Tag Archives: GO Transit

19 Feb

Return to Pearson Airport

Yesterday, I made another voyage to the universe’s center, this time making a return trip to Pearson Airport, the place I first touched down as a new Ontario resident following my momentous defection from the SPRM more than two and a half years ago.

Bright and early, as always, I boarded the #12 bus at Fairview Mall for the all too familiar trek to Burlington. It turned out to be a perfect time to go, since there were so few people on the bus and traffic was so light on the QEW. At least on the way there.


The dungeon leading to track 3.


It would go up to +15 on this day, yet they still apparently needed the proverbial ton of salt. You can never, it seems, put down enough salt in this part of the world. Sometimes I wonder why the salt trucks aren’t out in the middle of July.


As the Lakeshore West train was pulling up to the platform, I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw a 20-something woman shivering as if it was -45, like they had in the Old Country this winter. These people just don’t know how lucky they are not to have suffered through such bitter cold. And on two wheels, like I have.


Aboard the train was this highly offensive ad from CBC Radio. It wasn’t the ad specifically, but the fact that it came from one of the world’s leading purveyors of left-wing political propaganda. I certainly hope GO reconsiders and refuses to accept advertising from such revulsive sources.


From Union Station, following a short break, I made for the subway station.


The entrance to the subway station.

Union, like all the other stations in the system, now accepts PRESTO cards, but for those who don’t have one or haven’t heard of PRESTO, you can pay with cash at the booth.


Waiting for the subway.


Minutes later, the subway came, and I got off to change to the #2 line at the St. George station. For the benefit of those who haven’t taken the subway and need to transfer to a different line, there is always an announcement to that effect when approaching a connecting station.


From there, I proceeded down the escalator, where the #2 was waiting for me. Yes, there are multiple levels underground. I know of at least one reader who is bothered by that concept.


Aboard the #2 line, I made myself comfortable as it made its way westward toward the Kipling station, the western terminus of the line.


Back up at street level, there were platforms for many bus routes, including one for the 192 Airport Rocket, an express route to Terminal 1 at Pearson Airport. There was even a bus waiting, but first, I took off on foot to get some highway pictures of 427 a short distance away.

During my hour-long diversion, I managed to avoid getting accosted by some Jehovah’s Witnesses who were canvassing the area around Bloor Street and got some excellent shots, soon to appear on a website near you.

I then returned to the Kipling station and caught the Airport Rocket bus. All TTC buses now accept PRESTO and, like many OC Transpo buses in Ottawa, you can even board in the rear if you are paying with PRESTO. Being at the Kipling station, however, you can’t even get to the platform without paying, so it was all academic.

As the name of the route suggested, after putting on his seat belt, the driver then rocketed north on 427 before meandering around the airport until reaching ground level at Terminal 1.


While there, I toured around at got some pictures. When flying to and from the universe’s center in the past, I had only been in Terminal 3, so this part of the adventure was all new.


Of note in this shot was the booth for the Peel Regional Police. For those who are not aware, Pearson Airport is actually located in Mississauga, not Toronto.

Next, I followed the signs to the link train, a free service which takes passengers to and from Terminal 3 and the attached Sheraton Hotel.


There are two sets of tracks and seats inside each car for the short trip between terminals. As shown in the first shot, the arrival times are pegged to the second.


Inside Terminal 3, I toured around before stopping for a break, not coincidentally, by the Niagara Airbus check-in desk by Door C.


There, I could not help but think back to the 2013 trip when I came St. Catharines for the first time to investigate the possibility of relocating to the city. It was in front of this desk where I sat wondering lay in store and whether or not this dream would ever become reality. As loyal readers are well aware, less than a year later, it did.

Following the break, I returned to Terminal 1 via the link train, then took the much-heralded UP Express train back to Union. At $9 for PRESTO users, it is a little more pricey than the $3 subway fare, but it gets you back to Union in only 25 minutes, and without having to change subway lines.


Inside, there are special luggage storage areas, plugs and complimentary Wi-Fi. There are even pull-down trays, just like on an airplane. Regrettably, announcements are made in Canadian and Quebecese and, unlike the case on GO trains, staff come around to verify tickets. In the case of PRESTO users, they scan your card to check that you did indeed tap on before you boarded.


Leaving Terminal 1.


Once at Union, simply follow the signs to guide you through the maze. In addition to the walkway to catch a GO train, VIA train or TTC subway line, there is also a walkway to the Toronto Convention Center.

Before returning home, I needed to visit a couple of places, so I exited via Front Street, where I spotted a pair of homeless people sitting on the sidewalk holding a sign that read, “Homeless and hungry, any little bit helps.” They didn’t have money for food, but they did have money for cigarettes. But, as someone once said to me, I just don’t understand the real issues behind poverty.

Moving on, I returned to Union and caught what was a crowded Lakeshore West train back to Burlington in enough time to catch the 2:54 #12 bus back to St. Catharines.


As you can see, I was certainly not the only one waiting for the bus. Maybe one of these days, GO will increase the frequency of this route. Though our mayor seems convinced otherwise, I’m not sure the daily train service to Niagara will become reality any time soon.

Decompressing after a long day, what was probably the most humorous part of the trip began when a retired steelworker with a faint odor of alcohol on his breath got on at Stoney Creek and sat next to me. We began talking and when I told him I was originally from Winnipeg, he began talking about his relatives in Chilliwack, BC, almost as if I was supposed to know them. As I’ve observed more than once since moving here, “out West” is just some small place on the fringe of the Earth where everyone more or less knows each other. In many respects, people from Southern Ontario are like Americans, whose only knowledge of Canada consists of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, and assume every Canadian lives in or near one of those three cities.

It got even funnier when I was mentioning the bitter cold in Winnipeg, which he began to equate with the climate in Chilliwack. Of course Winnipeg and Chilliwack have the same climate. Didn’t you know that? I’ll take this opportunity to pause and allow you to finish laughing hysterically before proceeding.

As we got closer to St. Catharines, as part of his life story, he mentioned that his father has “Altheimer’s.” Well, whatever that is. I hope it’s nothing like Alzheimer’s.

That conversation certainly proved to be the perfect way to cap off what was an interesting little mini-holiday.

31 Jan

Another Tour of Hamilton

Observations from yesterday’s tour of downtown Hamilton:

1. The GO bus leaving Fairview Mall was more than 10 minutes late, but the driver actually apologized and vowed to try and make up time on the way. It is another sharp contrast from the Old Country, where the driver would probably drive extra slow just to piss his passengers off even more.

2. There was someone from Quebec boarding at Fairview and, obviously unable to speak Canadian, simply held up her cell phone to the driver to tell him where she was going. Interesting idea. If I visit that country again, perhaps I should come prepared with a picture of a sub should I need to stop while on the wrong side of the border.

3. On the opposite side of the aisle was a gentleman having a very deep, involved conversation with himself. Moving his arms and talking out loud, he appeared to be thoroughly enjoying his own company.

4. Seated in front of this talkative gentleman was someone stretched out over both seats snoozing away. I wonder if she asked the driver to wake her at her stop.

5. Kudos to that GO driver who waited until the senior who boarded at Beamsville got to the top of the steps before taking off.

6. I noticed GO has finally indicated “Beamsville” on the new Ontario Street/QEW stop. It was long overdue, as there are three exits in Niagara for an Ontario Street, the others coming in Grimsby and St. Catharines.

7. Upon reaching Stoney Creek and the stop for the now-infamous Barton bus, I was asked by a younger dude in dreadlocks if he could use my cell phone. Not that I have one, but I wouldn’t have made the assumption he only wanted to use it temporarily.

8. I’m not sure it was safe for him to do it, but more kudos to the same GO driver for letting that young woman on despite being in the left-hand turning lane at the on-ramp for the Red Hill Valley Parkway.

9. HSR is now putting CBC “news” up on their video screens for the benefit of those sitting in the back. Needless to say, I found this deeply offensive.

10. I was even more offended when one of these CBC “news” segments showed a picture of the Government Forks in Winnipeg. The SPRM does have a way of following me around.

11. While stopping for a picture on Ferguson in the International Village, a woman carrying a tray full of Mr. Horton’s delicacies made a point of telling me, “If you see someone falling from the seventh floor, don’t mind it because it won’t be me.” Not only did I not see that one coming, but there were no buildings in the immediate vicinity that even had seven floors.

12. There were plenty of beggars out and about, though they were at least polite and somewhat respectful. One was seated on the sidewalk outside Hamilton City Center with his legs stretched out. Another was standing right outside the door at another of Mr. Horton’s locations asking “You don’t happen to have a nickel or a dime towards a bagel, eh?” After ignoring him, he said, “Sorry for bothering you.” All told, I was accosted three times throughout the day.

12a. Later that evening, a friend who I was speaking with on the phone said that if I had wanted to do something different with my life, I could have made a good counsellor. I’ll pause for a moment while you get all that laughter out of your system.

13. It is not a proper trip on the Barton bus without getting at least one mother with a stroller in tow. There might even be some sort of transit by-law requiring it.

14. I know only those of you from the SPRM who use or have used Winnipeg Transit will appreciate this comment, but it’s still a novelty not having to use a battering ram to get out the back door. On all HSR buses I’ve been on, the back doors open automatically and there’s never been a problem.

15. For a complete set of pictures, click here.

04 Jan

Visiting Hamilton and Dundas

Thoughts from my journey to Hamilton and Dundas today:

1. While waiting at Fairview Mall for the GO bus this morning, someone was out in a Bobcat spreading salt by the ton. OK, it had rained overnight. But it was above freezing, and it wasn’t as if there wasn’t any salt on the ground left over from the last unnecessary dumping. One more reason why I call Ontario the Great Salt Republic.

1a. A salt truck threw up at various intervals along the trail following Cootes Drive between McMaster and Dundas.


Yes, Virginia, they do use a lot of salt in this part of the world.

2. Again, someone on the GO bus charged upstairs, parked himself in the front seat, then leaned back, closed his eyes and started snoozing. There’s got to be something about that front seat that makes it more conducive to catching up on lost sleep. I just don’t know what it is.

3. The Barton bus in Hamilton was again an experience to behold. For starters, seated across from me was a rotund woman with only house slippers on her feet. Her only pair of socks must have been in the wash. Then some scruffy, bearded character got on and pretended like he was the driver’s best friend. Later on, he fancied himself as a goodwill ambassador for HSR when he greeted some young man with a “Happy New Year, eh?”

He was also anxious to fill us in on his upcoming wedding plans. “She loves my pension check,” he boasted. One thing’s for sure, she’s not marrying him for his looks.

3a. There was an ad on the bus with the caption, “Ride with Compassion.” Given how our Liberal mayor has been carrying on about his “compassionate city model,” I am genuinely surprised such ads are not on St. Catharines buses yet.

4. Despite the warning sign, I didn’t see any turtles trying to cross the road.


5. Along Cootes Drive, I spotted a truck from Trans-Ontario Express. No doubt, they provide nationwide service from Windsor to Cornwall. I suspect most readers from the Great Salt Republic won’t get it.

6. For anyone looking to recycle their community:


6a. I support the concepts of reuse and recycling, but some communities are beyond that stage and, in a figurative sense, just need to be hauled out to the landfill. One in particular comes to mind, and I think perceptive readers might be able to guess which one I’m thinking of. Not that I’m bitter or anything. Actually, yes, I am. And I’m not ashamed to admit it.

7. I was accosted twice in downtown Hamilton, although the accosters were at least polite.

8. Scenes from downtown Dundas for your viewing pleasure:


9. I wasn’t aware I needed to bring a Windows installation disc for my return trip on the GO bus:

10 Dec

Touring Downtown Hamilton

Thoughts, pictures and observations from my trip to Hamilton and tour of downtown today:

0. For the full collection of pictures, check the public album I posted on Facebook here.

1. You are not a true St. Catharines resident until you have sat and waited at the GO stop at Fairview Mall. It seems to be a rite of passage in these parts.

1a. You are not a true St. Catharines resident until you have left your car at the unofficial park and ride location at Fairview Mall.

1b. Why, pray tell, is there an official park and ride in Beamsville but not in Niagara’s largest city?

2. I was so relieved to see this sign when I got to Fairview. Here I was ready to jump on any old bus that came along.


3. You can always tell whether it is a weekday or on the weekend on the GO bus based on the percentage of people who pay with Presto. Weekday travelers mostly pay with Presto, while on the weekends, most pay with cash. Today, for example, I was the only one of a dozen who paid with Presto.

4. I shouldn’t have been surprised to see this dumping of salt in Grimsby, but I was. After all, this is Saltario and a light dusting of snow came down overnight. Call out the Army, for the love of Pete!™


5. Taking the Barton bus in Hamilton is an experience in itself. Low-income, shabby neighborhoods, strollers and cranky kids galore along with characters missing most of their teeth make for interesting writing fodder. If I lived in Hamilton, I might soon have enough material for a book.

5a. One of these days, I need to walk down Barton and get the full experience on the ground.

6. At a side-by-side storefront on Barton, one half was “Diapers 4 All” and the other half was a hair salon. Now there’s an interesting mix of competing smells.

7. One restaurant on Barton advertised their “feeding hours” out front.

8. One guy sitting near the back door used his loud, screeching voice to keep a running conversation going with a reluctant driver.

8a. Whatever those drivers get paid, I’m not sure it’s enough.

9. Once again, welcome to Saltario:


10. There’s a Catharine Street in Hamilton, yet in St. Catharines, there’s a Catherine Street. Go figure.


11. No slackers here:


12. They settle for nothing less than top spot at this block:


13. Another plate from the Old Country. That place just keeps following me around.


13a. As I was saying, that place just keeps following me around.


14. Many men get served here, but who’s the lone woman?


15. Now which political party do you suppose these people support?


16. Undoubtedly featuring products made right here on Earth:


17. Rub Aladdin’s lamp and take off on your magic carpet:


18. Quack:


19. For anyone planning to liquidate their family:


20. Bike rentals available right in the heart of downtown, proof that I wasn’t in the Old Country, where they would be vandalized and/or stolen within a half hour.


21. I toured Jackson Square and Hamilton City Center, indoor malls with many shops including a full-service grocery store. They were clean and I didn’t feel unsafe. For the benefit of those from the SPRM, the mirror opposite of Portage Place. It’s amazing the difference having fewer “ambassadors” can make. You know, the kind of “ambassadors” that keep trying to relieve you of even more of your money than they’ve already taken and flushed down the toilet.

22. Attached to Jackson Square is the Hamilton Public Library. It opens at 9:00 am on Saturdays. Unlike the downtown library in the Old Country that didn’t open until 10:00. Old gripes die hard.

22a. I have no doubt some staff at the Millennium Library still wonder what happened to me. To say the least, I was quite a fixture at the microfilm counter.

23. One store on James Street wrote their offerings on the sidewalk:


24. The Hamilton Store. In Hamilton, no less. You don’t say.


25. I didn’t see Rhoda here:


26. How very Ontario:


27. It was customer appreciation day for Presto users on the eastbound Barton bus that took me back to Stoney Creek thanks to a malfunctioning Presto reader.

28. Soon after I boarded the eastbound Barton bus, the driver took off just as a would-be passenger running after the bus got to the back door. It was a classic moment so reminiscent of my days taking Winnipeg Transit.

29. It was just a light dusting of snow. Honest.


30. Back in St. Catharines, it looked like a salt truck threw up on Scott Street. As I said, it was just a light dusting of snow we had.

19 Mar

Planet Toronto

Yesterday, I made my long-awaited inaugural visit to the Center of the Universe. It was also my first time using GO as I took the bus from Fairview Mall in St. Catharines to the Burlington GO station, then transferred to the Lakeshore West train that goes to Union Station in Toronto. It seemed odd having to use public transit to go there, as I remain surprised that the vortex generated by the Center of the Universe doesn’t just suck all of us in St. Catharines right across the lake, but there’s probably an explanation that only people with a more detailed knowledge of physics and gravity would understand.

Along with many others, I boarded the #12 GO bus that begins in Niagara Falls and makes stops in St. Catharines, Grimsby, Stoney Creek and finally the Burlington GO station. I noted with interest that the bus had a bike rack, as do all GO buses and trains, and I expect to be making use of those facilities in the near future.

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There is no GO outlet in St. Catharines, so you have to buy your ticket from the driver. You can purchase a one-way or return ticket, or alternatively, you can use the Presto card. It is a simple system to use, just tap your card on the reader when boarding and again when you exit. At the train station, tap your card on the many readers before you get on and tap it again when you get to your destination. Coming from Winnipeg, I feel like I advanced about three decades worth of technology.

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014_go_burlington
Following the crowd out to the platform, the eastbound train that began at the Aldershot station soon arrived and I went up to the upper level.

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After finding an empty seat, I noticed the absence of garbage, condom wrappers, vomit and graffiti, all too common sightings on Winnipeg Transit’s buses. Everything looked reasonably clean and as I’ve said before, I could get used to this.

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Not unexpectedly, there was no one there to take tickets as we boarded. Like they do in the Twin Cities and in Calgary, they rely on an honor system called Proof of Payment (POP). As one loyal reader laughs hysterically at the acronym, this is clearly not a system that would ever work in Winnipeg. In order to use an honor system, there has to be honor and precious little of it exists in the capital of the SPRM.

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I was pleasantly surprised to see that the upper level on each car is designated as a quiet zone on weekdays. Even more surprising was that it seemed to be respected. On Winnipeg Transit, it is unusual to not have a bus full of people yakking on their cell phones and/or with the volume on their music players turned up to jet-engine levels.

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Another nice feature was the emergency alarm, although the clientele was considerably less seedy than the usual collection of bums, hooligans and indigents that patronize Winnipeg Transit. In Winnipeg, such an alarm would be useful in notifying the driver in the rare occasion when there isn’t a problem.

As the train sped off towards the Center of the Universe, I couldn’t help but think of Rapid Transit, Winnipeg’s laughable attempt to get out of the dark ages. For those not aware, Winnipeg has spent hundreds of millions of dollars they don’t have, not for a fantastic service like GO, but for a short, dedicated transitway for their buses that saves three or four minutes for those commuting to the south end of the city. I recommend they rebrand this service as Winnipeg Area Interurban Transit and prominently use its acronym, WAIT.

019_union
After an enjoyable ride, it was time to disembark at Union Station and begin my day exploring the universe’s center, or at least a small portion of it.

029_expectingyou
Apparently, they were expecting me.

030_streetcar
On the way to the Eaton Center, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many streetcars like this one. It would have been nice if Winnipeg had these when I lived there. Oh right, they did. And got rid of them. Another in a series of foolish moves made by the less than stellar leadership in that part of the world. Pardon me while I shake my head. As my Twitter profile says, I’m still a recovering ex-Winnipegger. Having spent so long in the SPRM’s degenerate capital, as a friend recently suggested, it’s kind of like PTSD.

I also noticed many subway stations, though I didn’t use it on this trip. Perhaps in a future trip I will.

031_eatoncenter
Though I didn’t spend long there, the Eaton Center sparkles for its upscale clientele. For the benefit of my friends reading from the SPRM, this is not Portage Place, not by a long shot.

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I even found this recharging station for tablets and phones. Even more amazing was that it had not been vandalized or used as a toilet. Once again, I could get used to this.

036_cityhall
Moving on, I stopped for this shot outside City Hall.

035_outsidecityhall
People enjoying themselves at this outdoor skating rink.

045_bikeshare
Given the astounding number of bikes I saw throughout the downtown area, I wasn’t surprised when I saw this, one of many Bike Share Toronto locations, similar to the Nice Ride MN I saw so often throughout the Twin Cities.

046_bikeshare
At automated machines like this, for $7, you can rent a bike for 24 hours or for $15, you can have it for three days. Winnipeg also has a bike share program, but it works a little differently. There, you take your bike downtown, lock it up, and a scumbag will cut the lock and share your bike with you. Unfortunately, one of the program’s drawbacks is that you never see your bike again.

051_11a_queenspark
My next destination was Queen’s Park, Ontario’s legislative building. I was surprised that it was so much smaller than its counterpart in the SPRM. When designing the building, no doubt the SPRM’s early pioneers had visions of grandeur for their new province, visions that have obviously never been realized.

053_queenspark

059_pmont
On the grounds and nearby were markers honoring past prime ministers of Ontario. Yes, you read that right, prime ministers, not premiers. Not only do many Ontarians think of their own province as a self-contained country, but in some cases, even Torontonians think of their own city as a nation. Overheard in one store in Eaton Center was a clerk who, when a customer mentioned St. Catharines, said, “St. Catharines, that’s still in Canada, right?”

Last I heard, St. Catharines was indeed still in Canada unless I missed the news item where the Regional Municipality of Niagara had declared independence. We are, after all, a distinct society.

055_treesforcu
At the north end of the building is an actual park, filled with, gasp, regular people.

060_22mill
Not that I would ever want to live there, but for those who do, it does not come cheaply. Consider this three-bedroom condo that will set you back a cool $2.2 million. As they say in Texas, El Paso.

DSC03242
Needing to refuel, I stopped at this Subway on Bay Street, apparently in the newly renamed city of “Tronto.”

061_toilet
After eating, I went to the washroom, where the seat was missing. It’s a good thing I didn’t have to sit down.

064_baystreet
Continuing down Bay Street, my curiosity was piqued when I saw a mass of humanity congregating on the sidewalk.

067_line
As I got closer, I saw that it was a line waiting to get into Uncle Tetsu’s Japanese Cheesecake, which I later learned is part of a chain that has outlets in eight different Asian countries. I happened to be going by less than an hour after the grand opening of their only Canadian location, or should I say their only Toronto location. Their “soft and fluffy” cheesecakes in flavors such as green tea, honey and chocolate are evidently quite popular.

073_camp
Having escaped the cheesecake rush, I noticed the belongings of a homeless person lying unattended on the street. The fact that they had not yet been stolen was yet another indicator that I was no longer in Winnipeg, where thieves will nab anything, regardless of value.

106_bum
Later on, I stumbled on this guy who had just checked into the Bay Street Hilton. Perhaps he was the proud owner of those items.

095_redstuff
South of the Gardiner Expressway, I stumbled upon these three bottles filled with an unidentifiable red beverage. Even though I was getting a little thirsty, I decided to pass on this complimentary offering.

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100_hhof
By accident, I passed by the site of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Even with more time, I’m not sure I would want to visit because of its affiliation with that other major league and because of its decision to induct members on the basis of political correctness instead of merit.

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For a veteran of downtown Winnipeg, this was again an unusual sighting, not because of the statue itself, but because of the lack of vandalism. It wasn’t even bolted down.

025_union
Returning to Union Station for the trip home, I first went to the GO ticket counter, then out to the platform to catch the train.

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114_train
I had a bit of a wait at the Burlington GO station for the #12 bus, but I got back safe and sound. I was just as overwhelmed by the great public transit system we have here in southern Ontario as I was by Toronto, but it was well worth the trip and one I will likely be repeating.