For most commuters, the fact that the TTC’s subway trains don’t collide with one another is good enough—no additional explanations are required. Recently, though, the TTC has been shutting down portions of the Yonge-University-Spadina line on weekends so workers can upgrade the signalling systems responsible for the daily no-deaths-or-maimings miracle, leading to some curiosity about the system’s workings. The video above, released yesterday on the TTC’s YouTube channel, goes into quite a bit of detail about how signals prevent trains from crashing into one another, why the signalling systems need to be upgraded and why it’s necessary to shut down subway tunnels to perform those upgrades. Yes, it’s propaganda, but snappy animations and an informative voiceover make it edutainment of the highest order. Enjoy.
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Anyone who passed through Yonge-Bloor station this morning may have noticed that things were slightly amiss. All the usual elements of the weekday commuter slog were there—crowded platforms, packed trains—but all the soothing, familiar signage had been replaced by weird, New York–style colour-coded numbers. Even the loudspeaker announcements were numerical: “Attention line-one passengers,” and so on.
Although the new signage may seem like a lame prank intended to get jaded subway riders to lift their eyes from the floor—and perhaps hilariously stumble onto the tracks—the colour-coded numbers are in fact part of a carefully orchestrated effort to improve the clarity and consistency of subway signage in Toronto. The TTC approved the move in October. (The image below shows how the system is supposed to work.)
QUOTED: Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi on Toronto’s decision to build a Scarborough subway instead of light rail
“I, for the life of me, cannot understand the decision on the Scarborough subway and maybe I’m missing something. I don’t understand why you’d not spend less to serve more people…Clearly I’m missing something, I’m not that bright.”
—Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi, speaking during a Toronto Region Board of Trade luncheon. In October, city council approved the idea of replacing the Scarborough RT with a two- or three-stop subway extension, despite earlier plans to install a longer (but less expensive) above-ground light-rail line. The subway has the enthusiastic backing of local politicians like Rob Ford and Karen Stintz, but it remains controversial among people who see it as an overpriced sop to Scarborough voters. Former councillor David Soknacki has made bringing back the light-rail plan a central tenet of his mayoral campaign.
We knew this was coming, but it’s a big deal all the same: city staff are officially recommending that councillors vote to get rid the elevated portion of the Gardiner Expressway east of Jarvis Street. The move would save the city money, free up development space, and clear the way for some ground-level beautification—but vehicle travel times would increase. The idea will go before the city’s public works and infrastructure committee on March 4th, after which city council will have to give its approval.
It’s not clear whether the project would proceed immediately, even if councillors were to give it the green light. Rob Ford opposes demolishing the Gardiner. Karen Stintz, who formally announced her mayoral candidacy on Monday, is pushing a “hybrid” solution that involves leaving the highway up for the time being. If the expressway becomes an election issue, anything can happen.
It almost didn’t happen, but on Wednesday city council finally put an end to a years-long effort to overhaul Toronto’s taxi licensing system. After an attempt by other councillors to punt some of the reforms back to city staff for an additional year of consideration, councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon succeeded in getting the changes passed at Wednesday’s council meeting.
As a result, Toronto’s two-tiered taxi system—where some drivers are free to rent and sell their licenses while others hold non-transferable licenses that require them to drive their own cabs—will transition to a unified system by 2024. All taxi drivers will be able to sell their licenses, and all of them will have to do their own driving at least some of the time. Cabs that transition to the new license will be required to be wheelchair accessible.
Toronto’s taxi people are divided over whether or not these changes are a net positive for the industry, but riders, at any rate, will see some benefits. And yet, there are also some drawbacks for the taxi-hailing public. Among the measures approved by council is the now-infamous $25 “vomit fee,” which empowers drivers to fine passengers for regurgitory mishaps.
Over the past three years, Torontonians have grown accustomed to thinking of Karen Stintz as the TTC’s chair. Yesterday, though, Stintz made good on her promise to step aside from the role so she can focus on her mayoral campaign (which should be getting underway any minute now). The upshot is that Toronto now has Maria Augimeri as its top transit politician, at least for the time being. Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
Over at Spacing, Daniel Rotsztain raises an interesting point: the TTC is way too modest about its service to Pearson Airport. The trip is upwards of $50 by cab (or $42 round trip by private bus). Meanwhile, for the cost of a token, anyone can ride the 192 Airport Rocket bus from Kipling station. It departs roughly every ten minutes. Including the subway ride from downtown, the whole trip takes just about an hour. The route is an express, so it makes just one stop before the airport. There are even luggage racks for passengers. (The Malton 58A also serves the airport, departing from Lawrence West station, but it’s not an express bus, and comes less frequently.)
Other cities actively promote their airport bus services. Montreal’s airport buses have special paint jobs, and the airport has a vending machine that dispenses fare cards in different denominations. Boston has a bus rapid transit line that runs between Logan Airport and the city’s downtown core—and, get this, it’s free to ride. And yet the TTC’s service, convenient and cheap as it is, labours in relative obscurity.
The city has been trying to figure out what to do with the Gardiner Expressway for 30 years, but now, with the prospect of “punch-through” lending a little additional urgency to the issue, it’s looking like something major may happen soon. Today, city staff and Waterfront Toronto released a joint report that outlines several solutions. The most favoured option? Tear it down.
When Torontonians think of the city’s main railway hub, they think Union Station—a landmark that has retained its name since 1858, despite two complete rebuilds. Except now, councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong thinks it’s time for a change. At today’s meeting of city council’s executive committee, he persuaded his fellow politicians to take a preliminary step towards renaming the historic station after John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister. It would be John A. Macdonald Station.
GO trains aren’t known for their thoughtful interior design. Odds are that nothing will ever change that, but it’s nice that Metrolinx is trying. The GO Transit operator says it will slowly be refurbishing the interiors of all its trains over the next two decades. The changes are expected to make things easier on riders’ ears, noses—and, naturally, their butts.
Most employees keep their work-related frustrations to themselves. Former TTC worker Ron Mitchell is not one of those people. He took his complaints to YouTube, and the result is sad and amazing.
In the world of Toronto transit, the TTC gets all the credit for being excessively difficult to improve in any way—but you know what other transportation service is an intractable nightmare world of obscure regulations and competing interests? The taxi industry.
For the better part of three years, city bureaucrats have been tackling the unenviable task of reforming the way Toronto’s taxis do business. Now, at long last, after more than 40 consultations, the city has released its final report on proposed changes to the way the industry is licensed and regulated. Many of these changes are aimed at reforming aspects of the system that are important mainly to drivers and other insiders. For example, several of the report’s recommendations have to do with eliminating Toronto’s two-tiered taxi-licensing system, so that there’s no longer a class of drivers who can’t rent or sell their cabs. That’s likely to be one of the more popular changes, at least among drivers who hold the crappier type of license.
There are some changes, though, that would have direct consequences for riders, should all the report’s recommendations be approved by city council. Some of them seem great, while others seem annoying and/or potentially expensive. Here’s a rundown of a few of the big-deal items.
Mayoral candidate David Soknacki says he’ll reverse the city’s course on the Scarborough subway, again
Well, that didn’t take long. Two weeks in, the 2014 mayoral election has already produced its first sweeping policy announcement, and it’s this: former city budget chief David Soknacki says that, if elected, he’ll scrap Rob Ford‘s beloved two-or-three-stop Scarborough subway extension in favour of the seven-stop light-rail line that was originally planned for the corridor.
In an audaciously misleading rhetorical flourish worthy of Ford himself, Soknacki’s press release claims that the move would “cancel Mayor Rob Ford’s $1 billion property tax increase needed to pay for the subway option, delivering the largest tax cut in Toronto’s history.”
The TTC has just announced that it’s going to be short about 50 streetcars during this evening’s commute (there are normally 195 on duty) because of today’s extreme cold. The problem is in the pneumatics that allow drivers to control the doors and brakes: today’s ridiculously chilly air has been causing them to freeze. The TTC’s press release says buses will be added to certain routes to help make up the difference. In response to the revelation that streetcars in this winter-heavy city can’t handle winter temperatures, TTC spokesman Brad Ross was quick to tweet that the TTC’s next-generation streetcars, set to start serving riders in August, won’t suffer from these types of problems.
TTC fares may be going up tomorrow, but New Year’s partiers won’t need to worry about any of that tonight. That’s because the entire TTC system will be free to ride between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. Also, most surface routes will have extended late-night hours, and subways will continue running until after 3 a.m. More details are in the TTC’s press release. The gratis transit service comes courtesy of Corby Spirit and Wine.
For those who don’t have any plans tonight (or those who couldn’t get a reservation at one of the New Year’s Eve restaurants we recommended two weeks ago) tonight’s outdoor celebration at Nathan Phillips Square is free to attend, but wear layers: Environment Canada expects the temperature to get down to -12.