Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Toronto Commuters Wait on the TTC for TTC Subways

Heaving changes have rolled through the TTC in the last few weeks. Because Mayor Rob Ford kept saying the people want subways but refused to put forth a viable plan (heck, any plan), TTC Chair Karen Stintz led a coup to bring back parts of Transit Ciry: LRT lines for Eglinton and Sheppard. No finishing the Sheppard subway as had been planned till the wusses on the last Council stopped advocating for a good subway backbone for the city and began beating the drumbeat of LRTs as if they would solve our transit woes, as if we no longer need subways.

Mayor Ford is right: the people want subways. But he failed big time to fund Sheppard because of his rigidity and blindnesss. The business men he met with told the media they don't want to put their own money into the TTC (even though it will benefit them, but Canadian biz are like that: make money, hoard it, don't invest in own people or community). Yet he claimed they were going to invest. Huh? And he doesn't care about the subway every single Torontonian needs: the Downtown Relief Line (DRL).

The TTC Chair is right: we need to start building either with the money we have or with a funding plan to pay for the more expensive subways.

The mostly Ford-loyal TTC Commission sacked the TTC Chief General Manager (CGM) because his report did not advocate for subways. The Left howled at his stacking, and Stintz moved to replace the Commissioners on the TTC. It was a move to admire for its audacity and swiftness. But did the sacking really harm the TTC?

I, for one, am very impressed with the new CEO. He wants to be called "CEO" not "CGM" because commuters know what a CEO is. Within two days of being hoisted into the top position, he changed the subway cleaning regimen. I almost fell off my seat when I saw on TV a TTC janitor mopping -- yes, mopping -- a subway train floor during operating hours. I was amazed at how clean and sparkly (as sparkly as a TTC station can be) the floors were in stations and trains.

But then I came smack up against the reality of too few subway lines. I entered St. George station to the sound of an alarm. No one, and I mean no one, was concerned. On one platform sat a train stuffed with people staring out the doors; on the platform hordes stood staring into the train. All were waiting to get moving, to get home. I espied the new train for the first time and moved through the crowds to photograph it. The alarm continued its rhythmic blaring. The people on the new train couldn't care less; a few got off to find alternate ways uptown or downtown. In that area, there is no close surface route, and it's a hike to the other side of the YUS (Yonge-University-Spadina) line. We were all stuck: grab a cab if you have the money or wait.

But then on Monday I ran into a way worse problem. I entered the Dundas station from the Eaton Centre. Another stuffed-to-the-exits train sat in the station. A voice announced it was all clear, the doors closed on toes and noses, the train lurched forward and left while people streamed into the crowded station. A packed train flew into the station, stopped, and a few squeezed out while others squirmed in, pushing themselves in so their butts would be out of the way of the doors, which closed. I was carrying a salad and figured I'd wait for the third train, the one that's usually relatively empty.

But it didn't come. In the opposite direction, trains came and went. Isn't that always the way? A voice sternly called out "506 St. Clair" three times, I sighed, and the next train on the opposite side crawled out. Just crawled.

We waited for our train as the narrow platform filled even more. It was rush hour after all.

We waited.

And at last a train crept in. The doors opened to people standing shoulder-to-shoulder, and the lights went out. It was so quiet.

And then the stampede began.

So much for "All Clear."

But there is no subway alternative, so where to stampede to? The YUS is connected as one line really, so power out affects enough of the line so that it's a long, long walk to the next functioning station. There is no downtown east-west line (the DRL) to get on to make that walk shorter or as an alternative way home.

I didn't want to lose my token -- the transfer at this station is useless on the connecting surface routes. I asked Dave the cheerful guy manning the token box what to do. He handed me a yellow transfer that was stamped with Emergency Subway Transfer. He told me it was good on Dundas car, on Queen car. And the streetcar driver told me it was the best kind of transfer, it would get me on any bus or streetcar. Who knew?

Still, the lack of a good subway backbone because of decades of complacency, neglect, and rising hatred to this mode of swift transport with large capacity, means we Torontonians must wait and wait and wait. Then put up with the longest commute times in North America, costing us and the economy mega-bucks. Maybe the new TTC CEO will be our saviour.

 

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