Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fish don't fry in the kitchen, beans don't burn in the grill

It took a whole lot of trying, but we in Toronto will reach the big leagues when our subway fares hit $3 for a single cash fare on January 3. As this demonstrates, we will finally have world-class transit fares. Three dollars seems absurd, but I remember paying 320 yen (about $3.75) when I had the misfortune of switching from one company's subway lines to another in Tokyo and about $3 for single rides in Paris and Vienna. I got to pay 50 cents in Beijing and Shanghai, but as I commented on the linked post, 50 cents to a Beijinger is $4 to a Torontonian.

Still, if people think wine tastes better when told it costs more and if The Phoenician (really it should be The Scottsdalian of Scottsdale, Arizona) charges $6 for a bowl of Froot Loops, maybe the key to all our problems is to make everything really expensive. This is also the prevailing attitude in London, or at least that's the only rationalization I came up with for why all the prices are doubled, in addition to the exchange rate being doubled.

The urge for many is to write an angry post denouncing the poor public transit in Toronto, as though traffic, crowding and imperfect service are uniquely Torontonian qualities. Yes, mass transit is far superior in places like New York, Hong Kong, Paris or Tokyo, but each of those cities has a population roughly equal to that of Ontario, or Canada in the case of Tokyo. With Toronto, appropriate comparisons are with cities like Chicago, Vienna, or Rome. The systems of Berlin and Madrid are far superior for cities of a comparable size. Reading this list, you can amuse yourself with knowledge of the world's lesser-used subway systems like Detroit, Ottawa or Yerevan (still the largest system in all of Armenia).

What does make Toronto's system something of an embarrassing anomaly is that though we look down our noses at supposedly crumbling, underfunded American cities, our various governments have little to no interest in funding the TTC, which is extraordinarily dependent on passengers for its revenue. The transit strike being proposed for November 13 is the latest in a long line of endeavours aiming to convey frustration through abstention. We've seen it with gas, Facebook, the Cleveland Browns, and so on.

The better idea would be what these Redskins fans are planning, or still more constructive, elect politicians with a commitment to funding public transit. That presumes, of course, that you yourself actually care about public transit and don't just emerge every now and then to bash the TTC as a backronym for Take The Car. We do have seven new light rail lines supposedly coming by 2020, but given that the 8 km York University subway extension was approved in 2005 for service in 2015, I might be dead before we complete 120 km of light rail lines.

By the way, if you understood the title and first sentence of this post, you have horrible taste in music. Here is your reward.

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