Toronto Mayor John Tory took a steamy ride on a non-air conditioned subway car with a disgruntled transit user Wednesday morning following a challenge on social media and promised the commuter experience will be improved by next summer.
“I think to come today was to draw attention to the fact both that there is still a problem, and that we are taking steps to address it for the next hot season so this won’t happen again,” Tory told reporters outside Kipling Station.
Toronto resident Bianca Spence issued a challenge to the mayor on Twitter in July to ride with her to experience what many transit users go through each day when the air conditioning unit isn’t functioning on the older subway cars during the summer months.
“It was super hot. We got trapped in the tunnel. It’s as bad as I’ve seen it before,” Spence said. “It was very crowded, standing room only. A lot of people looked wilted and fanning themselves.”
Tory said the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) is continuously working to repair the faulty air conditioning units but there’s no easy solution until new subway cars are put into service.
Officials say 15 to 20 per cent of the subway trains in operation don’t have functioning units.
“The air conditioning is going to be best resolved by having the new Rocket trains on the Bloor-Danforth line,” Tory explained.
“We put a few of the cars on there, but you don’t hear any complaints by and large on the Yonge-University subway line about the air conditioning because the new cars have two units per car. They’re more effective because they’re newer and not as likely to break down.”
Current TTC estimates indicate the new subways cars won’t be in service on Line 2 for around 10 years barring an influx of cash from the upper levels of government.
“The faster that we can get to the stage where we have the government funding together with our contribution to buy Rocket trains for the Bloor-Danforth line, the better,” Tory said.
In the meantime, Spence hopes her actions continue to spark a debate on the importance of keeping transit issues on the forefront.
“I would like to think that maybe we’ll have more people in the conversation, to ask some hard questions and make some really informed demands of the TTC, the TTC board and of city council in general,” Spence said.
“I’d like to think any citizens can get the mayor’s attention. Getting the mayor’s attention shouldn’t be something unusual. If it’s a big enough issue and affects enough of the citizens, you should be able to get the mayor’s ears.”