Toronto’s Commute Problem

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Three years ago I had a job in downtown Toronto for a few months. I told several people that while I loved working downtown, I hated the commute. It involved taking the subway, which was crowded and often delayed. I spent at least two hours a day commuting. This is not unusual, since the average commute time in Toronto is 65.6 minutes each way. About 49% of commuters drive, while 44% use public transit. Both ways of commuting are challenging in Canada’s largest city. It causes problems not just for commuters, but Canadian businesses.


The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) has many problems. The Scarborough RT is very old and needs to be replaced. City council has debated on many ideas for years. The latest is a one-stop subway that costs billions of dollars. Events like that are a frequent occurrence: public transit plans getting debated a lot and no actual work is done. Even after construction begins, there are frequent delays and financial issues. The Line 1 subway extension was supposed to open last year. It has been delayed until the end of 2017 and was more expensive than budgeted. Bombardier has delivered far fewer new streetcars than expected.




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Another problem with the TTC is that it can be unreliable. On several occasions, I have waited about half an hour for a bus on a major street. I seldom take the streetcar while downtown since it is not much faster than walking. My downtown commutes were prolonged by emergency alarms being misused. I also do not like the old-fashioned transfer system. You can only use a transfer right away on a bus at the same intersection. I have only seen this in one other Canadian city: Belleville. It is understandable in a small city with less than ten bus lines. However, it does not work well in Toronto. Many times I wanted to stop at Starbucks on my way to school or work, but couldn’t afford two fares. A time-based system would mean lost revenue. However, it would reduce commuter frustration.


The issues with public transit result in more people driving to work. However, that is not much easier. A recent study showed that among the twenty busiest roads in Canada, ten are in the Greater Toronto Area. Sitting in traffic for a long time can use up a lot of gasoline. This means higher fuel costs and more air pollution. Many of Toronto’s highways were built over fifty years ago when the population was much lower. This includes the 401, DVP, and Gardiner, which are most often used to commute.

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Longer commutes have a large economic impact. According to a 2013 study, Toronto businesses lose about 1o billion dollars annually due to gridlock. There need to be improvements made to public transit so fewer cars are on the highways. Solutions need to be implemented right away rather than debated several times at city hall. An easier commute will reduce stress and increase productivity. This will benefit businesses and employees in the long term.