I spend a lot of time on Toronto public transit, known here as the TTC, which is not to be confused with web shorthand for "trying to conceive". The Toronto Transit Commission. Sometimes I forget where I am and call it the "metro", but I still refer to Shopper's Drug Mart as Pharmaprix. I guess you can take the girl out of Montreal but she'll slip into franglais for the rest of her life, closing the lights as she goes.
Anyway. I spend about 10 hours a week on the TTC, just to get to and from work, and then about two hours on weekends, getting around the city. And, because I am occasionally without a book to occupy the time, I often read the ads and the posters and the signs in the subway stations and on the trains, buses and streetcars.
I especially enjoy the messages from the TTC public relations department. You know the ones I'm talking about. A few years ago, they had a series of posters portraying the unparalleled heroism of TTC employees. The exact details are fuzzy in my memory, but the stories went something like this: A bus driver on an early morning route noticed a shoeless child standing alone on a street corner, and the bus driver risked life and limb and his steaming hot double-double to dial 911 on his cellphone! A janitor noticed a crying child alone on a subway platform, and did the right thing, even though it wasn't stipulated in her contract with the union, and gasp! swoon! radioed Transit Control to report it. Such bravery. Who knew?
More recently, I have been entertained with posters depicting some riders as pigs, complete with pig masks, surrounded by their garbage, while other riders look on in horror and disgust. The posters are captioned: "You're not invisible...Put litter where it belongs". Yeah, that'll learn 'em.
But the real piece de resistance is the latest PR campaign, which aims to explain, once and for all, why there are so many transit delays. I saw a big poster at Finch station the other day, which helpfully outlined the Top 5 reasons why the TTC is late:
Riders blocking the doors
Riders holding the doors
Riders not minding the gap (what is this, the Underground?)
Litter catching fire on the subway tracks (yeah, I've lost count of raging litter fires I've seen in my eight years riding Toronto transit)
Passenger illness (those damn riders again! Can't they wait to die or vomit or give birth once they're off TTC property? Is that too much to ask?)
I was really intrigued to read these reasons, because the delays that I've experienced just in the last year were caused by the following:
Yonge subway line shut down between Bloor and York Mills because of toxic fumes
Switching problems at Davisville
Bus driver on Express route stopping to get a coffee two minutes into the journey
Escalator maintenance at Finch Station (one of the busiest stations in the system) that started a year ago and still has not been completed
So...what's that about the riders again?
Yeah. That's what I thought.