This afternoon I rode Toronto’s new streetcar for the first time on my way home from Chinatown. I had been meaning to do it for weeks now, but this was my first opportunity.
The experience was infinitely better than what you get today on our current streetcars. I felt like I was in a new city. The proof-of-payment system makes onboarding much faster and the 4 loading doors means you just get on the train where there’s the most room – instead of getting on at the front and fighting your way to the back.
The other thing I liked is that they now have a map of our streetcar network within the train (see above image). Toronto never used to do this. For whatever reason, we didn’t like mixing subway lines with streetcar lines on the same map.
But why be so pedantic?
For one thing, our subway map looks pathetic without these additional streetcar lines on it. So for the sake of Torontonian morale, please fill it up with what you can.
But the other reason why I think it’s important to include them is that we shouldn’t be thinking about our cities just in terms of specific technologies (subway, streetcar, and so on). Our cities are now multi-modal. Which means we navigate them using many different means, from subways and streetcars to bikes and Uber cars. What people care about is getting from A to B in the most efficient and enjoyable way possible.
This may seem like a subtle distinction, but it’s an important one. And maybe, just maybe, these new maps will serve as an important reminder to us that there’s a lot of fixed rail in this city and that it could be far better optimized if we just tried a little harder.