– Vancouverite in Toronto: Getting From A to B

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Beyond Robson

Posted by Jake Tobin Garrett

Forging ahead onward in my quest to distill the differences between Toronto and Vancouver while here on my trip, I move onto a most notable difference, and one that is usually dynamically different in each city: public transportation.

Toronto really has four different types of public transportation. There are the regular busses, but I haven’t taken these much, so can’t really comment. These observations are based on one week of using the system and I’m sure long-term use would bring up other issues.

Street Cars

It seems that most people use the street car system to get around the heart of the city. The tracks almost go everywhere, with some dedicated lanes in the middle that allow the street car to pass traffic that may be stuck.

But, I see a few issues with the street cars, just from taking them a few times:

  • Since they stop in the middle of the street you have to watch out for cars driving by when you exit/enter as many cars just keep driving.
  • Car traffic is often blocked on green lights as the street car stops and people exit/enter.
  • It seems virtually impossible to get a bike on a street car.
  • They are completely inaccessible for people in wheelchairs.

Vancouver’s electric trolley bus system seems comparable to the street car, with the major difference really being (obviously) the lack of tracks. Our system seems a bit more flexible and safe in terms of routes it can take if there is construction and allowing people on/off without being hit by cars.

There are lines that run 24 hours in Toronto though, which is a major point of difference.

Subway

This is where I get truly envious of the public transportation system here. The subway is extensive, fast and very frequent. I have not had to wait long to get a train, no matter what time of day or night. Even during rush hour I could find a seat, whereas in Vancouver the SkyTrain is so crowded during rush hour that it’s almost impossible not to engage in inappropriate touching of some sort. In Toronto, the trains are about a block long, so accommodate many more people; we don’t need trains this long in Vancouver yet, but we do need more than we have now.

GO Train

The GO system is a regional train system that serves the outer suburban areas of Toronto and afar. You can even take it as far as Niagara Falls. It’s pretty affordable (I paid $12.50 for a day pass). GO Trains are kind of like the West Coast Express, if the WCE served regular hours and went far more places. We need this kind of extended train service in Vancouver in order to connect the outer areas to the major city and cut down on people relying on shitty Greyhound service and their vehicles in order to get into the city.

Downsides

Toronto transit is expensive. $2.75 per trip, with a transfer. I bought a week pass for $32.25. A monthly pass costs $109. However, the subway takes you more places than our SkyTrain system.

The system is not intuitive for first time users. The signs are infrequent and sometimes confusing, leaving me wondering where the hell I’m supposed to go, and when. It’s difficult to find a map of the whole transit system in the stations. Waiting for the street car made me really appreciate Vancouver’s system where you can text to find out the next bus times.

Coming from Vancouver’s system of scannable transfers and automated ticket machines, I found Toronto’s system to be pretty annoying. You can buy tokens, which are about the size of a dime and easy to lose. Besides, I’d rather carry around a book of 10 tickets in Vancouver than a small purse of 10 tokens in Toronto. The bus transfers are what Vancouver used to use, where the driver rips off a flimsy strip of paper and hands it to you. And, call me antisocial, but I missed the many automatic ticket machines in Vancouver; in Toronto there are some machines, but there are also ticket people behind booths, which means I would have to, you know, actually talk to someone.

All in all, while Toronto’s system is less ‘modern’ than our own, it serves its function as a way to move the public better, faster, and to more places.

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