Help! We need a better transit system


Who would have thought that it could take an hour and a half to travel the four-kilometre distance by public transit from the Eglinton subway station to St. Clair and Bathurst during a weekday rush hour? And this, in the absence of any wildcat strike or workers’ protest.

This adventure began at about 5:30 p.m. and, to begin with, getting from Eglinton to St. Clair station takes longer these days since there is a slowdown in the tunnel just before arriving at St. Clair. In fact there are slowdowns on the Yonge line when approaching Eglinton and Lawrence stations as well, but back to this specific mess.

During this particular weekday rush hour there were also no 512 streetcars rolling into to the station at Yonge St. and St. Clair Ave. E. even as the crowd of commuters on the streetcar platform grew with each arriving train.

There was also no staff anywhere to clarify why there was a delay or how long a wait there would be. So rather than wait indefinitely, back into the tunnel to travel south to the Yonge/Bloor exchange and then on to the westbound Bloor line in an attempt to get to St. George and then from there north to St. Clair.

At some point, there was an announcement that trains going east on the Bloor line were being delayed due to a police response at Pape station. More holdups. Eventually arriving at St. George to switch from the Bloor line to the Spadina line there came yet another announcement that there was a problem this time at St. Patrick station. This stopped movement of trains on the University line both north and south, so back down to the east/west line and over to Bathurst station to get a northbound Bathurst bus.

By the time the Bathurst St. and St. Clair Ave. W. intersection was in sight, the clock was approaching 7 p.m.

Remarkably, the 512 streetcars were at this point running, a number of them sailing through the intersection in both directions.

Every day the public transit system, and in particular the subway trains, offer up lessons in patience. It is no wonder that there is an ever-increasing number of cars on the streets and highways of this city as people give up any hope of the kind of efficiency and reliability from the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) that used to be.

The mayor of this city has given no promising sign that this situation isn’t actually going to get worse since the TTC will have to cut its budget by 10 per cent for the 2012 fiscal year.

Whatever the TTC may have been it no longer is, having been starved of funds by the Mike Harris Conservatives in the 1990s. As Ontario’s Oct. 6 Election Day nears, New Democratic Party leader Andrea Horwath is the only campaigner making a promise to restore provincial funding to Toronto’s public transit system.

Ignoring the urgent need for expansion, Mayor Rob Ford’s imprudent decision to cancel significant parts of the Transit City project that was to increase or extend TTC service routes by building light rail surface lines is a blow to future development of this growing city’s much needed infrastructure.

The wisdom of Ford was encapsulated in his unfortunate comment that “we will not build any more rail tracks down the middle of our streets”.

There are people who will tell you that this public transit system is better than those of Los Angeles or Miami, but what does it say when we’re being compared to cities identified almost exclusively with cars.

Visitors from Asian countries, accustomed to trains that run on time, have commented with surprise on the inefficiency of our modern city’s public transit system.

There isn’t enough space here to detail all the benefits of an efficient public transportation system for this city, and there are many. For now it is enough to say that it shouldn’t take 90 minutes to travel four-kilometres by TTC.

A note on the baby and the bathwater…

Let’s not dismiss all of Councillor Doug Ford’s pipe dream of luxury hotels, mega-malls monorails and giant ferry wheels for the port lands on Toronto’s lakeshore. After all, the London Eye is holding its own on the banks of the River Thames in England. If the wheel does fly at the edge of Lake Ontario, maybe we could call it Ford’s Folly.

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