By Micheline Maynard
Over the past few years, there has been a record demand for public transportation. Environmentalists think that’s great news. So do businesses near bus stops and subway stations.
There’s only one problem. The interest in public transportation is swamping cities’ ability to provide fast and comfortable service. Every day, Twitter is full of alerts about train lines breaking down, subway delays and street closings that cause buses to detour.
I experienced some of these issues with the public transit lines in Toronto and Montreal during my visit. While they didn’t keep me from getting where I needed to go, the delays and detours threw me off schedule. Multiply that by the thousands of people who use the systems each day, and you begin to see that productivity can be under pressure.
The first problem happened on my first ride in Toronto. I hopped aboard a street car headed toward Lit Espresso Bar, on College Street, a main east-west route, figuring I’d revive myself after my Via Rail journey from Windsor.
Perhaps a mile into the trip, the driver made an announcement that our journey was going to entail a “short turn.” That means the car wouldn’t proceed to the end of the line, but would dump passengers off at the next stop, where they could pick up the next car.
It turns out this happens all the time in Toronto, and the transit authority even produced a video at one point to explain it. (The video is now gone from YouTube.) Essentially, if there’s bad traffic, construction or too few people riding a streetcar, the system dumps people off and turns around. Continue reading