Life: Public Transit

by Alyona Kuzsnyetsova

Published March 2005. Current TTC fares are higher. For more TTC info visit their website at http://www3.ttc.ca .

During my first winter weeks here I travelled around GTA a lot searching for a job. My friends made sure that I asked for a TTC Ride Guide at the closest subway station and investigated the routes.

But it was not until later that I found out that there exists a transit information line (the number is on the guide, multilingual if you press 7). They tell you numbers of buses and street-cars you need, operating times, schedules, transit points, estimated travelling time and more. The info line is automatic but you can also talk to an operator from 8am till 6pm every day except holidays. Telephone numbers of Ajax, Brampton, Mississauga, York transit and Go trains are also available on your TTC Ride Guide. To plan your route beforehand does make a difference, especially in winter.

Once I went to Markham for an interview and decided that the best way to get there was to jump onto a Union Station Bus going to Markham. I assumed that there is a central bus station like we have at home in Ukraine in every city and from there I would easily reach any point in Markham. Needless to say I ended up in the middle of nowhere in the freezing cold. I could not find a pay phone and never made it to the scheduled interview.

Regular Toronto street maps can be found at many Canadian Tire, Wal Mart or Canada Post locations, usually for less than $5.00. And you'd better take it with you along with the TTC Guide whenever you go.

But if you failed to plan a trip beforehand, if you are already on a bus and you have no idea where you are, just go and talk to the driver. On my way to Markham when I realised that I was lost I showed the driver my destination point on a regular GTA map. He got connected with a dispatcher through his radio device and found out how I could return to the transfer point I needed to take the right bus. Then he talked to the driver of a bus going the opposite direction and told me when that bus would be there to take me back. Well. I kept the whole TTC team busy for a while..

Another skill you learn riding the TTC is locating the bus stop closest to your destination to get off. It takes us newcomers many trips to learn to pull the cord just in time before the stop we need. It's good to pay close attention to all nearest stops in your residential area and places where you work or take your kids to school. How many of us know that there exists special night bus stops between the regular ones, for women only, called Request Stop. Normally buses and streetcars do not unload passengers there in daylight. But if you are a woman and happen to be there really late, a driver will let you out at such a stop for your personal safety. You will exit the bus from the front door, and the rear door will remain closed.

You probably noticed that it's easy to recognise a public transport stop by a stall with red and blue stripes. Every stall has a telephone number on it and a unique code for each stop. If you dial the telephone number an automatic machine asks you to enter the code and then informs you about all routes available at this location: the time two next buses or street cars will be there, and hours of operation. It is very helpful especially in the early morning or late at night.

By the way, though most TTC buses and streetcars operate during more or less the same hours (approximately 6 am to 1 am) you never know for sure. Dial the info line and double-check. It took me 4 months to realise that the 504 streetcar is available 24/7 though my windows literally overlook its track. Until it came to my mind I was inventing all kinds of tricky ways to travel around Toronto at night.

Also, I used to work at a factory in the afternoon shift in southern Mississauga. I live in Toronto and I never confirmed to the agency I would go until I called TTC info and checked a transit service schedule in the area. Though many people, especially newcomers, working afternoon and night shifts do not drive, usually factories are situated in remote areas where there are no buses late at night. The first time I went to this factory I asked one girl to give me ride to the stop where buses go until 2 am.

Do not forget that you must pay an extra fare if you travel outside of Toronto. Another option is to buy GTA pass that is accepted on all regular TTC, Mississauga, Brampton and York transit routes. With it you won't be required to pay extra.

All TTC surface routes connect with subway system. At some subway stations you will need a transfer to board on a bus or a streetcar. You must get a transfer at the point where you pay the fare, from an automated machine or the driver of a bus or streetcar. Transfer is free and is good for a one way continuous trip during a reasonable amount of time. That is, you can't get off, do your shopping and expect to hop back on again.

Even if you drive it's really convenient to use public transportation sometimes, especially under bad weather conditions. Besides, you can avoid high downtown parking costs. Drive to the nearest subway station and leave your car at TTC parking that is available at many locations. It is FREE for Metropass customers. It will save you a lot of money. There are many types of Metropasses provided by public transit service. You can get day passes for either a family/group or single, weekly Greater Toronto Area passes, special holiday passes, students and seniors' monthly Metropasses. You can also sign up for the Metropass Discount Plan: if you purchase a Metropass for 12 consecutive months you will get one month free. I buy my Metropass either from the subway station - they take cash there or from one of Dominion chain stores where I can pay for it with my debit or credit card. It costs $98.75 dollars per month. First, I was unwilling to spend such a big sum at once. But then when I understood that working 2 jobs at that time, I sometimes used as many as 5 tickets a day ($10), I had to have cash always on me or exact change. It was a headache and I wasted an additional hundred bucks every month.

Nowadays everybody discusses convenience and the economics of using transit and passes versus driving their own vehicle. Of course, many people drive these days and own two or even more cars. One can buy a decent vehicle for $6, 000 or less. But. Expect to pay from $1,000 to $5,000 per year for repairs and maintenance and $30 dollar a week for gas. By now, Toronto car insurance cost has become a sad topic for discussion among drivers all around Canada - a minimum is $1,400 a year and that is if you are not a new driver.

Myself, I am very keen on the idea of getting a licence and my own car. But when I go out and see my neighbours digging out their vehicles from under the snow on a bad day I honestly think that it won't do me any harm even if I never drive in my whole life.

It's a joke but really public transportation is a convenient and safe way to travel around the city. They heat well in winter, operate pretty regularly without delays even in rush hours. There are Passenger Assistance Alarms in all train cars. Most drivers are considerate, polite and helpful. Many TTC subway stations are equipped with accessible elevators. Blue Night Network (ones that serve you at nights) go every 30 minutes and allow you to get even to the most remote areas of the city. Blue Night Network buses serve us when subway is closed, from approximately 1am to 5.30am. Check your TTC Ride Guide for the Blue Night Network.

Stay updated on all changes in service schedules. The information will help us newcomers to enjoy our trips around the city that became our home.

CNM

GO TRANSIT

GO Transit covers an area of 8,000 square kilometres and links Toronto with the surrounding regions of Halton, Peel, York, and Durham. GO Transit also serves the City of Hamilton, and reaches into Simcoe, Dufferin, and Wellington Counties.

To figure out schedules, fares, stations and everything else you need to plan a trip using GO Transit, visit their helpful website, www.gotransit.com.

Press the Stations and Terminals button on the GO Transit home page to find the stations closest to your departure and arrival points.

Press the Schedule button to figure out what time your train or bus leaves your station.

To figure out the cost of your trip, press the Tickets and Fares button and use the fare finder. Just enter your origin and destination points and hit the button that says "Show cost of trip". Prices are determined by the length of the trip and also by whether you qualify for senior or student rates - but it's fair to say that fares start at around $3.30 for a short one-way ticket (like Richmond Hill to North York) and go up to around $15 for a longer trip (like Oshawa to Hamilton). The fare finder also gives you prices for two-ride and 10-ride tickets as well as for day passes and monthly passes.

For information by phone within Toronto, call (416) 869-3200. Outside of the local calling area, use GO's toll free number - 1 888 GET ON GO (438-6646). GO Transit has telephone information guides on duty 5 a.m. to midnight on weekdays, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends and statutory holidays. Recorded information is available 24 hours a day.

If you live in the City of Toronto, the City of Hamilton, Halton, Peel, York, or Durham Region, you can research other transit options and find links to local transit websites at www.findtheway.ca.

THE HAMILTON STREET RAILWAY COMPANY

Public Transit services for the City of Hamilton are provided by The Hamilton Street Railway Company.

Information about bus routes, fares and schedules is available on their website at http://www.hamilton.ca/hsr or you can phone their information line seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m at 905-527-4441. You can call their information line to have route maps, timetables and other information mailed to you or pick them up free of charge at the HSR Ticket Office in the Hamilton GO Centre, 36 Hunter St. E. The office is open Monday to Friday from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm. Photo sessions for identification cards are between 11:00 am and 5:00 pm only.

Cash fare in Hamilton is $2.10, Adult monthly passes cost $65.00, Elementary/Secondary Student monthly passes are $50.00 and 6 month Senior passes are $102.50.

HSR bus drivers do not give change, so it is easier and it saves you money to buy tickets or a monthly pass. HSR tickets and passes are available at over 200 variety, grocery and drug stores. Look for the blue and yellow sign in store windows, or call 905-527-4441 for the location nearest you.

When you purchase a GO Monthly pass from the GO station in Hamilton (only), you can purchase an HSR sticker for $15.00 which entitles the bearer to unlimited use on all HSR routes. This sticker must be purchased at the same time as the GO Monthly Pass.

HSR 's enhanced transfer policy gives passengers 90 minutes to transfer between buses before the transfer expires. It can be used for short stop-overs and return trips. Transfers are accepted at any HSR bus stop and for buses going in any direction.