From time to time, I must travel to Toronto for my job. Normally things are so hectic that I don’t really get a chance to explore beyond Toronto’s Downtown. Because of scheduling this time around, I had some time during the day to explore the Toronto Transit Commission’s rapid rail network.
One of the things that has always fascinated me is the Scarborough RT. This 6.4km line was built using the same technology as our SkyTrain network in Metro Vancouver. The RT opened in 1985, the same year that SkyTrain officially started operation.
For two systems built using the same technology, during the same time period, they couldn’t be any more different. In Vancouver, the SkyTrain network is operated by computers. In Toronto, the RT is operated by a human in each RT train set. This was due to political reasons. Because the vehicles weren’t designed for operator cabs, space is at a premium in the RT vehicles.
One of the things about TransLink is that it is always working to make sure the transit system is in an excellent state of repair. If you go to any SkyTrain station, or ride in any SkyTrain vehicle, they are all in good shape.
The TTC has not invested in keeping the Scarborough RT in a state of good repair. It has only done the required maintenance to keep the RT from falling apart. The stations have missing ceiling bits, light fixtures are missing coverings, and while the stations are clean, they haven’t aged well.
When I was riding the RT, the announcements were garbled, and it was noisy in the cars. People really love the SkyTrian in Metro Vancouver, but people in Toronto hate the RT. They hate it so much that the City of Toronto is planning on ripping it up, and replacing it with a combination of subway and conventional light rail.
I snapped some pictures of my experience with the Scarborough RT.
While some people get hung-up about transit technology (I used to.) The Scarborough RT experience shows me that great rapid transit service is more about maintenance, frequency, and location than SkyTrian, subway, light rail, or BRT.