The first time I ever used a subway in my wheelchair was actually in Washington DC. It’s a small of but efficient subway system and my only complaint was how bloody dark their stations were. Seriously, I could have used a head mounted flashlight at noon! However, full credit that you only ever had to use one elevator to reach track level and there was good space to be secure. Simple, but effective and…here’s the key…every single stop was accessible.
Flash forward to my home town of Toronto, about to host the PanAm and Para-PanAm games for 2015. It’s going to be the largest international sporting event Canada has ever seen and to make it work, our transit system has gone through years of upgrades. Talk to the average Torontonian though, and we honestly don’t see much to brag about. Especially, in the realm of accessibility for our beleaguered subway. I really hope the para-athletes don’t hold our transit system against us, because they aren’t going to have a great time if they want to use our subway system without limits.
Friday night, Shannon and I got tickets for Friday Nights Live at the Royal Ontario Museum. It’s a fun transformation of the museum into an adults only night club, with foods from around the world, and drinks in hand as music plays and you browse the displays. Quite the unique venue for a date night and we saw a few first dates happening and more selfie’s than you can shake a stick at (no selfie sticks though, thanks be to whatever). Now parking around the ROM isn’t all that great, so we figured, what the heck, we’ll subway it down. We’ve done this once before and it was…well…adequate. Now? I’m not so sure it even rates as that.
You see, the Museum has its own stop on the subway, named…you guessed it, Museum. This station was even recently renovated with designs to evoke the amazing building just above it. It was finished just a few years ago, so one would imagine it would be totally up to date. So we head down, knowing full well that for some reason not every station is accessible, but come on…it’s the museum! There are some of the best tourist attractions in Toronto right there! How could it not be? How could they do renos to it and not include elevators? It’s not like the accessible stations have a lot of forethought in their elevator design.
Admittedly, we should have better checked the signs about which stations had elevators, and yes there is a stop that is about two blocks west of the museum. In the long, perhaps it isn’t that big of a deal…for someone like me. I can handle the distance, I can handle the weather, I’m still young (cough not middle-aged cough), but what about those that aren’t in the same chair? People with walkers, or kids that need more controlled access. How is it that our museum can have a new station and NOT be accessible?
It’s not like the rest of the stations are any gems to share. They are the greatest example of “let’s place elevators in every haphazard way possible”. You want to get from street to concourse? Take that one at the far end of the platform. Oh you want to go to track level, that ones on the other side. And if an elevator happens to be out of service? Well then you might just have to go two more stops to a station that has a working elevator and take a shuttle bus back to where you want to be.
Really? This is the best you can do TTC? Before we’re supposed to put Toronto on a showcase for the world?
We have to do better than this. What’s the point of having wonderful new trains, with reserved seating that flips up for mobility devices (but no instructions for how to secure oneself in, despite asking that you secure yourself), if people have no clue from street level which stations they can use.
I don’t envy those coming to visit this July and August.