TTC to fix dangerous platform gaps
Passengers with mobility devices can get caught in them
The TTC is planning to make modifications to almost all of its subway stations in order to make train platforms safer for passengers with mobility issues.
According to a report going before the transit agency’s board on Monday, 62 of the network’s 69 stations likely require retrofits to narrow the gaps between trains and platforms.
Large spaces between trains and platform edges, or vertical misalignments between the vehicle floor and the platform surface, pose a potential hazard for riders using mobility devices or strollers, as well as those with impaired vision.
The Advisory Committee on Accessible Transit (ACAT) has warned the TTC that passengers can get the wheels of mobility devices caught in the gaps, “causing panic, unnecessary wear/damage…and system delays which ultimately undermine confidence that the subway is truly accessible.”
In an interview, ACAT chair Debbie Gillespie called the planned retrofits a “godsend.”
The size of the gaps varies from station to station, and even from different locations on the same platform. That kind of variation in the physical environment can cause stress and pose safety hazards for people with accessibility challenges.
“The biggest thing is not knowing,” said Gillespie, who is visually impaired.
“Consistency is key when you talk about accessibility.”
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) doesn’t set acceptable gap sizes for public transit agencies, but after consulting with ACAT, TTC staff are recommending a standard of 89 mm or less for the horizontal gaps between trains and platforms, and 38 mm for the difference between the height of the train floor and the platform.
Jim Ross, deputy chief operating officers for the TTC, said there are multiple reasons why the agency is planning the retrofits.
The AODA has mandated that the transit network be fully accessible by 2025, and the TTC has already started the process of shifting some Wheel-trans customers onto its conventional system as part of what it calls its Family of Services model. In eight years, half of the customers who currently qualify for Wheel-trans are expected to use the conventional transit network.
On top of the legal and policy reasons, Ross said, “it’s just the right thing to do.”
The TTC used a train-mounted laser system called LIDAR (light detection and ranging) to measure the gaps at all its stations over several months, and determined 81 per cent of the portion of the platforms that lines up with trains when they’re stopped already meets the proposed standards.
However, to ensure that at least 90 per cent of the platform length at every station meets the standard, retrofits will be required at almost all stops. Some of the work will be minor, while in other cases more extensive reconstructions could be required.
Options to address the gaps include using rubber gap fillers and building ramps. The TTC has already built a ramp at one end of Eglinton station, where the platform was constructed unusually low. The agency also lowered its entire fleet of new Toronto Rocket trains after it discovered they were too high.
The report asks the TTC board to endorse the new gap standards, and to carry out further study to design a platform retrofitting plan.
Debbie Gillespie, who heads the TTC’S Advisory Committee on Accessible Transit, with her guide dog Crete at The York Mills subway.