Thursday, October 9, 2014



I didn't hurt myself that much when I fell the other day on a subway stair. More embarrassed than wounded when people rushed up to help. After all, it had happened before, in precisely the same spot, and just before I skidded this time, I actually had been thinking about those bruises and scrapes.
I guess I am the kind of Torontonian who urban planners love these days because I may have two cars in the drive but for the last four days, I have taken the subway downtown because years ago you stopped being able to easily move around or even park in the city's core.
On March 1, 2013, I blogged under the headline I FALL FOR YOU, AND YOU, AND YOU about crashing at the foot of the TTC stairs at the south-east corner of University and College. (The new stairs replace an escalator which seems rather stupid in what is really one entrance to a huge hospital complex where many find stairs difficult.)
Since I had walked forward thinking I was at the bottom when I was still one step up,  I thought the TTC could do a better job of  contrasting tile colours so that people could distinguish the last step before the landing/platform. The TTC does not use the same pattern of light and dark strips on steps at every station.
After all, people with poorer vision or using tricky trifocal glasses, which can blur around your feet, could walk forward and fall like I did if the outside edge of the bottom step matches the colour of the landing.
 I emailed my suggestion one evening to the confident new broom sweeping through our transit, Andy Byford, and suggested contrasting colours be used to help in separating levels. (Since most  steps have two colours, it would help most when the outside colour is not a light speckled grey that is the same as the landing.)
I was impressed when he replied within two hours and sent me a report from a committee 10 days later which stressed markings on the railings.  It didn't agree with me but at least a giant transit company had looked into the complaint/suggestion and indicated a concern. I would suggest that all Byford and senior staff have to do is to go down to the subway station under headquarters with different patterns have been used on the stairs. When the darker colour is at the step edge, there is more contrast.
My eye specialist insists I have reasonable vision and good glasses for an old fart, so if I'm having difficulty and falling twice at exactly the same spot when I'm not rushing and being careful, there is a good chance it's just not me.
As someone who covered transit for years in this city, so much so that the TTC once tried to hire me and on another occasion asked Mike Filey and me to write its official history, I have been impressed by the maturation of the system and the efficiencies brought by Byford and his key appointments.
It's not all perfect, but I doubt it can be when you're trying to move hundreds of millions in reasonable time without them having to pay a fortune in fares.
It's remarkable how much is being done now in keeping the rider informed even when the train just has to slow because of maintenance. Unfortunately, in my last 12 subway trips, I just couldn't' understand what was being announced despite the repetitions on at least four occasions.  Since different phrases would make it through with each repetition, it was almost a game to piece together what was happening. A muddled crossword puzzle of sound!
I realize that as a veteran columnist, I am supposed to view with alarm all changes in this modern city, and there certainly is a lot of fodder in the decline of our roads and services, but the TTC is better these days, folks, even if it has turned me into a Humpty Dumpty.


According to the New York Times on Nov. 2, nearly 24,000 Americans over 65 died in 2012 from falls.  That's almost double the number who died a decade before. Indeed, from 2002 to 2012, more than 200,000 in the U.S. died from falls, making such accidents the leading cause of death for the age group.
Since ER records show that more than 2.4 million Americans also were treated for injuries from falls, a figure which has also doubled in a decade, the simple fall on steps, whether in the home or the subway, is a major health problem, and not just south of the border.
I notice the new subway steps at Union Station are different from the normal subway steps. Why the change? Is it because the steps in most stations have been found wanting?
I will continue to research, which I hope does not include falling for the third time exactly in the same spot.

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