Sunday, 18 November 2012

Accessible Streetcars Premiere in Toronto

So, as predicted, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford hasn't done much that has impressed the people who didn't vote him in. A little less predictably, he hasn't done much that's impressed most of the people that voted him in either. However, despite what's seemed like a concerted effort to do everything possible to guarantee never being elected for any sort of public office in the city of Toronto again, Ford's actually pulled off something remarkable on his watch: he got the city's three accessible streetcars on the tracks to tested in the next year, the first new streetcar design to be added to Toronto's fleet in over 25 years.

This is welcome news on the heels of the recent announcement that Windsor, Ontario,  is losing its accessible cabs. While Toronto's accessible streetcars won't help people in Windsor, the disabled community community needed some good news about the direction of accessible transportation in the province.

Accessible Streetcars Are Another Step in the Right Direction

Toronto's transit system has made great strides toward accessibility in the past decade, but there is still a way to go. From the Toronto Transit Corporation (TTC) website:

Today, more than 60 per cent of the train fleet is fully accessible, and nearly half of all Subway/RT stations are wheelchair and scooter friendly. Delivery of the TTC’s next generation of accessible subway trains – the Toronto Rockets – continue to make subway service even more accessible.

The TTC also runs a Wheel-Trans system that uses accessible buses and contracted taxis. However, a 2011 investigation by the Auditor General revealed that Toronto's Wheel-Trans program has some of the same issues that New York's Access-A-Ride program does: Long wait times, and clients arriving late at destinations. The contracted taxi companies can't keep up with the demand on the program.

The accessible streetcars will replace 204 cars in the fleet, and the first ones will officially go into service starting in 2014. Each car has room for two bikes, wheelchairs or scooters.

It's definitely very encouraging news.

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