TTC: Make it better, Mayor X
I’ve been a TTC customer since I moved to Toronto in the early '90s. For the most part, I am satisfied with my daily commute, enjoy weekend streetcar trips with my family to different neighbourhoods, and find it to be the “better way” in comparison to car travel. My 4-yr-old son likes riding the buses, streetcars and especially the subway when we can get the front seat. I can’t blame him – it is thrilling to be at the head of a train as we enter or exit a tunnel.
I’m also a fan and willing participant in social media, and, along with hundreds of my fellow TTC riders, follow Twitter to get updates on TTC status. Social media has made transit easier to use, in many ways, since I find out ahead of time if trains are delayed or buses are re-routed.
For instance, just last week College station was temporarily closed do to a “security investigation” (not unusual, given the proximity of the provincial courts); this news was broadcast on Twitter, and as a result I walked to Queen’s Park station to avoid being late to pick up my son from daycare.
However, while social media has been good for the TTC, it’s a double-edged sword that also exposes the system’s weaknesses. Due to the prolific tweets provided by TTC riders like myself (@ttcupdates) and TTC’s communications director (@bradttc) most delays and service interruptions are reported within seconds of happening.
Over the course of a day, I might receive six to 10 alerts that the system is under stress. It’s a big city, with who-knows-how-many vehicles on the road to provide us with transit service, and of course many alerts aren’t on my route and don’t affect me – but most days, the volume of alerts seems too high.
In particular, I’ve noticed over the last year that the TTC is increasingly under stress, and at the moment there doesn’t seem to be anyone interested in addressing the problem.
It’s no wonder that the system is suffering: the number of condominiums going up in the core is impacting infrastructure that hasn’t been updated in decades. I live in mid-town Toronto, and most days the southbound Yonge line subways are so packed that you need to wait for several trains to pass before you can board. Some months ago I began going a bit out of my way to board at Eglinton instead of my usual Davisville stop, thinking I’d beat the crowds.
Silly me; instead of beating the crowd, I’ve joined it. The new Minto condominium complex is filling up, and these new urbanites, like me, value living in the city and depend on transit.
The TTC is becoming so full and unpredictable that I can’t help but wonder what’s worse: standing on a slow-moving, packed train with dozens of exasperated commuters, or sitting in a slow-moving car, stuck in traffic but at least I get a seat and get to choose whom I share my air with.
And so, here is my advice to our next Mayor: pay attention to the TTC. It’s a crucial part of Toronto’s infrastructure, and should it continue to deteriorate, it could be responsible for Toronto’s downfall. It’s a truism that the best systems are invisible and we only notice them when they are broken; the TTC is broken. I urge our Mayoral candidates to do make a commitment to fixing it.