In our sudden rush to expand the TTC, we’ve overlooked one small thing — the transit system we already have barely functions.
Subway delays are a daily occurrence now and one can grow old and grey waiting for the streetcar or bus to arrive. This doesn’t seem to bother Toronto Transit Commission chair Karen Stintz or its general manager Andy Byford; they don’t even make an effort to ensure that passengers are informed about why they’re standing twiddling their thumbs for yet another signaling problem, passenger emergency, disabled train or whatever.
They assume that we will stand there and wait, like cattle, obedient cattle. It’s a damn good thing Torontonians are such a patient lot; if they weren’t there would be blood on the tracks.
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Wednesday morning, for example, for no reason anyone outside of head office was told, the subway took an hour to get from Eglinton to Bloor. The trains lurched along for a couple of hundred metres, then stopped, then lurched, then stopped….
Meantime, not a word to passengers about why they were all going to be late through no fault of their own.
No one need be told that this is unacceptable. Yet at the same time, the TTC brain trust and Metrolinx are squabbling over whether Scarborough will have a subway, an LRT, horse drawn carts or automated rickshaws.
Though many have forgotten, there was a time when the province covered half of the TTC operating costs. Today, the commission receives the lowest government subsidy of any transit system in North America. At the same time, the TTC is setting records for ridership. This year, it expects to give 528 million rides.
Imagine what that number would be if TTC service were half-decent, let alone excellent.
The fact is that public transit remains less convenient, more time-consuming and even more frustrating than driving. That takes some doing. We shouldn’t be surprised that so many turn up their noses at the TTC; it hasn’t been the Better Way for decades.
Indeed, the best argument for taking transit is a moral one — it’s better for the environment. Most of us are in too much of a hurry to worry about that.
Of course, to a large extent, to blame the TTC for its problems is to blame the victim. True, its managers remain utterly oblivious to passenger needs; they’re more focused on rolling stock, track gauge and politics to have much time left over for the users.
The ticketing system is a perfect example; barely out of the 19th century, it demands we line up every month to buy monthly passes. This is a joke, except that it’s not funny. And those passes, which cost almost $130 a month, are too expensive for any but the dedicated daily rider.
Then there’s that great civic embarrassment, city council, which sees transit as little more than an opportunity for political posturing. To listen to the likes of Rob Ford, Norm Kelly, Michael Thompson, Glenn De Baeremaeker is to listen to the loud and the vacuous. Even they don’t believe what they bray.
As for Karen (LRT one day, subways the next) Stintz; who can take her seriously?
The majority of city councillors are transit hypocrites and crass opportunists with little concern for the TTC other than as a means to curry favour with the huddled masses waiting down below for the next train to arrive.
No wonder transit in Toronto is a disgrace; so are the people who run it.
Christopher Hume can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org