that we would hear from the medical officer of health that it’s an immediate threat,” said Mihevic. “There is no threat to people’s health.”

While the TTC has already started work on a study, the union representing workers will be conducting its own investigation into air quality.

Also at the meeting, the Board approved the purchase of 325 diesel buses, and 60 Wheel-trans buses. They should all be on the road by the end of 2019. Councillors plan to order another 115 buses this fall. The entire order will cost an estimated $326-million.

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