What if you build it, and they leave?

City Hall is currently tearing itself apart over transit. You’d think that in a city with a downtown that’s pretty much gridlocked for three hours of the day, the answer to the transit question would be “More please everywhere”, but in this precious city, it’s less than that.

We have a mayor who is obsessed with subways because he thinks they’re fast and will keep the automobiles running. Unfortunately, Toronto is a big sprawly city with less than infinite cash, so we’re not going to get subways everywhere. Our last venture into subway building — the Sheppard line — has been a bit rubbish, running a stubby distance to nowhere in particular, and being quiet enough that you can always get a seat.

Though I live in Toronto, I’m originally from Glasgow. Glasgow has a subway; in fact, it’s one of the world’s oldest. It was opened in 1896, when Glasgow was at the height of its “Second City” fame. Glasgow made the ships and trains that maintained the empire, and trained the engineers of the world. We were pretty hot shit at the time, and we had a bunch of workers we needed to get around every day from the shipyards and offices of the city. Lots of people moving in to work. Ergo, subway!

Just one problem: cities change, subways don’t. Even though shipbuilding was never a hugely lucrative industry (according to my grandfather, who worked at John Brown’s, they never cleared more than 7% even at the best times), Glasgow and environs would probably have never thought that its industries would change and contract the way they did.

So what’s the subway that Glasgow’s been left with?

  • The industry has gone, so has most of the ridership. There’s an awkward mix of residential stations and, well, nothing stations. I mean, West St? C’mon!
  • Both of the major rail hubs that the subway serves — Buchanan St and St Enoch — are long gone. I just remember the shell of St Enoch station used as a car park in the very early 1970s, but no trains.
  • Given that Scots were a bit squat in the 19th century, the subway’s not built for 21st century people. I could never stand up in the trains.
  • Ridership is frankly pants; indeed, even Toronto’s Sheppard line carries more people every day than the Glasgow subway. Riders are pretty much now park ‘n ride office drones, students (bored [on the way to uni], drunk [doing the subcrawl; a pint at the pub nearest ever station] or daredevil [the subway challenge]) or huns.

Glasgow used to have quite an extensive tram network. Of course, you wouldn’t know now, ‘cos it’s all been ripped up, but you can do that with street-level transit. Subways you’re stuck with.

Cities and cultures never know when they’re at their height. Glasgow had it going on when it built its subway, yet I’m sure the city planners never thought that the city would change the way it did. At least Glasgow made stuff that everyone needed; Toronto, what do you do that keeps you anchored here?

TTC Trip Planner

The TTC Trip Planner seems to be live, after some digging by the Spacing folks.

It works with a bunch of small browsers I’ve thrown at it – w3m, mobile Safari, Blackberry – so I know I can use it from a handheld. Yay!

Only minor annoyance is that for subway journeys, it only shows the direction of travel in the summary (“YONGE-UNIVERSITY-SPADINA TOWARDS DOWNSVIEW” – and yes, in all-caps) and you have to click through to the details to find out which station you need to get off at.

It does seem to get deeply confused at Kennedy Station; I live just south of Kennedy, and it expects me to take the 43 Kennedy north to the junction to Eglinton, then walk south. Everyone here uses Transway Crescent …

Update: how could I have missed the prettier and much less capslockier MyTTC?

Update 2: The official TTC site appears to have moved here http://www3.ttc.ca/Trip_planner/index.jsp?useplanner=true. Let’s see if it still works with mobile devices.

co-transiteers annoyance

Two new annoying fellow travellers on the GO train yesterday:

  • The Clipper: she took about 10 minutes to get her nails just right … clip, clip, tick, clip … am I the only one who finds that kinda gross? I felt like making kapweeng! kapweeng! ricochet noises to go with it
  • The Thumper: Take a Stompin’ Tom Connors record. Remove the vocals and instrumental accompaniment. Slow it down 200 times. That’s what this youth was doing with his right foot: thump … thump …  … thump …  …  … thump … thump. He kept checking around to see if he was getting a rise out of anyone.

Being the consummate commuter of course, I abided by the first law of transit annoyances: Sit there and do nothing, for cowardice is a virtue.

Saved by the hat!

Last week, I rather foolishly left my wallet in the company truck when I came off site. Not merely did it contain all my money and cards, but it also had my TTC pass, so without it I couldn’t get home. It didn’t contain my GO train pass, which meant I could get an inconvenient distance from the office truck before realising I could get no further.

Stranded on the platform at Union Station, I suddenly remembered the advice in my Tilley hat‘s manual about putting “a $10 bill into the plastic bag in the pocket of the crown“. Hurrah!

Sometimes it does pay to read the manual …

malicious deomnibusation of maternal relative’s maternal relative strictly forbidden

culled from memory, and several versions floating about on the net:


Tune: She’ll be coming round the mountain
Lyrics: possibly by Matt McGinn, or Robin Hall and Jimmy McGregor

Oh ye cannae shove yer granny aff a bus,
Oh ye cannae shove yer granny aff a bus,
Ye cannae shove yer granny
For she’s yer mammy’s mammy,
Ye cannae shove yer granny aff a bus.

Singing: I wull, if you wull, so wull I
I wull, if you wull, so wull I
Singing: I wull, if you wull
I wull, if you wull
I wull, if you wull, so wull I

Ye can shove yer ither granny aff a bus,
Ye can shove yer ither granny aff a bus,
Ye can shove yer ither granny
‘Cos she’s yer faither’s mammy
Ye can shove yer ither granny aff a bus.

Ye can shove yer Uncle Wullie aff a bus,
Ye can shove yer Uncle Wullie aff a bus,
Uncle Wullie’s like yer faither
A harum-scarum blether,
Ye can shove yer Uncle Wullie aff a bus.

Ye can shove yer Auntie Maggie aff a bus,
Ye can shove yer Auntie Maggie aff a bus,
Auntie Meg’s yer Faither’s sister,
She’s naethin’ but a twister,
Ye can shove yer Auntie Maggie aff a bus.

But ye cannae shove yer granny aff a bus,
Ye cannae shove yer granny aff a bus,
O ye cannae shove yer granny,
‘Cos she’s yer mammy’s mammy,
O ye cannae shove yer granny aff a bus.

blether: gossip
harum-scarum: scatterbrain, random
twister: liar
ither: other
naethin’: nothing