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Why no WiFi on the subway?

Toronto regularly makes it onto the lists of the world’s great cities (as in ‘great to live in’). But the world’s safest cities? I doubt that, if by “safe” you mean resilience around the pandemic, in addition to things like personal security, clean air and water, traffic, modern infrastructure, and digital life. But, as often happens, I am wrong. Last week, the Economist Intelligence Unit released its 2021 Safe Cities Index. It ranked 60 cities across 76 safety indicators. Toronto not only finished in the Top 5, it is Number 2, next only to Copenhagen. This got me thinking that maybe Torontonians suffer from a kind of reverse NIMBY, i.e. we think we’re dreadful until we compare ourselves to places we envy, only to discover they’re worse. Like Churchill’s definition of democracy as the worst form of government, except for all the others.

Toronto regularly makes it onto the lists of the world’s great cities (as in ‘great to live in’). But the world’s safest cities? I doubt that, if by “safe” you mean resilience around the pandemic, in addition to things like personal security, clean air and water, traffic, modern infrastructure, and digital life.

But, as often happens, I am wrong. Last week, the Economist Intelligence Unit released its 2021 Safe Cities Index. It ranked 60 cities across 76 safety indicators. Toronto not only finished in the Top 5, it is Number 2, next only to Copenhagen.

This got me thinking that maybe Torontonians suffer from a kind of reverse NIMBY, i.e. we think we’re dreadful until we compare ourselves to places we envy, only to discover they’re worse. Like Churchill’s definition of democracy as the worst form of government, except for all the others.

I was on the subway thinking about this when I looked at my phone near the Bloor-Yonge station and found the little fan icon indicating I have full WiFi. This was odd. Because I can’t get WiFi in the Toronto subway. Nor can you or anyone else, except feebly in big stations like Bloor-Yonge where you have to key in your username and password every time you get to the station. Which I did once long ago. And even there, you can’t get WiFi in the tunnel as your subway car makes its way to the station. You can only get it during that brief one-minute when your car is actually slowing down, stopped or leaving the station. In other words, hardly at all.

But if I were in the subways of New York, Montreal, London, Paris, Boston, Moscow, Tokyo, Sydney, and virtually any other city that has a subway, I could use my phone for calls, emails, streaming, anything when I’m below ground.

Why is Toronto so backwards on this? We lack the know-how? The technology? The regulations?

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