The Better Way?

Pity the Toronto Transit Commission.  The TTC has very dedicated managers and administrators, and the front-line staff of drivers, fare collectors and maintenance people do an incredible job with very limited resources.

I found this out first-hand during a trip downtown today.  I had a choice: I could take public transit to my downtown destination, or make the drive and fight rush-hour traffic all the way home.  I chose transit.

With my trusty Presto Card in my pocket, I started out from the Richmond Hill bus terminal on a Viva Blue bus to the Finch subway station.  The Viva buses are marvellous; sleek, spotless and comfortable.  The drivers do not have to deal with fares at all. Tickets are purchased at machines at major intersections, and these same machines allow you to tap your Presto Card to pay your fare.  Unless you’re trying to tap your Green Machine card instead of the similarly coloured Presto Card on the payment device, the system works very well.

Once on the subway, I thought I’d seen the last of the traffic. Unfortunately, the TTC is a victim of its own success.  Overburdened, under priced and under invested, any time there is a problem at a single station on the Yonge line, it affects every train on the line.  There is no relief line, having been axed by numerous municipal and provincial administrations over the years.  Yes, there is a new subway extension from Downsview to York University. Yes, we have fabulous new subway trains with new streetcars just around the corner. But the problems that the TTC faces today were created years ago because investment was halted in new subways and improved bus service.  Today, a problem at the Queen’s Park station delayed the entire line. Once that cleared, another problem on the University line delayed service further.

A trip that should have taken less than an hour took an hour and 20 minutes. The return trip wasn’t much better.  I took a Queen street car from Sumach Street to Yonge Street, then north on the Yonge line.  The train I boarded was taken out of service at Eglinton Avenue.  By the time I disembarked from the 91A Bayview Avenue bus near my destination, a total of two hours and 50 minutes had elapsed.

The upside is, I didn’t have to drive.  I took a few minutes to read, people watch, and stand after giving my seat up twice to people who needed it more than I did. It could be that I might have been stuck in traffic just as long, unnecessarily burning hydrocarbons and my fuse with the gridlock that drivers meet twice per day on their commute.

But, we’ll see. I have to make the same trip again on Wednesday, and this time, I’m going to take my car.

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