Everyone should pitch in to ensure buses are filled
Have you ever stood at a transit stop and seen an apparently crowded bus or streetcar go by without stopping — only to notice room for more customers at the back of the vehicle?
It’s a frustration that occurs especially during peak periods, but is increasing as new low-floor buses finally replace older models. When passengers are able to board through both doors, every spare centimetre is more likely to be occupied — yet in many situations riders fail to move all the way back. This can occur on TTC’s decades-old streetcars and now in the elevated rear section of buses.
Toronto transit riders have long insisted vehicle layouts emphasize sitting and not standing, but the newer Mississauga-made Orion buses have ended up cramped and uninviting. The raised platform makes it hard to see if seats are free and many riders never bother to mount the stairs. Worse, some models cannot be easily re-engineered to allow for side-facing seats or a wider aisle.
This design weakness means we’re missing precious capacity just when demand is acute. A limited number of streetcars have wide aisles throughout, but Torontonians now have an ingrained habit of avoiding the back — possibly for fear of being unable to squeeze out for their stop. Our existing trams are due to be replaced in a few years, potentially longer if the TTC insists on a custom-made vehicle for the next generation.
On the bus side, Orions will eventually make up Toronto’s entire fleet, so we need a strategy to avoid leaving people at transit stops. Everyone is going to have to pitch in — riders, employees and the politicians who oversee the system.
First, TTC drivers can consistently urge riders to fill the bus.
This task can be disheartening because some folks don’t pay attention or don’t care. If even a handful of riders can be convinced to head back, that’s a few more who won’t be stuck waiting. Operators, please activate the pre-recorded announcement if your vehicle is equipped, and add a personal touch via the microphone.
Riders, please pay attention and fill the whole vehicle — whether asked to, or not. Notice how many people are waiting at the next stop, and move back accordingly — especially if you’re on a medium or long trip.
What can the transit commission do? Acknowledge that collective errors were made on the rear of the Orion buses and explore all remedies. Rearranging seats in the existing fleet may be a drastic and expensive option but must be considered. As for new vehicles — including the proposed streetcars — be creative with the traditional dilemma of more seats vs. more standing.