I wrote earlier on the TTC’s annual Public Forum on Accessibility and on my conversation with Ian Dickson, @TTC Design, on subway line names and signage. Today’s post is on my excellent conversation with the Chief Engineer – Rail Vehicles about the new streetcar’s stop request buttons.
I had looked forward to the new streetcars.
The new streetcar: beware the seats with the sloping floor. Have long legs or wear high heels if choose those seats. Or it's kid time! #TTC— Shireen Jeejeebhoy (@ShireenJ) September 17, 2014
New has always been better with previous vehicle rollouts – except for no longer allowing kids (including adult ones) to look out the front of new subway trains – and so I had assumed that requesting a stop on the new streetcars would be much easier, especially since the driver is now less accessible to riders. I assumed incorrectly. Does no one – at the TTC or in the media—ever assess anything for practical accessibility? Sigh.
The current streetcars have a pull line running along the top of the windows, accessible only to tall people who can stretch across seats or to people who can stand and reach up from their seat right underneath it. Everyone else must ask someone to pull it.
The new streetcars have stop request buttons like the TTC buses. But unlike the buses, they are, well, a little hard to find. On the buses, the buttons are on every pole near priority seats. On the new streetcars . . . Um . . . well, apparently, they’re there.
The problem was that I only looked for them when seated and needed to push the button. They weren’t where I expected them to be; they were on the poles across the aisle or way down the aisle on the same side, not on the poles right where I was sitting on the priority seats. Not good if one has balance problems.
At the TTC Public Forum Marketplace, Greg Ernst, Chief Engineer – Rail Vehicles, listened patiently to my complaint and then pointed to a profile of the new streetcar he was standing next to to indicate where stop request buttons should be. He explained that they were 1.5m apart, alternating on either side of the streetcar. I tried to explain that people sitting on priority seats need a button on the poles they’re sitting right next to. After awhile, it dawned on me that I had assumed incorrectly that these streetcars are tested in real-world conditions for practical accessibility. Every 1.5m sounds great in theory; but when you have to hang onto the pole to stand up and keep hanging on until you exit, a button across from you or on the same side but down a few seats might as well not exist.
Ernst said he would email me the graphic showing the stop request button locations. He did! I’d post it for you to see, but I didn’t receive permission (if I do, I’ll add it). The graphic indicates that there are 17 buttons in total; minimum of one within 1.5m of the centre of any fixed seat; and minimum of one within 1.0m of the centre of each doorway. In that same email, he explained something I hadn’t known:
“Please note that the door request Push Buttons mounted on each set of door panels also serve as Stop Request buttons if the car is in motion or if the doors have not been enabled. Obviously if the car is stopped and the doors enabled, those door panel buttons will actually open the doors for you.”
That’s very helpful to know. For me, that means I can stand up and push the door button while still hanging onto the pole if I need to (like many people, sometimes I can balance on the subway without hanging on, as a way to practice my balance, less so on streetcars, not on buses; other days, no way on any vehicle). Unfortunately, the door button as a stop request still won’t help those who have to wait until the streetcar comes to a full stop before they can stand up to exit.
I want to end this series with noting that all the TTC staff I spoke to were respectful, listened to me, and answered my questions without trying to fob me off. They may not have agreed with me, and I may not have changed minds, but TTC staff didn’t give me lip service like politicians have. And unlike most of the politically-elected TTC Commission, staff showed up in the evening to the Forum. That counts for a lot. I will keep tweeting on this subject and blogging when I can until the TTC becomes accessible to everyone physically, visually, auditorally, stress-wise, and most of all for those of us with brain issues -- cognitively.