Passing a Stopped Streetcar

With the recent story about the TTC streetcar operator lecturing Rob Ford on the rules of the road regarding stopped streetcars, I thought I would post the correct information about what the rules really are.

First off, here is the exact words from section 166, subsection 1 of the Highway Traffic Act:

166.  (1)  Where a person in charge of a vehicle or on a bicycle or on horseback or leading a horse on a highway overtakes a street car or a car of an electric railway, operated in or near the centre of the roadway, which is stationary for the purpose of taking on or discharging passengers, he or she shall not pass the car or approach nearer than 2 metres measured back from the rear or front entrance or exit, as the case may be, of the car on the side on which passengers are getting on or off until the passengers have got on or got safely to the side of the street, as the case may be, but this subsection does not apply where a safety zone has been set aside and designated by a by-law passed under section 9, 10 or 11 of the Municipal Act, 2001 or under section 7 or 8 of the City of Toronto Act, 2006, as the case may be.  2006, c. 32, Sched. C, s. 24 (6).

What all this means is that one must stop two metres behind the rear-most open door when a streetcar is stopped to take on or discharge passengers. Also, if a door closes behind a passenger leaving the streetcar, you cannot pass until they are completely off the road.

It also means that this applies to all those operating a motor vehicle, as well as those on a bicycle, riding on a horse, or walking a horse. I suppose if you were on a bicycle and dismounted to walk it past the streetcar you would be fine - just don’t do the same if you are on a horse!

The major exception to this is when there is an island or platform for people to board from or leave to. There is also a grey area regarding a streetcar that stops and opens its doors but not for the purpose of taking on or discharging passengers. I suppose that a short turning streetcar that waits on a side street before re-entering service would be such a situation if the operator were to open the doors.

The bottom line is that Rob Ford was not in the wrong if he passed the closed rear doors and came to a stop two metres behind the open front doors.

Bob Kinnear, president of Local 113 Amalgamated Transit Union, said, “Even if the front door’s open, you’re not to pass the rear doors. Because the rear doors are active. What I mean by that is any passenger, at any time, can step down onto the steps and exit the streetcar.” That is all well and good, but that is not what the law says. You’re also not “supposed to” park in parking space designated for families with children unless you are, but you won’t be ticketed for it.

The law really should be changed because the current law leaves too much interpretation that creates potentially unsafe situations. In the state of Victoria in Australia, the laws are clear: one must not pass beyond the rear bumper of a streetcar (tram) when its lights are flashing. Trams are equipped with yellow lights that flash similar to school bus lights here.

Of course, when our new streetcars hit the streets, all door loading will likely mean that most of the time all doors will open and close together, making the rear door on the streetcar the one that matters.

2 Responses to “Passing a Stopped Streetcar”

  1. W. K. Lis Says:

    It needs to be updated to include streetcars, light rail vehicles, bus (that is not at the curb), people on roller blades or roller skates, skateboards, scooters, e-bikes, wheelchairs (powered or unpowered), and joggers, all should stop behind the rear-bumper of the transit vehicle stopped at or near the middle of the street for taking on or discharging passengers, where there is no island or safety zone.

    Cal’s comment: For the vehicle that stopping is required for, the act covers streetcars and light rail vehicles already. I believe that “a car of an electric railway” covers an LRV. I would suggest that including bus is unnecessary as transit agencies that I am aware of have operating rules that (are supposed to) prohibit the opening of doors when the vehicle is not in the curb lane. If you have ever tried to make a connection when a bus has closed its doors and partially moved back into traffic, you would know about this rule (though, some operators may bend it a bit). As for median BRT lanes, buses will only be using dedicated platforms that are the exception to the existing law, thus making their inclusion in the law irrelevant.

    As for those needing to make the stop, I more or less agree with your suggestions. I have the tendency to exclude joggers from that list because someone on foot has the ability to side-step easily, but I have a personal issue with the solipsistic nature of most people that suggests they can’t make the needed adjustments to their trajectory. I am wondering if the wording about riding a horse or leading a horse should be made more generic. After all, we don’t want someone on a donkey or a camel to run people down! (I couldn’t resist that.)

  2. Tom West Says:

    I disagree with your conclusion:
    “Where a person in charge of a vehicle… overtakes a street car … which is stationary for the purpose of taking on or discharging passengers, he or she shall not pass the car or approach nearer than 2 metres measured back from the rear or front entrance or exit”
    That says to me you can’t come nearer than 2m to the rear doors if either the front or rear doors are open. (Which makes sense - the rear doors may open after the front doors).

    Cal’s comment: It is not my conclusion. The words you cut out immediately after what you quoted is the key: “as the case may be”. While I will admit this sounds a little vague, the wording means which ever door is the rear-most open.

    It is true that the rear doors may open at any time when the front doors are open. This is why I believe the law should be changed to eliminate the decision that is left up to drivers. Doors that are not at the front of a bus or a streetcar generally have two modes of operation: held open, and treadle. The first is clear: the doors are held open, and one will see this at a subway station where the bus or streetcar is in a fare paid area. The other mode is “treadle” which means that the tread (step), or the crash bar on some newer buses, is activated when the front doors are open. There is a mechanism to totally disable rear doors, but this is not usually not done from the operator’s position.