November 14th, 2012

How to take the TTC like a sane person

Every year, I say I’m going to write this post before the Santa Claus Parade, and every year I’m shocked that the parade is in the middle of November and I don’t get it done in time. No more!! This year the parade is on Sunday and I will be ready!

Why do I need to write “How to take the TTC like a sane person” before the Santa Claus Parade? Well, by my exceedingly unscientific count, that’s the day the most inexperienced TTC-riders flood the system and make things difficult for the rest of us. But in truth those folks are around all the time in smaller numbers, being nervous and lost and awkward, so I thought I’d try to help.

FYI, I am *not* saying that all regular riders are dreamboats. There are some–I’d say a good 5%–who are nervous and lost and awkward, or downright mean and aggressive, ALL THE TIME. Those people suck, but their problem is not lack of information–they’re either legimately not sane, or are just jerks, but anyway, I cannot help them.

But you, the uninformed but basically decent and normal first-time rider–you, I can help!

Step 1–Make a plan
Yes, subway stations and bus/streetcar stops have maps and yes, many TTC employees are very well-informed about what’s where in the city, but blithely leaving the house with just an address in your hand is not the best plan. Once you are ON a surface route, the driver can often help you figure out where to get off, but probably most won’t be able to tell what route you should take to start.

Google Maps has a transit directions function that works quite well–just enter your start and end points, and then click on the little bus face. The TTC itself has a little trip planner that works fine, too, though I have less experience with it. You can also ask the folks at your destination what’s the best way to get there–desk staff often has a lot of experience in that regard.

Politeness reminder: Bus and streetcar drivers often switch from route to route, and maybe don’t have the one they’re currently assigned to memorized. Especially with the new automated stop announcements, they’re really not required to. Even if they do in fact know all the stops, they probably don’t know exactly where the address you are trying to get to falls along the route, or what address a certain store is at. Please don’t yell at people for not intuitively knowing exactly how to help you get to the place you want to go. Most will try to help, but it’s not their job.

Step 2. Prepare adequately. Brief your family.
I get that if you take transit a couple times a year, you can’t remake your life for it. But try to be reasonable–a bunch of toys/games/sippy cups, unsecured to anyone’s person, are fine in a car but are going to come to a bad end on the subway. Some strollers are really really big and hard to navigate in tight spaces. Folks are very tolerant of any contraption containing a baby, but for your own sanity maybe consider a smaller option if you have one. Explain to children that train doors close automatically and if kids don’t stay with the pack you could get separated. Then make a family plan about what to do if you do get separated and make sure everyone memorizes it.

The strongest push towards writing this post is the image I have in my head of parents shrieking at their progeny, “IT’S OUR STOP COME RIGHT NOW WE’REGOINGTOMISSOURSTOP!!!!!!!”
a) it’s not the end of the world if you miss your stop–on the subway you can just get on the line the opposite way at the next one, and bus/streetcar stops aren’t that far apart.
b) it helps to know what stop you’re going to and how many are in between here and there. My eavesdropping experience leads me to believe that children love counting stops and seeing how close they are to their destination–why not make it a family game? On the new trains on the Yonge/University/Spadina line, the spot you’re at on the map even *lights up*–how fun is that?

Politeness note: Just like we’re all responsible for getting off at the right exit on the highway without causing an accident, we’re all responsible for getting off at the right bus/streetcar/subway stop without shoving anyone. People *will* make way for you if you get up right after the stop before yours and begin courteously making your way to the door. I think some novice riders look up from their book/ipad/conversation right before their stop, see a mass of humanity and panic–“AH,no one will move to let me off”–so they start aggressively shoving. Please don’t do that–anyone who takes transit regularly will move aside if you start in their direction–and if they don’t see you, “Excuse me” works wonders. Some folks get the idea that the spot in front of the door is all theirs and won’t budge–them, you can shove.

Politeness note: Don’t stand in front of the door because you “don’t want to miss my stop” unless your stop is actually next. Otherwise, what about the people whose stop *is* actually next? They will have to shove you, that’s what.

3. Step 3: Think reasonably about safety
I do not want to hear anything more about people refusing to go to public places in downtown Toronto in the middle of the day because they’re “scared of muggers.” I’m sure muggings happen in the city, but they’re pretty rare–much more sensible to take precautions against being hit by a car. There *are* neighbourhoods where there is a greater chance of bad things happening, but they’re not on the Santa Claus Parade route. If you are going to be out late, off the beaten track, and/or travelling alone, it’s worth finding out from someone who lives in the area what spots to avoid–please don’t take the advice of folks who haven’t been downtown since the 90s, or only even 9-5 Monday-Friday.

It is very unlikely that anything criminal will happen on populated TTC vehicle (even I think twice about getting on a subway car with just one dude in it) but you still have to act like a sane person. Don’t leave your purse or coat on a seat while you stand up to go look at the map, don’t let your children run beyond your ability to monitor them, don’t talk loudly about how much cash you have on you. Seriously, I know this is a stupid paragraph but I have seen all of these things.


Whoo, over 1100 words. This is kinda a rant, I guess, but I don’t exactly mean it as one. Yes, I get stressed seeing people misbehave in transit and then blame the system, but I also love Toronto and it’s various trasnits, and I want more people to enjoy. I was scared of the TTC when I started riding it, too, but 10 years later, I wouldn’t get half as many places, read as many books, or be as often on time if it weren’t for the TTC. Share the love, ride the rocket.

4 Responses to “How to take the TTC like a sane person”

  • AMT says:

    share the love, ride the rocket, don’t be a jerk or an imbecile.

    words to live by!

    i am so pleased you are a torontonian these days… decades, whatever. i love knowing you are holding high the flag of responsible urban living in my hometown.

    now if i could only get the people of edmonton to understand how escalators work…

  • Rebecca says:

    I’m keeping TO warm and safe for your eventual and triumphant permanent return (leave me my illusions!!)

  • Jeanie Keogh says:

    You are absolutely hilarious! You are also one of the reasons I love cyberspace. I feel inclined to offer the history of my deep respect for you. I first found out about you when I read your piece “How to keep your office job” and then I forgot all about you as quickly as some forget a one-night stand. Well, that’s not true, I remembered you, but not the name of your piece, nor the correct spelling of your name…Rosen…baum? berg? (grrrr), nor the publication it was in and a Google search didn’t help. Then I got to fall in love with you all over again when I came across your story The House That Modern Art Built in Prism. An eternal, humble thanks for writing really important stories that hurt me to read.

  • Rebecca says:

    Thank you so much, Jeanie–what a wonderful comment to receive!

  • Leave a Reply

So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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