On Sept. 17 of this year, Diana Maxted attended a Toronto Transit Commission public forum on accessible transit. Remarkably, in order to reach that forum Maxted (who uses a scooter to get around) could not travel from her condo in Leslieville on regular TTC vehicles. The 501 Queen and 505 Dundas streetcars are inaccessible. Consequently, Maxted must call upon the TTC Wheel-trans service by planning days in advance.
“Wheel-trans is marvelous,” she said, “but they are very inconsistent. Sometimes they arrive very late or when you call, the dispatcher tells you to call another time.”
In previous municipal elections, Maxted ran as a mayoral candidate, campaigning on a platform to improve public transit for seniors and people with disabilities.
“Nothing’s changed,” she said. “There’s only a handful of stations east and west (with) elevators for disable people.”
Recognizing that it’s an important issue, the TTC has tried to improve accessibility. On Aug. 31, the new streetcar hit the streets on the 510 Spadina route. It’s the first streetcar to come with a ramp and the ability to lower itself.
The TTC hopes to have all its subway stations accessible by the provincial deadline of 2025. Currently, 32 of 69 stations are accessible.
TTC spokesperson Mike Detoma says by making all its subway stations, buses and streetcars accessible, it hopes to lighten the load on the Wheel-trans service, which has more registered users and ridership than ever. In 2013, 30,000 registered users made almost 2 million Wheel-trans rides.
However, there are real doubts that the TTC will meet the deadline due to its budget shortfall this year.
“We are short on budget and there will be a delay in constructing elevators and other projects to make the subway stations more accessible,” he said. “We’ll still meet the provincial deadline of 2025, but we’ll be asking for more money from the province and federal government to get back on track.”
Diana Maxted disagrees that TTC accessibility is a money issue.
“It’s avoided because it’s (discussed) behind closed doors,” she said. “There’s money there. It’s just going to the wrong pocket.”
Toronto Ride is a transportation service created under a collaborative partnership of 14 non-profit community service agencies, providing transportation for seniors and individuals ineligible for the TTC Wheel-trans.
Stacy Landau, executive director of SPRINT Senior Care (the lead agency for Toronto Ride) said the TTC budget shortfall puts pressure on its services. Like Wheel-trans, Toronto Ride is coping with increased ridership. In 2013, it served over 5,000 riders taking about 190,000 rides.
“Funding is a challenge and we are dealing with limited resources,” Landau said. “”
Former mayoral candidate Maxted insists for Toronto to be a world-class city, it must be accessible to everyone.
“We can’t be a city that moves forward when some of us can’t even move,” she said.