In response to the COVID pandemic and the State of Emergency declared by Ontario, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) contracted TBM Service Group Inc. (TBM) in September 2020 to perform disinfection services on TTC vehicles per public health guidelines. This work was in addition to the cleaning services they were already providing on the TTC’s bus fleet.
According to a TTC report, to ensure streetcars, subway trains, and non-revenue vehicles were also being disinfected, amendments that totalled $12,290,750 were made to the Bus Servicing and Cleaning Contract.
To ensure the continuation of disinfecting work, at a frequency of twice daily, until December 31, 2021, TBM requested an increase of $14,816,448.58. Of the total requested, $14,793,948.58 is explicitly required for vehicle disinfection and corrosion removal. The remaining $22,500 is needed to cover the cost of additional staffing due to construction impacts at Malvern Garage.
Sufficient funds for this recommended contract amendment are included in the TTC’s 2021 Operating Budget as approved by the Board on December 21, 2020, and Toronto City Council on February 18, 2021.
"While chemical disinfecting of the TTC’s vehicles fleet has helped to keep its employees and passengers safe, the corrosive nature of the approved products has resulted in corrosion and damage to vehicle surface and equipment," said Renata Wojteczko, TTC Director of Capital Procurement.
Toronto Star columnist Matt Elliot took to Twitter to dispute the necessity of the contract amendment to the disinfection service.
"TTC [is] looking to spend another $14.8 million to disinfect vehicles, even as 'corrosive nature of the approved products has resulted in corrosion and damage to vehicle surface and equipment,'" he tweeted. "With what we now know about how COVID spreads, is this necessary?"
Costs to address these corrosion issues and damage to vehicle surface and equipment are captured as "incremental costs" due to the COVID pandemic.
Wojteczko added that Public Health Ontario recently revised their guidelines for disinfecting, and TTC staff are reviewing these changes to assess impacts to disinfecting frequencies and costs.
"Given the evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, the TTC continues to consult with and follow public health guidance on health and safety measures," she said.
Wojteczko opened the door for continued vehicle disinfecting into 2022, as TTC staff are currently preparing a new document scheduled to be posted in October 2021 and awarded in December 2021.