Dear Toronto Transit Commission,
I couldn’t help but notice the changes to your service, most notably the increase in buses last week on 43 of your routes, during the day.
While I will concede that my trips by bus last week on one of these said improved routes has made my one leg of my commute slightly more comfortable, I hope that there are more service improvements on the way, specifically in the evenings and late at night.
Why, you ask?
Well frankly, as someone who use public transit as her primary means of getting around – and as the daughter of a retired TTC employee – I have to say:
Your night service SUCKS.
Case in Point # 1:
Friday, February 22nd. I was at Yonge and St. Clair, out with some colleagues from work. After straggling for way too long and missing the subway, I decided it was now time to catch the Yonge night bus. (Note that the night bus is commonly known as the “Vomit Comet”.) I took my place at the designated bus stop at 2:08 a.m. It was freezing cold. There was no bus shelter. The bus didn’t arrive for another 10 minutes or so.
I caught the bus and made it to Yonge and Finch. But guess what? I don’t live at Yonge and Finch. I live and McCowan near Steeles. That’s three buses.
When I got off the bus and walked over to the next bus stop in my journey, because of the fact the Finch bus had taken off 5 minutes before I’d arrived, I had to wait 25 minutes. In the cold. There was no bus shelter. And a three-quarter- length hooded parka can only do so much.
I eventually got home at 3:45 a.m. If you do the math, that’s 1 hour and 37 minutes, counting from the time I waited at the bus stop at Yonge and St. Clair.
(Note: two weekends before, I also took the night bus, but at Yonge and Davisville. I think 2:08 a.m. was the time I got on the bus. And it was snowing. It took me one hour to get home. Imagine how long it could have been, had the subway been running. Hmm.)
Case in Point # 2:
Saturday, February 23rd. I went out to hang out with some friends on Dundas, just west of Bathurst. I made a point of leaving a bit earlier than I usually would, so that I could actually catch the subway and save some cab fare.
I left my friends’ party at 1:10 a.m. I still ended up spending $57 in cab fare.
Well, apparently the Dundas streetcar stops running at 1:07 a.m., three minutes before I set foot outside. There was no schedule posted at the stop I was standing at, probably because you only post your schedules at major stops.
I think I stood outside for a good 15 minutes. I finally saw a streetcar, but it was out of service. Luckily the driver gave me a lift up the street to Dundas and Bathurst, and he informed me I’d missed the last one. I inquired as to how long the north-south streetcars ran. He said the last Bathurst streetcar headed northward from the bottom of its route at about 1:35 a.m.
So I took my chances and waited. When I didn’t see a streetcar after a few minutes, I decided to take a jog up to the next stop. After a few minutes at that stop, I checked my watch: it was 1:31 a.m., which was cutting it ridiculously close. So I half-ran, half-walked up to the stop at Ulster Street.
By 1:42 a.m., there was still no sign of the streetcar, so I did what I was trying not to do: I had to hail a cab.
I must say, TTC, I had the nicest taxi driver. (I’m sure your streetcar drivers – like the one that gave me the lift to Dundas and Bathurst – are just as friendly, but I NEVER GOT TO FIND OUT.) He asked me how my evening was, and I explained to him the predicament which led me to flag him down in the first place.
And you know what? He mentioned how much money people like me are pouring into your system, and that the service wasn’t getting any better – just the opposite. (Mind you, he profited from the fact I lived so far away, but still.) He even cited an example of another city subway system – New York’s, actually – which he said was better than Toronto’s.
I’m fully aware that Toronto isn’ t New York. But let’s face it: the crusade to get more people out of cars and into buses, streetcars and subways isn’t working. I currently live at home and have been trying to save money being used on $60 cab rides, by using your transportation system. Somehow I think The Better Way has actually proven to be worse.
Not that you’ll consider these, but here are a few suggestions I think might help people like me trying to get home without the huge expense.
End subway service later. Except for New Year’s, the train service ends ridiculously early. Unless I’m at an establishment that’s around the corner from a train station, I’m effectively screwed about 98 percent of the time. The last train eastbound leaves Yonge and Bloor station at 1:48 a.m. (The “official” train, that is. I’ve been on the unofficial last train before, so you can’t fool me.) If I was in the Yonge and Eglinton area, I have until 1:21 a.m. to have a hope in hell of going northbound. What’s the deal?
I’m not saying the trains have to run all hours of the night. But how about an actual decent time – say, 2:15? That’s around the time a lot of people are finding their way home. Too late? How about rounding your service up about 12 minutes to, say, 2 o’clock? That would work for me. And at the very least, I’d pay $25 dollars for a cab from Kennedy Station, instead of $55 or $60 from the heart of downtown.
Extend streetcar service. I know a lot of them have a long route. But why do I have to leave wherever I might be downtown at 12:45, just to get home? That’s ludicrous.
Do something about the night buses. I personally think service should be slightly more frequent between 1 and 3 a.m. (since I’m a woman travelling at night by myself) but I’m not going to win that war. But honestly? If I have to wait a half-hour for a bus, give me some shelter so I don’t feel chilled to the bone when I have to wait for one in the middle of winter. This might be a good start to shaking your “Vomit Comet” moniker.
I don’t expect any of my requests to be considered. But just take note of this:
Like a lot of people who travel home at night, I’m not a rambunctious or drunken individual swinging off the subway or bus rails as if they were monkey bars. I’m not screaming at the top of my lungs or laughing hysterically, trying to bring attention to myself on the way home. And I’m not vomiting anywhere inside the interiors of your vehicles.
I’m just a person who likes to have a good time with friends and co-workers, and then just wants to get home afterwards, in one piece, in an orderly, inexpensive manner. Just because I don’t call it a night at midnight, doesn’t mean I don’t deserve decent service.
And frankly, I can’t always bother my friends to let me crash at their apartments until the following morning. And I don’t have the money to buy a car or pay exorbitant rent, or buy a house, otherwise I’d already be doing that. Actually, I’m trying to save money so I can do one of those three things.
But it doesn’t help when I’m actually forced to find an expensive alternative to find my way home because the public transportation system in my city – which is trying to get me to use them even more – doesn’t provide the proper resources for me to take advantage of what it’s trying to offer.
Just think about that.