Traveling on public transit (TTC) in Toronto when I was growing up was simpler than now. And yes, sometimes fun. I lived half a block from a major street. My street was partway between two bus stops so Mom and I would get to the end of our street, look both ways and see if a bus was coming. It it was, it became a judgement call – go to the left (closer, but a street with lights to cross) or go to the right (a little further, but no waiting for lights to change). We had some idea of the time the bus was supposed to show up and it usually was on time or close to on time. Sometimes the bus stop was just around the corner as the TTC had a penchant even back in the late 1950s and 1960s to move the bus stop.
Mom and I had several adventures on public transit – not heart-stopping or bad – but adventures for a little girl. Riding on old streetcars in downtown Toronto. Riding the King Street car to the CNE (yes, it did go to the CNE back then), coming home on the streetcar and almost falling asleep on the way home. Mom stayed awake (I think), but even if she fell asleep we were going to the end of the line.
Then the first subway line opened March 30, 1954 . We missed the opening day, but took lots of rides on it to downtown Toronto and back afterwards. Sometimes Daddy came along too if on a weekend and we were heading up north (North Toronto) to visit family. Sometimes we had to make a change to a bus at the Eglinton end. But in winter before the first part of what is now called Line 2 opened on the Bloor-Danforth, we didn’t wait down on an inside platform to go east. Instead we stood shivering on a somewhat open platform in the middle of Bloor Street, just east of Yonge. Our only “shelter” was a back wall with an overhang temporarily in place. The second phase of the Yonge line, the University extension, running from Union Station to St. George Station opened February 23, 1963. But I didn’t take it until a few years later when I started working as a secretary at Queens Park.
The first phase of the Bloor-Danforth line from Woodbine to Keele opened in 1966 – just in time for me to take it to business school that fall. By the time I started work the following year, subway cars were getting crowed. People blocked doorways so getting on and off in rush hour was a challenge. In late 1969, when I worked as a clerk in Morality at Toronto Police headquarters (it was on Jarvis Street then), I often ran into a couple of the detectives in Morality. One day, they decided to teach one of these door blockers a lesson. Mr. Door Blocker was the only one who wouldn’t move out of the doorway to let people in or out. He just stood smack in the middle of the doorway. So the two detectives decided to teach him a lesson. No, they didn’t arrest him. Instead when the three of us arrived at our stop – Sherbourne – they each grabbed one of the blocker’s arms and took him off the train. I followed and watched. The detectives held him there on the platform until the train’s doors closed and the train sped away. I stood there and laughed.
Fast forward to today and it is too complicated and not as gentle. Yes, we have more subway lines but not enough to get people to work and everywhere else without them being stuffed up against each other. Subway stations, particularly the ones to transfer to another line, are jam packed, particularly in rush hour or of there is some big event on in Toronto on weekends (read “every weekend”). Passengers have escalated the rudeness and inconsiderateness to high (low?) levels. They not only stand blocking doorways while absorbed in their digital devices, some of them think they are entertainers and swing from the poles or overhead racks where you hang on for dear life. There are blue seats for us seniors, those with disabilities (I qualify for both although the latter is somewhat invisible), and pregnant women. But in crowded subways who is sitting on some of these seats – young men and women too busy with their digital devices to see if there is someone else who needs to sit there. Not all are like that and I am grateful for those who have given up their seat for me and without me even asking But I’ve had a few words with those who don’t. And despite the TTC criteria for who can sit on those seats, if I see a parent and young kids sitting in the blue seats, I don’t say anything. I think they need to sit there too.
There are also all the TTC subway renovations, signal problems, track problems, closures and bus drivers who can’t seem to stick to their schedule. But that’s for another post. I have stories here. Stay tuned.
Only Child Writes