Friday, August 19, 2011

Off Its Tracks


Off Its Tracks, originally uploaded by Points North.

This is known as a TTC F'Up. This on a day when TTC advocates are saying Toronto Mayor Ford is wrong and we should be dinged a fare increase. After today, I say like hell we should. Until management gets its shit together to inform drivers and riders of major delays and ensures construction doesn't seriously impede busy routes, no fare increases. (Update: Slide Show here, including a wheels closeup)

This streetcar left its tracks sometime before 11:30 AM this morning, and it completely blocked Spadina Avenue. For those not in Toronto -- Spadina is an extremely busy street. It should have a subway; instead they built a dedicated streetcar line with mostly articulated streetcars running on it. They're usually packed. I don't know if this is the College car or Spadina, but from what I overheard two hours later, the driver thought he was going straight, the tracks decided nope, and off he went.

So do you think the TTC could bother telling us? God no. No announcements on the subway warning passengers that if we're headed to Spadina, we might want to go to Bathurst or maybe one of the stops on the University subway line, depending on our final destination.

So oblivious to our fate, we get off at Spadina station. Some dour asshole is standing at the streetcar platform intoning softly shuttle buses upstairs and louder go to Bathurst for streetcars. Well, we all know the Bathurst car is about as reliable as the city shovelling snow in Toronto neighbourhoods. I ask the guy if there are shuttle buses -- dumb question right, except I wasn't sure if I'd heard him or if the only option was the Bathurst car. Asshole didn't answer me. I asked him three times. He finally answered only because he saw more passengers coming up from the subway. What? His voice only works for crowds? And the pundits and TTC wonder why riders get so enraged.

So we go up. A bus is leaving, a bus comes in. People line up and get on in orderly fashion. Driver is on the phone thingie. The bus gets full. People move down. More people get on. Driver is on the phone thingie. Bus gets even fuller. It is air conditioned -- thank GOD for that because streetcars are stuffy boxes in the summer and we were packed in. Driver still on phone thingie. Bus not moving. I'm getting late.

I left 15 effing minutes earlier and decided to take the Spadina car instead of the Bathurst car since I wanted to get to Toronto Western Hospital on time for once, and the Bathurst car shows up anywhere from 10 to 40 minutes apart, a total crapshoot. The Spadina car is reliable. Well, usually.

Finally bus driver gets off phone thingie. One guy asks another guy near the driver if the bus is going to Queen. Get this. The driver doesn't know. She only goes where they tell her. Seriously? The driver DOESN'T KNOW how far south to drive the shuttle bus??!!! So in other words, TTC management doesn't think it necessary to tell riders what's happened in announcements on the subway and they don't think it's necessary to tell the drivers, even those on the routes affected. TTC management think we should all just stay in the dark cause we all like a mystery, right? Pity the poor guy who wanted to go to Queen.

She leaves the station. It's smooth sailing until we get to College Circle, and then it's gridlock. I'm thinking it must be the construction. Hahahaha! Another guy asks the guy near driver if she can let us off here since we're stuck. No can do until we get around the Circle.

This puzzles me. Normally we go halfway round the Circle then straight down Spadina to College. Go look at a map. And also if the driver knows there's a stop on the Circle, how come she doesn't know if she's going down to Queen or not?

So I look at my watch. So much for my plan. Late, late, late. And we're only quarter way to halfway round the Circle, and whoa is that a Church bus? What the heck is a Church Street bus doing coming down the side street next to the School towards the gridlocked Spadina Circle?

We go round the Circle, past where Spadina straightens because a police car is blocking it. Construction not the culprit then -- though there is some. If I'd known the streetcar wasn't running because of some electrical failure or construction but because the entire street was blocked, I might've tried Bathurst! TTC assholes.

Bus finally drops us off. Clearly this bus is not heading south -- but is it heading back to the station or on some detour down some other street? Who knows.

People erupt out the doors. I take pix and practically run to the hospital. Doc is late. Appointment is truncated. And my TTC adventures are not over.

So I decide to take the Bathurst car up to the Bloor-Danforth subway. No hurry as I'm on the way to photograph the pink umbrellas at Sugar Beach. Only prob: I forgot to look at the TTC website. No prob. I can ask the TTC subway booth people. HAHAHAHAHA!

Anyway going up Bathurst is slow, like real slow, like streetcars in their own special gridlock slow. We have the Bathurst cars, the Dundas cars, the Spadina cars -- you see the asshole at Spadina didn't say the Spadina cars had been rerouted to Bathurst, just let us believe the only cars there were the Bathurst ones -- I see a Lansdowne bus too. It's about two hours later, and Spadina is still blocked apparently. We wait and wait to get into Bathurst station. And I find out the Bathurst car is erratic for two reasons: construction and non-regular Bathurst drivers. The TTC has been moving staff around because of construction at Roncesvalles, and some staff are more reliable than others in showing up. Reminds me of a conversation I overheard awhile ago between TTC drivers about planning sick days. Yes, people, some TTC drivers plan their sick days so that they can do other stuff. Plus the construction at King and Bathurst added a 20-minute detour, and it sounds like TTC management didn't think it necessary to add short-turn cars to fill the gaps. Hence, erratic service. Assholes. Did I say that already?

The driver of this car is really nice. He's heard of Sugar Beach and thinks Sherbourne bus may be the best bet, but he's not sure. He thanks me for telling him the name of the pink-umbrella place. I get on the packed-to-the rafters subway and check my watch. Is it rush hour already? Nope. It's not even 2:00 pm. I get to Sherbourne. I ask the booth person if the bus goes down to Queen's Quay. Did you know that booth doesn't have those round things that amplify voices? And though there's a mic there, it couldn't have been working as she didn't lean in to it, and I could only hear her voice faintly through the glass. To say I had trouble hearing her because of all the noise inside that station is an understatement. It didn't help she was saying something unbelievable: she doesn't know buses, only subways. What? Seriously? Not even the bus attached to the station she's working in? Fuck the tourists, eh?

I get on the bus. OMG, could there be a more helpful driver. Seriously. The guy not only remembers rider requests -- and that is effing rare on today's TTC -- he actually calls riders up from the back of the bus to ensure they get off at their stop. And get this, he points the way to their destination! He made sure I got off at the right stop for Sugar Beach. And to top it off, he gave me the right instructions to get to the Distillery District. I wasn't sure he was right, but I followed them after my Sugar Beach sojourn and learnt that there's a pedestrian way that's not available to cars, along the Esplanade.

I arrived in one piece, on my feet, and collapsed into a big cup of espresso and gelato. I needed it.

2 comments:

Marg said...

would you believe while coming home from work yesterday I heard an announcement at Bay subway station about this situation? and my first thought was "What the heck they never announce streetcar delays!"

talk talk talk / Shireen said...

LOL! It was probably because it had gone on for hours by that time, and the thought managed to cross their mind that maybe they should, you know, tell people on the TTC.