Posts Tagged: Ice Storm



Toronto Downsizes Streetcar Fleet Due to Winter Storms

Toronto Ice Storm.

In my neighbourhood. Creative Commons image by flickr user Bad Alley.

Over the holidays, a particularly nasty ice storm wreaked havoc in my hometown of Toronto (and much of the surrounding area for that matter). The storm was so bad it left hundreds of thousands of people without power over Christmas. The problem was then compounded by several wicked cold snaps that saw the mercury plunge into the minus 20’s celsius on several occasions.

Like the transit nerds that we are, we couldn’t help but note the fact that the city had to downsize its fleet of streetcars to cope with the frigid temperatures. According to the linked article, the city’s (admittedly very old) streetcar fleet cannot cope with temperatures that cold. Which is interesting because to people in the Great Lakes, winter weather such as this is nothing unfamiliar. Minus 20 (30 with the wind chill) is par for the course.

And as any Torontonian knows: There is nothing worse than waiting for a streetcar in a frigid winter storm — because in all likelihood it just won’t ever come.

Astute readers will immediately point out that — obviously — such a problem wouldn’t happen with a gondola or cable transit system. But hold on there, tiger, because that’s not the point. We’re not braggarts and we’re not about to say to Toronto “hey, Toronto, why don’t you just replace all of your streetcars with gondolas.” That would be ridiculous. That would be illogical. And that would smack of techno-zealotry — a character flaw we try very hard to avoid. 

The point instead is this: When you choose to use winter weather as an argument against cable cars (as a surprising number of people do), understand first that an urban gondola or cable car is basically a souped-up ski lift. And you know what works really well in really bad winter weather? Ski lifts.

And you know what doesn’t work really well in really bad winter weather? Streetcars in Toronto. Yet people rarely ever take the time to realize that.

It’s a strange paradox that has less to do with transit and more to do with people in general. People will almost always hold the unfamiliar to an irrationally higher standard than that which they’re (un)comfortably accustomed to.

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