Mind The Gap

People ask me all the time if I like Toronto. It’s a complicated question.

I love the city itself. The tall buildings, bright lights, unique neighbourhoods.The restaurants are of course amazing. I also love that there is something entertaining going on at any given hour on any day of the week. There’s no way to get bored.

I have two issues with Toronto. First, the people. To put it nicely, I have a very “small town” demeanour. I didn’t jive with a lot of the big city folk. It happens.

Secondly, public transportation.


Coming from a city where the bus ran every 55 minutes, Toronto’s Transportation Committee (aka “The TTC”) was amazing at first. The concept of walking out the door without checking a schedule and having something pick me up within five minutes was completely new.

But it grew old. Fast.

I spent SO much of my time in Toronto on public transportation. It killed a part of my soul.

First, there’s the streetcar which runs on a cable and above ground track. Living in the east end, this was my number one way to get to the heart of the city. It took forever. As in, it moved slooow. Also as in, you could wait 20 minutes in –20 C weather for one to show up.


On days where I trained my early morning clients, the 24-hour streetcar was one of my methods of getting to work. It was usually just me and the construction workers at 5am. They would stare at me as I chowed down on my breakfast concoction of the day. Eaten precariously as we rattled down one of the city’s main roads.

                                                                                      Photo by Nick Moore!

The streetcar was also my only way home on late nights out on the town. It’s supposed to run every 10 minutes. But there were nights when we would wait an hour, turning a late night into an even later (or earlier) one. Streetcars also attract the drunk-in-public folk, be it 2am or 1oam. The Queen Car – my car – is the craziest route by far. As in, it’s where I met/avoided the craziest people in Toronto.


Then there’s the bus. I actually love Toronto’s back-and-forth bus routes. No mind-numbing loops. The bus was only ever an intermediate for me. A lot of people poo-poo the bus around here. But it’s actually my preferred method of public travel in a city.


Finally, we’ve got the subway. At first, the subway intimidated me. The map with the coloured lines made no sense. The doors that closed “no matter what” scared me. And what if I fell on the tracks!?

I have spent SO much time sitting on the subway over the last nine months that I can say I am way past any fears I had. Now my number one emotion towards the subway is depression. Backed by a hefty dose of frustration.

I will never understand how so many people can cram shoulder to shoulder on a subway and try so hard not to look at each other. I’ve gotten delayed on a subway almost every day since moving here (that’s a gripe for another day) and have rarely ever bitched about it with my fellow passengers. Why do humans in big cities try so hard to ignore and avoid each other?

In the end, I’ve spent 2-4 hours a day sitting on public transportation since moving to Toronto. That’s because even though my apartment and jobs were very much within the city’s core, they were still an hour away from each other. It’s just the reality of living in a big city. It takes forever to get anywhere.

On the bright side, I read a lot of great novels. But I wasted a lot of productive life hours being transported on a moving mosh pit. And it turned me in to a bit of a germaphobe, I’ve been sick almost every day since I started taking the TTC.

When I look back on my experience in Toronto, many of my memories will be taken over by my time spent on the TTC. I guess I’ll miss the 5 minute waits, but I will definitely be happy to have those commuting hours of my life back.


Question of the Day: Do you have a long commute? Car? Public transportation? Feel free to vent your frustrations here. This is a safe space ;)


Posted on March 2, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 42 Comments.

  1. The major selling points of leaving Chicago 11 yrs ago were:
    1. get outta the cold
    2. get outta traffic hell

    Basically the traffic sucked by car at all times of the day and night. And public transpo is fine, but ya know, as you pointed out, there are limitations.

    And I am grateful that *most* times in San Diego i encounter FAR less traffic here than i ever did in Chicago!

    • I think commuting is horrible for your health too. I saw a lot of clients who had back and shoulder problems from driving over an hour each way for work every day. It makes for an unhealthy workforce and city in my opinion!

  2. I drive to work–it’s about 40 minutes in the morning, 45 minutes after work if I DON’T hit the gym, and about 30 minutes after work if I DO hit the gym. Best reason to go to the gym, ever–avoiding rush hour traffic!

  3. I have a long commute back at home. I have to drive everywhere, swim practice, work, YMCA blah blah blah. I eat up a tank and a half of gas every week. (Although I could be more energy conscious and not drive a Firebird).

    In Upstate NY, I walk to class and walk everywhere. I have eaten up a tank and a half of gas the entire semester….But there isn’t always something to do here.

  4. Finally, after two months, I’m FREE from my mind-numbing hour-long commute. Now I walk to work – just 9 blocks in downtown Orlando – and it should be even less once I get a bike! I hated the environmental footprint I was making, not to mention the loss of 10 hours a week just stuck in traffic!

  5. I’ve been driving 100-120km a day for work for the last 10 years. On good days in the morning I can manage the 60km in 45-50min, most arvo’s it’s an hour. My VW is my second car, is 4 years, 11 months and has done 170,500km. Downside in the mornings is a toll-road, bout $4.5 but it’s normally nice and quick.

    My work is about 25km NW from Sydney CBD.

  6. Ahh the TTC. I do like the convenience of the subway (lucky me, I’ve always lived 2 min from a station!), but I totally sympathize with the rush hour insane over-crowdedness being frustrating, to say the least! That’s crazy that you’ve spent at least 2 hrs each day commuting.

    If the weather agrees, I much prefer biking to work downtown rather than TTCing it.

    I must say though, riding the 501 (or the 504 King) on a quiet Sunday afternoon can be pretty relaxing, provided you have nowhere urgent to be :)

  7. I hate public transportation!!! Yet ironically I lived taking The Tube in London & The El in Chicago.

    I work downtown. I drive about 8 miles to the parking garage then walk or bus 2 miles to work. I usually walk 95% of the time (the rain is awful this week).

  8. I get what you’re saying about the subway! Taking the Tube when I’m in London is the worst – rush hour on Friday on the Tube is what I imagine hell to be like. Its great for people watching, bad for avoiding homeless people.

  9. I have a 10 minute drive to work, I rarely encounter any back-ups. I feel really lucky, some people I work with drive 45-60 minutes. I would never live that far-away. Could you have moved closer to your work? Maybe it wouldn’t have been so soul crushing. If I got done with work during daylight hours I could ride my bike but I’m not confident enough to do it at night.

    • I worked at an upscale gym in the expensive part of the city. Great for getting lots of clients who can afford trainers, but not within my living budget! I probably would have ended up getting a bike if I stayed – around 45 min ride each way with a ginormous hill one way.

      • Ah, that does suck! Sometimes it’s quite hard to find a quality job in an affordable neighborhood. Seattle definitely has a problem with that as well, but I lucked out because I live and work in the south end.

  10. Susan- the queen car SUCKS. if you ever give Toronto another chance, live on the subway line. I live on the bloor line and it is 10 pain free minutes to get to yonge and bloor. I had to take the queen car one summer and never ever again. Toronto rocks if you live on the subway line. As for the people? yes… should have come and hung out in the dog park. That said, who doesnt crave some small town space and friendly people? Give us another chance one day? Cathy- a big fan of toronto (8 warmer months of the year)

    • Yes, if I ever come back to Toronto I’ll live much closer to the subway AND a big green space. I didn’t realize how important both were until I got here! And the people comment – that’s just what happens when you work retail in an upper-class neighbourhood ;) I will definitely miss it like crazy when I leave!!

  11. I’m pretty lucky that I work and live outside of downtown. My morning commute, although I take two busses, is less than 20 minutes and have never had an issue. I have had few delays on the subway but I do hear ya about the streetcar. It takes for-EVER! But it would take just as long in a car as well so it’s a bit like six half dozen of the other there.

  12. I commute, but drive myself. My commute is about 35 minutes. It’s actually not so bad, I enjoy the time to think!

  13. My commute isn’t too bad, about 30 minutes in my car. I actually really like it in the morning, I love knowing that once I get in the car, I still have some time before starting work and it’s a good time to organize my day’s to-do list in my head and listen to music. However, I loathe the commute home. I might not be in a rush to get to work, but I’m always looking forward to getting home! I try to just relax and accept I have no control over it (TRY being the key word here). :)

  14. I have no serious complaints about my commute (besides the fact that I think most drivers should not have a license), but I do feel bad for my husband. He drives 80 miles each way to get to work and back. Luckily it’s all highway, but it still takes him about an hour and a half. He never, ever complains, but I still feel sorry for him.

  15. I live in a city with horrible traffic and pretty much no public transportation. Having the option of not having to drive everywhere would be nice, but I can see where it could get annoying. I want to live in a place where I can walk/bike everywhere, not having to deal with the stress of traffic would be amazing!

  16. public transportation in sf can be a pain in the butt. it’s late all the time or slow. :/ i drive to work, and it’s become ridiculous now that gas is $4/gallon.

  17. I depend a lot on public transportation in Chicago, but most of the time, I love it! Yeah, it sucks to wait for a bus or train, but the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) started a new tracker on their website using GPS so that you can look up exactly how long it will be before it comes. Plus, I would really miss having the option of hopping on a train instead of driving or taking a $$ cab to get home after having a drink or two!

  18. I don’t work anymore, but I used to leave the house at 7:45am, drop off the kids at 8am, get to work by 9am stay until 5pm, pick up kids at 6pm, home and rush around for dinner and putting them to bed. I hated it every.single.day!

  19. well, you know what made me want to barf. thanks for that sus.. thanks.

    i secretly want to live somewhere where i can utilize public transit if i want.. you have to drive everywhere here.

    my commute is simple.. 15 minute drive to work!

  20. I drive and I’m not proud or happy about it. Especially when gas is like four (american) dollars a gallon!

    When I lived in manhattan, I took the subway to work and loved it because I was always on time and met some interesting people. It was awful in the summer when it felt like walking in a piss sauna, but the rest of the year it was ok.
    But when I was in college, I relied a lot on my bike which is my personally favorite way to get around. Cheap, earth friendly, no need to hunt for parking, and you get nice gams in the process!

  21. wow, I meant “personal favorite”….clearly I can’t type today

  22. I liked the subway when I was in Toronto but then I was a tourist and only there for 2 days! I liked that it was simple as I’d only ever been on the London underground which confuses the heck out of me.

    I drive to work and I really dread it every day. I used to get the bus and like you read loads of books which was nice but eventually I got fed up of waiting in the cold for buses that never turn up so switched to the car.

  23. i’m so lucky to be right near the city. i can basically walk where i need to go. the public transport here is very good though, it’s not a hassle.

  24. I love the city, but I hear ya on public transit. It can get verrrry frustrating. Still, I’d pick it any day over dealing with TO traffic in a car! :P


  25. I love this post! I was gonna write a post a few months ago about my newfound love/boyfriend– the NYC subway! Hahaha.. NY is the same way, big city, people avoid looking at eachother, etc.. but honestly, it’ became one of my favorite parts of my because I could sit there, in silence (probably THE quietest place in the city, underground) no phone service, no one to talk to– just me, and fifty other people reading, or whatever. It also became the only time of my day of actual relaxation. Yeah.. sometimes it was slow, but it was like a forced 45 minutes where I couldn’t worry about anything else, because you’re stuck down there, with nowhere to go, ya know? Anyway, just my thoughts. So interesting! I find transit systems so interesting. :) Hope you’re well Susan! Miss you. Can’t believe I haven’t read blogs in so long!

    • When I relax I want it to be at home in my peejays, not on a dirty train :P I’ve given up on most of my commenting, but I’m still reading all your posts Bekah! Love hearing about your culinary adventures in NYC! xoxo

  26. Great post! I’m lucky enough to live on my college campus, so I rarely ever have to face packed subways, trains or buses. I have found myself from time to time crushed in a sea of people at rush hour on the TTC, so I really admire people who take public transportation everyday in Toronto, as well as the GO Trains.

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