Subway Sounds

Toronto's new Bombardier subway

When Torontonians found out about the new fleet of Subways that would be rolling out in the city, there was generally a sigh of relief heard across the GTA.

Sure, the new subways were a long way off – the city’s deal with Bombardier was penned in 2006 and the new “rockets” weren’t expected until 2011. And sure, the fresh infrastructure came with a hefty and controversial price tag – the Toronto Transit Commission agreed to shell out a whopping $548 million, possibly before more affordable avenues were explored. But the new designs were sleek, practical, and generally a welcomed improvement on the aged and crusty subways this city had come to cope with.

With five years to anticipate the arrival of the latest, greatest, priciest subway cars, the fine people of Toronto came to expect excellence! Yet months after the July 2011 debut of the new beauts, even the most frequent commuters have seldom set foot in the trains. That’s right, they’re still cramming themselves into the sardine cans that came before. How’s that for anti-climactic?

What will often happen at rush hour is this. A person will wait for several over-stuffed trains to pass, always hoping the next one will have just enough space for his or her body at least. Finally, a subway will come rolling up, honking its horn and instilling hope in the waiting commuter. There appears to be space on this one, and not just a little bit. The commuter gets hopeful that he or she might actually get a seat. Perhaps this is the morning to read on the subway, or catch that last 20 minutes of sleep. Then, as quickly as it came, the subway will race out the other end of the station leaving nothing but dust and broken hearts. What a tease.

It’s probably for the best though. For anyone who manages to get onto one of the ever-elusive new cars at rush hour, there’s an unpleasant surprising waiting. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’ve never been on the train at a truly busy time. It’s quite nice when there’s light to normal traffic flow. The seats are comfy and probably not too soiled yet, the electronic transit map is pretty neat, and the lady announcing the stops has a very soothing voice. Not to mention the partition-free design adds ease for panhandlers and flash-mobbers.

There’s a different vibe at rush hour altogether though. As soon as people start reaching for the overhead handlebars, beware! Once they are moved from their neutral positions, they let out merciless squeals that will have you blasting your ipod, shoving your fingers in your ears, or even listening to that co-worker you got stuck sitting next to on the way to work! Yes, you’ll do anything to avoid hearing the wretched sound of dolphins squeaking mixed with nails on a chalkboard. I daresay the sound matches the horrid screeches made by the Scarborough Light Rail cars. I know, it’s unthinkable.

The first time I heard this horrendous noise, I looked around to gauge the reactions of those around me. One woman was smirking and I don’t doubt she was thinking the same thing as me, “$548 million didn’t cover the cost of the oil for those handlebars?”

Perhaps the TTC should have shopped around a bit more after all. But considering what’s done is done, may I recommend an investment in some WD-40?

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