Wintry wallop poses problems for public transit users
It’s never hard to find complaints about Canada’s largest public transit agencies – but when a blast of wintry weather hits some of the country’s largest cities, it’s even easier.
With an enormous winter storm battering Eastern Canada this week and back-to-back storms slamming into Vancouver, social media has been lighting up with complaints about everything from delays to equipment issues to overcrowding.
The Toronto Transit Commission brought in dozens of extra buses this week to handle any potential weather-related issues. Heavy ice buildup caused issues on all streetcar lines Tuesday night, while the Scarborough rapid transit line – which had gone the better part of a week without running during a previous storm – was briefly shut down.
In Vancouver, where Tuesday was the city’s first snow day in a decade, weather-related issues were blamed for some routes running at reduced frequencies, causing delays of up to 30 minutes. Lineups had stretched outside some stations the previous day as people looked to get home before the worst of the storm hit.
Overcrowding issues have been reported in Montreal, while one line of Edmonton’s LRT system was shut down for four hours last week, due to a signalling issue during nearly -25 C temperatures.
“The winter weather is just heaping misery on commuters,” Matti Siemiatycki from the University of Toronto’s School of Cities told CTV’s Your Morning Wednesday.
None of these problems are new this winter, Siemiatycki said – but they seem to be getting worse every year as transit investment lags behind ridership increases.
“We’ve under-invested in our transit systems for decades, and now the bill is coming due,” he said.
“We have to catch up. We have to invest. Otherwise, we’re just going to continue to have these broken trips and this misery on our transit systems.”
While most major municipal transit systems are either building or planning expansions, Siemiatyicki described these as “decades-long projects” which will not offer any immediate relief. In the meantime, he said, overcrowding and other issues will continue to worsen.
He said governments looking to alleviate pressure on their transit systems in the short-term should look at spending more on maintenance and upkeep of the existing systems, as well as more flexible and affordable service improvements such as increased bus offerings.
“We need to be investing in the system today,” he said.