Commuting to Toronto from the suburbs

Updated 2011-03-11 13:37

Because I use the highway, my drive to downtown was extended only by about 30 min when we moved to the suburbs. When we lived in the city, making my way around by car was a slow and tedious process, the 6 km I had to drive through the downtown core took at least 30 min to 45 min. Even now, most of the time spent on my commute to Toronto is within the city border. The first 25 km to highway 427 intersection with QEW often takes only 30 minutes in the morning, but form there to the center of the city (20 km) the traffic jams and no matter which route one takes, it usually takes about an hour.

The downside of moving out really is the commuting. There are only two choices, either to drive or take the commuter train, the GO train and then transfer to the subway. Over the past month, driving the 45 km distance took me on average 1hr 20 min-1hr 30 min. (In a rare instance of no traffic, perhaps between 1am to 4am, the trip takes about 35-40 min). Very tiring, frustrating and unpredictable, especially when one has to pick up children from school. Often, about once a week, it took me up to 2 hours to get home. The major problem is getting through Toronto. Within Toronto the highway, as well as the streets, are standing still. It can take up to an hour to get onto the highway from University Ave and Bloor (2.5 km ' yes, really, that is not a typo), or Spadina and Bloor, while it takes only 30 min from just past the city limits (at Highway 427) to the west end of Oakville (25 km). There really are only two major on-ramps (third is closed during rush hour), at University and at Spadina, so all the commuter traffic from the city core empties onto these.

Commuting by transit: the GO Train and TTC (subway/streetcar) combination. I found this option to be very expensive. An adult 10-ride ticket is $67.00 (i.e. 1 work week worth of passes); adult monthly pass is $239.00. Subway is $2.50 per ride (if tokens bought in bulk) or $121 for a monthly pass. So, the range is ($67 x 4.33 = wks/month = 290.33 in GO passes + $25 in TTC /wk which comes to $108.33 in TTC/m = total $398.66, or if passes are bought, $360). So, about $18.40 to $16.61 in just transit expenses per day!

Then you have to consider the total lack of parking at the GO Train, but this is being finally remedied and the western-most stations are getting extended parking lots. Any time after 8 am you will have to count on walking at least 5minutes to the station from the very end of the lot, that is if you are lucky to park to begin with. I often spent 20 minutes looking in the furthest outreaches of the dirt-road parking lots subcontracted by the GO Transit, only to have to drive in anyway and spend $20 on a day parking permit. Also, one has to keep in mind the now notorious unreliability of the system. I stopped counting the number of times we were stopped on tracks for an hour or more, outside of a station, not being able to exit, and everyone who had children to pick up was making emergency phone calls to any relative they could get hold of.

Door'to-door, driving is probably faster. To use the train, I would leave 35 min before the train arrived to drive the 5 min distance to the station, which in morning rush of commuters to the lots takes 15 min, and take 10-15 minutes to park and 5 minutes to run to the station. The train ride is about 40-45 min, depending on a station. Then transferring to the subway, it takes another 25-30 min to the level of Bloor St. In total, driving takes up to 1.5 hours; public transit about 1hr and 40-50 min, with not much buffer zone for extra slow parking or an extra dense traffic to the station, so it's more stressful. Also, I had to walk a number of times from the Union station because of subway closures, which are not infrequent. The system was built in the 50's, I believe, but not much has been done since. Even the stations pass as 1970's decor at the most. Leaving or going to Union station, the trains must make a slight turn and the noise of the wheels is unbearable, undoubtedly above any safe noise limits. The last I heard is that it would be too expensive to upgrade the trains.

To compare the costs, driving costs about $40 on gas per week and $100-$120 in monthly parking, so about $273-$293 per month, saving me around $100, especially if you share a ride (not counting car depreciation). I also find that it is much more flexible, since outside of the narrow window of commuter rush hour, one has to wait an hour between trains, which is extremely inconvenient and seriously extends ones commuting time. My car is also much more reliable then the trains, and warm in winter, compared to the -20oC on unheated platforms.

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.