Tag Archives: Toronto public transit

Only Child stranded by public transit

Only Child and Mom

Only Child and Mom

When I was a child my late mother and I used to travel on Toronto’s public transit (TTC). We t00k buses, streetcars and the subway. It was like an adventure with Mom leading the way. I always felt when travelling with her we were good, and any problems that arose, she could fix them.

I wish Mom had been with me last Thursday when I ventured onto the TTC to an area I’ve only been to a couple of times before. These previous two times I returned home a different way from going there because I had errands to do. This time I wanted to come right home.

In preparation I did a trip planner on the TTC website. I might as well have mapped out a trip to Mars – the angry red planet – for all the good my planning did. And Mars would have been appropriate for some of what I felt when I finally returned home. The problems were caused by stupid bus drivers and even stupider bus schedules on the Woodbine C and D bus lines.

When I boarded the bus near my place I tried to verify with the driver that this Woodbine bus at some point goes all over Hell’s Half Acre in residential land instead of straight up to Lawrence Avenue. Bus driver verified that and told me to get off at Underhill. When I mentioned the trip planner online suggested another street beginning with “C” he had no clue. When the bus was arriving at Cardiff (voice and digital stop announcements are done electronically on Toronto buses), I rushed up to the front and told the driver “that’s the street.” His reply was how complicated it was to get to the stop going west on Lawrence as where I actually saw the bus stopped on Lawrence was going east (it appeared to be going west).

So, I stayed on to Underhill and got off. When I asked about getting on around here to return home he said I could get on at Underhill but it was better to stay on to Victoria Park and transfer there from the Lawrence bus. That was going out of my way and made no sense because it’s the Victoria Park bus line there and why would I want another bus change (and another transfer from the Victoria Park bus) to get home when the Woodbine bus was supposed to take me right home?

I noted tha on the south side of Lawrence the street was called Railside, and boarded the Lawrence East bus to my destination – the Toronto Botanical Gardens library to do some research for a personal essay. After that I walked back to Don Mills Road to the public library to pitch my writing workshops and crime writing talks to the librarian.

Then I walked to the nearest bus stop on the south side of Lawrence just east of Railside. Common sense told me that the Woodbine bus that turned up Underhill when I was going west, would come back that way and turn east on Lawrence. What goes up must come down.

Not exactly. I waited for almost half an hour. I talked to another woman waiting around and she said she thought the Woodbine bus came back down Underhill and turned left onto Lawrence.

Wrong!

Imagine my surprise and horror when I saw a Woodbine bus (C or D – couldn’t make that out on the front from the side) come barrelling down Underhill right across Lawrence and down Railside. It stopped at the stop just below Lawrence. I ran there – but I had  to cover part of a block on both streets and missed.

There was a map of sorts on the post at this Railside stop. Very confusing as it didn’t show where the Woodbine C and a B came back from Underhill and York Mills. A D bus  route was drawn in using broken lines – but only for the Railside portion. Times given for its arrival at “my” stop were only for rush hour and didn’t coincide with when the bus I missed had arrived.

I felt scared and alone. How was I to get home? I couldn’t afford a cab – even if one came by. None did. But several Woodbine C buses came by along Lawrence going west and turning north on Underhill. None of them came back.

The Woodbine D finally did (and not at the scheduled time) and I got on. I asked the driver  where does the C bus gets back to Lawrence.

He said “Cardiff.” The same bloody intersection where the C bus driver when I was going to the TGB library told me not to get off at. If I had, this would not have happened.

This D bus driver wasn’t all that knowledgeable either because when I asked him how often the D bus ran he said “I don’t know.”

And this D bus did get me home but not before going over to Victoria Park Ave. – which is not on the route going the other way. So I panicked and charged up to the front of the bus to make sure the bus was going to my stop. Now it was clear what the bus driver going had meant by taking the Lawrence bus back to Victoria Park. I have also noticed on previous Woodbine bus rides from the south end to my place that sometimes the bus drivers take 20 minute breaks at the south end. From what I can figure out, it’s not all their fault. It’s the wonky schedule.

Of course I put in an online complaint to the TTC, including the Woodbine bus schedules need overhauling so that routes going and coming travel the same way (well in reverse order to each other of course) to avoid confusion. Only exception would be extra rush-hour service (like the Railside diversion). And I suggested they fix the bus time schedules and the map signs at the stops.

Now if my mother had been there….

I’ll write in a future post about my experience at the Toronto Botanical Gardens library. Only good thing happening last Thursday.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Mother, Mother and Child, Only child, Public Transit, Toronto, Toronto public transit

Only Child rides the crowded streetcar rails

Toronto streetcar circa 1980s like the one Only Child rode to the CNE

It happened again – a “train” I was riding stalled. This time it was the streetcar to the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto.  First it was a long wait for any streetcar to show up at the Bathurst Station. Extra streetcars were supposed to be running for this final weekend of the CNE but I guess they were invisible or maybe they were up in the air with the airplanes in the air show.

I don’t remember it being this bad when I was a kid travelling with my Mom on the streetcars (yes, we had to take two streetcars then) to and from the Ex. Sure we lined up to get on a streetcar to come home, but it was an adventure and mom always snagged a seat with me sitting on her lap and falling asleep.

Not this past Sunday’s ride.

When I surfaced onto the streetcar/bus platform from the subway below, I gasped. A long double-line up wound its way from the other end of the platform (where you board the streetcar) to way-way back and around the other side of the station platform. Ms Goody-two Shoes here went to the end of the line and waited and waited for a streetcar to show.

Fifteen minutes later (for me –others could have been waiting up to an additional 15 minutes) one double streetcar, followed by another arrived. Those at the front of the line-up got on the first streetcar. When I noticed a secondary line-up fanning out from the main one near the front and no third streetcar was in sight. I kicked off my Goody-two shoes and darted up to the end of the second line. I got on but had to stand almost all the way. When we arrived about one-sixth of the way we stopped for another 15 minutes at an intersection. The traffic lights were working and traffic was moving both ways except for Streetcar No. one ahead of us. To keep our sanity some of us were making sarcastic comments about the delay. These old streetcars (circa 1980s) may look magnificent but they are hotter than Mr. Devil’s house.

Punishment for moving up to the shorter line? Not exactly. An older woman (older than I) offered me her seat a few stops before the end of the line. Under normal circumstances I would refuse, but I do have feet problems. When I arrived at the CNE entrance to meet my friend (who came in by air-conditioned Go Train with no delays) I found she had purchased our CNE entrance tickets and wouldn’t take any money from me for it.

And here’s the kicker – late Sunday night when I rode the streetcar rails home (service normal and fast) the lady who sat beside me had been on the first streetcar that stopped ahead of mine going to the CNE. She said there was something wrong with that streetcar.

More fodder for my complaint, which I sent online the next day. Can’t help wondering if there is some serendipity or compensation working here?

Not that I want to travel in hell temperatures to receive compensation. It can get hot enough inside my home some days when the temperature and humidity go up too far – now that the air-conditioner doesn’t work properly anymore since I returned from holidays.

I suppose that’s my “reward” for taking time off from work for a vacation.

What says you? What’s the public transportation like where you live? Especially if you don’t drive.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Mom and Dad, Mother and Child, Only child, Public Transportation, Sharon A. Crawford, Toronto public transit

Only Child says “NO” to Toronto transit cuts

Streetcar among the condos in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

They’re taking away parts of my beloved public transit in Toronto. I feel like I’m losing some of my close friends. When I was a kid, it was an adventure to ride with Mom on  Toronto’s buses, streetcars and subways. Now, some routes are on the proverbial chopping block and some bus  services in Toronto have already had hours reduced.  It’s all in the name of cost-cutting from Mayor Rob Ford and his executive council cronies to eliminate Toronto’s $774 million budget short. Mr. Ford commissioned an outside study to find services to cut and they’ve come up with a list of possibilities to the off-key tune of $740 M. Nothing is sacred. When he gets done, Toronto will not be recognizable. I am saddened.

One of the bus lines recently cut back in hours is the Broadview 8 bus – one that I took with my Mom and Dad as a child. We lived a skip and a run (depending on where the bus was when you were trying to catch it) from a couple of bus stops. Today, I can take that bus as part of my route home from wherever or if I’m visiting friends in my old stomping ground, when the bus is actually running.

I’m someone who not only depends on the TTC to get around,  but I actually enjoy riding on a bus, streetcar and subway. The scenery is interesting and varied: outside, all those condos springing up, parks, gardens and quaint old shops along the streetcar routes in particular; inside, that lady next to me texting madly or the fellow swaying to the sound (dare I say “noise?”) emanating from those buds in his ears. There is also the nostalgia factor – not just personal, but the TTC history.  TTC stands for Toronto Transit Commission but way back before even my time, Toronto’s transit wasn’t all one big service – it was several, and some were private. Do we want to go that route (pun intended) again? That’s something else being considered.

Riding on the buses, streetcars and subway with my mom was a lot of fun. As I write in my memoir:

The bus stop closest to 139 was just around the corner on O’Connor Drive – that is if you walked left and the TTC hadn’t moved its trademark red and white sign to the far side of Don Mills Road. If we saw the bus coming, we had to decide quickly if we could reach the stop before the bus or if racing to the next stop, one and a half blocks west, was a better choice. We were playing transit roulette, with the streetlights at Don Mills and the driver’s whim to wait for us or to continue on to the next stop.

Once we boarded the bus, we continued with the rest of our travels. Long languid rides on streetcars out to Long Branch in Toronto’s west end. Short hops on buses to shop on the Danforth. Streetcars jam-packed with sugar-fuelled kids and yawning parents returning from a day at the CNE. Swallowing hard on a long bus ride to the orthodontist. Or doing the freezing changeover from subway to streetcar inside the makeshift wood shelter in the middle of Bloor St. east of Yonge St. All before the Bloor subway line opened in 1966.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home: Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford)

However, not all rides were fun back then, as I write:

When I was 10 and 11, I wore braces on my teeth. The orthodontist had an office on Eglinton Avenue just east of Yonge St. Perhaps if we had travelled by subway, the journey might have been different, but Mom insisted on taking the more direct route.

We are sitting on the Leaside bus, this time going in the opposite direction from the Danforth. As it clips across the Leaside Bridge and then diverts through the factory area on Brentcliffe, my mind and soul are elsewhere, clamped in the dentist’s chair. The dentist is tugging at my braces and picking at my teeth; my mouth is wide open and I want to retch. The bus sharp turns back onto Laird Drive. I jerk up and the contents of my stomach start to follow as far as my throat. I must look whiter than the fat in the bacon because Mom opens a window.

“It’s okay. We’re almost there. We’ll be off the bus in a few minutes.”

I swallow hard, clutch my stomach and wish I were in never never-never land. The bus halts at the stop before Yonge St. I jump off, with Mom right behind me. She steers me towards an alley by one of the buildings and I lurch forward, open my mouth and pour out breakfast, lunch and snack. Mom hands me a tissue, and while I wipe my mouth and sniffle back vomit, she murmurs calming words.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home: Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford)

And that about describes how I feel about these proposed service cuts. I’m even feeling sicker about the proposed cuts to the public libraries but that’s fodder for another post or we’ll be here till Christmas 2012 (not a typo).

If you want to read more about the proposed cuts to Toronto’s service, go to http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/story/2011/07/21/toronto-service-cuts-report326.html. I’d prefer to have a bit more of a hike in our property taxes than the 3 per cent we’re getting next year and a TTC fare increase. We received no property tax increase or TTC fare hike for this year and one revenue resource – the vehicle registration tax – was given the boot. Duh. Note to Mayor Ford and cronies…potential revenue down the drain.

Cheers (I think)

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Cities, Mayor Rob Ford, Only child, Only child memoir, Public Transportation, Toronto, Toronto public transit, Toronto service cuts