It’s amazing the things that you can be oblivious to. I always figured that using the TTC would be a pain-in-the-ass if you weren’t an able-bodied person. Hell, I’ve had issues with it when I’ve been weighted down with shopping. But it wasn’t until this past Wednesday that I realized how bad it really is.
On Wednesday, I went to visit a friend who has a new baby. I decided to go with another friend, who also happens to have a baby. Since we were going to the first friend’s house and this house is located about 15 minutes away from the subway, second friend decided to bring her baby in a stroller.
Now I know, a stroller is not the same as having to use a wheelchair or scooter or some other kind of mobility-assistance device. And to answer the question I know that you’re all thinking of, my friend does not have the most TTC-friendly stroller (though it’s not one of those monster ones and in her defense, she rarely uses the TTC). But none of that is the point. What is the point is that for the first time ever, I, a child-free, able-bodied person actually experienced how crappy the TTC is for people who aren’t like me.Our journey started at Royal York station, where I met my friend on the platform. Royal York is one of the 38 subway and LRT stations in Toronto that doesn’t have an elevator. But it does have a lone escalator that goes up. It was operational and we used it to more the stroller fairly easily. But, while it worked nicely for the stroller, if you were in a wheelchair or a stroller or anything like that, it’s useless. And so is Royal York and the majority of Toronto’s subway network.
This got me to wondering, are there plans to add elevators into those stations? And yes, there are. By 2025, all of the subway stations will be fully accessible to mobility devices. Yep, 2025. Until then, there are pre-booked trips with Wheel-Trans and adapting your travel plans to use one of the 31 subway stops that does have an elevator.
That’s what my stroller-pushing friend had to do on the way home. She lives closer to Lansdowne station but it doesn’t have an elevator. Since she didn’t want to risk getting off there and finding that the escalator wasn’t going in the direction that worked for her (we’d already run into that at High Park station), she got off at Dundas West, which does have an elevator, and pushed her baby in the cold another oh, 10 or 15 minutes.
But at least all of Toronto’s buses are accessible. Except, not really. I always thought that all buses could kneel or roll out ramps that would allow easy access to someone in a wheelchair. But as this page explains, those features only apply to certain buses and certain stops.
My stroller-pushing friend and I ended up on the bus because we didn’t want to walk all the way back to Royal York station. So instead we grabbed the bus that stopped near my other friend’s house and would take to High Park station. Getting on wasn’t too tricky as the driver pulled up nice and tight to the curb.
But getting off was quite tricky. There was about a foot gap between the bus and the curb and I needed to help my friend carry the stroller off. If I hadn’t have been there, I guess she would have needed to rely on the kindness of strangers.
And while I’m sure someone would have helped out, that’s beside the point. Residents of Toronto shouldn’t have to depend on other travellers or on always carefully pre-planning their trips, to get around.
At least the new streetcars sound like they should be fairly friendly to those with mobility issues and strollers. Of course, they won’t be fully rolled out until 2019 (still, better than the subway route).
With an aging population meaning that more and more people will be using mobility devices in the near future, I suspect that accessibility and the TTC will be an issue that we’ll be hearing more and more about. And before any politician or higher-up comments on it, I think that she should first spend a day or two trying to get around Toronto, via the TTC, as someone who’s dependent on a mobility device (or even just trying to push a somewhat large stroller around).