Toronto should improve the accessibility of the TTC to allow all individuals, regardless of individual mobility and cognitive characteristics, to use the transit system.
Pros: Accessibility improves the transit experience for all users, a basic right to provide hospitable environments to those with disabilities, basic human right, legally obligated.
Cons: High cost of implementation that could be spent on expanding service, more cost efficient to supplement with increased para-transit service.
Despite the TTC’s relatively young age, large portions of the network remain inaccessible to those with mobility impairments, traveling with strollers or parcels, and large groups. While the TTC approved an Accessibility Plan in 2008, the retrofit schedule is several years behind and severely underfunded. To date less than half of subway stations have accessibility infrastructure, the entire in service streetcar fleet is inaccessible, and para-transit services, predominately WheelTrans, face annual service reductions and budget debates. The TTC has worked diligently to prepare timetables, procedures, and standards for retrofitting the existing system; accessibility issues are competing for limited resources with signal improvements, track maintenance, and service expansion.
Improving the accessibility of a transit system benefits all users, makes navigating systems easier, the transit experience less stressful, and more inclusive. Accessible environments are a basic human right and need to be recognized as such. While the costs of retrofitting subway stations and streetcar stops is in the tens of millions, those with physical and cognitive disabilities have the right for a barrier-free transit system. Regardless of mobility level, the users in Toronto face significant transit service deficits. Those with mobility impairments face even less options when it comes to moving around the city – which has major impacts on quality life through limiting housing, employment, and social opportunities.
Image credit: Garrett Morgan, Flickr creative commons