Nominated for: short-turning transit cynicism.
Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains—the people, places, things, and ideas that have had the most positive and negative impacts on the city over the past 12 months. Cast your ballot until 5 p.m. on December 30. At noon on December 31, we’ll reveal your choices for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.
When I was four or five years old, riding the TTC was a thrill. Every trip felt special: you could travel all over the City, do all sorts of people watching, and best of all, when the streetcar neared your stop, you could pull the string.
Everything about transit seemed novel and slightly magical. But over time, that sense faded.
Cuts to operating funding made service standards worse, endless and petty transit disputes made it feel as if there was no relief in sight, and sometimes it seems all one can count on is the inevitability of the next short turn.
Yet in 2014, transit riders received renewed reason for optimism. The first of the city’s 204 new streetcars appeared like shiny transit unicorns—and it was exciting. When the TTC tested the vehicles, people tweeted and Instagrammed sightings as though the streetcars were white squirrels. And when TTC riders were able to board the vehicles come summer, getting a new streetcar on the Spadina route felt like winning the transit lottery.
There are reasons to like the new streetcars beyond their pretty new look. The low-floor vehicles are accessible, they have twice the carrying capacity of the Canadian Light Rail Vehicles, and they come with fare integration for Presto.
Toronto’s streetcars are a romantic new icon for this city, but they’re also a hopeful reminder that sometimes Toronto can get its transit decisions right, despite resistance from our worst political elements. They’re a reminder that we can still pull that string on transit: the TTC can still feel special, even if that feeling doesn’t come around as often as it should.