The TTC and Toronto’s anti-idling bylaw

Spacing recently received complaints of TTC vehicles idling for long periods of time in the bus loop of Wellesley station. Most irksome about the incident is that the employee inside the idling vehicle was, go figure, busy taking a nap. Besides the annoyance of watching paid public employees brazenly sleeping on the job, this incident underscores the complexities of enforcing the City’s anti-idling bylaw and the intricacies of which vehicles are excepted.

While Toronto’s 1998 anti-idling bylaw does make some exceptions for TTC vehicles, it stops far short of giving the commission a free pass. The text of the bylaw states that TTC vehicles are allowed to idle in excess of the normally allowed three minutes only while loading or unloading passengers or during “stopovers” — periods of no longer than 15 minutes which occur at transit terminals and are for the purpose of allowing adjustment to service schedules. The bylaw explicitly states that the stopover exception does not apply when “idling is substantially for the convenience of the operator of the vehicle.” Based on this, we can definitely say that the TTC employee caught sleeping at Wellesley was guilty of breaking the bylaw.

Former TTC Chair Howard Moscoe is someone who has been critical of the current state of the anti-idling rules. He notes that, within his knowledge, there has never been an idling ticket issued against a TTC bus, or a City vehicle in general, in spite of the fact that it was a prominent complaint during his time as Chair. A big reason for this could be that, currently, the idling bylaw is enforced only by Toronto’s 42 transportation officers, rather than by its 412 parking control officers. Reports suggest that, because of this, an average of only 74 idling tickets are handed out by the City every year. Moscoe also notes that in light of recent high profile expenditures on hybrid buses, a highly developed enforcement protocol towards TTC vehicles could be just as effective in improving Toronto’s air quality. This, as Moscoe notes, would be more effective than including broad exemptions for the TTC within the actual bylaw.

Whatever formal method of applying the bylaw to City vehicles is finally adopted, it remains disappointing that the City’s own employees are so brazenly defying our idling restrictions. With the TTC, this incident also raises questions about the environmental conditions within stations and enclosed bus bays, such as the one at Wellesley, where excessive idling may be particularly harmful to patron health.

Amongst Toronto’s many bylaws, idling must be one of the more difficult to enforce. But that doesn’t make it any less important, and if compliance is ever to be achieved, it will have to start with the City following its own rules.

Photo by Richard Murray


  1. Come to Simcoe, just south of Richmond, for Toronto’s idling capital! Taxi limousines idle there by the quarter hour, waiting cement trucks for the construction nearby go boglaboglabogla the whole day through, and the cops leave their vehicles running while they move on the homeless guy who sleeps on the corner … oh, and take the opportunity to nip into Tim’s.

    The place is rancid with polis of the parking enforcement and regular kind at all times. You think I’ve ever seen them ticket for idling?

  2. ha yes the fare increase that we are paying hard at work right there, yes no enforcement of the idle law or the cell phone law either, apathy seems to rule this city.

  3. in the underground bay at york mills, the ceiling, which used to be red, is completely black. the walls are slightly less black, but with like eight buses idling constantly in the station throughout rush hour, air at breathing level has to get pretty awful. the horrendous new busbay at eglinton is almost as bad.
    i do wonder, though, if electric buses are supposed to idle for awhile, or whether they are still discharging exhaust while they idle or whatever–for all their hype, nobody ever really explained the hybrid buses.

  4. I heard back from Frank Fleming in bylaw who stated that the bylaw is unenforceable when temp dips below 5 degrees.

    I wonder what other bylaws have unwritten parts like this.

    I guess the only option left is public shaming?

  5. Rouge Hill GO station… at ANY time of day or night you can find one or more buses idling. A friend actually considered moving away because of the constant fumes. Fortunately these runs have mostly switched to hybrids and the fumes are noticeably less – but why are they idling at all?

  6. When I was a bus driver for a short time at Wilson Division, I saw dozens of buses left idling at the end of the day, every day, for hours. The drivers were told to leave them running as the mechanics would be out shortly to bring them into the garage for maintenance, cleaning, & refueling.

    This idling continues on a large scale at my local bus division Queensway.

    The amount of costly diesel consumed and pollution created is gross financial and environmental negligence, yes as the article states, the TTC is Above The Law.

  7. In Kyoto, Japan the bus driver shuts the bus off every time it stops. Even at traffic lights. It didn’t seem to be a big deal. I was impressed. Just sayin’

  8. @ Richard, based on what we found, it sounds like in order to charge people with an idling offence the city must take the temperature inside the car and stand there for three minutes timing engine idling. This seems to give credence to councillor Moscoe’s remarks that a better enforcement protocol rather than a new bylaw is needed.

  9. “Most irksome about the incident is that the employee inside the idling vehicle was, go figure, busy taking a nap. Besides the annoyance of watching paid public employees brazenly sleeping on the job,”

    Did you consider the possibility that the s/he was on a break?

  10. A running City vehicle would suggest “not on break” because, as per the Highway Traffic Act, the driver had “care and control” of it and was “on duty.”

  11. @Smitty – it’s really not about the sleeping – he likely WAS on break, and I’m fine with that. I mean, he did push that break out to 20 minutes or more, but that’s not my problem or concern.

    My concern is the stink and fumes from the running diesel engine, being sucked into the station…

  12. The parking authority cars are the worst. The ones around King and Victoria are famous for staying in their cars while the AC is running with the engines on and reading a book waiting to give tickets. This was the past summer, when heat wasnt a big issue.

    That bugs me, and the fact that those same attendants let TTC employees park their perosonal vehicles at King and Church during the track repair. The cars were there blocking lanes OR parked on the actual sidewalks. These were guys getting time and half doing OT as switch operators. They would leave TTC vests on the dash as a sign for the parking attendant

  13. Shawn: The Highway Traffic Act applies to public right-of-ways not bus loops at a subway station.

  14. This is the statement regarding the sleeping fare collector:

    TORONTO, Jan. 22 /CNW/ – The following statement is issued by Bob Kinnear, President of ATU Local 113, which represents Operating and Maintenance employees of the Toronto Transit Commission:

    There have been many media enquires about a picture taken at 10:00 p.m. on January 9 of a TTC Collector described as “sleeping” in the booth.

    The TTC is conducting an enquiry on this and until this is completed the union will have no comment on the matter except this:

    Whatever the outcome of the enquiry, it is very discouraging that the picture taker and, apparently, other customers, made no attempt to determine if there was anything wrong with this TTC employee. A simple knock on the glass might have determined if the Collector was, in fact, asleep, or whether he was unconscious as a result of some medical problem. The reports that passengers were laughing at him as they passed by the booth makes this even more disturbing.

    The union will comment further at an appropriate time.

    For further information: Bill Reno, (416) 223-7366

  15. Matthew Blackett:
    It has been said numerous times (read the comments section under the article in The Toronto Star about this event), that many have observed TTC personnel sleeping on the job for many years – this is not new. The fact is that this particular individual was photographed and published for all of TO (and the rest of the world) to see. How many more photos will it take to shake up the TTC, who hold the city at ransom when the go on strike?

    Of course the union is going to stand up for this man – that is their job, to protect their own. What we really need in this city is some leadership with balls to stand up to unions instead of giving in to them all the time.

  16. Paul: I wasn’t defending the TTC employee, just passing on the press release we got. Personally, I think their response is comical.

  17. The TTC union insists we wake up these employees to ascertain they are not suffering from a medical condition BEFORE we take such photos of them sleeping … LOL

  18. Not much enforcement of anything in Toronto anymore.

  19. Torbuffchester – electric engines don’t idle. Only internal combustion engines idle. If you are asking about hybrids, some have a “start-stop system” that shut the internal combustion engine off at idle.

    I love how Kinnear immediately goes off about shaming the public for not checking to see if he was alright or suffering from some “medical” condition. Always demonizing the riders when the union jokers are at fault. Hey Kinnear, is laziness a medical condition? We have collectively seen this so many times in so many stations that it would be like the boy crying wolf if we panicked each time we saw these jokers napping. We know they are napping.

    Maybe the TTC should make sure their employees follow the other rules too. In the last month alone I have seen uniformed TTC employees get on buses, stand in front of the white line and talk to the driver – isn’t there a sign saying those things is against the law right there in the bus? I have seen uniformed TTC employees get on the subway and stand in the doorway, even at rush hour – isn’t there a sign saying don’t do that right there on the door? I have seen chatty Patties having a grand old time in a booth while no one mans the crash gate as the rush hour crowds stream through, many not paying or showing a transfer because, well, there is no one there – didn’t they say fare cheats cause price hikes? I have seen an operator come 15 minutes late for his shift while the bus idled a total of 22 minutes and the other operator paced back and forth waiting for his shift change to show up – didn’t they say we were the cause of all the delays?

  20. Well, I guess I shouldn’t say electric motors don’t idle. It is just not really defined.

  21. So funny these photos are turning up lately, as I recently took some photos myself. Just weeks ago I was walking my dog when I passed an idling SUV marked TTC CHIEF SUPERVISOR, when lo and behold, he was reclined with arms crossed sleeping mouth wide open. I walked home a few blocks away, grabbed my camera and scooted back on my bike where he was still sleeping, so I took a couple shots. I couldn’t believe a “Chief Supervisor” didn’t consider the implications sleeping in a running vehicle would have given the recent controversy over the latest rate hike. (PS, it was a Saturday..can you say overtime?)

  22. Hobbes,

    Send it to The Star or the Post. Nothing would be funnier than seeing a pic of a Supervisor sleeping!

  23. Simple solution: see a napping employee, turn on video camera, tap on glass, and when the employee wakes up say: “Just making sure you were’nt having a medical episode, just like your union honcho wants us to.” Record response, post on YouTube.

    I don’t take the TTC because it is now cheaper and faster for me to drive and park.

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