As I write, we're hours away from seeing Howard Moscoe depart from the Toronto Transit Commission. If there's is one good thing to come from the recent municipal election, it's a chance to see some improvement in the governance of the TTC. This can't come too soon.
Consider my experiences this past Sunday night. I took the TTC over to the St. Clair West area for dinner. On the return journey - while waiting for the bus back to St. Clair West station - a man with a bag full of Christmas presents scampers over to the waiting area.
"Is it $2.75" he asks politely. Yes I say. We converse while waiting for the bus. He's from Thunder Bay - down to visit his daughter, and just returning to the Delta Chelsea.
He's confused as to the duration of the construction on St. Clair. "Wasn't this going on in July?"
The bus arrives and we board. After about one stop, I realize that I might need a transfer. With the interminable construction, I wasn't sure if the buses were stopping in the station - or on the street on the South side. I inquire of the driver. She is initially confused - but finally understands the question. I acquire a transfer and also one for the chap from Thunder Bay. (One of my better boy-scout deeds.)
We get to the station and descend. Lo-and-behold, the entrance is automated - for tokens and passes swipes only. There is no way we're getting in with our flimsy paper transfers. After a minute or too, I locate the help button. I inquire as to how to enter the station. The voice on the other end insists that it should be clear - but it indeed was not.
"Do I go to the left?" I inquire. When I don't get an equivocal "Yes" or "No" answer, I decide to try it. It does lead to an attended entrance.
The chap from Thunder Bay asks how the many Torontonians who don't speak English in ever manage. Now that was a excellent question - one I couldn't really answer. The truth of the matter is that they manage by suffering. With Howard Moscoe's TTC, they (and everyone else) has suffered through:
Rapidly escalating operating costs - causing the ever increasing fares.
A surly and snug workforce - one that went out on strike despite taking us to the cleaners in the most recent contract.
Needless and endless streetcar construction - The debacle on St. Clair West is a textbook example on how to bring neighbourhoods to the point of despair.
Embarrassment - Moscoe makes Attila the Hun look like a diplomat.
Yes - I have it in for Moscoe - but with good reason. The man flat out lied to me during the St. Clair debate. He refused to consider looking at transit options that are working well in other cities. Worst of all, he's alienated those who might have helped with capital funding. This is in part due to his incredible mouth - saying dumb and plain rude things at the most inopportune moments - and in part because he and the TTC have planned poorly.
Moscoe and his TTC have lost the credibility they need to make the case for capital projects. Moscoe and a small cadre of light-rail lobbyists have been trying to push the city in that direction. However, they haven't presented a coherent plan. The TTC is years late even putting together a specification of new light-rail equipment.
The latest price-tag floating about for LRT equipment is $800 million - or about $6 million a car. There's no plan in place as to how these expensive vehicles would provide substantively better service than regular buses. Moscoe's TTC is undertaking studies for a light rail line somewhere in the West end. The objectives of these studies is without any measure of coherence - appearing to be no more that projects to keep TTC engineers and analysts looking busy. Like running a streetcar line through the Ex grounds is going to solve Toronto's transportation problems! Then there's the plan to run the subway at night.
Oh and the plan to hire station masters. Would they be equally as surly and indifferent as 50% of the current staff? I'll take a pass thanks.
Well - we can only hope that the new TTC chair will do better. That's not asking much!