Faster TTC subway signal system now in effect on Line 1 after almost a decade of weekend closures

The TTC says a new modernized signalling system that will allow trains to run more quickly and more frequently is now fully up and running on Line 1 after almost a decade of upgrade work.

The improvements are expected to allow the busy system to handle more passengers in the years to come and are also expected to help ensure a more consistent travel time with each run.

“The completion of ATC (Automatic Train Control)  installation on Line 1 is a major accomplishment for us, and will have significant benefits for our customers,” TTC CEO Rick Leary said in a statement. “This system will improve existing service, and ensure that we can accommodate expected additional transit growth.”

In a statement, Mayor John Tory called the completion of the project “a big milestone for the TTC” and for efforts to modernize the transit system.

“This technology will ensure subway trains can travel faster and more reliably which will result in us being able to move more people across the line as quickly and efficiently as we can,” Tory said. “I want to thank commuters for their patience while we implemented this new technology and I want to applaud TTC employees for their work on completing this major project.”

The TTC began work to upgrade its antiquated signals from the 1950s to the new ATC system in 2013. The technology was built into the Line 1 extension to Vaughan, which opened at the end of 2017. However work to upgrade the system on the older portion of the line from Finch to Sheppard West necessitated frequent subway closures on the weekends and early weeknight closures over the past nine years.

The project was supposed to be completed in 2019, but was delayed by three years and ended up costing nearly $100 million more than originally estimated, coming in at around $681 million according to a report that year.

The completion of the project this month meets the revised target set in 2019.

As the name suggests, the new system is automatically controlled by computers rather than a human controller.

According to the TTC, the new system is safer, allowing for precise realtime monitoring of train locations.

While a near-miss incident was recorded between two trains in June 2020 on a portion of the line where the ATC system had been installed, the TTC said the “rare” incident occurred while one of the trains was in manual mode and that the incident did not speak to the safety of the ATC system.

According to the TTC, the installation of the new system involved installing thousands of pieces of trackside signalling and radio equipment, including 2,000 beacons, 256 signals, and more than one million feet of cable.

Crews completed testing last week and the system went live on Sept. 24.

A report to the TTC board in July stated that travel times between Vaughan Metropolitan Centre and Rosedale stations have improved by an average of 3.5 minutes in each direction since the implementation of the ATC system on that stretch of the line.

The long-awaited completion of the upgrades comes as the TTC continues to build back ridership that was lost during the pandemic. The July report notes that “improved service reliability and capacity will be critical to attracting customers back to the system” as the city recovers.

The TTC has estimated that the economic benefit of the improvements due to time savings is worth tens of millions of dollars a year.

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