THE MOON AND THE TORONTO TRANSIT COMMISSION

CASA LOMA/RUSSELL HILL SUBWAY ACCIDENT AUGUST 11th 1995

INQUEST DAY TWENTYONE - Thursday 15th February 1996

ACADEME MEETS PRACTICALLITY

 

         The atmosphere before the start of today's proceedings could only be described as festive. Counsel were all wildly talking amongst themselves and the media and the court officers and even the public. Some of the media had even put suits on but your dogged reporter is still in retirement garb!! Today was David Gunn's first day on the stand and the anticipation was high.

 

         Mr. David Gunn is The Big Cheese, The Head Honcho, the Grand Poobah, The Lord High Executioner of the Toronto Transit Commission. As a lover of titles that mean something, he is The Chief General Manager. He is the first witness of all that have appeared so far that is not ashamed or embarrassed about his name, stating it clearly and distinctly. He is also the first witness to recognize the jury, facing them during the vast majority of his evidence.

 

         Mr. Punter asked for, and Dr. Huxter granted, protection under both the Canada Evidence Act and the Provincial Evidence Act. Mr. Punter then passed the baton to Mr. Leck who spent up to the afternoon break leading Mr. Gunn through his experiences in Philadelphia, New York, Washington, the TTC before August 11th and the TTC after August 11th. It is clear that Mr. Gunn has the practical experience of many years in the transit industry. After his introductory remarks about the other properties he said that every employee at the TTC took the accident personally and individually. It is obvious that Mr. Gunn is as distressed by it as anyone else. That said, the accident was the best present he could have had as it gave him the chance (by the Machiavellian six month point) to do with the organization things he probably never would have been able to do otherwise. Previous CGMs were unable to come to grips with a management more interested in everything other than putting the rubber to the road. He described the TTC before August 11th as an organization that barely knew it's way. There were 55 managers and only a small handful were actually involved in Operations.

 

         Mr. Gunn described his management style as Operations and Maintenance. He uses budgets as tools to design the system . For example, he believes it is of no value to give a department a packet of money and expect them to perform their functions. What is required is a plan of action - so much rail to replace, so many busses to rebuild and here's the money to do it. This is going to be a very difficult concept for those meddlesome ex school trustees at Metro Hall and Queens Park to understand. But if these politicians want to succeed in this very different world from the one in which they were elected, they had better start doing some of the things that a practical man like Mr. Gunn suggest or there will be no infrastructure left for them to play with.

 

         Mr. Gunn tabled a memo from Mr. Paladini - the crackpot auto dealer from the outer suburbs of Etobicoke who is now acting the role of the provincial transportation minister. Mr. Paladini is playing the usual Queens Park game of ignoring Toronto. He is also coming out fully for road support - another surprise!! The tabled memo basically says "You can have money for Sheppard, with all it's bells and whistles and opening ceremonies and kissing babies as the first train breaks the opening ribbon so that we politicians can get all the glory coming to us but when it comes to cash for maintaining the infrastructure like new signal systems, rail maintenance, new busses, rebuilding the Streetcar overhead and a new Transit Control Centre then I'm sorry but I am unable to give you an answer." As many of us know, this is worse than saying No!!

 

         In Mr. Gunn's opinion, the Toronto Transit Commission is held in high esteem in the North American transit industry. It is for this reason that he accepted the job of Chief General Manager when it was offered to him. He made it very plain that he did NOT apply for the job, he was asked to come to Toronto - it must have been those clean Subway cars in New York (which, by the way, he said are cleaner than ours in Toronto. Oh Oh!!)

 

         When he arrived at the TTC he discovered that things were not quite as rosy. The TTC was in a lot of difficulty primarily due to funding problems over the years. For an organization that gets so much of it's funding from the fare box, the highest ratio in North America, the decline in ridership from a high of just under half a billion in the late eighties to hopefully 370 million this year has a huge effect on the income of the TTC. As this income declines, less and less can be done with the operating budget and with squeezed capital funding, the decline of the organisation is inevitable. He described the current financial system managed by Vince Rodo as being very good.

 

         Mr. Gunn spent some time describing his views of the Productivity Improvement Unit. After he closed it down, he asked Bob Thacker to calculate what it had cost and what the savings to date were. At a cost of $10 million the savings were $2 million. There were no real plans being developed and the Consultant component (JAL and Mr. Cedarburg) were spending incredible amounts of money having a good time but not really accomplishing anything. Consultants spun out of control and Management failed to control. The paper production was enormous, as most of us know. His view of the process was rooms full of people where ever you looked. He indicated some good things came out of PIU such as finally getting the Equipment Department to give up their free stores (yeah I bet!!), something which we had tried to do for all the time I worked in materials without much luck.

 

         At August 11th the strength of the TTC was its dedicated work force. Employees who took pride in their job and very Passenger oriented

 

         NEWS FLASH  -- DAVID GUNN USED THE WORD 'PASSENGER' .  ARE YOU LOT GETTING THE MESSAGE YET ????

 

         He described the setting up of the bus rebuild program as an easy project to accomplish though the actual work may have been difficult. The bus rebuilding program is a success.

 

         Mr. Gunn described the August 11th accident as having a large management component of responsibility. Senior management was spending most of its time dabbling in the politics of the organization and Metro while the problems in the operation developed unnoticed. As the problems developed this fact was not communicated. Hardly surprising in an organization that believes it never makes mistakes. People were in jobs for which they were not qualified. The musical chairs that had been played for so many years left a management that wasn't properly aware of it's responsibilities. They had no allegiance to anyone especially not to the department they were currently running. This lead to a tendency to only tell good news and the Commission never got the truth. He discovered that taking problems to the Commission was the last thing the ex school trustees wanted. If David Gunn has done one thing, he has blown the lid off the rubbish that has appeared in thousands of commission reports.

 

         Mr. Gunn spent a lot of time describing the TTC as he found it and how he has tried to change it. All the things he has done have been advocated by groups of us on many occasions. It is refreshing to see the emphasis back on TRANSIT. I can only give a flavour in this forum for all that Mr. Gunn said. I recommend that seekers of further info in this regard read the official transcript when it is available. I think they will find it instructive.

 

         Mr. Gunn was asked to comment on two reports; Dr. Sender's which we heard about on Tuesday and Faddy Bassily (from Washington Metro) who Mr. Gunn knew. Mr. Bassily was to report on the overall composition of the TTC not just from the Accident point of view but from all points of view. This document seems to have been the source of much behind closed doors discussion and is the basis for the reorganization that took place after the crash. Mr. Bassily ascribed the crash causes to the operator, the failed train stop and Transit Control. Mr. Gunn disagreed strongly with the implication of Transit Control's involvement. Transit Control is obviously in for some Gunn style renaming!! Mr. Gunn pointed out that Washington with all its fancy control centres and Automatic Train Operation was still capable of crashing two trains, which it did recently

 

         In discussing some secondary causes for the accident, Mr. Gunn felt we had developed a tolerance for signal violations. Your intrepid reporter's heart leaped when Mr. Gunn said that the violation of an interlocking signal is an extremely serious offence. Quite a contrast to Dr. Senders psychological BS approach. He has come to an agreement with Local 113 of the Amalgamated Transit Union to restrict Subway operators to subway operation for a year. No more running in and out of the subway dependant on the weather!!

 

         Mr. Gunn described the new organization and showed how operational sections like signals and track have been brought closer to the fire. Careful chaps - sometimes the fire can get rather warm!! The conversion of Mr. Reidak from a visitor who may be listened to once in a while to the Overlord of the Signals is an indication of the leaning of our new CGM.

 

         He described inspectors sitting in computer rooms watching dots dancing around a TV screen as not being as useful as having those same inspectors out on the road supervising in the way that transit authorities have supervised busses for decades - hence the demise of the Communication and Information System (CIS) – and not before time either!!

 

          When it came to the state of the organization and the equipment at the time of the accident, he described the signal system as being in good shape, track in poor shape and the subway cars somewhere in between. The bad state of the track is responsible for a considerable amount of the signal system difficulties - no kidding!! He felt that we did not adequately train Robert Jeffrey. He should not have been in the driver’s seat of run 35 (but he's the first in 40 years ...........).

 

         Discipline is a problem at the TTC because the normal procedures are not implemented until an operator has been fired first (leading to cases where we have fired an individual operator more than 14 times). Mr. Gunn was extremely emphatic (thank God someone has been - I was beginning to wonder) about how signal systems are built and operated and how you don't change things just because it seems like a good idea at the time. He described situations where he had done this to his cost!! Changes on a railroad have to be carefully thought through. He is doubtful about the value of removing the Automatic Key By as to its effect on service and it's dubious value in contributing to safety.

 

         Mr. Punter came on late in the day and I will cover the start of his cross with the rest of his cross in tomorrow's report.

 

COMMENTS

 

1)      Mr. Gunn started at the TTC the same month I retired - Jan 1995 and I have only seen his actions from afar. He has had a profound influence on the lives of many people I know at the TTC and today was the first time that I heard any substantiation of the actions he took. He is determined to leave the TTC as a TRANSIT organization, NOT a place for social engineering. He came out solidly against the bleating of the handicapped community which was supported way beyond their numbers by the previous NDP government. He described this as the insistence of that government that we purchase low floor streetcars when we have only just taken delivery of a brand new fleet. This purchase of low floor streetcars was to be done at the expense of badly needed busses. He used this as an example of the political interference in the TTC. It's about time someone said these things. He is obviously unbowed by our politically correct atmosphere - great - more power to him!!

 

2)      It is really refreshing to hear that the Commissioners of the TTC are being finally asked to earn their keep. I don't suppose that they will do too much in this regard but at least we have a CGM who is not beyond telling them the truth - constantly. This was my major complaint about Al Leach. Having acquired for himself a nice fat pension from the province, to come to the TTC as a retirement job and not stand up to the ex school trustees is an abrogation of responsibility of stupendous proportions. It is made that much more serious when one considers that the ex school trustees consciously hired David Gunn and knew what he would do. For it is only when we admit to the mistakes we have made that we stand even the remotest chance of fixing them. I know managers who spent days trying to write commission reports so that the truth would be hidden so that no one was "Blamed" (that word again).

 

3)      Although I am going to report on Mr. Punter's cross tomorrow, I must just mention this one point. So far Mr. Punter has been mischievous - with flashlights and mantras. Today he misbehaved. During Mr. Leck's lead, Mr. Gunn responded to the recommendations (written) of Dr. Sender. When Mr. Punter introduced Dr. Sender's report, he stripped the recommendations, allowing Dr. Sender to verbally enter them into the record. When Mr. Leck used the written recommendations, Mr. Punter did not object but when he got to cross Mr. Gunn, he lead off with Dr. Sender's recommendations as spoken and had Mr. Gunn agree that he addressed the wrong recommendations in Mr. Leck's lead. I do hope the jury is not going to fall for this crass attempt to destroy the witness. Mr. Punter also went on at length about when Mr. Bassily's report was finally given to the Crown. Mr. Gunn reiterated till he was bored with it that if the Crown wanted something, they only had to ask. They didn't ask so they didn't get!! The stage is set for some fireworks tomorrow.

 

         Day 22 commences at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow.

 

                 Dave Irwin    -    15th February 1996

 

 



 

Day 00 Preliminaries Day 01 Getting Started

This page accessed times.
E-mail Dave Irwin E-mail
Return to Dave Irwin's Home Page Return to Home Page
Changes last made on: Wednesday the 23rd of August, 2000.