Tag Archives: Streetcars Toronto

Travelling public transit then and now in Toronto

Toronto transit streetcar

Toronto transit streetcar – College route – end of the line High park

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.

But..

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.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

Sheppard subway station entrance and exit

Sheppard subway station entrance and exit

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Life demands, Mother and Child, Only child, Only child memoir, Public Transit, Toronto public transit, Toronto transit detours and maintenance

Only Child disses new Toronto streetcars

The older (since 1980s) Toronto streetcars which Only Child likes

The older (since 1980s) Toronto streetcars which Only Child likes

Toronto gets new streamlined streetcars starting the end of this August. I had a look at one, inside and out, during Toronto’s Doors Open a few weekends ago. I don’t like the new streetcars.

They look more like subway cars than subway cars without all the space of subway cars. These new streetcars are supposed to hold more people. Like the new subway cars there are extensions joined together and people can walk through to each one for a seat.

If they can find an empty seat. These new streetcars are built for more standing room. That does make sense, but when you look at what is available on them for sitting, I have to shake my head. What works on the Viva Blue buses in York Region just north of Toronto doesn’t work on these new Toronto streetcars, i.e. both have seats facing each way. True, the streetcars have room for cyclists to put their bicycles and hopefully for people to put those overlarge baby buggies which the old streetcars definitely don’t have room for. Don’t know if space to park their bloody buggies out of people’s ways will get rid of some parents’ entitlement issues with their big baby buggies. Don’t get me on this topic – let’s just say that I’ve had to tell one Mrs. Entitlement off about her buggy blocking the way for a senior to get on the bus and another time I praised a couple who pushed up two bus seats (set up for wheelchairs and scooters) and put their big baby buggie in that spot – out of everyone’s way.

There is also something disturbing about the setup in these new streetcars. At the Doors Open display I was talking to a TTC rep because I had seen those Presto scans where you scan your pass in. The rep said that for now until Toronto gets into that system, payment will be on the honour system like the Viva in York Region. The difference here is that you pay before you get on the Viva bus and don’t show proof of payment to the driver, but there is often a supervisor on the bus who checks. I’ve had that happen and yes, I had paid. The TTC rep let it slip that when the Presto system is in full force it will hurt seniors and others on low incomes. My journalistic and consumer antennae revved up so I asked, “What do you mean?”

“It t is going to be pay as you go.”

“What about us seniors who get the discounted metro pass mailed to us each month and the monthly fee comes out automatically from our bank accounts?

He didn’t know the answer as it hadn’t been worked out. He did say to get after Andy Byford (the big cheese at the TTC) and my city councillor.

You bet I will, especially as there is a city election this fall. And I hope anyone else on limited income – seniors or not – will raise a big stink about this. Presto cards or not, there has to be a way to set it up so that we can still pay only a set amount each month.

Otherwise the TTC may lose service, as you can bet that some people – low income or not – who have cars but use the TTC will go back to taking the car to work and defeating the purpose of improving the traffic flow in downtown Toronto.

For more info on the problems with these new streetcars, some photos and a video go to http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ttc-s-new-streetcars-raise-concerns-with-riders-1.2672486

And for the schedule to put the streetcars in place, see https://www.ttc.ca/About_the_TTC/Projects/New_Vehicles/New_Streetcars/index.jsp
Fortunately it will take to 2019 to get them all up and running on Toronto’s streetcar line. Maybe some of the problems will be straightened out by then. I’m no holding my breath.
The old streetcars may be cumbersome but except for the stairs and the too-high-for-us- shorties-to-reach easily line to pull for a stop request, I prefer these older streetcars. If the newbies were designed like Toronto’s new subways (and I really like them – much better than the oldies which are still on Line 2) and the Presto setup was scrapped or at least modified to take in monthly pass amounts, I would go for the new streetcars.

At the Doors Open display, two older versions of Toronto’s streetcars sat in the TTC parking lot for us to go inside and experience all but the actual ride. There was a fellow giving us the history of the streetcars and pointing out their features. The middle-aged one (i.e. between the old streetcars and the present) is the one I remember travelling on a lot as a child. And the aisles were very narrow in them. I remember once getting on one of the oldest version – maybe when I was around six years, in downtown Toronto. It might have been when they were being phased out or actually phased out but needed to supplement for passenger use. I wouldn’t know that back then. Just remember getting on one with Mom to go home after finishing some shopping downtown.

They call this progress – but one thing progress advocates often forget – retaining some of the old features, or at least new features to keep the old functions that work still operating, and the payment setup are both important.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Nostalgia, Only child, Public Transportation