Arts & Life

Knowing the nearest subway station is half the battle

In which Jess passes her “first major transit challenge” and plugs a local brewery

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A difference between Winnipeg and Toronto: I don’t want to kick myself in the head for never learning to drive in Toronto.

More than one seasoned resident has assured me that within a year or so, I’ll hate the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) as much as they do. Perhaps they’re right. But until that day comes, my conclusion is that they’ve been spoiled by trips to cities with truly world-class transit – New York, the better part of Europe – and life in a city that has a number of public transportation options exceeding one.

How else am I supposed to feel after crunching the numbers? Before my move, the distance between home and work was 6.8 kilometres, and the ride on one bus between those two points took 37 minutes. When I move into my new apartment in two weeks, the distance between home and work will be 9.4 kilometres. The TTC ride, which will entail a transfer from subway to streetcar, will take 25 minutes.

It’s not like I haven’t noticed any negatives. While New York officials have spoken of making Wi-Fi available on moving trains, we’ll have to wait until December to get Wi-Fi at two underground stations. There are also several stations with room for extra benches that, for whatever reason, don’t actually have extra benches. And that time I had to walk back to my relatives’ house on Bathurst from Glencairn Station, on account of buses from there not running at 11 p.m. . . . less than ideal.

Also: Service to and from Pearson. Seriously. We beg of you.

I may be more impressed with the layout of the city than the vehicles operating within. Because so much of grid-patterned Toronto is connected at right angles, the city-wide practice of navigating by intersection is almost instinctive. You can orient yourself to the city’s cardinal directions within a couple of rides. But knowing which station is nearest the intersection you want is essential.

When my good friend Steve – Ontario-born, now in Winnipeg – was in town last weekend, he gave me what he called my “first major transit challenge”: meet him and his friend Ken at Indie Ale House on Dundas Street West, which I hadn’t visited yet. Ken was kind enough to send me the exact address and indicate that Keele Station was closest. After that, Steve forbade him from helping me further. I needed to figure it out on my own, he said.

Of course, he was right. It was my city now. I had to get to know it.

OK, let’s see. . . . I know from repeatedly staring at route maps that Keele is on the same line as Bathurst Station. I can take the bus down Bathurst, take the subway from there, and then figure out the next bus when I get to Keele. According to my mobile map, the bar is mere seconds from the intersection of Keele and Dundas. No problem.

Turns out, it was no problem. I arrived sooner than Steve expected – “Well done, grasshopper” was his Facebook comment – and we all had a great time.

If Winnipeg was the size of Toronto, would finding the way by transit have been that easy for a newcomer? I’m guessing not. They’d have to overcome such challenges as poorly synchronized stoplights, route display panels that don’t tell you much about the route, and a city that was designed by drunken, lobotomized morons.

I’ll let you know if my journey to Indie Ale House was really a challenge when I find a reason to travel to Scarborough.

P.S. That Ken guy? He’s one of the men behind Hogtown Ale, which you can find at most Ontario liquor stores. If you like a smooth lager like Half Pints St. James Pale Ale, you’ll appreciate what Ken helps to brew.

(I’m not a beer drinker. Steve told me to say that.)


Jess Chapman is a TV producer and freelance writer, recently transplanted from Winnipeg to Toronto, who once had a guy on a Winnipeg bus brush his half-exposed ass against her arm.