Archives for posts with tag: ttc


Image: George Kelly of Toronto Life

Toronto Life picked up on a Spacing Toronto post I did about TTC’s 192 Airport Rocket, an express bus service to Pearson Airport that leaves from Kipling Station.

I am happy that Toronto Life agreed with me: this bus is not promoted well by the TTC, and is not widely known as a viable transportation option to the Airport.

Kipling planeA simple change to the subway map would make all the difference…

Thanks to Toronto Life’s megaphone, the idea has generated many comments, on Toronto Life’s website and its Facebook page. The general consensus seems to be that this service should be better promoted.

Screen shot 2014-02-21 at 9.17.14 AM

Many commenters, however, are offended by the notion that this bus would be called “secret”.

When you’re in a group, I understand that it’s hard to appreciate that there are others with different experiences and knowledge bases. Those that commented “this was a secret?” form a portion of Toronto’s populace — the Insiders — who are tech savvy enough to find the bus on google maps, not to mention participate in online debates!

In any case, the word is out. And that’s great, because more people using the bus means more pressure for better transit.

This post originally appeared on Spacing Toronto

The secret Toronto airport express bus

Last November, my father and I to took the bus to the airport.

At the regular TTC fare of $3 a ride, taking the Bloor-Danforth line to Kipling then catching the 192 Rocket (an express bus that travels along highway 427) is a bargain compared to the alternative $50-ish cab ride. Taking the subway and the bus, my dad and I were surprised that we could get from our house to Pearson in under an hour.

TTC Rocket 192

The 192 Rocket travels from Kipling Station to Pearson Airport along the 427. Image courtesy of the TTC.

It makes me wonder. Why isn’t the 192 Rocket promoted by the TTC, with maybe a little airplane icon above Kipling station on the subway map? Other then seeing people with luggage in tow every now and then on the Bloor-Danforth line, and the odd Air Canada flight attendant in full uniform, you’d never realize that the TTC was connected to the airport.

Kipling station airport

In Montreal, the bus to the airport was introduced in 2010 with a major ad campaign. The bus — numbered 747 — is painted brightly with the image of an airplane. As the bus makes its way through downtown Montreal and onto the highway toward Trudeau International, it becomes a moving billboard advertising itself as a viable transit option to the airport.

747 Bus STM

The 747 bus in Montreal. Image courtesy of STM.

I am definitely excited about the opening of the Union-Pearson express train in 2015. This city will benefit greatly from a direct route between its airport and central transit hub. At roughly $20-$30 per ride however, the UP Express won’t exactly be accessible to every Torontonian. I do hope the UP Express doesn’t mean the end of taking the bus to the airport.

And why is the TTC bus to the airport so secret anyways? It definitely affirms my suspicions that Toronto is thoroughly an Insider’s city. We Torontonians like our secrets. Our gems are accessible, but you’ve got to find them yourself. We have a great ravine system, but its trails remains largely unmarked. And just try to make your way through the PATH system for the first time.

So, apologies for breaking Torontonian code by exposing the express airport bus to the internet masses. But hey, it’s a good service!

Daniel Rotsztain is the Urban Geographer. Check out his website or say hello on Twitter!

Leading image by James Bow, from Transit Toronto

Toronto may be the city where the mayor has declared the end to the “war on cars“.

It may be the only city in the world to be removing bike lanes while letting the shoulders of major streets go painfully uncovered.

It may be the only “world class” city without a “world class” transportation system, permanently frozen by ego and politics.


I love that this city
Has inherited a streetcar system
That encourages
No — demands
That pedestrians spill into the street
Taking them over temporarily
To board a streetcar
& to get off them too.

For those non-Torontonians out there, the official boarding procedure for Toronto’s streetcars (when there is no traffic island), is to spill onto the street, blocking traffic until boarded. And in this way, there is a constant, intangible expansion of the territory of the sidewalks into the streets.

Sure, it’s probably not the safest, or most efficient way to run a transportation network. But every time I see pedestrians spill into the streets to board a street car, taking them over, “taking back the streets” my heart swells with Toronto love.

Karen Stintz announced the proposed OneCity transit plan today.


Using a language of unity rather than a false suburbs downtown divide. This is one system, one region, the efficiency of downtown routes directly effects the suburban.

Best of luck to the fine people of toronto, may they be protected from divisive politics and incompetent leadership

The other day, for some reason, on the subway travelling along the Bloor Danforth Line, the stops were not being announced as they usually are.

A typical day’s subway rhythm is punctuated by the steely voice of an anonymous female announcer:

“The next station is Christie, Christie Station”

“Arriving at Christie, Christie Station”.

Without the regular announcement, I had a wholly different experience of riding the subway.

The stops quietly presented themselves without being promtpted. The rhythm of the train was smooth and continuous, without being interrupted by the announcement of the stations.

Without the announcements, it was quite easy to fall into a trance of motion and non-motion, doors opening and closing in an endless and undifferentiated cycle.

It was also quite easy to lose track of my placement in the system, without the aural prompts used as a constant standard for reorientation.

I found I missed whole stops in the rhythmic, unpunctuated  trance I fell into — I was in Ossington, then Spadina, then Sherbourne.

Between Sherbourne and Castle Frank, I hadn’t a clue as to where I was, and felt a true sense of disorientation as I anticipated the Don Valley views between Castle Frank and Broadview that never came.

This experience gave me the opportunity to meditate on the complete lack of disorientation that accompanies modern forms of transit and telecommunications. With smart phones, and smart cities, we constantly know where we are, and it’s pretty hard to get lost.

The feeling of not knowing where I was between Sherbourne and Castle Frank stations — that was rare.

As someone often in a state of wanderlust, but with a strong sense of direction, it’s very difficult these days to be lost. I understand and support new apps like Drift that encourage, through a set of random directions, people to become lost in their own neighbourhoods.

I don’t yearn for disorientation, but this experience presented a different world to me, a less know-able world, where fun and mystery accompanied a healthy sense of not knowing where-the-hell I was. It was a welcome change to the routine of transit.

This post is a tribute to the metropass. It’s to the TTC metropass specifically, but I’m sure the same stands for metropasses worldwide.

The metropass has transformed my relationship to the city. No longer do I scrutinize over whether or not I should take the TTC, endlessly justifying a $3 journey. There are no more mischievous transfer extensions of  four or five hours, no more route planning minimizing transit use. I can no longer drop a day’s activity on some far flung end of the city because it’s too far, or because I’m not willing to dish out three more dollars to get there. It’s no more one off bus then done.

Instead, there’s me, the city and the TTC. It’s a network available to me at all times, beckoning me with it’s winding routes throughout the city, assuring me there’s enough time in the day to get out there and do it all.

The TTC may not be perfect, aggravating some to the point of public outrage due to delays or miscommunications or mutual disrespect between passengers and operators.

And the metropass is definitely not cheap — at $126, you need to take it forty times a month to justify its purchase (which is more than if you used it twice a day for a commute to work during the week).

But my emotional enjoyment of transit outweighs a simple cost-benefit analysis. I am no rational economic man, that’s for damn sure.

That’s right — I’ve been luxuriating in the metropass. Hopping on and off and on again; dropping my friends off at the subway platform; deciding to take a walk up Bathurst til I see the bus coming rather than waiting impatiently at the station. I’m vibing off the TTC and the Toronto it reveals to me (the 506 street car from High Park to Main Street Station — oh baby!)  — and the metropass — it’s my key to the city.

The Bloor-Danforth line is almost completely underground east of Landsdowne Station, all-the-way to Kennedy Station in Scarborough.

Looking out the subway windows between these stations, the view is limited to moving darkness, punctuated by quickly passing light and glimpses of tracks travelling off main routes to unknown service stations and emergency loops.

This is the case for most of the line. A repetitive scene that eases one’s transition from tired to sleeping.

But between Castle Frank and Broadview stations the subway is catapulted out of the darkness, and over the Don Valley, travelling under and along the spectacular Bloor Street Viaduct.

I love this moment. And recently travelling often to the east end for Art of the Danforth has given me the opportunity to enjoy it regularly.

As the sound of train moving along  tracks supported by solid ground beneath drops, I anticipate the expansive views of the city in the moments after leaving Castle Frank Station. I relish the effect of the skyline slowly emerging from the western banks of the Don Valley. I take pleasure in feeling myself hovering above the valley.

But what I enjoy most is the effect this portion of the subway route has on fellow passengers.

Awakened from their subterranean somnambulism, the expansive valley views cause a stir in fellow riders. Heads are lifted from their slumber, and curious passengers turn their gaze outward, investigating the presence of a bona fide beautiful view from the subway car.  It’s a moment when the subway’s passengers are unified in alertness toward the sudden awareness of their surroundings. It lasts for more than a moment but less than a minute — and quickly the subway tunnels itself back into the underground before Broadview Station.

When I passed University Avenue on the Dundas 505 streetcar west yesterday evening, I looked north, and for the first time appreciated Queen’s Park’s night-time illumination.

The building is lit subtly, four points of light highlighting the edges of its geometric roof. It accentuates Queen’s Park’s architectural features, and quietly announces its commanding presence over the street.

The lighting of Queen’s Park solidifies University Avenue’s status as Toronto’s grand boulevard, a street deserved of such a beautiful anchor point. It brings a cohesiveness to the night time street scene, as University Avenue’s traffic islands, adorned with dignified  statues and grand parades, lead gracefully toward the nobly lit structure.

A city needs symbolic design features such as these. As a complex and dissonant place, there needs to be grand, simple landscapes that all Torontonians can identify with (read Kevin Lynch’s Image of the City for more on this). University Avenue is a rare moment of Canadian confidence and exuberance expressed in its urban design. It reminds me of the grand boulevards of South American cities, like Buenos Aires’ 9 de Julio Avenue, which, with its remarkable 16 lanes, is similarly anchored by grand structures, in Buenos Aires’ case, obelisks.

Back in Toronto, the Dundas streetcar passed University Avenue and continued west, past the AGO, and through Chinatown, crossing Spadina Avenue.

Spadina, like University Avenue, is a grand boulevard. The street’s width is enormous, and its traffic boulevards, this time supporting the transit right-of-ways adorn Spadina with an impressive prestige.

But as the streetcar crossed Spadina, I looked north, and noticed that the beautiful University of Toronto building at 1 Spadina Crescent was left unlit, invisible in the darkness of the night.

It would be so simple to light it like Queen’s Park. If the University of Toronto were to light 1 Spadina Crescent to showcase its beauty at night, it would transform the feel of Spadina; it would make the street feel regal, and raise its status as the city’s other grand boulevard.

A simple urban design move would catapult Spadina Avenue into Toronto’s collective mind, establishing it as a strong anchor point of orientation and an undeniable image of our city.

Being here is realizing that fundamental uniqueness of place.

Being here is that very particular weather at this time of year; The voice of Metro Morning on the Radio.

The Sound of Streetcars scraping against their metal tracks. The Sound of the Subway wooshing underground as you bike north, past chirping intersections;  the stale scent of the TTC.

Being here is knowing that Here is always — the constant clockwork of place that is fundamentally tied to some space, somewhere.


Last night, I rode the subway from Bayview station on the Sheppard line to Bathurst station on the Bloor-Danforth line, which requires to transfers and thus three subways in total.

The experience was wonderful. At 1am, the subways were packed full of festive Torontonians, some quiet, some more rowdy shouting “Happy New Year!” to the passers-by, and chatting up their fellow subway riders. Social conventions of riding public transit with as little interaction with others as possible was thrown out the window. Unlikely groups of riders were sharing laughs together and taking pictures and enjoying themselves.

All I could think while riding the subway last night was how important this was for the city. The ttc was free from midnight to 4am to celebrate and curb impaired driving, and as a result, thousands of Torontonians shared a New Year’s Eve experience together. It is these critical moments where the collective unconsciousness, and the collective experiences of the urban manifest themselves. Living in a city and describing it’s feeling is often an abstract phenonmenon that we can’t quite put our finger on. But at a moment when people from all walks of life are riding together in metal trains underground at an unlikely hour, this is when the city presents itself to us, and we all feel excited to participate in it.