The federal government has just announced that it is spending over $300 million to buy the TTC electric buses and the infrastructure to power them. That's nice and all, and electric buses are cool, but with many TTC buses lying fallow, how about spending some more money on reversing the service cuts that are being forced on the TTC due to pandemic ridership losses and underfunding? We're falling into the trap that afflicted us in the early 90s: focusing spending on flashy capital projects while ignoring the day-to-day needs of service and maintenance. Shame. And it has consequences, which I illustrate below.
The title of this post is a West Wing reference, incidentally.
A week ago Monday, I delivered about 105 minutes of film to a professional film scanning company to finish phase two of my Richard Glaze 16mm Film Archive Digitization Project. The haul includes three 400-foot canisters from the late 1950s and twenty-six 100-foot reels from the mid-to-late 70s. The 1950s reels include footage of some of the last days of streetcar operations in Montreal and Ottawa. There's also some seventies footage of the Ontario Northland Railway; I hope it covers the time the government of Ontario purchased the Trans Europe Express equipment for their run from Toronto to Cochrane. I also had an excellent lunch with a friend and fellow railfan, so all in all an excellent and productive morning and early afternoon.
Getting back home was a bit of a haul. After exploring the city a little, I'm on the subway heading south towards Glencairn Station on my way to Union Station downtown when I hear an announcement that service is holding northbound at Glencairn "due to a medical incident". Not long after, the announcement was made that this incident had been resolved. My train wasn't even affected. However, not two stops later, it's announced that my train, and all after it, would be going out of service at St. Clair West Station and returning northbound. Apparently, subway service has been suspended from St. Clair West to St. Andrew (basically into the west side of downtown) due to "a trespasser on the track level at Spadina Station" further down the line.
We're in the early-middle part of rush hour at this point, so as the train goes out of service, and the others behind pull in and do the same, we're rapidly filling up the platform. They've promised shuttle buses, but I know from experience that these are hard to come by during rush hour. However, we can take the St. Clair Streetcar over to Yonge Street and board the parallel Yonge subway there. It might save time in the long run. While it works, I'm far from the only person to think this.
Getting onto the Yonge subway, we make good time southbound until we stop, again, this time at Dundas Station because of -- you guessed it! -- a medical incident (at the station, in fact, but not apparently on our train, as I didn't see or hear anything). Fortunately, the incident is cleared in about five minutes, so we head on our way. The total delay to my trip was about an hour.
Now, I was able to handle these incidents with good humour. Indeed, that was the state of mind of just about everybody who travelled alongside me. And none of these incidents could be said to be the TTC's fault. But to have three such disruptions happen within an hour... that's something.
And while I'm lucky enough to say that this is the first time this has happened to me while taking the TTC, I'm on enough boards and follow enough feeds to know that these incidents are not uncommon. Indeed some, like the "trespasser at track level" seem to be getting more common, and I'm worried that this may be indicative of societal stress and increasing mental health issues at work, here.
I mean, who goes onto the track level during rush hour and turns it into a security incident? Someone who is not coping well, I suspect, and is making a pretty loud call for help. And the medical issues that paused service? Could they have been fainting spells or, worse, heart attacks?
The therapists who talk to my kids, who talk to Erin, have told me they've seen a great increase in familial stress since the pandemic, and the pandemic has disrupted and continues to disrupt, the provision of medical services, including and especially mental health services. And we have governments, particularly one governing this province, who when people are calling for help, are focused on cutting costs, who have made our medical system worse, not better.
I worry that we are under pressure and that these pressures are increasing. And just when we most need support and backup, our governments and particular political forces seem hell-bent on taking that away.
We can do better. I know we can because we used to. And we have to do better. If we have to raise taxes to do it, so be it.