Toronto Gridlock during Rush Hour.

Toronto – The Gridlock City Part 1

On the heels of my last post, I thought I would write a post relating to my experience coping with Toronto’s gridlock. I came back to the Toronto last year from my 10 year stint living in parts of Alberta. And it amazes me how much Toronto as changed with the condo explosion. I’m disappointed with what hasn’t really changed — notably — transit and roads.

I totally understand that Toronto’s population is growing and condos are being built on every available square foot to accommodate this. In my opinion, the only problem with this, is there seems to be no planning on the surrounding infrastructure for people to get around.

Numbers speak for itself

Now being the analytical person I am, I use Toggl to track my time for various activities, including tracking my commute time. I work downtown and I have taken my car and I have used transit GO Transit or Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). After about a year, I can see why there a lot of cars on the roads. When I was taking the GO Train, it was no faster than taking my car and sitting on the Gardiner for 10 mins. Most times, the train was usually late getting into Union Station or some other delay on the Lakeshore West line. At the beginning of the summer, I moved to Humbertown in the Royal York and Dundas area. Taking the TTC was not any better.

Here is a sample of my commute and transit times.

Mode of Travel AM Rush Hour (Total) PM Rush Hour (Total) Combined Commute Time
Car (Walk) 30/15 (45 mins) 15/45 (60 mins) 1 hr 45 mins
GO Train (Car/Train/Walk) 10/20//20 (50 mins) 20/20/10 (50 mins) 1 hr 40 mins
TTC (Car/Walk/TTC/Walk) 8/5/35/7 (55 mins) 7/35/5/8 (53 mins) 1 hr 48 mins
TTC (Bus/Train/Walk) 14/35/7 (56 mins) 7/35/5/8 (53 mins) 1 hr 48 mins
Car After Nov 2015 (Walk) 23/15 (38 mins) 15/20 (35 mins) 1 hr 13 mins

If you look at my travel times, you would think taking the GO Train would be the best option to travel. I thought so too. Before June, I lived in the QEW/427 area, and hopping on the GO train at Long Branch for the 20 min. ride was very appealing. Who wants to sit on the Gardiner during rush hour while construction is going on? Just recently after the Gardiner construction shifted to another location, driving to downtown is even faster. Governments and environmentalists always tout taking transit is the better way. Come to think of it, TTC’s slogan was the “The Better Way”. And taking transit would be cheaper too right?

Daily Costs between Transit and Car

Mode of Travel Parking Gas/Transit Fees Total Daily Fees
Car $10.00 $4.50 $14,50
Go Transit $4.50 $10.10 $14.60
TTC $6.00 $0.00 $6.00
Packed TTC Subway Train

Packed TTC Subway Train. Courtesy of Anne J Gibson via Flickr

Based on the time and costs figures, the difference is minimal except for the TTC. But as anyone who travels on the TTC knows, I hate being poked and prodded like a sardine or cattle to save half the travel costs and add more travel time. I’ll take more chances dealing with road rage. I have lost count how many times I have seen people tripped and fall being pushed out of the train. When I do take the TTC, I am thankful that I get on before Dundas West. By the time the train reaches that station, the whole train is packed and anyone east of Dundas West have to wait for a few trains before they can get on. I can imagine it is the same from the east on the Danforth line. The Number 1 line (University and Yonge) is even worse. It can’t handle the capacity of the growth from the north and the feed of passengers travelling from the east and west.

Regardless how I travel, it is 2 hours of lost productivity per day. Various reports peg the cost of lost productivity from congestion and gridlock in Toronto at over 2 – 20 Billion dollars annually. If business had to pay for employees commute time, it would be cheaper for them to pay the extra corporate taxes then trying to avoid paying. My 2 hours of daily commute time pales in comparison to TTC riders who endure much longer travel times, especially riders who takes buses and live in Transit Deserts.

I remember when I was teenager that congestion was concentrated with commuters heading into downtown Toronto. If you worked anywhere else, like Mississauga or Brampton; the drive was free flowing and stress free. It is a stark contrast to what it is today. Now you can’t get anywhere whether travelling downtown, north and east and west. What compounded all of this?

  1. Poor urban planning particular in the GTA.
  2. Lack of Government funding or forethought.
  3. Incredible leverage that developers and big contractors have over city councils.

In my next post I will write how we got here and some of the solutions that should be in place.