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Your Ride: Toronto

Glyn Bowerman is a Toronto-based journalist and theatre artist. He's a regular contributor to Spacing and writes about transportation issues in Metro every Tuesday.

Making the TTC more accessible should be a priority for Toronto

Nobody has a photo-op in front of an elevator. Maybe they should.

Our city’s transit discussion is dominated by blue-sky thinking and duelling megaprojects, but arguments about ensuring the system we have is accessible for everyone rarely make headline news.

Last week, the CBC told the story of an 82-year-old woman with arthritis who has been waiting two decades for an elevator at Rosedale subway station. She’s not alone.

To date, only 32 of the TTC’s 69 subway stations are equipped with elevators. That’s less than half, even if the existing 32 are in working condition at any given moment.

An estimated 13.7 per cent of Canadian adults reported living with a disability in a 2012 Statistics Canada survey. People with disabilities are protected by the Canadian Charter so, effectively, accessibility is a human right. And we’d do well to keep in mind there are many others, such as parents with strollers, who would share in the benefits of improved accessibility.

Not persuaded about the importance?

The TTC is also legally mandated to provide accessible service at all stations by 2025, under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Last April, the TTC reported it will not be able to meet the goal.

The service’s recommended capital plan stretching into 2024 proposes $267 million for station improvements like elevators, accessible fare gates, automatic sliding doors and better signage. But, it’s about $165 million short on getting the job done entirely. The plan, to date, is to hope the province will come through with additional money.

With Queen’s Park trying to tackle its own deficit, we may not have time to hold out for that money.

In the coming months, city councillors will be wrestling with the 2015 city budget. In that time, there are bound to be passionate arguments about public transit.

Under pressure to keep a property tax increase below the rate of inflation, there may be items in the proposed budget that don’t make the final cut.

Will our local representatives be as vocal on the council floor about elevators, and other accessibility requirements, as they have been about, say, a three, maybe four-stop subway?

Shame on us, if we kick the upgrades can even further down the track. And while we are discussing these massive transit expansion plans, will we plan to make each additional stop accessible? Will we ensure that each of the proposed 22 stops on Mayor John Tory’s SmartTrack plan are accessible from opening day and on?

We have no shortage of imagination in this town when it comes to transit so it shouldn’t be impossible to imagine, and build, an accessible system. It’s a question of political will, and it’s time we moved accessibility off the bucket list and on to the shortlist.

Glyn Bowerman is a Toronto-based journalist and theatre artist. He is also a regular contributor to Spacing Magazine. Follow him on twitter @Banquos_Banquet