Monday, November 9, 2009

Toronto's Crippled Transit System

Ok, so maybe crippled isn't the right word. That would imply that it was at some point fully functional, when in fact that TTC system is and always has been a bit of a mess. Or at least it quickly became one.

This morning someone tried to sell me a clearly fake TTC token on my way to work. If he had wanted to put less effort into the job he could have just shaved down a penny. Appropriately, The Torontoist published an article today in which TTC Chair Adam Giambrone attempts to explain why Toronto is so far behind the curve on fare collection methods.

Giambrone tries to work the positive spin, saying that the TTC might "skip" rather than "miss" modern technologies via late adoption. It's not completely without merit, but it's still a "we're the last one to the party so we'll bring what you all forgot" type argument.

The fact that Toronto is lagging in terms of electronic fare collection is only one facet of our complete failure to have a sufficient transit system for a city of commuters. The fare's that are collected are far too high, with a monthly pass costing an unbelievable $109, and what's more these prices are likely to increase any day now. Our subway system has only two major lines, one of which is too large and reaches many destinations too close together to truly justify different stops. The two smaller lines cover specific non-central areas competently, but are so specialized that they are almost irrelevant.

Beyond that we have a massive and unreliable system of buses to cover the vast majority of the city. Add to that the inherently restricted streetcars which have resulted in the destruction of major thoroughfares en masse (I'm angrily looking at direction of St. Clair West). Furthermore, the GTA is only covered by additional transit that is completely separate from the basic transit costs. The city is mired by poor transit conditions that cost too much for too little and encourage people to drive.

Most major cities around the world have adopted electronic fare collection, and its high time we did too. This will cut costs by streamlining the process of paying for and getting on trains and buses, and will save money on the archaic transfers and ridiculous counterfeit tokens. It will allow us to direct the human resources of the TTC more effectively, and perhaps make the necessary updates to the system that we have been promised for years.

The fact that we are still so behind is completely unacceptable, especially for a city that purports to be making an effort to go green and reduce car emissions. Toronto is supposed to be one of the leading cities in Canada; we acted as though we actually deserved the Olympics for Pete's sake! It's time our transit system started to reflect our position, not the inflated size of our ego.

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