Even though it was 2:15 in the morning when Justin Van Dette found himself on the subway platform at Times Square, it was only minutes before he was riding a train back to his hotel in Manhattan. If only he could do the same in Toronto.
“We need an overnight subway,” said Van Dette, a community organizer in East York.
He wrote a letter about his trip to Rick Leary, CEO of the Toronto Transit Commission, describing the “incredible” ability to hop on one of their trains at 2:15 a.m. and get home within minutes.
Van Dette launched a petition in mid-July. Van Dette said it boasts close to 1,000 signatures.
“People from time to time write very real, sad stories to me about how it would be better,” he said. “School and jobs are a necessity, and it’s reassuring advocating for something that means a lot to people.”
This idea isn’t new. The TTC considered full-time subway service in 2006 but never committed. Stuart Green, a senior communications specialist at the TTC, confirmed it isn’t considering Van Dette’s dream.
“It would severely impact our ability to perform essential maintenance. It would also be very expensive,” Green said in an email response.
Van Dette points to Nuit Blanche, an annual city-wide art exhibition, which had all-night subway service.
“They already do it once a year, why not try for 100 nights a year?” he said. “It could be a pilot you only run on one line or something that runs from Thursday to Sunday.”
Green says The TTC offers 24-hour service through their Blue Night network, which has 27 bus routes running every 20 minutes.
But for at least one person, the overnight network isn’t enough.
“Even if a subway left once every 20 minutes you could at least count on it,” said Margaret White, a registered nurse. “Right now, there’s nothing.”
White is no ordinary nurse. As an agency nurse, she works in every hospital across the city and thinks any nurse who works in Toronto would want full-time subway service.
“We work 12-hour shifts, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.,” she said. “On Sunday night shifts, you can’t get home and on day shifts, you can’t get in.”
White, who lives near Main Street station, said her “nightmare” commute has led to multiple $30 cab rides and rides with “some really scary characters.”
She added that the lack of a late-night subway could impact nurses in the critical-care units waiting for co-workers to get to work, and could even impact patients who need specialized care.
“It’s one nurse to one patient,” she said. “There are only so many hospitals that specialize in certain areas.”
Despite this, she doesn’t think the TTC will act.
“There are not enough people who want it to make it justifiable,” she said.