With a lack of funding, the TTC projects to miss accessibility requirements that they must meet by 2025. We map what this system will look like to a person with accessibility needs.
For most TTC passengers, there’s usually not too much thought involved when one sets out to Ride the Rocket. You might check one of many cellphone apps to see when the next streetcar or bus will arrive, or glance at online directions if setting out for somewhere new and unfamiliar. With a simple subway network and a mostly grid-based surface transit network, the TTC is relatively easy to get around. For most of us.
Getting around Toronto on the TTC is more of a challenge for people relying on mobility devices, such as wheelchairs. Most of us never think about this problem unless we’re directly affected by the consequences of an inadequate system. But for TTC users with mobility disabilities (or even passengers with strollers, wheeled carts, or luggage), it’s an issue. While the bus system is (mostly) fully-accessible, the backlog in the delivery of new streetcars and the installation of elevators in subway stations leaves the system failing many of its riders.
With the retirement of the last iconic GM New Look bus in 2011, the TTC’s entire fleet of over 1,800 buses, serving 144 daytime routes, is fully accessible.
However, there is much work to be done.
Twenty per cent of bus stops are not yet fully accessible as bus ramps and lifts are unable to be deployed at some narrow urban sidewalks or at suburban stops where a concrete bus stop pad has not been poured. Thirty-four of the TTC’s 69 subway and SRT stations are equipped with elevators from platform to street level. Only four of the 204 low-floor streetcars on order from Bombardier have been delivered and put in service on the 510 Spadina route. This is a far cry from the nearly 50 accessible streetcars the TTC should have had operating on the 509 Harbourfront, 510 Spadina, and 511 Bathurst Carlines at the time of this article.
The TTC has only 10 years to complete this work. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) requires transit systems across the province to be 100-per-cent fully accessible by 2025. The challenge is in getting the remaining 35 stations accessible by then, which face costly logistical and engineering challenges to get up to standard. The TTC does not have the capital funding to complete this task, and construction delays have plagued the installations of elevators at stations such as Lawrence West, which began in 2006 and finally opened last December.
By 2018, nine additional stations are scheduled to be retrofitted with elevators and accessible fare gates; construction has started at St. Clair West. Six more accessible stations will be added to the network in 2017, when the Spadina Subway extension to Vaughan opens. Seventeen more stations, including busy transfer points such as Islington and Warden, are not yet funded, thanks to a cut of $240 million from the TTC’s “Easier Access” program. Meanwhile, city council voted for a more expensive subway replacement for the Scarborough RT, instead of a provincially funded, “shovel-ready” LRT replacement and extension. But that leaves 17 existing stations without funding to become accessible by 2025 (Wellesley, College, Spadina Line 1, Summerhill, Museum, Rosedale, Glencairn, Greenwood, Lansdowne, Keele, Chester, Christie, Castle Frank, High Park, Old Mill, Warden, and Islington). If the City does not meet the legislated timeline to have full accessibility, it could face a court challenge to force it to do so.
Last week during the 2015 budget debate, Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 27, Toronto Centre-Rosedale) presented a motion for staff to write a report about restoring the vehicle registration tax, with revenues dedicated for TTC accessibility and service improvements. In 2010, before the short-lived VRT was abolished by the new Rob Ford-led city council, the tax raised $64 million a year. Wong-Tam’s request for a report unsurprisingly failed, 14-30.
In the meantime, passengers requiring wheeled mobility devices and unable to board streetcars or use stairs and elevators at subway stations must either use creative, roundabout ways of getting to their destinations, or use the cumbersome and inconvenient Wheel-Trans service. Downtown, where most surface routes are streetcars, the problem is exasperated. For example, Toronto Western and St. Joseph’s Hospitals, served by busy streetcar routes, are difficult to get to. Where buses do operate, many do not serve stations equipped with elevators; accessible transfers are few and far-between (the 47 Lansdowne Bus offers no such connections south of Dupont Street). The 510 Spadina, which is now nominally accessible, is only as good as its complement of up-to-four accessible streetcars.
All maps by Sean Marshall.