Posts Tagged: Subway



Christmas Subway in Toronto – Passengers Sing Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer

Since Christmas is now less than 2 weeks away, it’s only appropriate if we have some yuletide content on this blog. And thanks to the video sent in by one of our readers, we found some holiday spirit in one of the most unexpected places in the world: Toronto’s subway.

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Sunday Statshot with Nick Chu: Public Transit and Sexual Harassment (Groping)


The unintended ramifications of a lonely male sitting by himself at the back of a bus.

A quick look at some of the things that may make the disturbing realities/perceptions of sexual harassment on public transit a serious roadblock to encouraging more transit ridership (or not):

Percentage of women in UK who felt unsafe riding public transit: 12.5%

Percentage of women who sometimes or frequently feel threat of sexual assault and/or harassment on New York subway: 51%

Percentage of women groped on New York subways: 63%

Percentage of women sexually assaulted on New York subways: 10%

Year of the lewd behaviour subway police squad: 1983

Result: Men falsely arrested and squad relinquished

Number of groping incidents on Boston transit system in 2007: 17

Year anti-groping campaign launched: 2007

Number of groping incidents the next year: 38

Transit stops most feared in US: Empty bus stops and train stations

Transit stops most feared in Taiwan: Crowded buses and subways

The percentage capacity of Japanese trains during rush hour: 160

Percentage of Tokyo teenagers groped while riding trains: 70%

Solution to groping in Japan: Women only passenger cars

First female-only train carriage: 1954

Results: Insignificant decrease in sexual harassment cases

Potential unintended consequence of female-only cabins: Targeted assaults

Mexico’s answer to transit perverts: Pink taxis

New York’s answer to transit perverts – not to mention the overall best way to combat sexual harassment on transit: Rage +  Cell Phone Camera

While this post is an admittedly superficial look at sexual harassment on transit, it is a serious concern and can undoubtedly act as a barrier to encouraging further transit usage. From my experience, it is one of the most common complaints from female passengers. So the question is, aside from full on confrontation with the perpetrator, are there any solutions to curb this type of behaviour? And could gondola transit help combat this problem or will gondola cabins aggravate this problem?

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The Metro Inspiro: A Subway By BMW

The Metro Inspiro by Siemens.

The Siemens Metro Inspiro. Designed by BMW.

Most of us can’t afford to drive a BMW everyday to work.

But what if you could ride a BMW everyday?

The Siemens Group recently commissioned BMW’s subsidiary Designworks USA to design a new kind of subway train.

Dubbed the Metro Inspiro, it is a train the likes of which you’ve never seen: Cork floors, adaptive lighting, custom seat trims, door-lit graphics, electronic scheduling iconography and the so-called Light-Tree handrail system all make this one of the most innovative transit vehicles ever designed.

Siemens is taking a big bet that this may be the way of the future in transit and so far they’ve been proven right. The City of Warsaw, Poland has already ordered 35 Inspiros to a total value of 270 million Euros.

While the other features may be nothing more than frill (more on that later), the Light-Tree handrail solves a problem that all subways have, but no one’s taken the time to tackle. People come in a variety of shapes, sizes and heights, yet all subway trains tend to assume otherwise and force riders all to grip onto the same bars and pipes which are oftentimes inaccessible due to crowding.

Instead, the Light-Tree borrows a page from nature and mimics the fractal trunk-and-branch structure of actual trees. In this way, handrails are easily accessible to everyone at whatever level is most comfortable for them.

Interior of the Metro Inspiro. Note the carefully designed Light-Tree handrails.

It’s such a remarkably simple idea: Design for humans and riders. Not engineers.

In the past I’ve argued that transit Form is equally important as transit Function – if not more so. That is, Function is no longer enough. Transit is losing the war to cars at least in part because cars provide a more pleasurable experience than transit. In the future, it’s form, design and an attention to the needs of the rider that will separate the transit winners from the transit losers.

A subway train that makes a man or woman feel dignity, class and wealth has a clear psychological advantage over trains that make one feel lowly, plain and poor. That psychological advantage, one can reasonably assume, should translate into increased ridership.

10 year old Ford Fiesta or a brand new BMW train?

Maybe it’s unbecoming of a planner to say this, but base psychological issues are at the core of how people behave. To ignore the psychology of people invalidates a planners’ models and makes them irrelevant. When we accept the assumption that people are more likely to ride something that makes them feel good, we can begin to tackle the bigger issue of how to get people to stop driving and take transit instead.

When one looks at the Inspiro, one has an immediate I want to ride that now! reaction. Those reactions are rare in transit, but important.

If it takes a BMW to get people to ride transit, I’m all for it.

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The Trouble With Ford’s Plan

As any Torontonian knows, Toronto’s transit plans are seriously in flux. After what seems like an eternity of planning a network of Light Rail lines, new mayor Rob Ford has decided to unilaterally nix that idea and build a new subway under the auspice that the “war on the car is over.”

Yet amidst all the hand-wringing, protesting and name-calling, no one seems to have actually scrutinized Ford’s plan. Which is good for Ford because his plan doesn’t look good.

Arguably, the single most important purpose of transit is to get people from where they live to where they work in the most efficient way possible. Connect lots of people to lots of jobs, and there’s a pretty good chance you’re doing your job right.

By that measure, Ford’s plan makes little sense:

The Toronto Subway network - simplified.

The above is a very simplified portrait of Toronto’s subway network. A few features for those not from Toronto:

  • The eastern half (right side) of the yellow line is the Yonge line. It’s either at capacity or over it – depending upon whom you asked.
  • The station that allows transfers between the Yonge line and the green Bloor-Danforth line is overcapacity.
  • The purple (Sheppard) subway line has only 5 stations and is underutilized since it opened in the early part of 2000’s. The system is so poorly used, there has been talk of shuttering it to save cost.

Rob Ford’s plan is this:

Rob Ford's plan to extend the purple Sheppard subway line.

So Ford’s plan amounts to extending a subway line that no one uses into an area where there aren’t many jobs and not that many people (relative to the rest of the city):

Population Density of Toronto - Source: Statistics Canada.

Worker Density in Toronto - Source: Statistics Canada

Overlay the two maps together and you get an even clearer picture of the problem:

Overlay: Population Density and Worker Density in Toronto

Essentially the Ford plan moves suburbanites from one mall (Scarborough Town Centre) to another mall (Fairview / Don Mills). Given that it’s Christmas season, I can see the appeal of that, but after the gifts have been unwrapped and the credit card bills have (hopefully) been paid, whose going to use this line? Doesn’t every mall offer basically the same thing anyways?

Oh, and it will only cost three-and-a-half billion to do it.

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