Illustration by Chloe Cushman/Torontoist.
Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains—Toronto’s very best and very worst people, places, and things over the past twelve months. From December 13–17: the Villains! From December 20–24, the Heroes! And, from December 27–30, you can vote for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.
The past year for the TTC has very much resembled the roller coaster nature of its year-to-year funding model. (Which is to say: erratic.) Starting off on the wrong foot with yet another fare increase, TTZzzz Gate made things worse. Service delays continued to plague daily commutes and riders remained on the curb while overcrowded buses, streetcars, and subway trains rolled by. And now, at the end the year, riders and staff are scrambling to salvage years of progress in achieving a rapid transit vision for the suburbs.
Yet, the TTC remains a Toronto hero.
Strong muscles. Despite all the negative attention, all the complaints, and all the delays, residents still flock to the TTC as the way to get around Toronto. According to its most recent projections the TTC is again on course to seeing a record year in ridership despite the economic downturn and a fare increase, with 477 million riders [PDF] .
Higher-tech. After years of what seemed like snail’s pace progress, the TTC has finally begun to equip itself with all the technological tools we expect and need. It began in 2009 with a move off the 1990s-era homepage to a more updated website. But 2010 is when things really got rolling. We saw the much-demanded online trip planner, next vehicle arrival screens at some busy streetcar stations, next vehicle tracking online and via text message, and finally, in October, the TTC came to Google Maps.
Transparency. In 2010 the TTC began to be more visible and transparent in its activities. TTZzzz Gate led to a frank and open discussion on customer service for the first time in recent memory. Resident outcries over second subway exits will change how the TTC approaches its neighbours. And the TTC has embraced Open Data, allowing for the creation of new applications by savvy developers. We also cannot forget the TTC’s most followed staff member on Twitter: @BradTTC, who works tirelessly in responding to a very demanding online audience.
Sleek and shiny. Finally, the year has brought some signs of renewal, at last, of the TTC’s aging infrastructure. The St. Clair streetcar returned after years of construction to a renewed and more pleasant street. Buses to York University now speed along a bus-only roadway, making trips to school faster. And we will have something very shiny soon with the first of the new subway cars.
For a year where so much happened in transit, the TTC has again survived, as a hero does, overcoming adversity and continuing to move Torontonians. Yes, this hero may cost a bit more than in other cities. And yes, it may be facing some new and very serious challenges. But the TTC persists, and it continues, as it has for ninety years, to define Toronto as a truly Transit City.