Category Archives: Toronto public transit
Now that the reduce-the-Toronto-wards-number fiasco has been struck down in court, Premier Doug Ford can perhaps look elsewhere to do some damage. And yes, I know he plans to use the little-used not-withstanding clause. But Mr. Ford also wants to take over part of the TTC, er, his PC government does. That would be the subways. But Toronto can keep the bus, LRT and other streetcar service. See story here.
Mr. Ford might do well to look at the history of the TTC – when it was a jumble of privately run companies and when the Toronto Transit Commission began taking it all over. Mr. Ford can start by going here for a little history lesson. Even better read the Mike Filey book mentioned in the article – The TTC Story: The First Seventy-five Years (Dundurn Press, 1996). Can’t find it online or in a bricks and mortars store? Toronto Public library has copies. And if Mr. Ford doesn’t have a library card, he can get one easily – and it’s free. That should suit him.
I am a life-long TTC rider and even though I complain loudly about the crowding, the stoppages for various reasons, dividing it up with the PCs taking over the subways and the TTC keeping the rest will create chaos. Remember the old saying about the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing?
When I was a child (back in the grey ages) my mom, dad and I travelled by TTC to everywhere. We had no car and my parents couldn’t drive anyway. I enjoyed the subway rides on Yonge St. to downtown to shop at department store no longer around (but that’s fodder for another post) – this latter mainly with Mom. But Mom, Dad and I used to take the subway to Eglinton and then on buses afterwards to visit family and friends. When I started work ,the first phase of Line 2 along Bloor and Danforth had started running. And yes, it was crowded then too (albeit not as bad as today). When the Yonge line was first extended to York Mills I was living in North York and commuting to work at Bloor and Yonge from Sheppard and Don Mills. This required an extra bus to York Mills. So I was glad when the subway line got extended to Finch. And since then, there have been more extensions and something called an LRT now being built along Eglinton.
Mr. Ford is saying that the TTC will still operate the subway system and can keep all revenues generated. How generous. If Mr. Ford wants to get his hands into the TTC, maybe he should concentrate on the province giving more funds to the TTC so it doesn’t need to use so much of the fare revenue to cover costs for maintaining and building new subway lines, etc.
Emphasis on the word “public”. I am part of this public. I pay for my TTC pass (soon to be a Presto card) and pay my municipal taxes – some of which go to pay some of the TTC expenses no doubt, as one of my Facebook pals pointed out. But we (the public) have our rights.
And for the record I did not vote for the PCs in the election this year. And the NDP I voted for in my riding got in.
Many people speculate that Mr. Ford is doing all this to Toronto in retaliation for Toronto voting mostly NDP in the election. Whether that is true or not, the fact that Toronto voted NDP says something about our wishes.
But hey, democracy seems to be turning into a bad word. Just look at south of the border.
Comments, please. And here’s the link to my Facebook page. Scroll down a bit to see some comments on this TTC ruckus.
Only Child Writes
I am quite vocal on the problems and mistakes with public transit, particularly Toronto Transit, known as the TTC. In pointing fingers at everyone from TTC management to drivers, we tend to forget ourselves, the passengers.
We have our faults when travelling public transit and a few of them that cause other passengers grief need to be addressed. So, here in no order of importance are the biggest offenders and offences of TTC riders that I see in my many travels on public transit.
- Blocking the exit doors inside the subway when you are not getting off at the next stop. Many passengers seem to think they own the doorway and stand around yakking, using their smart phones for anything but phoning. The majority don’t move their butts when the train arrives in a station and the doors open. That leaves the rest of us having no choice but to push our way on or off, often stepping accidentally on toes. Would it really hurt to move in (unless it is sardine-crowded in rush hour) or at least go to the doorways on the opposite side of the car which is not being used at the time?
- There is much concern with people using their devices to text, etc. when driving or walking along the street. But a few jerks have the nerve to block the subway stairwells to text because they are too lazy to move a few feet off the stairs. I know they are trying to catch the reception, but standing at the top, bottom, or midway on the steps by the railing is not only bad manners but unsafe for those of us who have to hang onto railings to go up and down stairs. I usually use my outside voice to tell these clowns (and this is an insult to clowns) that they are blocking the way and I need to use the railing. One a****** had the nerve to tell me to use the other railing on the other side of the stairs. I snapped back “that’s for people coming up the stairs.” He moved. Some people may be tempted to give these device addicts a shove, but more to the point, in busy rush hour with everyone hurrying, someone might just accidentally careen into the device addict.
- This one is more for bus and streetcar passengers. Those oversized baby buggies with the widely-placed wheels. Yes, I know parents have to get their babies and toddlers around. But some think they own the whole aisle at the front of the bus so just park their buggy anywhere there. Sometime they stand with it. Sometimes they sit in one of the front side seats. But do they have to take up all three seats with their carriage and themselves? Or worse – straddle the carriage to the first window seat, effectively locking in whomever is sitting there. One of the worse scenarios occurred on a bus I travelled on and to me it was a clear case of ageism. A senior with a walker got on right after me and she stopped near the front of the bus, but to the side as best she could, considering Mrs. Entitlement Parent was blocking most of the aisle-way before her with her monster baby buggy at the front. You can imagine the difficulty people had getting on and off. But there was worse. Mrs. Entitlement Parent wanted to get off at a stop and insisted the old lady with the walker get off the bus so she could do so. Now, if Mrs. EP had moved further in, she could have exited via the back door. The buses we’ve had since 2004 in Toronto have the wide exits with no stairs and the doors push open to the outside. Note: a few parents are considerate – move their baby buggies in well enough for people to get by and also use the back exit. A few have even pushed the side seats up and stood with the buggy there. Not Mrs. EP. And the driver didn’t even say anything to her. But I did. The lady sitting in front of me turned around and asked “Aren’t you afraid of repercussions?” I replied, “I’m too old to care.”
- People who park their bags on the seat beside them. And I have been guilty of this one a few times, so a bit of mea culpa here. Suffice to say, if you are carrying a lot of bags, try to place them on your lap, on the floor by your feet (I put an extra bag on the floor between my feet to avoid people tripping over feet and or bag), or on that shelf at the front of the bus just inside the front door. It does get tricky with suitcases but it can be done. Yesterday on the bus there were two ladies with huge suitcases, but they managed to each put their suitcase, standing up, in front of them on the floor – and they only took up two seats in the three-seater side seats
- So, for the last one, to all passengers. Think before you plunk yourself on public transit. It is public transit you are travelling on, not in your own private vehicle.
Only Child Writes
Sunday, I got the big run-around (literally) with travelling on public transit in Toronto. I avoided the subway route where part was closed to subway trains due to maintenance. But when I had to take a bus from a subway station to get to a grocery store, the bus took a detour. Sure, the sign on the bus said “Detour on route,” but not where. No signs at the subway station and the driver made no announcements. Imagine my surprise when the bus suddenly make a right turn off its schedule – one stop before I had to get off.
I charged up to the front and asked the driver if we would be getting back to Pape at Cosburn. He said he would be getting back to Cosburn. The detour continued around and up Donlands Ave. and when we got to Cosburn (and a red light) I asked if he was left turning onto Cosburn. He didn’t know. The bus ahead of us at the light continued straight on and so did “my” bus. Furious, I demanded to be let off on the other side of Cosburn. He let me off and I walked back to Pape (a short walk) in case there was a problem with the regular bus on Cosburn Ave.
What caused the detour? A street festival on Pape.
Why couldn’t the bus have a sign indicating where the detour was? Why didn’t the driver know about it?
So many unanswered questions.
Of course I later filed a complaint online at the TTC website. Seems that I do many of these lately.
I find travelling on Toronto public transit – bus, streetcar, LRT or subway can be a challenge sometimes. Despite the TTC website postings for times, delays, postings at subway stations, sometimes I feel like I travel public transit at my own peril. A little disclaimer here – I do not have a Smart phone (can’t afford one) so once I leave the house I can’t check updates that way. Before leaving I do trip planners online, check for any delays, and make note of the four bus routes where I can board a bus near home. I am grateful for this proximity.
Anything can happen. Sometimes the buses are late or early. I used to enjoy subways rides. It gave me a chance to read or observe people. Now, when I get on I wonder if I’m going to make it to my destination on time and without mishap. Subway fires in stations sometimes flare up on the tracks; signals malfunction; there are medical emergencies and police investigations of incidents (these latter two are necessary), and of course there are scheduled subway closures on weekends (we get lots of warning about those). The irony here is these closures are usually for track and signal repair and upgrades. So why do these track and signal mishaps still happen? I’ve also noticed that the subway closures for maintenance are often repeats of areas where it was supposedly done in previous’ months closures. What does this tell you?
Shuttle bus service is put on for these weekend scheduled subsay closures. But no matter how many buses are in service, it doesn’t come near the space on the subway trains. So, you get long lines of commuters patiently waiting to get on a bus (if lucky) or angry groups of people crowding on the street outside the subway station waiting for a bus to get to work. The latter occurs more often when pop-up emergencies happen – such as a fire under some of the tracks at the Yonge subway station last week. That is Yonge-Bloor – the major subway transfer station in Toronto. The subway was closed for three hour during rush hour.
I’m glad I don’t commute to work every day.
But I used to years ago and yes, subways were crowded, but it didn’t seem as bad.
Taking it back even further (we’re in the grey years now folks), when I was a small child I used to travel a lot on buses, subways, and streetcars with my mother. I never worried about getting where we were going because Mom was leading the way. Sure we had to wait for buses and subways and streetcars, sometimes in the snowy cold; sometimes it seemed like hours. There was always something to look forward to – such as where we were going – our weekly shopping trip to the Danforth for fresh vegetables and fruit and wanderings in the old Kresge, Woolworth and Metropolitan stores. I would often let my imagination and sense of adventure take over (yes, despite being a shy kid, I liked some adventures, although not real scary).
And yes, it wasn’t all convenient. Here’s a very short excerpt from my memoir in the works about getting a bus from home – which was not too far from where I now live.
The bus stop closest to 139 was around the corner on O’Connor Drive – that is if you walked left and the TTC hadn’t moved its trademark red and white sign to the far side of Don Mills Road. If we saw the bus coming, we played transit roulette with the streetlights at Don Mills Road and the driver’s whim to wait for us and the alternative – making a hasty right turn and sprinting to the next bus stop. Once we boarded the bus, we continued with the rest of our travels. (excerpted from You Can Go Home – deconstructing the demons copyright 2016 Sharon A. Crawford)
Ironically bus service in that area has increased in bus routes but the old Broadview 8 bus route mentioned above actually runs more infrequently then back in the 1950s and 1960s. Another paradox, service slowdowns seem to happen more frequently than back then on these routes, old and new. I know that with the subway and streetcar routes aging infrastructure is often to blame and a lot of that is being fixed – at least work is being done on it. But sometimes it seems as if the work is being repeated in the same areas.
And the timing seems to be bad. Lots going on in Toronto on weekends in the summer – from Blue Jays games, to street festivals that close streets, concerts and all those runs and walkathons. It is a nightmare, but more signage and information would be a start to help.
So would upgrading and fixing those subway signals and tracks the first time round.
Only Child Writes
When I was a child my late mother and I used to travel on Toronto’s public transit (TTC). We t00k buses, streetcars and the subway. It was like an adventure with Mom leading the way. I always felt when travelling with her we were good, and any problems that arose, she could fix them.
I wish Mom had been with me last Thursday when I ventured onto the TTC to an area I’ve only been to a couple of times before. These previous two times I returned home a different way from going there because I had errands to do. This time I wanted to come right home.
In preparation I did a trip planner on the TTC website. I might as well have mapped out a trip to Mars – the angry red planet – for all the good my planning did. And Mars would have been appropriate for some of what I felt when I finally returned home. The problems were caused by stupid bus drivers and even stupider bus schedules on the Woodbine C and D bus lines.
When I boarded the bus near my place I tried to verify with the driver that this Woodbine bus at some point goes all over Hell’s Half Acre in residential land instead of straight up to Lawrence Avenue. Bus driver verified that and told me to get off at Underhill. When I mentioned the trip planner online suggested another street beginning with “C” he had no clue. When the bus was arriving at Cardiff (voice and digital stop announcements are done electronically on Toronto buses), I rushed up to the front and told the driver “that’s the street.” His reply was how complicated it was to get to the stop going west on Lawrence as where I actually saw the bus stopped on Lawrence was going east (it appeared to be going west).
So, I stayed on to Underhill and got off. When I asked about getting on around here to return home he said I could get on at Underhill but it was better to stay on to Victoria Park and transfer there from the Lawrence bus. That was going out of my way and made no sense because it’s the Victoria Park bus line there and why would I want another bus change (and another transfer from the Victoria Park bus) to get home when the Woodbine bus was supposed to take me right home?
I noted tha on the south side of Lawrence the street was called Railside, and boarded the Lawrence East bus to my destination – the Toronto Botanical Gardens library to do some research for a personal essay. After that I walked back to Don Mills Road to the public library to pitch my writing workshops and crime writing talks to the librarian.
Then I walked to the nearest bus stop on the south side of Lawrence just east of Railside. Common sense told me that the Woodbine bus that turned up Underhill when I was going west, would come back that way and turn east on Lawrence. What goes up must come down.
Not exactly. I waited for almost half an hour. I talked to another woman waiting around and she said she thought the Woodbine bus came back down Underhill and turned left onto Lawrence.
Imagine my surprise and horror when I saw a Woodbine bus (C or D – couldn’t make that out on the front from the side) come barrelling down Underhill right across Lawrence and down Railside. It stopped at the stop just below Lawrence. I ran there – but I had to cover part of a block on both streets and missed.
There was a map of sorts on the post at this Railside stop. Very confusing as it didn’t show where the Woodbine C and a B came back from Underhill and York Mills. A D bus route was drawn in using broken lines – but only for the Railside portion. Times given for its arrival at “my” stop were only for rush hour and didn’t coincide with when the bus I missed had arrived.
I felt scared and alone. How was I to get home? I couldn’t afford a cab – even if one came by. None did. But several Woodbine C buses came by along Lawrence going west and turning north on Underhill. None of them came back.
The Woodbine D finally did (and not at the scheduled time) and I got on. I asked the driver where does the C bus gets back to Lawrence.
He said “Cardiff.” The same bloody intersection where the C bus driver when I was going to the TGB library told me not to get off at. If I had, this would not have happened.
This D bus driver wasn’t all that knowledgeable either because when I asked him how often the D bus ran he said “I don’t know.”
And this D bus did get me home but not before going over to Victoria Park Ave. – which is not on the route going the other way. So I panicked and charged up to the front of the bus to make sure the bus was going to my stop. Now it was clear what the bus driver going had meant by taking the Lawrence bus back to Victoria Park. I have also noticed on previous Woodbine bus rides from the south end to my place that sometimes the bus drivers take 20 minute breaks at the south end. From what I can figure out, it’s not all their fault. It’s the wonky schedule.
Of course I put in an online complaint to the TTC, including the Woodbine bus schedules need overhauling so that routes going and coming travel the same way (well in reverse order to each other of course) to avoid confusion. Only exception would be extra rush-hour service (like the Railside diversion). And I suggested they fix the bus time schedules and the map signs at the stops.
Now if my mother had been there….
I’ll write in a future post about my experience at the Toronto Botanical Gardens library. Only good thing happening last Thursday.
Only Child Writes
The TTC, Toronto’s public transit system is embarking on many renovations, fixes and upgrades – both on subway lines, streetcar lines (read tracks and signals for these two) and subway stations. It is the latter that is causing me and many others grief. I agree that the upgrades, etc. are necessary. However, the way some are being mishandled with no concern for us the passengers, is what makes me very angry.
One example is the closure of bus platforms simultaneously at two subway stations for over a year – the Coxwell station and Woodbine station. On October 6, 2015 I wrote and mailed a letter of complaint and concern to the TTC head honcho, Andy Byford. Had to send it by regular mail to head office as I couldn’t find an email address for him. So far I have heard nothing back from him and Mr. Byford professes to be very pro customer service, including getting right on the subway and doing interviews right after problems surface. Not this issue – right now he seems more concerned with the mold and peeling ceilings at TTC headquarters.
Since writing my letter I have changed my mind about the new Woodbine station setup. The buses park and pick up passengers just around the corner (and I do mean almost at the corner) from the subway station. So passengers have what you would call a hop, skip and a jump to get from the subway station to board one of two buses and vice-versa. There are also two temporary shelters at the temporary bus “platform” which work well so far. Not so with the Coxwell station. Here are some excerpts from my letter to Mr. Andy Byford, which highlight these concerns.
“The planned Coxwell Station setup is even worse – the stop right at the southeast corner of Coxwell Ave. and Danforth Avenue. The diagram from the June 23, 2015 presentation isn’t too clear if that is for buses going north and south or if those of us coming from the north to the subway station will also have to cross Coxwell Avenue and then walk up to Strathmore and along Strathmore to the actual subway station entrance. Same criteria of objection as for the Woodbine station apply with one additional fact. The subway entrance is on Strathmore. Why didn’t whomever made this decision have the buses turn onto Strathmore, line up there to let passengers on and off, and continue around the block as is the setup at Woodbine Station. At least passengers waiting for buses could wait inside the station. With the Woodbine set-up, all the heavy equipment was moved off Strathmore and onto TTC property by the actual Woodbine Station – so lots of road space. Couldn’t the same be done at the Coxwell Station? The buses already normally turn onto Strathmore briefly before entering the Coxwell Station.
This worrisome setup also begs two questions:
- Why are two consecutive subway stations having renovations done at the same time? Doesn’t whomever made the decision realize that many of us (depending on where we live) can take either an O’Connor or Woodbine bus from our homes to either Coxwell or Woodbine Stations? And vice-versa to return home? It would make more sense to renovate/upgrade one station first and then do the second station. I believe the Pape Station renovation wasn’t begun until the nearest large subway station’s (Broadview) renovations were completed.
- Although there were many things done wrong with the drawn-out Pape subway station renovation, one thing done right was to move the buses to nearby subway stations (like Donlands) when necessary and letting people know. This at least eliminated standing out in the open (Woodbine Station and upcoming Coxwell Station setup) during bad weather and a long hike during bad weather (Coxwell Station setup). Why couldn’t the same be done with the buses going through Woodbine Station and Coxwell Station? There are even fewer bus routes at those two stations than at Pape Station. Woodbine Station buses could go to nearby Main Station – a large station and Coxwell Station buses could go to Greenwood Station. Even if at the latter, buses had to park on Linsmore Avenue, it would be much easier access into a station as the main entrance is on Linsmore Avenue.
I can only conclude that the decision-making for these one-year closings were made by person or persons who don’t regularly take public transit but drive cars. I know you don’t drive and do take public transit, but some of your underling managers obviously don’t. How did that one slip by you?
Not to mention the time-line for these two stations’ upgrades.
With TTC fares constantly going up, I expect much better service for its riders. I also believe accessibility is now the law in Ontario and doesn’t that mean even when work is being done to make it so? If passengers fall on the ice because of the extra walking, has any consideration being given to possible lawsuits?”
Some of my concerns have become reality. Because the TTC big whigs in their “infinite wisdom” decided to combine the two bus routes down Coxwell Avenue (the bus number changes) if there are traffic problems for whatever reason on one line, it now affects the other. We had that problem on Sunday, with an annual Santa Claus Parade in the area covered by one line. And I wanted the other line to get to the library, so couldn’t take the Woodbine bus route as I do now.
Can’t wait until winter weather factors in or next spring and summer with all the marathon walks and the like occurring in Toronto, but that’s a subject for other blog posts when they actually happen.
Only Child Writes
I am rewriting the chapter “City Travels with Mom” in my memoir and it got me thinking about construction for public transit then and now. Here is an excerpt from my memoir about construction for the first subway line in Toronto.
During the first line, the Yonge-to-Eglinton subway’s building phase, Mom and I would emerge from Eaton’s or Simpson’s department stores at Queen and Yonge Streets into a deconstructive mess. Yonge Street had become the big Toronto dig, with the construction crews using the “cut and cover” method of tunnelling sections at a time, digging by hand and leaving heavy timber coverings supported by “steel cross members” for walkways. In winter, the Queen and Yonge corner was snow, slosh, mud and cold. (excerpted from You Can Go Home – Digging up the Dirt, ©2014 Sharon A. Crawford).
What a difference from today. This summer Toronto is experiencing the worst constructive mess and milieu in my lifetime. Just for public transit alone, there is a big LRT (much of it underground) being built in the northern part of the city. Although it is necessary to get the people in this overloaded city moving, the actual construction is causing problems. The tunnelling method is different (see http://urbantoronto.ca/news/2014/04/construction-progressing-eglinton-crosstown-lrt), but intersections where it is occurring have slowdowns and stoppages of some sort happening. This drives motorists into residential areas and may be partly to blame for the death of a seven-year-old girl hit by a car in one of these residential areas.
Toronto Transit (TTC) is also bringing in new streamlined streetcars which I hate. I’ve posted about this before. The first of these streetcars go on the Spadina Ave. line August 31, so now we get intersections completely closed for upgrades to the tracks. The TTC has removed the old streetcars and temporarily put on buses.
Then there is the construction further downtown on Front St. and Queen’s Quay. On Front St. it is the renovation of Union Station – both the choo-train part and a new subway train station underground. Both, especially the subway train station with its so narrow platforms, were needed and at least it is being done in stages. But what convoluted passageways for pedestrians – lots of outside stairs up and down to get to streets. And the street itself for one long block is completely closed to traffic – there are a couple of make-shift crossways from Union Station to the Royal York Hotel across Front Street. Maybe I should be thankful I’m travelling by bus leaving for my holidays but am returning by train, late at night, so will have to check out the latest walk-around for then so I can get to the subway without problems to come home.
Queen’s Quay is being changed to more of a pedestrian-friendly walkway with fewer lanes for vehicles. Despite the stairs business outside Union Station, this Queen’s Quay issue is much more of a nuisance and as far as I’m concerned bad for the tourist industry last year and this year as Harbourfront Centre and all its summer activities go on there now. I went down once this summer and that may be it – just because of all the construction. It was so bad there was a cop directing pedestrian traffic in the middle of the blocked-off street. At that point, vehicles weren’t allowed. The buses (again temporarily replacing streetcars) have their routes fractured. You literally have to get the bus going west at one end of the closed block and the bus going east at the other end and never the two shall meet. I decided I could do better with the 10-minute or so walk from Union Station (even with all its stairs at one end and crossing the pseudo-highways – with lights – near the other end). Some people have found their own way through this Queen’s Quay mess rather than the marked off ones. And I don’t blame them.
And into this milieu is the Gardner Expressway – an up-high overhead expressway built over 50 years ago and now crumbling. That end of the Gardner near Union Station and Queen’s Quay is also going through construction
Many of these updates/upgrades renovations are for the PanAm Games coming to Toronto in July 2014. With all due respect to the games, this pre-construction is driving us all nuts. And I don’t mean just motorists but also pedestrians and cyclists.
I suppose this is all due to our over-expanding city (people-wise and condo-wise – many built and being built in…you guessed it…downtown Toronto).
No wonder I relish my little corner of Toronto, especially out in my garden (when the rain isn’t falling down, but that’s another story). You can actually see a few butterflies and hear the birds sing. Of course, we also get racoons and squirrels…
Sharon A. Crawford
Only Child Writes