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TTC chief executive officer Andy Byford assists commuters facing the use of a new second subway platform for the first time at Union Station during the morning rush August 18 , 2014.

J.P. Moczulski/The Globe and Mail

Toronto's transit agency wants to cut delays in half over the next five years, recognizing that passengers deserve better reliability.

TTC head Andy Byford revealed the goal during an address Friday to the Toronto Region Board of Trade. He said that he understands the frustration of passengers who must budget great amounts of additional time for their journeys and vowed they would do better.

"It is a huge target," he told reporters after the speech. "The answer to this is to draw up budgets that tackle each and every one of those causes of delay, to assign to people to them, to assign programs to them, and resources, and to relentlessly drive those delays down. And I'm quite convinced that with the right management team, and I believe I now have that, we can achieve that objective."

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TTC spokesman Brad Ross said that there are about 500 hours per year of delay on the subway system, but that not all of these are within the control of the TTC. Delay totals for bus and streetcar routes were not immediately available.

Halving that is an ambitious goal for a system that averages over 10 million passengers each week and struggled through a subsidy freeze for two years. Separately, the TTC is also seeking new funding to reverse service cuts done under the Rob Ford mayoralty and proposing a host of measures from more express bus routes to time-based transfers.

Mr. Byford said it was too early to put a price tag on the goal of reducing delays.

"My challenge to my team has just been recently set out," he said. "I've said to them that that's the kind of reduction that I want to see over the next five years. The hard work starts now."

According to figures provided by Mr. Ross, the biggest source of train delays is the use of the Passenger Assistance Alarm for illness or in error. In the first 10 months of the year this use of the alarm slowed the subway by 84 hours.

Over the same period, security problems caused another 82 hours of delay and a total of 144 hours were chalked up to issues attributed to either staff or equipment. Signal problems and incidents of fire and smoke caused about 48 hours of delay each. And injuries at track level cost the system another 25 hours.

Fixes for some of these are very expensive. The aged signalling system is being upgraded at great cost. And platform-edge doors that would keep people off the tracks, as well as minimize the spread of debris that can start fires, have been costed at $10-million per TTC station. But others are cheaper to tackle.

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This week the TTC launched a campaign to reduce inappropriate use of the train alarm. At least two-thirds of the uses of the alarm are typically deemed non-emergency and the TTC is again, for the second time in recent years, trying to convince people to press it only when necessary.

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