Keeping us up to date is a big challenge for the TTC, considering how many routes can be delayed or detoured — and in the case of the subway or RT, temporarily shut down.
I hear more often from GO Transit customers about the lack of timely information, so I suspect TTC users simply have lower expectations. Perhaps it’s because service is so much more frequent and there are more alternate routes within Toronto, but TTC regulars are resigned to deciphering occasionally garbled announcements or getting the latest details via radio or TV before they leave home.
The transit service known as the Rocket is gently embracing new technology to warn riders of planned or emergency disruptions. However, much like the traditional method of posting signs along detoured routes, success is hit-and-miss. Last week I witnessed a “hit.” When King streetcars were diverted due to debris falling from a downtown skyscraper, information actually appeared on video monitors in the subway.
At last — the screens are beginning to show specific information about transit. I’m told subway delay updates have also appeared on the boards, scrolling along the bottom to augment verbal details given over station speakers.
By the end of this year the platform monitors are to indicate when the next train will arrive, but it will take longer before emergency disruptions are shown consistently. TTC chair Adam Giambrone says a team is being assembled to co-ordinate the information put out to riders.
Also by the end of 2008, all but 13 low-use stations should have screens. But it’s been years since the first ones went up — what is taking so long?
Giambrone replies there are only so many TTC workers to do the specialized wiring in stations. He says they have also been occupied with installing fare vending machines and several thousand new video cameras in the subway.
I may grumble about the slow pace toward good communication, but there is some progress. The website ttc.ca now has a page for subway delays, and after the site’s expected relaunch in early April, Giambrone says other features will gradually be added.
The agency is hiring a communications director who I hope will implement not only the TTC’s plans to send out text messages of route disruptions — but also devise a reliable procedure for old-fashioned methods like posting paper detour notices.
Ed Drass has been covering transportation issues in Toronto since 1998. He has a degree in urban studies from York University and regularly rides transit in the GTA and elsewhere.