2014 Villain: TTC Delays

Torontoist

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2014 Villain: TTC Delays

Nominated for: slowly driving commuters insane.

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.

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It seems everything the TTC does involves a delay. You have major delays such as the one affecting the entire Spadina line extension, for example, and day-to-day delays that involve, say, waiting for a train for 15 minutes. The TTC’s official Twitter feed offers a disconcerting number of delay-related updates every hour, but you can’t even get data service down in the tunnels.

It’s easy to criticize the Toronto Transit Commission for being behind the times. It just is. Outdated signal systems create numerous problems, inadequate subway service results in overcrowding, buses on outer-city routes are notoriously infrequent. What makes it stranger is that everyone knows this—and has for years—and exceptionally little is being done to remedy it. Mayoral candidates campaigned hard on it (although SmartTrack certainly has its problems), and TTC CEO Andy Byford has publicly declared his intention to halve the number of delays within five years—which is great, in theory, but knowing the TTC, the cutting of delays will likely be delayed itself and take 10 years.

This isn’t entirely the commission’s fault, of course. Costs pile up, and few are willing to step up and pay the bill: the province chips in with capital dollars, but since Mike Harris’s time as premier, has not contributed any operating funding. The TTC, then, is forced to rely on fares and the property tax base to cover its operating budget.

But cash woes are one thing; not knowing the reason behind these delays makes them even more frustrating. Subway riders can at least take some comfort in knowing that most of their frustration should be aimed at signal failures, which the transit commission is poised to solve soon. This is all well and good—the old system involves 60-year-old, obsolete parts that keep breaking down, and a new system would both decrease delays and increase service frequency—but in the meantime, the TTC’s 1.8 million daily riders must be getting restless or something, because the number of people who identify as a #grumpyrider is getting out of hand (though not as out-of-hand as the number of grumpy riders who mistake duckfaces for grumpyfaces).

But who knows. Maybe in five years, once our streetcars can adequately accommodate their passengers and our subways start sending the right signals, things will be better. And maybe higher levels of government will step up and provide much-needed funding. Maybe.


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