For anyone who lives in Toronto and takes the subway fairly regularly, you may have noticed the posters discussing the potential negative outcomes of privatizing Toronto public transit and using Vancouver, Melbourne and London and examples of why not to privatize public transit in Toronto. You can read the full story in the Toronto Sun article entitled ‘Keep TTC public‘ about the 1/2 million dollar campaign by the TTC to make people aware of why the TTC shouldn’t be privatized.
Well now, it’s time for my rant…
Having moved to Toronto nearly four years ago, I can truly say that the TTC is the worst public transit system I have dealt with. The ticket prices are astronomical (the price of a monthly pass is double that of Boston’s for example), the staff is extremely overpaid, rude and generally quite lazy, and the coverage for a city of Toronto’s size is abysmal. On top of this, the subway stations are generally dirty and all of the subways and streetcars are old and regularly broken. The fact that there has been so many problems trying to get the light rail projects off the ground highlight the TTC’s inefficiencies.
What I find most insulting is the fact that they bring up Melbourne’s public transit system as an example of why privatization does not work. Most people in Toronto have not likely lived in Melbourne nor have they visited it. Having lived in Melbourne back in 2006, I can set the record straight that Melbourne’s public transit system is a huge step up from Toronto’s. The coverage of the transit system is incredible (whereas Toronto has 3 subway lines, Melbourne has more than a dozen). The prices are reasonable and the trains, trams and buses are both efficient and clean.
So what can I conclude from all this? Well if Melbourne really is an example of what happens when you privatize a public transit system, then I believe Toronto’s TTC should be privatized as soon as possible. So thank you Toronto Transit Commission for helping me realize what the right thing truly is to do, but at least we’re not in Memphis Homes,
Residents of any place have often been notorious for being a bit anti-tourist. Anyone who has ever lived anywhere for a certain number of years has at one time or another scoffed at tourists taking pictures of the most random sights. Yet, as much as we hate to admit it, tourists are a big part of a successful city. Infrastructure, attractions and museums need to be present to support these people. As well, cities may end up with certain characteristics that outsiders may often identify it with. For better or for worse, Los Angeles is a city of movie stars, London is very proper and full of castles, and Rio de Janeiro is an all day/all night party. Do these characteristics tell the whole story or even a bit of a story? Not likely but they do often help lure the tourist dollars into the city.
Victoria, British Columbia is a strange case. Located on Vancouver Island in Western Canada, Victoria has been tagged as a little piece of Britain in Canada. And I can tell you from being there that the locals hate it. And even from an outsider’s perspective, I can see why. It is continuously used as a representation of the city when in fact many of the ‘Britishness’ of the city is for the tourists only.
What’s more is that Victoria has been closing various attractions to the delight of the locals. Several attractions have closed in the last decade, most prominently, the Crystal Garden, an indoor garden featuring a large number of birds. More recently, the Royal London Wax Museum has opted to move away from Victoria due to the inability to secure a long term lease on their current address. And how do the locals feel about all of this? They are strangely happy about it. While the wax museum may not be high on class, it does offer a destination for the entire family. The next attraction under siege in the Undersea Gardens, Victoria’s own aquarium. Although undersized, it once again provides a welcome attraction for touring families.
Victoria is a beautiful destination with a large number of fantastic sights. Yet, a city needs to support a variety of tourist needs. Sometimes, locals of tourist destinations need to understand that tourism and tourists help the city give it another dimension. So go out there and hug a tourist. And remember, your city is the world’s to share. So support whatever wrong notion others may have about your city.