How To Travel Like A 6ix God: A Beginner’s Guide to the TTC
Hello, Wolfpack, and welcome back to our orientation blog! This week, we will be discussing how to get around Toronto– particularly if you’re not too familiar with our beloved 6ix. Think of this mostly as your one stop shop beginner’s guide for surviving the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission, our fabled public transit system).
Before we get too deep into the sensitive she-beast that is the TTC, let’s discuss some alternate methods of getting from Point A to Point B.
METHOD 1: BY THE GRACE OF GOD GO I (or: The Naturalist Approach) (or: On Your Own Two Feet) (or: This Is Literally Only Applicable For Those Living In Downtown Toronto)
It may seem a little redundant for me to say “Hey, did you know you can just leave your home and get to places on foot?” But in Toronto, it’s actually a pretty viable option. If you live on or near campus, you will most likely go everywhere on foot/rollerblade/bicycle/levitation. Again– I know I’m not blowing minds here, but just walking to where you need to go (even if it takes an hour plus) is most likely how you’ll be getting everywhere if you live in the downtown core.
METHOD 2: MY PARENTS’ CREDIT CARD (or: Uber) (or: Taxis) (or: I’m A Princess, A Golden Chariot Must Escort Me To My Destination)
Okay, so you went urban-exploring deep in the heart of the 6ix and somewhere in between “Feel No Ways” and “Controlla” from Drake’s Views, you found yourself in a pop-up farmer’s market (this already seems like an annoying millennial experience but don’t worry, it’s about to get worse). You have a brain in your head and feet in your shoes, so you know you’d be remiss not to grab some organic vegan cruelty free gluten free non-gmo chickpea sriracha hummus (told you)– but that leaves you with something of a conundrum. You have to get home fast enough that it doesn’t boil or freeze during one of the 6ix’s infamous weather mood swings. This is when taxi-type services are most valuable (also, outside the pub at four in the morning, but we’re not going to go there).
Uber vs. established taxi companies is a deeply political issue when it comes to local politics, so I’m not really going to take a stance here. What I am going to do is say that there are pros and cons to both systems and using one doesn’t necessarily mean the other becomes defunct.
(pictured: “why not both?”)
No matter what you choose, just be careful about how frequently you are charioted back and forth from A to B, because you’d be surprised how quickly it can add up. I’m definitely not speaking from experience, and I most certainly didn’t get shouted at about my Visa bill last month.
METHOD 3: THE EXACT MIDDLE POINT BETWEEN ALL OPTIONS (or: Luck Be A Lady Tonight) (or: the TTC) (or: The Reason We’re All Here Today)
The TTC is a temperamental creature. She giveth, and she taketh away. As someone who has used the TTC as my main form of travel for 5 years now, I can admit to having ripped some hair from my head when met with an unexpected delay– but on the whole, it’s a capable system that most young Torontonians rely on every day to get them where they need to go. Here are some things you should know about the TTC:
To enter any TTC vehicle as an adult costs $3.25. A token costs the same amount as just paying in change, but saves a few dollars once you increase the amount you buy. A student metropass costs $112 and is basically an all-access pass to unlimited usage of the TTC for that month. HOWEVER! The TTC is currently updating to a cross-platform system (meaning you will be able to use it on the Go Train, which takes you into the cities outside Toronto). By September, all stations will have a PRESTO Card payment option, and most of the city will pay with PRESTO. The University of Toronto Students’ Union will sell PRESTO Cards in the fall! PRESTO is a reloadable card whereby you put money on it and use it to pay fare. PRESTO, as is suggested by the name, will be a lot faster– you pay by tapping, like with a debit card.
The subway (underground trains) are literally the easiest part of the TTC to figure out. This is because the subway is comedically limited in its reach– there’s a station for most major parts of the city, but once you’re off the major streets, you’ll need to navigate via buses and streetcars.
(pictured: Toronto’s subway map)
If you ever get lost in the 6ix, your best move is to find the nearest subway station. This will be the easiest map to figure out so you can get un-lost (U of T campus stretches to St George, Museum, and Queens Park station!) If you don’t think there’s a subway station nearby and you’re really really lost, you can hop on a random bus or streetcar and it will eventually take you to a station– it will take forever and a day, but it’ll be easier than transferring 6 different buses.
Subways come fast and frequently at most stations. Delays happen quite a bit, but Toronto’s public transit employs incredibly gifted engineers, so delays are usually fixed within 5-10 minutes. Sometimes, delays are serious– flooding, fires, etc. When entire subway lines have to be shut down, shuttle buses are the replacement. These buses drive the same route as the subway, just above ground. It can be kind of a pain, but it usually only lasts a day.
Buses are something special. They’re a little bit infamous here for being chronically late. This is a link to the TTC website’s bus map. As you can clearly see, it is absolutely bananas.
Instead of using that map, if you absolutely need to take a bus somewhere, you’d be better off typing it into Google Maps and hitting the “Transit” option.
If ever you need to visit North Toronto, you will definitely be taking buses as subways are few and far between and streetcars just don’t exist up there.
Streetcars are similar to buses, but they come more frequently and only go around downtown Toronto. This is a link to the streetcar map– it’s a lot less crazy than the buses.
The TTC just updated its system! Around U of T/the downtown core of Toronto, most TTC vehicles are new– but the older ones are still in effect the further from downtown you go.
(pictured: a new streetcar)
The TTC continues to update! Remember how before I talked about how sparse and limited the subway is? The city of Toronto heard our complaints, and are currently putting together a Relief Line. This is from the official TTC website: “The City of Toronto’s City Planning Division, together with the TTC, is planning a new rapid transit line to connect Line 1 Yonge-University, downtown to Line 2 Bloor-Danforth, east of the Don River. This line will relieve crowding on Line 1 Yonge-University, at Bloor-Yonge Station, and on the surface transit routes coming in and out of downtown.” (Line 1 is the yellow one on the first map, Line 2 is the green one) However– the relief line is still being planned, so it’s likely going to be many years before we see it as a reality. You can learn more here!
Here is my biggest tip of all: DOWNLOAD THE ROCKET MAN APP! Rocket Man is free from the app store– it uses GPS to track the movement of all buses and streetcars, and shows you exactly how far away a bus/streetcar is from your stop down to the second. Much like uber, you can watch your bus drive using this GPS system. It also shows you what stops/buses are near you. Also! If you’re on a bus and you’re not sure you’re going the right way, you can tap your location and find the bus you got on from there– it will show you the entire route, complete with a blue dot that tracks where you are. It uses data, so it’s best not to use it for every trip you take, but this app has saved my LIFE when experimenting with bus routes.
There are other apps that do the same thing as Rocket Man, but I’ve personally found Rocket Man to be the most user friendly and reliable.
Final thoughts: Please be nice to the TTC employees! Toronto is a big city, so they deal with a lot of frustrated, angry people. The TTC delays sometimes, and it is never the fault of a singular bus driver or train operator. The rates of harassment for people who work on the TTC are absolutely insane, so please treat them as you would anyone providing a service for you (that means with respect, ideally).
That’s all for this week, Wolfpack! Thank you for joining us for this installment of our bi-weekly orientation blog!
We’re crowdsourcing our information for our next blog– catch up with us on August 6th!
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