Monday, December 19, 2011

A story about a wheelchair on the TTC

I was in the brand new Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) subway cars the other day and there was this very beautiful young woman with a perfect smile who entered the subway at Union station. It was around 6pm on a weekday, she was all dressed up in heels and fashionista corporate girl clothes so the assumption I make is that she was coming from work in the area (the business district).

Wheelchair spot marked in the new TTC trains
She was in a wheelchair.

Seeing her challenged my perceptions (and ignorance) a bit because the thought that instantaneously trickled into my head was: "That's so sad. I wonder what happened to her?". I realized that I (a) don't always wonder "what happened" to someone in a wheelchair and (b) it was because of her young age and very fashionista exterior. Huh...

Anyway, I started having all these questions about how inaccessible our city and transit system can be so inaccessible to persons in wheelchairs. I mean think about it seriously, think about the streetcars in the city, or those subway stations without an elevator? According to TTC, they have elevators in 30 of the 69 subways stops. I didn't even realize that figure until just now when I looked it up on their site. This number might seem enough or unimportant to those who aren't directly in need of elevators but imagine if you did?

Thankfully the new TTC subway has clear markings for persons in wheelchairs. This is a really cool feature that isn't so clearly marked in the old trains. Not only that, in the old trains you have to have an engineering degree to even get the seats out of the way and buckle up so I imagine most people in wheelchairs just don't even bother.

All this to say, good job on the improved design TTC but we look forward to more improvements. This time, without increasing our fare again and again :).

Here are some additional features as written in blogTO that you can find on the new TTC subway trains:

  • There are 24 closed-circuit cameras (four per car) mounted on the ceiling of each train (these aren't constantly monitored, but will be in the event that a passenger activates one of the 36 alarm intercoms
  • Electronic route maps indicate the direction in which the train is travelling and the next station where it'll arrive
  • The interior surfaces of the train are coated with Bombardier's Antimicrobial Surface Treatment Program, which reduces the spread of the flu and other viruses
  • There are 18 video screens (three per car), which are used to provide information on the use of the emergency intercom, the location of alarm devices, and entry and exit practices
  • Each car has two areas at either end where seats fold down to accommodate for wheelchairs, scooters and other mobility devices (bicycles and strollers could also work here). These areas are indicated on the exterior of the train with a blue light
  • The doorways in the new car are much wider, which should make boarding and exiting much more efficient There are evacuation ramps and the front and rear of the train

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