TTC Diaries: Streetcar Roulette

16 Mar

The TTC may be the death of me…literally.

After a hectic week of sleep deprivation, I was looking forward to welcoming the weekend with a downtown house party celebrating a friend’s birthday.

Living in North York, I had quite the trek via public transportation to make it down South, but alas, I arrived at Yonge and Dundas scot-free.

Due to heavy precipitation, the Friday night streetcar was full of damp-smelling urban commuters, but despite the stench I was glad to get out of the rain. My 10 minute ride was brief yet enjoyable, but little did I know, as I was making my way down the steps, a cab was fast approaching.

I don’t know if he was listening to Lady Gaga too loud on the radio, and was hence distracted, or he was feeling a bit rebellious (or both), but he decided not to yield to my streetcar. Not thinking twice, I stepped out as the cab was whizzing by. Thankfully, my untimely death was avoided by a millisecond.

I wish I could tell you that this was the end of my unlucky streetcar-exiting streak, but I’m afraid it isn’t so. Travelling westbound after the festivities, when it was my time to depart, yet another car failed to obey the rules of the road. I missed my demise this time by half a millisecond. All I could do at that point was shake my fist while the streetcar driver honked his horn.

Needless to say, I was a bit perturbed.

Fortunately, I was not pedestrian death number 14 of 2010, but I could have been. I’m sure loads of commuters get a similar fright multiple times a day when drivers fail to concentrate on the road.

This is not to say drivers are always the cause of pedestrian fatalities, but quite often they are, and many of those situations could easily have been avoided.

The TTC isn’t afraid to publicize the dangers of getting out of streetcars. On the Transit Commission website, it states that a person is hit by a car while exiting a streetcar every month. Here lies the problem: The fine for failing to stop is only $109.

$109 is the gentle slap on the wrist of potential murderers behind the wheel. To put it in perspective, the fine for not wearing a seat belt is higher ($110).

It’s hard to suggest a solution to safety issues for pedestrians. To be fair to the TTC, streetcars do have a little yellow sign on the back of vehicles telling cars to stop behind when doors are opening. Perhaps making the sign 400% bigger would promote the seriousness of not stopping.

Customer service is allegedly high on the TTC priority list, but with the ‘surprise’ $100 million excess in this year’s municipal budget, providing homeowners with $23 trumps improving the infrastructure of our transportation system.

And sure there are safety campaigns run by Toronto police like the blitz taking place during March break, but how will that translate to first-time Toronto drivers coming in contact with streetcars? What about people like the cab driver that almost hit me who may be a veteran to driving the streets of Toronto, yet ignores basic protocol?

I say up the fines, provide bigger signs, and perhaps pedestrian body armour. Streetcar riders shouldn’t have to play Russian roulette every time they ride the Red Rocket.

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2 Responses to “TTC Diaries: Streetcar Roulette”

  1. Dylan Young March 16, 2010 at 3:21 pm #

    I for one say that all pedestrians and motorists should be taken out of the gene pool if they are so ill equipped to deal with the increasing dangers of today’s world. Between talking on cell phones, (which, fines haven’t really decreased as I watch drivers yak away still across the country), listening to Ipod’s or simply not paying attention. Society today does not take notice to the environment around them. The reason for this is because the simple act of enjoying the day has become too autonomous an event for any of us to actually pay attention to right now. Studies have proven that when such activities have progressed to that automatic pilot stage that is suppose to allow other processes open to take on other tasks, hence why we are able to multi-task on certain occasions. Clearly, even on auto pilot the world is just too boring for us to pay attention to so I propose on raising the stakes a little.
    The only way it seems to get us to pay attention to the world is to make it more interesting, dangerous or downright risky. So, in order to do this I propose taking a Death Race approach for Darwinism. Cars can be equipped with cattle guards and pedestrians can weld hand-held weapons, (not guns though those are already available on every street corner it seems). Now this allows both drivers and civilians to interact on a completely new level that will give us a bonafied reason to be aware of our environment.
    Say that one teenager decides to bolt across the road when it says “Do Not Walk,” well just take him out with your cattle guard without fear of banging up your ride. You better be careful though because if you miss, that young punk will have full access to denting up you and your wheels with whatever weapon he chooses to take out that day. For those nasty times when other pedestrians don’t care about where you walk and are only concerned that you move out of their way; now you can properly tell them to back off bitch and be more considerate as you tap their kneecaps out with; maybe a baseball bat? Maybe brass knuckles? Maybe a chain or lead pipe; it all depends on your mood that day! 😉
    With this leveling of the playing field there is a chance to gain mutual respect for both cars and humans alike. Maybe this will be the last step to a universal understanding of both personal space as walking traffic bumps into one another and the rules of the road, which clearly state watch the road numb nuts. Even if this idea does not reach the ideal level, at least we have one more chance to take out those nasty genes that keep Darwin turning in his grave time and time again.
    Or I guess we could go a more peaceful route and get rid of taxis and supplement more street cars which would allow those taxi drivers the ability to switch jobs as well as reducing gas emissions. But you know where’s the fun in that?

  2. romeh March 19, 2010 at 10:06 pm #

    Sounds like a cross between anarchy and the battle scene in Anchorman, but you might be on to something.

    I’m not so sure about getting rid of taxis, but perhaps making some of their drivers less crazy. That would be a good start.

    I did enjoy those bicycle taxis Nestea (I think) employed last summer. Those were a cool seasonal alternative. Perhaps sled taxis could be used in the winter 🙂

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