Friday, September 26, 2008

Mass transit can cause massive problems

I walked home with thousands of people last night.

A very busy section of the
subway was shut down during the evening rush hour yesterday. It turns out electrical cables fell on the tracks near Eglinton station (my closest station). The trains were turning back at Bloor and Lawrence about 6 kms apart. Faced with a few of these situations in the past, I typically resort to walking. So I walked 4kms home with thousands of other people shoulder to shoulder on the street and surrounded by jammed roads and the overcrowded stand-in shuttle buses. It took me about an hour. A lady here at the office waited patiently for a shuttle bus and got home in 3 hours.

I contemplated my thoughts on the walk:

  • A little irony here - this happens a day after the announcement of the massive regional transportation plan.
  • I noticed that many people didn't seem to be used to walking. Perhaps the daily routine was a short shuffle to the bus stop and and a transfer to the subway, but a good healthy city walk was foreign to them. Walking etiquette and pace was inconsistent and of course footwear was an issue. I was hoping I wouldn't witness a heart attack. Surprisingly, I only saw a few smokers (or are smokers more likely to drive?) and every other person was telling the tale via their cell phone.
  • The bars were doing a cracking business.
  • I imagine that people driving their cars around the suburbs listening to this news on the radio, or even sitting in their cars along Yonge street were thinking - these people are crazy, why take the subway if you have a choice to take your car ? It just gives public transit a very bad image, especially in times when we're trying to promote it's environmental benefits.
  • A lot of people don't know their city very well and rarely take a look around or get above ground for a peek. Some people were unclear of what the major streets were, how far they were walking and a few weren't even clear on the direction they should be walking. There was lots of people looking in shop and restaurant windows, obviously clueless to the wonderful shopping and dining you can find thru midtown Toronto.
  • Canadians are often described as a tolerant bunch and I could say that that was evident last night. There wasn't a lot of yelling or complaining, just an acceptance that things don't always go to plan and you just get on with it.
  • I was glad I'd decided to leave my laptop and (heavy) external drive at the office - it made the carry home a little more bearable.
When mass transit hits a serious snag like yesterday, it produces a massive problem for tens of thousands of people. I hope the TTC (disappointing there's no formal apology on their front page) and the regional public transportation authorities truly understand that the service they provide to the public is essential for the health of a modern thinking, metropolitan city.

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