A recent reference in the Globe & Mail to a long-dead magazine, The Idler [that is the way they styled themselves], reminded me that back in late 1988, I co-authored a long piece Unwatched Trains for them on the TTC.
That sent me into the files to see just how relevant the text is today. Sadly, a lot of it could have been written in 2007, not 19 years earlier.
Looking back at something you wrote in different circumstances brings back the feelings of the time. This was an era when the TTC was run by “citizen members” appointed by Council. That practice went the way of the dodo, and none too soon for reasons I won’t delve into here. Don’t ask.
Management was hostile to public input and criticism, and I learned from a friend that consorting with me could be a seriously career-limiting move. Things improved greatly when David Gunn arrived, but that was still in the future.
As you read this, remember that many things have not happened yet:
- The Liberals are in power, the NDP has not yet even dreamed of replacing them, and the nightmare of Mike Harris is beyond anyone’s worst fantasy.
- The recession of the 1990s is not yet seriously upon us, although you will see references to funding cuts that had begun even before Bob Rae took ofice.
- The Russell Hill disaster, a product of inadequate training and poor maintenance, fed by years of cutbacks, had not shocked the TTC out of its complacent self-image as a paragon among transit systems.
- Riding was still at levels to which we are only now returning, service was commensurately better and the TTC’s fleet was larger.
- Regional transit problems were not even on our radar. Vast areas of what we now call the 905 were still small towns and farmland.
- $100-million was a seriously large amount of money in 1988 while today it will buy you a modest subway station.
My co-author, Tom Langan, is now Professor Emeritus at St. Michael’s College. We collaborated in the trolleybus battles, but went our separate ways afterwards.
I have scanned in the article as text and stripped the illustrations as they are copyright by the original artist. Imagine Munch’s Scream as a motif for TTC passengers.