‘A good day to stay home’: Toronto digs out after major snowstorm as hundreds of buses still trapped

As the Greater Toronto Area works to dig itself out after a major snowstorm that crippled roadways and delayed the much-anticipated return to in-person schooling on Monday, residents are being told it may still be several days before things are cleaned up.

For many school-aged children in Toronto, Tuesday marked a second snow day.

While classes technically went ahead virtually at Toronto District School Board Monday, the board said there would be no live remote or virtual learning Tuesday, noting in an online post that 36 of its schools still need to have snow removed from their roofs.

At several other boards in the Toronto area, like the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, the Toronto Catholic District School Board and the York Region District School Board, classes went ahead through online learning Tuesday.

Meanwhile, some 600 road plows, 200 salt trucks and 360 sidewalk plows had completed 11 rounds of plowing on expressways and 14 rounds on major roadways, Toronto Mayor John Tory said Tuesday morning, and the work is continuing around the clock.

But with the sheer amount of snow and many vehicles left abandoned after getting stuck, digging out won’t be easy.

“It’s going to take a big cleanup effort and that’s going to take some time,” said Tory, warning it could take several more days before city streets are completely cleared.

As for transit services, hundreds of Toronto Transit Commission buses are still stuck, and being manually dug out after plows were forced to go around them. At the height of the storm yesterday, some 500 buses had been caught in the snow.

Union slams TTC’s ‘disastrous’ response

In a statement Tuesday, the union representing approximately 12,000 TTC workers called on the transit commission to come up with a plan to better manage snowstorms after what it called its “disastrous” response Monday.

“As a result of the TTC’s lack of planning, many workers and riders on 540 vehicles were left stranded on roads for eight to 10 hours yesterday. The TTC’s communication system was ineffective. Calls from trapped operators were left unanswered,” the statement said.

“While the TTC doesn’t control the weather, the snowstorm revealed major gaps in how the TTC deals with severe winter weather conditions,” said Marvin Alfred, president of the  Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113.

The union says it wants to see the TTC set out a “hazardous service level” so that once snowfall amounts reach a certain threshold, the TTC must pause service to allow road crews to work and clear the roadways.

TTC spokesperson Stuart Green told CBC News some 300 to 400 buses were still stuck as of Tuesday morning and will hopefully be dug out over the next day or so.

Travellers urged to check for updates

Most routes are operational, however there is no subway service on Line 1 between Sheppard Avenue West and St. Clair West because of the weather. The Scarborough LRT is also shut down, with buses running along the route instead.

“Our crews are working overtime to get as many of these vehicles back into service as soon as possible but it’s going to be a bit slow-going at least for today,” Green said.

“Customers can expect that every surface route will have some impact, whether it’s a slight delay or a slightly longer delay… That’s just as we work through all of this and as the roads get cleared.”

It’s a similar situation on GO Transit, Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins said.

As of Tuesday morning, trains were running all seven routes, albeit fewer of them.

Aikins says the provincial transit agency’s key priorities now are to make sure critical infrastructure is cleared, checking signals and switches to ensure they aren’t snow-packed and clearing stations, platforms and parking lots of snow. 

“We are also are asking people just like yesterday that if they don’t have to travel today, it may be a good day to stay home unless you’re an essential worker.”

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