When I ride any distance on the streetcar, I find myself ‘writing’ in my mind. There is something about riding the Rocket that puts me in touch with my creative flow.
But much as I love the Red Rocket* I have to admit inflexibility interferes with efficiency and speed. It drives a lot of people crazy, and the thought of using Toronto Transit causes eye-rolling.
Sometimes our past comes back to haunt us. A system as anchored as Toronto’s streetcars, is no longer the latest and greatest – now that our population has increased and urbanized as it has. It’s hard to ignore the interruptions of transferring – often with a long wait in between — from the streetcar to a bus or to a different streetcar line, or perhaps to a subway. The system was built long ago. It is a patchwork.
When I try to imagine a ‘perfect’ transit system, if there is one, I imagine something more like that of Bogota**, created more recently, with modern, electric buses in a massive, efficient system. It operates a little like a subway system – without the expensive restrictions (like tunnels!) Of course they began essentially with no system to stand in the way of progress.
Ideally, in the best of all possible worlds, we would start over from scratch. But it isn’t the best of all possible worlds, and that’s not going to happen. What we could do is augment the current system on a massive scale, with smaller electric or hybrid buses, essentially ‘darting everywhere’.
As it is, the system is slow. It is unpredictable. It is frustrating. But we need people to leave their cars and use public transit, urgently. They’d be more willing to do that if they knew they could ‘hop off, hop on” – another bus always right there.
Subways take far too long to build, and cost far too much. While I like LRTs, tracks are too inflexible. I think the same analysis would apply in most cities. If we ever hit another economic boom, we can talk about subways. But getting a better system up and running should be our first goal.
* Toronto’s streetcars