I went downtown earlier today. And guess what? I threw caution to the wind and decided to take public transit into the city.
Me. A firmly entrenched suburbanite. Who drives everywhere. Who drives her kids everywhere. What is public transit again?
A common complaint from the teenager in the family is that we live so far from downtown. It can take literally 3 different transit systems to get where he needs to go on his own, if mom/dad chauffeur service is unavailable. We often wonder what it would have been like for the kids if we lived in the city. It was our initial intent when we were first married, but then kids happened. Real estate prices skyrocketed where we were looking to settle ( and continue to), we both worked out of the city -so logic prevailed and we made the the move. But there’s a part of me that wishes we could have stayed so that our kids could enjoy the richness and diversity of city life.
Growing up in the burbs, I knew a life of public transit. Before my parents bought a second car my mom would shuttle us around via TTC to all our lessons, several times a week. To piano, ballet, skating … then we would patiently wait for Dad to pick us up afterwards. Sometimes he would forget -imagine, in an era without cell phones it must have been such a treat for mom to have to blast him over the pay phone whenever that happened.
As a teen and then as a university student, I took public transit everywhere. But once I got my licence and then first car, the convenience and independence of not having to rely on someone else’s schedule got the better of me. Nowadays we’re more inclined to use Uber if not wanting to take our own car anywhere.
Dark and early this morning ( can’t adjust to daylight savings -still!), I got into the car and drove 23 minutes to the commuter parking lot. Once in the lot I had to -get this-walk-another 5 or so minutes to the subway station. Bought myself some tokens, got onto the platform and in another 20 minutes I got to my destination. All under an hour, without me grinding my teeth and muttering expletives at impatient or slovenly drivers crawling along with me, if I was otherwise on the highway.
It was rather surreal-I haven’t taken local transit on my own since I was a student! Today I rather enjoyed the people watching: the babies in strollers, the students with their backpacks and headphones, seniors making their way about slowly but independently, the commuters with their offices passes hanging around their necks. In my most recent years with work travel, I often took advantage of the easy and efficient transportation offered by the train systems in Europe. Traveling through Toronto today it felt like I was in a foreign place.
There hasn’t been much change to Toronto transit other than a few more stops, flashing lights on the transit map showing the different stops and an actual intelligible voice announcing each stop as we approached. Rather sad when you consider that I was a student over 25 years ago. Coincidentally they just announced a fare hike for the new year-as people are not happy to pay more for less service.
Still, as I experienced today, although not the best in the world, I would still call it “a better way”.