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Defective circuit board led to system-wide subway shut down: TTC CEO

Last Updated Jun 8, 2015 at 7:34 pm EDT

TTC CEO Andy Byford said a defective circuit board caused the communications breakdown that led to a total subway shutdown just as the morning rush was getting underway Monday.

“We lost the ability to communicate with our trains so the safety critical system, which is the radio system to control communications with our trains, was lost,” he said.

“We believe it was a defective circuit board in a transfer switch…”

Subways were halted around 6:30 a.m.

Full service resumed about 90 minutes later, with residual delays and lingering anger from commuters.

Making matters worse for riders — no shuttle buses were summoned because there simply weren’t enough to deal with the massive outage.

All subway stations were evacuated because of the service suspension.

The communication issues also affected emails, phones and the e-blast system which the TTC uses to inform customers of service interruptions.

Mayor John Tory stood behind the TTC’s decision to shut down the system over safety concerns.

“I think the decision was correct, as frustrating as it was,” Tory said. “You have to have radio contact with underground trains travelling in tunnels carrying lots of people. I think they did the only thing they could.”

The TTC has launched an investigation into the system fail.

“Now, we’ve got to understand what happened, and why backup systems didn’t kick in, for example. Those are questions that we’ll be asking ourselves today,” TTC spokesperson Brad Ross told 680 NEWS.

“We can’t have these kinds of disruptions. It’s just not acceptable,” TTC chair Coun. Josh Colle told 680 NEWS over the phone.

He said the city is ready for the upcoming Pan Am and Parapan American Games, and that officials have a plan in place.

“Any shut down on a working day, whether it’s during Pan Am or a regular day in Toronto, we can’t have that happening,” Colle said.

Listen to the full interview with Colle below:

The TTC later released a statement:

The loss of radio communications between subway trains and the TTC’s transit control centre was the safety critical issue that caused the suspension of service, as trains cannot go through tunnels without being able to communicate with the control centre. At the same time, diagnosis and recovery, as well the ability to communicate with customers, was severely impeded by the loss of other communications systems, including email, internet and the TTC’s phone system.

Yesterday evening, the TTC’s Hillcrest complex, which houses the control centre, experienced a power failure that activated the uninterrupted power supply (UPS). A failure within the UPS caused its battery system to drain, preventing power from getting to critical communications systems. An investigation into the UPS malfunction continues. Once that is determined, the TTC can implement remedies, as required, to prevent a recurrence.

The TTC did not use shuttle buses during today’s disruption, as buses are deployed from operating routes. Because there are simply not enough buses to replace an entire subway system, shuttle buses would have decimated the existing bus network and caused further disruption to customers. In fact, the best alternative to the subway this morning was the surface network of buses and streetcars.

Subways starting running again on Line 4 (Sheppard) and Line 3 (SRT), from Lawrence East to McCowan Stations, ahead of the full resumption of service.

Tory said he spoke with TTC CEO Andy Byford about concerns being raised over TTC’s readiness for the PanAm Games, which the city will host next month.

“We should be looking into this and finding out how it can happen in a sophisticated, big city transit system anyway. I think that’s the most important thing,” said Tory. “Even if we weren’t having the PanAm Games, this inconveniences thousands of people.”

“The bottom line is this kind of stuff can’t go on. Mr. Byford is determined to make sure it doesn’t go on – so am I,” he said.

Tory said Byford will report back on what caused the issue and what can be done to prevent it.

Meanwhile, transit users took to Twitter to express their frustration, causing #TTCFail to quickly become a trending topic across the city

Take a look at how the hashtag tracked during the day in the chart below. Click here for a web-friendly link.

See how the story unfolded on Twitter in the chart below. Click here for a web-friendly link.

During the subway shutdown commuters had to figure out how to get to work. For some, it was an expensive commute.

While Uber managed to some people to work, some complained they paid a premium due to surge pricing.

When asked for a comment, Uber released a statement.

“Once we were aware of the Toronto transit shut-down, we immediately took action to help commuters by capping our dynamic pricing and sending messages to all driver partners encouraging them to log onto the platform and connect with rider,” the statement read.

“To give you an example of how our dynamic pricing model works, today during our busiest hour (8-9 a.m.), we had over 60 per cent more drivers on the road compared to an average Monday earlier this month.”

Uber said during times of peak demand — when there are “not enough drivers on the system” — fares increase to encourage more drivers to come onto the platform.

With files from Irene Preklet and Momin Qureshi