What better use for a beautiful day than a light rail commute? Well, I can think of a few things, mostly everything, but off I went anyways with my Skedline peers in a race across Toronto to the Scarborough Town Centre. Up against Ustad’s car and Ore’s subway train, I knew there was little chance I would win, but I can say I got my fair share of vitamin D threw the streetcar and bus windows! Knock it but I’d take above ground commuting versus dark, scary tunnel commuting any day.
[501 Street Car]
Out the front door here at campus I made my way to the Lakeshore West 501 streetcar stop. 25 minutes and 32 seconds and finally a streetcar arrived. Granted, there had been one when I was walking up, but why run when you can wait?
On the streetcar I met a lovely lady who commuted with her son and husband. Her son, adorable at a year and a half, watched our conversation from his stroller.
“I commute three times a week for walks and doctor’s appointments. It’s pretty easy except during rush hour,” she said. “I can’t fit [the stroller], he’s always with me, so I have to wait for the next one or one I can fit on.”
36 minutes and 40 seconds into the trip and Toronto Transit was already failing to meet expectations.
When the one hour mark came around I had only traveled as East as Spadina Avenue. Sitting for that long works up an appetite. After an apple imagine my surprise when I realised there were no garbage cans on the streetcar! There should be garbage cans on the street car! Que souring of mood as I travel on holding my continually browning apple core…
Not a long time later my streetcar stopped and changed drivers. While they were switching a man in a conductor’s type hat jumped on and yelled that the car would not be going to Roncesvalles Avenue. I asked him why and he wouldn’t give me specifics. Instead I asked how to get to the Scarborough Town Centre a different way. They told me to get off and go wait for a bus over there…I’m 108 minutes in.
The street turned out to be Coxwell and the bus was a detour bus. On the bus most people seemed unhappy. Two people refused to comment, and then I met 24 year old daily commuter Jesse, who expressed her discontent.
“Transit is always slow,” Jesse said. “And it’s always dirty.”
I reach the subway, looks like this is the only way to get to the centre coming from Humber Lakeshore. I’m immensley grateful that the signs are easy to read and I can find my way without my earlier directions from Google Maps.
[Transit Line Map]
The subway smelled like rotten cheese and sweat but was the least busy I had ever seen in. The train arrived quickly. I got lucky when a TTC driver named Eric sat in front of me and shared his thoughts on the system.
[Eric the TTC Driver before getting on the subway.]
“[Transit’s] not perfect but we make due. If the Federal and Provincial government finally coughed up the funding I think the system would improve. 78 per cent of operating cost comes out of the fare box, the other 22 per cent is the city of Toronto. [Federal and Provincial], they’re kicking in money for extensions but operating costs?” Eric shook his head and sighed. “No. Serviced would improve if they did.”
[Provided by Torontoist.com]
Eric looked just as frusterated as most of the commuters I had met that day. So I asked him if he had any stories of clashing with TTC customers. It must be hard on both sides.
“I had a guy punch me in the face once,” Eric laughed. “He didn’t want to pay a fare so I told him to take a hike. Most people are pretty good, [but] there is that one per cent.”
I landed at Kennedy Station and headed up the stairs to find the SRT. I went around the station twice before I found a sign that told me it was up higher than the surface. The only entrance I could find was an elevator, for all the fellow readers who fear elevators, I hope you have better luck finding the stairs than I did.
The SRT train came quickly enough, a lack of signs again meant I had to jump on and hope it couldn’t go in a direction other than toward the Scarborough Town Centre. It was an awfully noisey ride.
I stride through the doors of the centre and head out to the food courts to find Ustead and Ore. All in all I traveled two and a half hours, doubling the other two race times. My conclusion? Our transit is a mess, and it’s time to get a car.