Written March 2008 & published on my SPACES blog R.O.A.M (Rapping On A Melody) republished March 18, 2008 at 4:01 pm when MSN SPACES phased out blogging and merged with wordpress.
Grin & bear it only goes so far – 45 min ride in 2.5 hrs 'Push! Push!" Move Your Ass!
Using public transit in Toronto is fast becoming a swear word. Everyday there is a problem, from buses contrary to scheduling, to what seem like daily streetcar breakdowns to train track signalling problems, trains going out of service at peak hours to medical emergencies that result in the inevitable delays, delays, and more delays with the same result; you are late for work or whatever appointment you are scheduled for. I have given up telling my boss about the train and bus delays, shut downs and the like because even to my ear it sounds tired and trite. You leave early you are late, you leave on time you are late, you leave late well hell, it’s a crapshoot. There is no compensation to the general public whose usage by the way pays the workers, we just got to suck it up and deal. It's like my mother use to say when I was little and didn't want to eat, "you don't like it, then lay down beside it".
On April first there may be a possible TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) strike to which 1.5 million people will have to figure out how to get to work. In short TTC has travelers by the (pardon the pun) proverbial balls. It is almost guaranteed that a fare hike will follow. Currently cash fare for adults is $2.75, $11.50 for 5 tickets if you manage to get your tickets or tokens in advance or if you like me and purchase metropass it’s $109.00 per month but that’s only if you travel within the GTA (General Toronto Area), go any further (mississauga etc.)and that’s another fare. At a purchase whopping bite of $327 per month for metro-passes out of my pay, I guess I can easily add another $270 to that and rent a bachelor apartment close to my job. In case you missed it - that was sarcasm. It’s just incredulous and ingenious how fares keep rising and there is no improvement in the service in fact the transit system is worst than ever.
Thursday March 13th is a prime example of the deplorable service. I was caught in what I dub the transit hellhole. That is when there is medical emergency of some sort, for which we were politely dumped out on Woodbine station with no disclosure so we were stuck in endless wonderment, hanging like meat in a cooler waiting for some sort of announcement about what’s going on, and what our next move should be. We didn’t know if the subway was still running, if alternative buses were running, nothing. A slue of trains pass, a few dumping off people as the crowd grew larger. Then came the gabbled announcement “we…….sorry……medical emergency “static” …..rrrr…. “Static” bbbb………rrrr……pppp….."static" shuttlebus. That was the key word “Shuttle bus”. This is after more than 25 minutes and four trains pass by with no pick, half the people didn’t understand the announcement and the other half was asking the clueless ones “what did he say?” Me, I just yelled “Shuttle bus people, the trains are out of services” and it was off to the races.
Upstairs everyone waited patiently, aggregately, impatiently for the shuttle buses. Well we assumed it was going to be buses. They sent one, one people and this is after almost 30 minute. I thought I would get on but the pushing and shoving proved too much and I opt for my life preservation. At this point it is ass biting cold, I swear winter is a man, because I could feel that cold hand of winter touching me in places I didn’t know I have and forgot I had. My fingers were frozen and beginning to hurt. To distract myself I took out my ppc (pocket pc) and crank up my eclectic genre of music, some calypso, India Irie, Aerosmith, Fefe Dobson, Evanescence, Luther Vandross, Mary Mary, Justin Timberlake, Pink, Musique, playing in random order just enough to occupy my mind so I don’t get pulled into the madness of the inefficiency of TTC while i waited somewhat patiently for the other shuttle bus. By now 30 minutes has passed and we are still waiting. People are getting anxious and bold. Three people decided to stand in front of me. I was not having it.
Most days I will let inconsideration flow off me like water on down a ducks back but not today. My “unspeakables” were numb, my toes were frozen, my cheeks hurt and they butting in front of me were just stretching my last nerve past the point of enough. So very politely I stated “if you are standing there when the bus arrives please note I will walk over you since you are so considerate to boldly stand here in front of me, who by the way, have been standing here for almost 45 minutes”. Needless to say they moved. A woman standing next to me just started laughing. At this point I am having a private conversation with God (as Mary, Mary sings shackles) to please let the bus come now when a TTC employee arrived just as a shuttle bus turned in and the man proceeded to direct the bus away from where we all stood for hours, well all hell broke loose and people started pushing and running to the bus. The man reasoned that more buses were coming but after freezing for what felt like hours no one paid him any attention. The race was on.
People pushed their way onto the bus, I am there in the thick of things and some fools decided they were going to butt me out of the way, yeah right!. Little did they know I was born in the Caribbean, we know about pushing, after all if you ever been to carnival you would know exactly what I mean. I just braced myself and pushed, they didn’t stand a chance. Then I heard it, someone was screaming. A few rows in front of me these two old ladies, screaming but it was the look on one, she was in shear agony. One woman on the side shouted “the lady, the lady” the poor old woman could only scream, I guess the pain got so bad she starting using some four letter words but no one would stop pushing long enough for her to move. I took a deep breath and just started pushing my way towards her; once I got there I pulled her out. The crowd pushing momentum moved so fast that she did not have a chance to step up onto the bus so she was caught between the crowd and the back step of the bus stair, her feet were jammed to the side of the stairs. I had to pull her out and loudly speak over the crowd “step up, step up” while she struggled to comply. I gave another good push and pull her out, cup her elbow and partially lift her so she could get on the bus.
I managed to get on the bus when a man started complaining, “all yuh squeezing me”, I just told him, “oh shut up, get squeeze and leave or get out and freeze because all of us getting squeezed.” We were on our way, i simply crank up my music and tuned out the commotion going on the bus, i needed to preserve my peace of mind. Once we reached the designated subway “Broadview” I waited to see if the old woman was all right, she was, she thanked me and I was on my way. Not wanting to deal with the subway again that morning I opted to use the streetcar to take me the rest of the way to work. After transferring from one streetcar to another I finally reached to work at 12:30 pm. I was exhausted. A few minutes later one of my Language Interpreter walked into my office and announced that she had to walk to my office because the streetcars from the subway nearest my work was not working. All I could say was ‘thank God l listened to my instincts and took the other route because I would have been caught up in yet another nightmare transit hooray or should I say “day mare”.
All that drama is fast becoming the standard and there is no compensation. Now we have to look forward to an impending strike and possible fare hikes…..nice eh!
4 Years later-Update on Transit System:
- Yes the fees were raised; it is now $3.10 for adults & students, $2.75 for seniors and .75 cents for children 2years and up. Metro monthly pass is now $126.00, Day pass $10.50 per day, Weekly pass $37.50 Adults, $29.75 students & seniors.
- There are now pass vending machines at some subway stations where you can purchase your metropass so you can bypass the line-ups.
- Some booths now have a direct auto payment system call INTERAC where you can pay with your access card if you don’t have cash.
- The P.A system is better you can actually understand the announcements, no more gravely static and while in the subway you can get regular updates of delays. Only draw back this system is not applicable above ground on buses and streetcars.
- Some subways are equipped with digital bus schedules that is continually updated (unless it doesn’t work) letting you know when the next bus/streetcar/train is due to arrive.
As for the service travel/commute time, yeah its still a swear word and the drama has become the norm. Delays, breakdowns, and alternative options i.e. bus to compensate for breakdowns continue to show no sign of improvement, it is just as bad if not worst. If there is any improvement it is on such a minute scale that it barely registers.
Delays are now apt to occur going and coming, sometimes 10 pm at night you get dumped off a train and have to wait long times for another train to come. On the streets buses and streetcar delays are worst because one has no way of knowing what is going on. It is only after long periods of waiting - 45 minutes to an hour you realize something is not right. Buses dispatched as alternatives pass you by packed without the driver even stopping momentarily to inform those waiting at stops of what’s happening. I guess that is common courtesy not built in their job description. If you’re lucky a passenger who gets off one of those packed buses will inform the people waiting then people begin to search for alternative routes to reach their destinations.