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5 things the TTC could improve on in 2015

The TTC doesn't do new year's resolutions, but if it did, the list might look something like this. Since taking over in 2011, CEO Andy Byford has embarked on an aggressive modernization and service improvement program, overseeing the arrival of new subway trains, streetcars, and a slew of cosmetic improvements--clearer subway signage, decluttered ticket collector booths, new uniforms--that have, by increments, improved the overall perception of the transit provider.

Despite the enhancements, there are still frustrating issues. Fare technology is improving, but buying a ticket is still needlessly complicated. Short turns are a menace and still no-one can hear the drivers of Bloor-Danforth line trains.

Here are 5 things the TTC could do to improve in 2015.

Cut down on short turns
Nothing irks TTC riders more than the dreaded short turn. Being told to get off a perfectly good streetcar or bus because there's a gap that needs to be filled elsewhere on the system, especially in cold weather, is like being told to clear out of a restaurant mid-meal so someone else can sit down. Adding additional vehicles to the 512 St. Clair and 29 Dufferin route and adjusting timing has paid dividends, but new technology and additional vehicles will be required citywide.

Put Presto readers in every subway station
Right now, for reasons that aren't entirely clear, only 15 of 69 TTC subway stations have a basic Presto card reader capable of deducting a $2.70 fare (balance enquiries and top ups are available only at GO stations, via telephone, or online.) Another 11 subway stops are set to get Presto this year, but if installation as simple as bolting one of the a green plastic boxes to one of the turnstiles, every station should get one while riders wait for the next generation of the fare card to arrive.

Roll out Wi-Fi coverage faster
In a little over a year, BAI Canada has managed to install Wi-Fi facilities in nine downtown stations. Outside the downtown core, however, the subway is still Internet-free. The current timetable calls for full service in the downtown loop plus Spadina by the Pan Am Games, though it would be nice to see more in a shorter space of time, especially as ads on the service promise to make the TTC money. (Unfortunately, fitting Wi-Fi to trains and tunnels isn't within the scope of the current Internet service BAI/TTC contract).

Turn up the volume on the subway speakers
It's astonishing that this continues to be a problem. The speaker volume in many of the older T1 subway cars is so low that announcements from the driver are inaudible over the ambient sound of the car and completely lost among in the sound of a moving train. The solution might be as simple as telling drivers to make service announcements while the train is stationary.

Provide fare education for passengers
Now that the TTC has expanded its credit and debit card offerings, added proof-of-payment to the busy King streetcar line, and started adding additional Presto readers, many longstanding fare rules have changed. For example, failing to grab a transfer and lacking any other proof of payment could potentially result in a $425 fine now that fare inspectors are out in force. A solid, engaging public information drive (something like this, perhaps) would go some way to making the new landscape clearer for users who don't follow transit news.

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Image: Dan...Mr Dan/blogTO Flickr pool.

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