It’s afternoon before rush hour inside TTC’s Pape subway station. Kerry-Ann Mitchell pushes her child in a stroller up an escalator to the street. She still faces another flight of stairs on the mezzanine level.
Fortunately, someone assists her through a crowd of passengers coming off subway trains and buses. Mitchell’s only exiting the station. The bus platforms are up another two flights of stairs. Mitchell has to plan every trip on the TTC this way.
“If the station doesn’t have an elevator or an escalator, you might sometimes have to go to the next station and just walk back,” she said.
While Mitchell and other passengers struggle to deal with the less accessible parts of the subway system, conditions are getting better. Since the cutbacks of the Harris years, the TTC has installed sliding doors in subway stations and introduced low-floor buses.
Recently, the TTC launched its station modernization program, which spruces up subway stations that are over 40 years old. It has also expanded its stop announcement program.
David Lepofsky, the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, spearheaded the campaign for drivers to call out stops. He said that ultimately led to automated stop announcements on buses, streetcars and subway trains.
“They make such a difference for people,” Lepofsky said.
The battle for those stop announcements was not an easy one. He said the TTC spent approximately $450,000 on lawyers to fight his case for drivers to call out stops.
“That’s almost half a million dollars and when you hear the TTC crying poor, you remember how much of our money they spent on hiring lawyers to fight against doing the right thing,” Lepofsky said.
Ultimately, the TTC installed automatic stop announcements throughout the system; the installation was completed in August 2008.
Escalators also improve accessibility. The TTC operates and maintains the largest number of escalators in Canada and TTC corporate affairs supervisor, Danny Nicholson, said it’s not uncommon for them to break down.
“We have an ongoing maintenance program with our escalators, so at various times there’s going to be escalators that are out of service,” Nicholson said.
Accessibility continues to be a hot issue at the TTC. It plans to replace most of its streetcars, many of which are over 30 years old and inaccessible to the physically challenged.
All the proposed subway stations on the York University extension will have elevators installed. Nicholson says all subway stations will be accessible by 2022.