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.
Sharon A. Crawford
Only Child Writes