Transit accessibility differences

Hi folks…

I have lived in two different cities in the past 9 years. Toronto from August 2008, and recently moved back to Vancouver.  Regarding accessibility on transit, let me compare the many differences.

First, I’ll detail general similarities: both cities have an extensive network of bus, streetcar, subway and train routes.  Several general differences are: Vancouver has trolley buses with electric wires overhead, Toronto has streetcars that ride on train tracks.  Vancouver’s commuter train system is a rush hour line that runs five trains west bound in the morning, into downtown Vancouver, and then five trains going east bound in the evening, back to the suburbs.  There are no other trains, its called the West Coast Express.  Toronto’s commuter line is extensive, runs all covering the whole region, all day, from early morning until late at night, seven days a week.  Vancouver’s “subway” is actually a driver-less computer-driven high tech system that has four lines, and its mostly above ground, its called Skytrain.  Toronto’s subway is huge and getting bigger, but for now there is one long east to west line, a north to south then back north line, a spur line from Sheppard station to Don Mills station.  There are a few extension projects happening in Toronto.  As well, Vancouver has a SeaBus, which connects North Vancouver to Downtown Vancouver.

Accessibility similarities…

Both cities accept blind or partially sighted people can ride transit for free.  Torontians needs to get a new card every January.  Vancouverites have their cards for five years.

Both cities have door to door service for individuals with severe disabilities.

Toronto has an Assistant rider card that a disabled person can fill out which allows an assistant to the disabled person to ride free.  This was a great tool for myself, if my wife and I traveled together, neither would pay, because of my CNIB card an my Assistant card.  And, wait there is more, two years ago, Toronto started new program, all children under 12 can ride free on transit!  So, if I brought my wife and two sons to an appointment, we would all be going along free!  Groovy!

For bus riding, both cities all have low floor buses.

In Toronto, people with walkers are expected to lift their walker up to get on the bus, which is kneeling, a little lower. In Vancouver, it is common for the driver to lower his ramp for walkers as well as wheelchairs.

In Toronto drivers rarely stop passengers from getting on bus if a walker or wheelchair is getting off.  In Vancouver, drivers will stop people from boarding: “Stop!” hand gesture! Most people respond to that.

All buses have a next stop indicator, which announce the next bus in voice as well as text visible at the front of the bus, or streetcar.  Toronto is top notch, very big, clear, I can be seated and still read it.  Vancouver is a poor grade, it is small and hard to see, I have to stand directly underneath to read what it says.

Vancouver’s skytrains have train alerts as trains can go different routes.  Some are very old and hard to see.  More on this later.  Toronto next train alerts are cluttered at the bottom of a news block.

All Toronto buses have Blue Lights on top by the bus number, sort of like two blue eyes.  Making it much easier to know the bus is coming.  Vancouver has no such blue lights.

All GO trains have a wheelchair accessible car that stops at a wheelchair accessible platform and an attendant will put a “bridge” from train to platform on all accessible stops.  This is done regardless if there is a wheelchair or walker user on platform or wishing to get off the train.  In Vancouver, you need to ask them to put the bridge down!

Vancouver bus and skytrain riders are hardwired to offer their seats to blind, guide dog users, people with walkers and wheelchair users.  Its almost automatic, like night follow day.  If a crowed bus arrives, people move back to make room, to open up that seat for the disabled person.  The driver does most of the shouting: “Blind person, priority!” or something like that.  In Toronto, the driver may or may not shout that, but mostly passengers stay glued to their seats.

That is all I can think of at this time…

If you see a mistake or want to add info, please leave a comment.

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