TTC: The Older Way

Posted on February 15, 2007

I leave the office around 5:15pm yesterday after a day’s work. It’s cold outside and the city is recuperating from its first blizzard of the season. I actually felt that most people were optimistic and cheerful despite the weather. A pleasant feeling for sure as I too was rather happy to see snow on the ground for once. As I usually do after leaving the office, I wait on the corner for the 504 King streetcar to take me home.

Usually it’s a rather crowded ride, but not unbearable. I can usually find a spot on the first car that comes by; maybe the second on a bad day. Yesterday was the exception it seemed: I waited patiently in the cold weather and snow for four completely jam-packed streetcars to coast on by before a slightly-less packed car was able to squeeze me on board. My transit companions and I were hardly satisfied customers.

My experiences were echoed this morning. Four cars had passed by again; two of which were out of service. Each one crawled by and frequently stopped due to the higher-than-usual volume of traffic. People were less cheerful and accomodating this time. Everyone rushed the doors of any streetcar that would stop, hoping to get out of the freezing weather and not be late for work. The ride was incredible: I wasn’t just crowded, I was pinned against the wall the whole ride over. If I was claustrophobic, I might’ve had a panic attack.

I regrettably didn’t make it to the recent Transit Camp. I was a little skeptical about it; I felt that there are other issues more important than a super-geeky website for the TTC to be concerned about. There are more important issues for sure, but my feelings have changed slightly in light of these recent events. Is there some way technology could be used to dynamically allocate transit resources during peak periods? GPS would help as a start, but there are other factors to measure such as traffic density. Maybe a Twitter-like status system could be implemented where controllers or riders could send SMS updates to a computer that parses the information for keywords, locations, etc into various visualizations for dispatch operators. Whatever it is, if it can help keep people from waiting in the cold for 45 minutes it will be an advancement.

Ultimately though, it is in my opinion that the only real way to solve the transit problems is for our politicians to be “truly accountable” and lower their salaries. Only federal funding and traffic regulation will improve the situation. A more accessible website is nice; but it is just an device. The TTC needs some concrete solutions to improve capacity and manage peak times more efficiently.