Some Thoughts on Accessibility

Renee Knight sent in two comments that deserve their own thread:

Accessibility is an issue, that I don’t see a space for on the site. I’d really like to address issues of accesibility on the site.

It’s an area that the TTC is working on, but nowhere near fast enough, especially in the subway stations.
I understand that there are agreements with neighbouring realesate/businesses for elevators/escalators in lieu of space on TTC property for such, and also realize that in those situations the elevators/escalators are frequently out of service where they exist.

Try accessing Osgoode Station, St. Patrick, Union, Wellesley or Sherbourne Stations with a baby carriage, large suitcase, walker, or wheelchair. Some of these stations have their own escalators/elevators, but only have them going one way, others they are out of service so frequently, they might as well not even promote it being there.

We have a long way to go before our city is accessible to those with even mild disabilities, and mothers with strollers, let alone those with serious physical limitations.


And …

How many people can fit on a bus safely?

Far fewer on the new models supposedly designed to be more friendly for those with disabilities!

Also, these new accessible models are about as easy to stand on as an oversized skateboard with wonky wheels. Ever try to stand on one and keep your balance? Try doing that if you have a spinal disease, ribs wired together, or hip injury like I have! Try doing that if you are blind, walk with a cane or walker, have groceries to get home, or are simply frail or elderly and are getting knocked about by other riders trying to stay on their feet…

Did anyone at TTC test these vehicles out? I heard that the TTC was forced to buy these vehicles or get nothing new for the bus fleet. I am not sure if this is true, but I do know that ultimatums are never a good idea for purchasing anything, especially on the taxpayers coin!

While these accessible buses are designed to take wheelchairs, scooters…the majority of people who are not ambulatory take Wheel Trans, as when they get to the subway most of the stations cannot get them down to subway level or back to ground level. I know the TTC is working on this, but it’s going too slow to keep up with the population that is aging, having babies using stollers, even those travelling with suitcases down to Union Station will find the hoops one has to jump through to get from one station to the next, and finally into Union Station to be less than amusing entertaining…

Just for fun, go downtown and buy something large, that you cannot pick up and carry. Then put it in a cart, and see if you can get home on transit with it. Are there enough elevators, escalators…so that you don’t have to lug things up two flights of stairs to get down into the subway, and then between line transfers within subway system, and then bet back up to street level to take a bus or streetcar home. Now imagine doing that every day, like those of us with disabilities have to do! Not fun anymore, is it?

Like I have said before “the service is only as good as it’s weakest link!” If the link is weak to serve those who are ambulatory, and living with a disability, then other transportation options are chosen, purely from a safety perspective to prevent further injuries, though the options may be more expensive. If you find an alternative for part of the route, how likely is it that you’ll get on the TTC, and pay a fare for another leg of your trip.

Ridership loss! Exactly!

Steve:  I have not been impressed by the low-floor buses we have seen in Toronto.  They are an odd match of a fairly roomy, but small front half and a passenger-hostile upper gallery behind the centre doors.  I have trouble sitting for any length of time where I cannot stretch my legs and those upper seats just don’t work except for short hops.

The TTC has proposed an alternative seating layout in the next batch of buses with seats facing each other across the aisle, but this will further reduce the capacity in this area and remove many of the forward-facing seats.  I have written elsewhere about seating orientation, and it’s amusing to find the “solution” for the buses is to introduce even more perimeter seating.  Maybe the TTC figures that those whose backs don’t work well on such seating also won’t want to climb the stairs, and so the riders can hope to get one of the handful of forward facing seats “downstairs”.

As for escalators and elevators: 

The TTC tries to negotiate an accessible path to the surface through new developments at station sites, but in most cases has to retrofit elevators within their own stations.  Where the escalators or elevators in, say, an office tower are out of service, the TTC really doesn’t have much leverage to get them fixed.   

For a time here last year, I was tracking the frequency with which I encountered escalators that didn’t work, but I dropped that thread because, to the TTC’s credit, this was not happening anywhere nearly as often as a few years ago.  Elevators, however, are a problem because the people who need them really don’t have an alternative.

Imagine if stairways were closed as often the chaos that would ensue and the complaints the TTC would get.

If the TTC is going to be serious about accessibility, if they are going to all the trouble and expense of putting elevators in the stations to save on Wheel Trans costs, then these elevators have to work reliably.  As more and more stations have elevators, people will count on them working wherever they need them, not to be inexplicably out of service for days at a time.