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Christopher Greaves

Hurdles

This list is not exhaustive, but is drawn from my experience. The experience is exhausting.

Union Station

Union station and its surrounds (Front Street, York Street, Bay Street, even the Bay Street GO bus terminal) have been in a perpetual state of construction since about ten years before Governor John Simcoe strutted about Muddy York many years ago. Or so it seems. Front street was torn up and blocked off two years ago at least, and one wonders why it takes two years to relay a bit of road surface. We are told that it is necessary to block off the street in order to Build the Union Express airport train station, or to add an extra TTC subway platform, or to build the New York Concourse for GO trains, but why do all these subterranean activities require a block-long street area with no sign of entry or exit of earthmoving equipment? Why cannot a tunnel be built to admit construction equipment and fan it out to each of the three projects?

Ontario Tourist Bureau

This used to be placed on Dundas Street between Bay and Yonge streets, physically central to downtown Toronto.

Christopher Greaves OntarioTouristBureau.png

The upper arrow shows where Ontario Tourist Bureau used to be, the lower arrow shows where it is now, a bit to the west of the new York Concourse, which is at the western edge of Union Station.

The Ontario Tourist Bureau does not have maps of the thirty-kilometres of “PATH” – the underground walkway that threads downtown Toronto together. So they can’t help you with walking around downtown Toronto.

The Ontario Tourist Bureau doesn’t have information about GO Transit – you have to go back to Union Station and down one level to get that. So they can’t help you with traveling around the GTA and the satellite towns and cities.

The Ontario Tourist Bureau doesn’t have information about VIA Rail - you have to go back to Union Station to get that. So they can’t help you with travelling out of Toronto to places around Ontario such as Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec, or even Windsor, where we have a casino. I’m told.

But apart from the fact that they can’t help you get around downtown, the GTA or the province, they are quite helpful.

GO Transit

The staff are nice enough, but the organization, while not quite bald-faced liars or shysters, are in a position where they could be labeled mis-informative.

Kitchener is a large city west of Toronto. The GO schedules have a pamphlet labeled “Kitchener Go Train and Bus Schedule”, but that pamphlet isn’t going to help you get to Kitchener.

Monday through Friday there is one train that leaves Union Station at 17:50 and reaches Kitchener at 19:57; there is a second train that leaves Union at 18:50 but it travels only as far as Georgetown, where you transfer to a bus that can get you to Kitchener at 20:41.

Nothing travels to Kitchener on the weekend.

So unless you work downtown, the GO Transit pamphlet labeled “Kitchener Go Train and Bus Schedule” isn’t any use at all in helping you get to Kitchener any time at all.

If like me you’d like to visit Kitchener during daylight hours, you must ignore the pamphlet labeled “Kitchener Go Train and Bus Schedule”, and pick up instead TWO pamphlets, one labeled “Milton Go Train and Bus Schedule” (although you won’t be going to Milton) and a second pamphlet cunningly labeled “Waterloo Mississauga GO Bus Schedule” which can help you get to Kitchener.

To spend a small part of daylight hours in Kitchener you study the “Milton Go Train and Bus Schedule” and find that you can travel by Go Bus from Union station to Square one in Mississauga. At that point you must transfer to the “Waterloo Mississauga GO Bus Schedule” which has a way of getting you, again by bus, from Square one in Mississauga to, say Kitchener Bus Terminal.

To save you fatigue, here’s a worked example: To get to Kitchener in time for breakfast, say 9:02 on a weekday morning, you’d transfer to the Waterloo bus at Square One in Mississauga at 7:40. You could do that by stepping OFF the Square One bus from Union Station at 7:35, but you would have to get ON that bus at Union Station at 6:50.

But see “Go Tickets” below.

Go Tickets

I returned from touring the Ile de France by train last September and had to travel to a business in Pickering. I paid $14.90 for an “all day” ticket between Union and Pickering.

Go Transit doesn’t do “return tickets”, but you can shuttle back-and-forth along a little industrial corridor until you get tired of it.

I learned later that I could have traveled at a Senior’s rate, but the ticket clerk didn’t think to ask me my age.

Given that you have to be ON BOARD the GO bus at 6:50 a.m. you might decide to take the safeguard of buying your ticket in advance, say, the day before, if not the week before, but Go Transit can’t do that. So you have to be at the GO Bus terminal well before 6;50, because, let’s face it, you won’t be the only one buying a ticket, and you could be the one at the end of the line when the 6:50 bus pulls out.

Why not sell tickets for trips to be taken a day or two later? Is it such a bad thing to take money of people and have the use of it overnight? Unscrupulous money-lenders and loan-sharks do it.

Presto

A friend of mine has a Presto magnetic card. She paid, I think, $6 to initialize the card, then added money for her first few trips, and adds money to the card from time to time. I’m not sure how she adds money to it, but she does.

To meet me downtown, she swipes the card as she boards the Mississauga Transit bus, swipes the card before boarding the GO train in Cooksville, and swipes it again as she gets off the train at Union. We walk around downtown all day, then she swipes the Presto card three times on her way home (boarding the train at Union, leaving the train at Cooksville, and boarding the Mississauga Transit bus at Cooksville.

Why don’t I visit my friend in Mississauga?

Because I’d have to use a TTC ticket to get to Union Station, but a GO train ticket to get to Cooksville, buy a Mississauga Transit bus ticket at Cooksville, and then buy tickets on Mississauga Transit and the TTC to get home; the Go ticket would work all day long for me.

Why don’t I get a Presto card? Because with a few exceptions, the TTC hasn’t got around to implementing Presto card technology yet. The TTC still uses paper tickets and metal tokens when every city encircling Toronto has switched to Presto.

This hurdle is designed to make the short-term visitor or casual business traveler spend half the day fumbling for spare change and looking for mis-placed tickets.

Where is the Navigo Pass that lets anyone and everyone travel everywhere with a single tangible object?

Paper Tickets Versus Presto Card

I used to buy a paper ticket (all-day”) and travel from Union Station, spend the day in Barrie, and travel back.

Since the ticket was an all-day ticket valid for travel between Union Station and Barrie I could hop off the bus in Bradford on the way up, have coffee with a friend, and then continue my journey.

Since the ticket was an all-day ticket valid for travel between Union Station and Barrie I could hop off the bus in Newcastle on the way home, have supper with a friend, and then continue my journey home.

With a Presto card this becomes four separate trips, and Presto staff confirm that if I plan to break my trips like this, I’m better off reverting to a paper ticket.

So Presto is flexible, but at times you can pay for that flexibility.

The Presto Help Line

Be aware that Presto staff have scripts regarding questions about Presto. They are not trained to handle specific situations.

Example: I phoned and posed a hypothetical trip, by Go Train from Oshawa to Union, and hypothesized that after alighting on platform 27 in Union Station, still close enough to reach out and touch the carriage, I could hop right back on and carry on to, say, Port Credit, since I had a three-hour time window when I tapped-on with my Presto card in Oshawa.

“No” says the staff, “You can’t do that!”.

Yes I can! The tap-off devices are in the station lobby, not track-side, and when I tapped-on in Oshawa before boarding the train there was no way that the Presto system could have known where I intended to get off; how could it know I had a date in Union, or Exhibition; or Mimico, or Long Branch, or ...?

Discussion ensues, but ends abruptly when Presto staff say that I’d have to take the matter up with Go Transit, trains, especially.

But this is nothing to do with Go Transit as such; it is about how Presto operates.

The Presto Help Line

Discussion ensued, but ended abruptly when Presto staff say that I’d have to take the matter up with Go Transit, trains, especially.

In particular, said Presto staff, every Transit system is different.

And that is another way in which the Navigo system in the Ile de France Transilean network differs from Metrolinx and its Presto card.

In the GTHA you will at times want to be aware of the unit cost of a trip on transit; a local bus trip in Durham Region might be $3.50, but a local bus trip in Barrie might be only $2.50, and in Peterborough it might be only $2.20.

If you plan on hopping on and off buses with your Presto card, these subtle differences add up.

The Navigo system in the Ile de France Transilean network has you load a fixed amount (about $cdn50 for a weekly pass across all five zones). Set it and forget it.

It doesn’t matter when, where or what you board; it is all paid for in advance. It matters not to you that Rambouillet might be charging €2 per trip and Etampes is charging €5 and Coulommiers is charging €20 (they aren’t!) You’ve paid your €35 for the week and you’re done.

24/7 in a region of roughly 14,000 square kilometres.

I can swipe my Presto card at College subway station now (Hooray!) but I can’t add money to my Presto card at College subway station (Boo!).

According to the Presto web site I can add to my Presto card ONLY at the TTC’s Davisville offices (rough translation: pay an extra TTC fare just to break your trip at Davisville, if you happen to be passing through; otherwise spend TWO tickets to add money to your Presto card.

According to the Presto web site I can by a Presto card at Union Station, but only a pre-loaded card. They don’t specify what value. I bought my card at Union Go and was asked how much I wanted to put on it. I chose $50, but in retrospect I wish I’d asked for $52.80, just to be difficult; the extra $2.80 being my TTC ticket home to College subway station!

Seniors Rates

At the time I bought my card I asked for it to be coded as a senior; I didn’t need to show proof-of-age, but could have been. It’s sad to think that although I feel like I’m 25 I look way older than 65!

I gave no proof of identity, so my Presto card is an anonymous senior’s card.

Presumably when my friend Raf visits Toronto he could use my Presto card to explore the GTHA.

All-Day Usage

Now suppose I decide to spend a day in Peterborough, or three days, or three days in Barrie.

It may well be more economical to purchase a ten-ride card rather than swipe my Presto card for each trip.

It will be a complicated bit of accounting to work out whether a Presto Card coupled with local transfer tickets is cheaper than a Presto card. I think that you don’t get issued a paper transfer with the use of the Presto card, but that “the system” cleverly calculates that a transfer is applicable when you board the next vehicle within the local time window.

And the local time window varies from city to city.

An expensive way to find out is to use the Presto card AND pay cash for individual tickets, and offer the transfer while swiping the Presto card each time I board a local bus.


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416-993-4953 CPRGreaves@gmail.com

Toronto, Monday, September 21, 2015 11:48 AM

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