I have nothing against mass transit.
In fact, the reason we moved to rural Milton in the first place was because there was a GO Train out this way (well, Georgetown; my record for getting to the station in my old Mini was 11 minutes...), and we both had real jobs in The Big Smoke.
We couldn't afford any house we wanted to live in along either the east or west Lakeshore lines, and this was the only other Go Train at that time.
The commute wasn't all that bad; we were both teaching at the time, so we used the 50 minute train ride for marking, lesson planning, snoozing, etc.
It did mean considerably more planning than I (especially) was used to, although it was always a good way to get out of a meeting: "Oops, sorry, gotta go, my train leaves in fifteen minutes."
But eventually, the convenience and flexibility of the car won out. As Lee Iacocca once said, the company he worked for (Chrysler at the time) was a 'mass transit' company too. Like it or not, the automobile IS the mass transit system of choice for most North Americans.
Although every time I DO have to drive into or out of TBS any time near to rush hour (Rush HOUR singular? Hah...) I ask myself - how does anybody do this? Twice a day? Every day?
You gotta be nuts.
But is the Go Train and/or the TTC a genuine alternative?
Most people vote with their ignition keys.
The most recent issue is the up-coming fare increase for the TTC. My two TBS-dwelling daughters both use the TTC on a regular basis, but I overheard one of them chatting with a friend the other day about the essential problem - transit systems need to raise fares to get the money they need to build new facilities to attract more riders, but higher fares scare riders away.
And now they're into this token-hoarding issue - people buying up boatloads of tokens at the current price to save a few pennies when the fare increase takes place in the New Year.
They first imposed a ten-token limit on buying them from attendants in stations, later reduced to five, and a one-token limit from automated machines. How much is your time worth to make you stand in front of a machine for hours buying one token at a time?
But according to the TTC's web site, they have now stopped selling tokens altogether, saying that too many of the ten million tokens apparently in circulation are stashed under matresses somewhere in the GTA, and have replaced them with paper tickets which expire on Jan. 2. They had stopped printing paper tickets some years ago because computer printers were getting too good and they were too easy to counterfeit.
Here are a few suggestions:
- they should put flashing lights and rows of cherries on the token machines. Every one thousandth push (or so) of the button would spew out ten tokens. Give people white plastic buckets for their loonies, allow them to smoke, give them free drinks...
- borrow a technique from the gasoline industry - don't tell your customers you're going to raise the price! They show up Jan. 3, "Hey folks, thanks for dropping in, your tokens now cost ten percent more today."
- and this one from aforementioned daughter, 'zoned fares'. "I don't mind a three dollar ride to the airport," she just told me, "but a three-dollar three-block street car ride?" She of course is too young and too 'rural-Milton-raised' to remember when the TTC DID have zoned fares. She recognizes it would be more complicated to administer - that's probably why they stopped doing this too. There is a semi-zone system for buses heading north of Steeles Avenue; whether it would be practical to further subdivide the city into smaller zones now is, I suppose, a matter of debate and further study.
- go to an automated ticket system like most other urban transit systems seem to use. On a recent visit to Tokyo I was issued a paper ticket with a computer-readable bar code; these have a one-day lifespan so hoarding could never be an issue. You get scanned going in and out; if you paid less than the distance travelled you have to top it up. We do have the Metro pass system, which gives you unlimited access and is transferable. But you need to take more than 48 rides per month to make this worthwhile - you'd have to be a dedicated Red Rocketeer to make that viable. Our Day Pass - currently nine bucks - needs four rides to pay for itself, again, more than a simple commuter would need. I'm sure the TTC has looked into these systems, but of course they'd need money to implement them, and we're right back to where we started.
Always happy to help take people off our roads - more room for me.