Andy Byford: Serving The Rocket Through Transformative Change

Whether you’ve seen him on the subway with other fellow passengers, or heard about his five-year corporate plan to modernize the Toronto Transit Commission’s (TTC) operations, it’s evident that Chief Executive Officer, Andy Byford, is bringing significant change to the TTC. However, there is much more about Mr. Byford than meets the eye. In a mere three years, he has managed to overhaul his senior leadership team and has  brought some crucial change to the TTC.Mr. Byford has replaced his Chief Executive Officer (CEO) with Gary Shortt, brought in Mike Palmer as the Deputy CEO for Subway Operations, Chris Upfold as the Deputy CEO, Rick Leary as Chief Service Delivery Officer and Susan Reed Tanaka as the acting Chief of Engineering, Construction and Expansion.

Mr. Byford has not neglected the importance of bringing women into leadership roles. While there are three out women of the 11 member, including Vice-Chair, Maureen Adamson, Councillor Shelly Carroll, and Anju Virmani. The TTC executive team has Chief of Staff, Joan Taylor, Chief People Officer, ‎Gemma Piemontese, and Chief Capital Officer,  Susan Reed Tanaka.



Service has also improved significantly since Andy Byford became CEO in 2011. Performance measures show that punctuality and device availability are at an impressive 90+%.  Steps were taken to refurbish rundown subway washrooms, step up subway-car cleaning and improve announcements about service disruptions.

Andy Byford’s other efforts to complete expansion projects, improve customer service, and modernize the outdated system cannot be overlooked. In 2013, Byford introduced six, new Group Station Managers (GSMs) as part of his continuing commitment to modernize and transform the TTC. And just last year,  debit and credit machines were introduced to 69 stations, allowing passengers to buy tickets and passes the more convenient way.

Byford’s dedication and expertise has shaped the TTC into a much more efficient transit system. He is slowly changing the culture at the TTC, building confidence in his team, and tackling the thousands of changes needed to create better process at every level.

Mr. Byford is slowly turning the biggest transit system  in Canada around. The cultural transformation he promised is  happening, service has improved significantly, and despite the lack of transit infrastructure  and funding (4 million from this years budget) Byford has managed to keep Toronto moving with equipment that is long overdue for replacement.

His mission is clear; to have a transit system that makes Toronto proud and despite the lack of investment, the barrage of political attacks that come with his position, and the terrible mess he inherited, Byford just may pull this off.  We can only hope the politicians will leave him alone long enough to bring about the transformation the TTC so desperately needs.

Social Media Takes Over FHRITP Hashtag

The derogatory phrase was first stated in 2014. Since then, the FHRITP trend has made its way into news media all across North America. Today, after countless occurrences of female journalists being victimized on live television, a Hydro 1 employee was fired after harassing Shauna Hunt, a reporter for City News.

The incident took place at a Toronto FC Soccer Game. Since losing his job early this afternoon, social media users have taken to Twitter to state their opinions on the matter. FHRITP may be trending on Twitter, but it’s important not to focus on what the phrase stands for, but what standing up against the phrase can do for women in society.

Tune in to CityNews tonight to hear Shauna’s thoughts on what happened. Check out what happened below:

Shauna Hunt fights back after FHRITP confrontation

Serda Evren – team builder extraordinaire

One of the most challenging years in Serda Evren’s life taught her to look hard at herself, find the value in everyone, be open to people, and have fun. It was a very productive eighth grade.

“Leadership is about making decisions and sometimes you have to make tough decisions but you make them full of heart; you make them with emotion but you don’t let your emotions make the decision,” says Evren, who recently added a North American communications mandate to her role as Vice President of Communications and Philanthropy for MasterCard Canada.

When she was 13, Evren’s parents emigrated from Istanbul to Toronto, and suddenly the outgoing and full-of-life teen was the odd girl out. “We moved, leaving home and friends, for this completely new place at this critical age,” she remembers. “English wasn’t my first language, I wasn’t into New Kids on the Block. I was bullied and teased, but I realized you either make it or you don’t, and I decided to make it.”

That experience during her formative years made her realize the importance of seeing people for who they are, and understanding who she is. As she has advanced in her career, she has built on that philosophy to include helping others understand what they are good at. “I thought of myself as a generous, thoughtful, loving person and all they saw was a new kid. I wanted people to see who I really was, and that motivated me to always try to see people for who they truly are.”

Life became better, thanks in part to Evren’s practice of reading the newspaper aloud every day, cover to cover, to practice her English. By grade 10 it was flawless, and she was also a master of current events, which launched her passion for politics.

The University of Toronto was even better. She ran for the student union office, and in third year volunteered for the federal Liberal Party. With two years of volunteer service and a brand new political science degree under her belt the Liberals offered her a paying job. Thus began several years of long hours, lots of travel and sometimes living out of a suitcase. “The biggest gift of politics, other than the opportunity to change the world, is the people you meet. You work long hours in the trenches, you share beliefs, living together, travelling together, not eating or sleeping well. These people are your lifeline, and you form life-long friendships.”

Working in Federal and Provincial politics during the Jean Chretien and Dalton McGuinty administrations and a 14-month stint in Washington, DC, where she interned with Representative Congressman Anthony Weiner (yes, the “sexting” congressman) gave Evren insight into what makes a good leader, and a bad leader. A big part of that is surrounding yourself with the right people. “You can be a genuine, incredible, person, but if you’ve surrounded yourself with the wrong people it’s not going to work.”

Building a good team requires recognizing your own strengths and weaknesses. It requires some thoughtful introspection. “You have to spend time on yourself to be self-aware. You have to really understand yourself… your strengths, weaknesses, motivators, demotivators. If you’re not self-aware how can you possibly build an effective team around you?”

That also means finding your purpose. She advises: figure out the value you bring, what you’re really good at, and harness it. Deliver on it every day. Show up every day to make the team or the organization function better.

One thing Evren’s team – and her bosses – will tell you is that she is fun to work with.
“Let’s have a good time. Let’s build something together we’re proud of, so you feel good about what you’re doing.” She is not a stickler for hierarchy. “It kills spirit and inspiration,” she says. “There have to be lines because you’re not doing the same job and don’t have the same responsibilities but … I’ve seen people who put 100 steps between them and junior staffers and there’s no reason that needs to happen. I’d rather be building the bridges, being collaborative.”

Her goal is to build inspired teams – where everyone has a purpose and a role in making something better, and making a real impact. “It doesn’t have to be something huge, like reinventing PR. It could be that at a moment in time you brought forward an idea that shifted a strategy or changed a perspective.” It also means she doesn’t have to pretend to be good at everything. Leaders who succeed in building teams of people with diverse skills create successful departments or functions.

“I have never had an ‘end goal.’ I believe in letting opportunities find me. Who knows what the future holds but if I help people find and develop the value they bring, that’s something that helps those individuals and the organization for a long time, and I call that success.”

Humility over hubris will fix the TTC

There is a systemic issue that has plagued the TTC for decades.  Historically the TTC has lacked strong leadership, with CEOs being fired every few years,  few of them have had the time or inclination to tackle the managers or hold them accountable for their actions.

Last week a few columnists and politicians hinted that CEO of the TTC, Andy Byford, was to blame for the Spadina extension overruns.   Like the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland who shouts “off with his head” they wanted a simple solution without understanding the complexity of the problem.  The TTC’s main mandate is to deliver good service efficiently and Mr. Byford has done exceptionally well on that front, despite inheriting an organization with a long history of poor accountability and mismanagement.

Consider the recent auditor’s report that found the TTC had not been monitoring the use and maintenance of its non-revenue fleet going as far back as 2005. Take a closer look at the report and what becomes obvious is the systemic issues that CEO Andy Byford has inherited.   The auditor’s report demonstrated that accountability has not been part of the TTC’s culture for decades. To expect our new CEO to do a complete overhaul of the system in under 5 years is ludicrous.

It’s easy to criticize when it comes to failures, but much harder to understand what caused the failures.  The real challenge facing the TTC is to change the culture of entitlement and unaccountability that fills the management ranks. But Byford has taken action. He’s reviewed the TTC infrastructure department, fired those responsible for the Spadina extension overruns, and admitted that he needs help and that the TTC infrastructure department can’t handle the project. Not only did this take balls, but it took humility – exactly the trait needed to bring real change to the TTC.

Mr. Byford’s firing of the Spadina extension project managers not only tells Toronto he’s taking action but it has sent a huge message to all TTC employees –  that no matter how high ranking someone is, they will be accountable for their actions.  This is a message that many TTC employees, frustrated with the lack of accountability and the attitude of entitlement within TTC management, needed to hear. In Byford, TTC now has a leader with humility, who is determined to give the public the best service possible while at the same time weed out the hubris that will always cause an organization to fail.

Where does the TTC infrastructure department go from here?

The answer is obvious to those who work in the industry — the contractors and engineers — who have worked with the TTC in the past and now refuse to even bid on most TTC projects, to those who have spent the past decade quietly complaining to anyone who would listen, about the ineptitude of the TTC infrastructure department.  The solution the contractors, tradespeople and engineering firms suggest is to turn all the large transit projects that TTC has in their plans over to Metrolinx.

Metrolinx is the provincial transit body responsible for building transit infrastructure – most recently, the Union-Pearson Express (delivered on time and on budget).  Under the leadership of CEO, Bruce McCuaig, Metrolinx has steered its large projects through Infrastructure Ontario which has developed an efficient process (with a 97% success rate) to manage big infrastructure projects.  Add to this the fact that McCuaig has attracted some of the best in the field, and the humility that McCuaig brings to his role as CEO of Metrolinx and it is easy to see why so many in the industry see them as the great solution to Toronto’s infrastructure problems.

A partnership between Metrolinx and the TTC is the best solution for Toronto. It would allow the TTC to focus on delivering excellent service efficiently, while at the same time deliver the expertise that Metrolinx has to all our future transit expansion plans.

Plowing transit funding forward

I have a lapel button with the words “I’ll pay for it” transposed over a subway map. It’s a reminder of all the people I’ve met over the years (while campaigning for dedicated transit funding) who were willing to pay for transit expansion as long as they knew their funds would go directly to it.

Last week Toronto City Council announced it would have to borrow $86 Million to cover cuts the Province made to social housing back in 2013. Mayor Tory had hoped to convince the province to reverse their decision but they wouldn’t, or, to be more accurate, they couldn’t reverse their decision because they too are having revenue issues.

The critics have attacked Mayor Tory on his decision to borrow the funds needed to cover this shortfall to social housing. But we can’t expect Mayor Tory or City Council to address the huge revenue problem Toronto has, when we as a city refuse to support candidates who advocate for more funding.

It’s time to deal in facts, and the very basic fact for Toronto is that there isn’t enough revenue to provide, or expand on, the services the city currently has to fulfill. From housing to transit Toronto doesn’t have the funds we need to provide the services and the anti-tax attitude dominating every issue has limited our ability to keep up with other growing cities. There are two questions we have to ask : Do you want more transit in the city? Do you want to care for those in need? Politicians who even suggest Toronto use dedicated revenue tools common in other cities, get swept aside for those who shout “no tax increases.” Our civic leaders can’t invest in our city because we refuse to give them the support to do it.

It’s time to change. Time to come together as a city and begin the work required to educate our residents on the crisis Toronto will have if we don’t act today.  We have elected someone who may turn out to be one of the best Mayor’s Toronto has ever had, he’s a consensus builder, a centrist not shackled to the far left or right. But we can’t expect Mayor Tory to deliver the services Toronto needs if we don’t provide him the funds to do it.

When it comes to revenue tools there are a number of good ideas that the Board of Trade, Metrolinx and the Transit Alliance have endorsed. Metrolinx suggested a basket of revenue tools that included a 1% sales tax, a 5 cent gas tax, parking levies, and an increase in development charges. Other North American cities have used toll roads, and the Toronto Act gives our city the ability to toll the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway, which were downloaded to Toronto over 20 years ago.

It’s time for each one of us to rip away the rigid anti-tax attitude that has settled over Toronto, and held us back from building an effective and vibrant city. The first step is to envision what the city might be like if we invested in transit. Think of the jobs this kind of investment would bring, and of the future we would be building not just for today but for our children. The next step is to work actively to dispel the myth that city hall is rolling in funds with the reality – Toronto has a revenue problem that must be solved. If you would like to help, please join the Transit Alliance campaign for dedicated transit funding – you can become a member, volunteer, and share our posts on your social media wall. Forward. Together.

Transit integration moves forward for GTHA

Today GO Transit and the TTC announced a partnership on a pilot project to give metropass holders the opportunity to purchase a new monthly GO fare sticker for $60 that can be used  for unlimited travel between Exhibition, Union and Danforth GO Stations. It will begin on Feb 1, 2015. The new stickers will go on sale on Jan. 26, at Exhibition, Union and Danforth GO Stations.

CEO of Metrolinx, Bruce McCuaig said, “This project is more than about saving time. It’s about working together to provide the best transit service”

The goal is to attract people to use different transit options, and to inform them of all the transit choices that are available to them. Transit officials say this will save commuters between 10 to 15 minutes per trip during rush hour.

Ontario Transportation Minister, Steven Del Duca announced that the project would last one year, and offer Metrolinx a lot of information to analyse in order to help them with long-term planning.

Here is how to get the sticker

1. Bring your TTC Metropass (for the current or upcoming month) to the ticket counter at Exhibition, Union or Danforth GO Station.

2. A GO station Attendant will attach the GO fare sticker to your valid TTC Metropass.

Safe travels.

What makes a city great?

I doubt anyone could point to just one feature that makes a city a great place to live, instead  a great city depends on thousands of small parts that collectively make it a success or a failure.  Toronto has some terrific features but also some big challenges. We sit beside a huge fresh water lake, but because of our location climate change has a harsh impact on us — from ice storms to floods — and scientists are predicting that extreme weather conditions will increase. Toronto must look for ways to  fortify our city for the weather to come, and for the increase in population that is expected.

But let’s get back to one of the small features that cities around the world are using to improve the quality of life for their residents — Trees. Not only do trees improve air quality, produce oxygen, and combat the greenhouse effect, they cool the streets, conserve energy and save water. Given all the positive impacts of having a large and healthy urban tree canopy (over 50% coverage) where does Toronto sit in comparison to other cities in North America?

Below are the top ten cities in North America and their percentage of tree and bush coverage:

1.     Atlanta -52%

2.     Nashville – 49%

3.     Pittsburg – 42%

4.     Halifax – 41%

5.     Albuquerque – 38%

6.     Washington D.C – 36%

7.     Minneapolis – 34%

8.     Tampa – 32%

9.     Austin – 31%

10.  Portland – 30%

Toronto isn’t even on the list of top ten, but we sit at a measly 26% tree coverage   —  we can and should do better!


Trees by Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see   
A poem lovely as a tree.   
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest   
Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;   
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;   
A tree that may in summer wear   
A nest of robins in her hair;   
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;   
Who intimately lives with rain. 
Poems are made by fools like me,   
But only God can make a tree.




LOVE & SEX: This guy made a documentary to find out if size really does matter

One thing is clear, Patrick Moote doesn’t have a lot of embarrassment left. After proposing to his girlfriend on a jumbotron at a sporting event and being turned down, being the subject of a documentary about small penises wouldn’t seem all that mortifying. The trailer for the film, Unhung Hero, follows protagonist Moote as he speaks to women, experts, and medical professionals about penis size.

His girlfriend turned him down apparently because he was lacking in the pants. While this is an awful reason to break up with someone, it has gotten under his skin to the point where he and film maker Brian Spitz traveled the world to find out the answer to the age old question: does size really matter?



Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

A year later

Tomorrow is our anniversary and I can’t help my desire to scream, “We made it!” at the top of my lungs. This is my first anniversary since the Big Ex in 2009 and the differences between then and now are staggering: four years ago I was afraid to tell the Big Ex that I loved him, four years ago on our anniversary the Big Ex was on a date with another woman and four years ago I couldn’t have told you that I was happy even if I thought I might have been.

Tomorrow Boyfriend and I are going for dinner and a movie, we’ll exchange gifts and we’ll fall asleep in what I can only assume will be a sweaty tangled mess. But the biggest difference of all is that I’m not afraid; I’m not afraid that making a big deal out of an anniversary will scare him off, I’m not afraid to tell him how much I love him and I’m not afraid to enjoy myself on a day that is meant to be enjoyed.

We’ve been through a lot this year: my mum’s illness, my work issues, the loss of his grandfather and six months of trying to figure out why I can barely keep food down. At this point we’ve been through some of the worst parts of life together and we’ve managed to come out smiling. I have never known the kind of support that I get from Boyfriend. As an adult child of divorce I’ve barely seen this kind of support outside of movies and TV shows; to be honest I didn’t even know that this kind of love was real, I just assumed that writers and directors were just really talented at creating loving worlds on paper and screen.

But after a year of experiencing love first hand I’ve come to realize that it isn’t all a fantasy, it takes a lot of work, a lot of practice and a lot of honesty. You have to be ready to share yourself fully, your fears, hopes, dreams and even (especially) the things you hate about yourself. Relationships aren’t easy, that was the part the writers got wrong, a big gesture won’t fix everything, there is no quick fix when things go wrong and you’ve got to really love yourself before anyone can love you. Some days I think it would be easier to walk through the world alone, as it’s a lot easier to lie to myself when the days get tough than it is to lie to Boyfriend.

But in the end finding someone who loves and appreciates you because of, not in spite of, your weird little quirks is the best feeling in the world. So what if I never wear matching socks or if I set my alarm clock in intervals of three or if I insist on calling penguins “pengins”? It’s all part of who I am and he loves me.

I couldn’t ask for a better partner in life and I hope that this is just the first of many more anniversaries.

Keep fit and travel fit

It’s easy to let your resolve to stay fit fall by the wayside when you’re on vacation or travelling. If you don’t have access to a gym you might say to yourself, “Why bother?” But it’s not all that hard to at the very least maintain your level of fitness with only a couple of pieces of portable equipment, even in a small space. I’d like to share with you what I do while travelling. (And as a matter of fact, I’m writing this from India, where I’m spending four weeks.)

First, I pack a skipping rope and resistance band. Both of these pieces are light and can be stuffed into just about any part of my bag. They add versatility to the workouts I create, allowing me to include many exercises that are not limited to ones using my own body weight.

Second, I choose six to eight exercises. To give a few examples: planks, crunches, squats, leg lifts, biceps curls, shoulder presses, rows and push-ups are among my favourites. I move quickly between exercises and after each cycle I do one to three minutes of skipping to get my heart rate up (or if there are stairs or steps nearby, I’ll run up and down them as an option).

Third, I challenge myself to be as precise and controlled as possible. This really cranks up the intensity in a big way. I always go slowly and if I’m not fatigued by the end of the set, I’ll hold a position and focus on contracting my muscles until I am.

I’ve used these strategies to work out in spaces barely sizeable enough to swing a skipping rope. My workouts while travelling are short (20 to 25 minutes typically) but effective. I try to do something like what I’ve described two to three times per week, as well as walk a lot. I look at it as a period of time when I don’t have to work out like a maniac, I just have to maintain. After all, I’m on vacation.