Tag Archives: subway

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.

18 May

Voyage Under the Center of the Universe

Yesterday, I made another trip to Toronto, spending the bulk of the day in the universe’s center.

I left the house bright and early and walked to Fairview Mall to catch the #12 GO bus. Waiting nearby at the bus stop was a scruffy character madly gorging himself on a large box of Sugar Crisp as if someone was about to take it away from him.


Just can’t get enough of that Sugar Crisp!

Just after St. Catharines’ answer to the Sugar Bear got to the bottom of the box, the bus pulled up and I joined about 15-20 others in getting on board.

01_traffic
Traffic was moving slowly as we got past Burlington Street in Hamilton, but we eventually made it to the Burlington GO station, where I joined most of the others in heading to the platform to wait for the train.

While waiting, I spotted someone standing close by who had her eyes closed and was gently nodding her head up and down. No, she was not wearing headphones.

Watching her reminded me of a scene in Slap Shot, when “Killer” Carlson was recanting “One with the universe,” a line from the recordings of the Swami Baha, while his teammates were getting the tar beat out of them by Tim “Dr. Hook” McCracken’s Syracuse Bulldogs. If you recall, McCracken was the head coach and chief punk on that Syracuse team, known for his ability to carve out a man’s eye with the flick of a wrist. But I digress.

03_train
The train came shortly enough and we soon began making our way east toward Union Station. As the seats began filling up, I noticed what looked to be a small, semi-permanent gathering place for the homeless right by the tracks. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw three of them seated on plastic chairs tapping away on their cell phones. I’ve heard about texting and driving, but texting and homeless? And again, I’m supposed to feel sorry for them. I’ve worked hard to pay my own way through life and I’ve never had a cell phone.

Closer to Union Station, I spotted a billboard for Krave Gourmet Jerky. How anyone could categorize ground-up testicles and hooves as “gourmet” is beyond me.

Just before pulling into the station, we got another introduction from our “customer service ambassador.” GO runs a fantastic service, but these self-serving introductions that are now coming a rate of twice per trip are growing increasingly annoying.

Following a bathroom break, I then followed the signs for the subway for what would be my first underground rail experience. Having just paid for my GO train ride, I kept my Presto card at hand and used it at the subway entrance to get through the turnstile. TTC is in the process of rolling out Presto throughout their system and not every station is Presto-enabled as yet, but luckily, Union is one of them.

As I would discover later, for those paying cash, you can either purchase a magnetic-striped ticket at the counter or put $3.25 into a machine and get a token smaller than a penny. To get through the non-Presto turnstiles, you swipe your ticket or deposit the pin-size token, assuming you didn’t drop it on your way from the vending machine.

When I got through the turnstile, I was glad I prepared ahead, since the #1 line serving Union Station runs northbound, but in two different directions. You need to know if you’re going north via University Avenue or Yonge Street, but I knew I was going via Yonge, so I quickly hopped aboard the waiting train headed that way. Even if I had missed it, however, they run about every three to four minutes.

04_subway
Seconds after I sat down, the doors closed and we began heading north underneath Yonge Street. Once again, just like on the GO train and buses, the subway cars were clean and the vomit, graffiti, condom wrappers and beer bottles frequently found aboard Winnipeg Transit buses were conspicuously absent.

05_subway
A handy feature was the subway system map above the doors where it not only shows the routes, but an amber light flashes at the next stop, while stops already covered are in green and those to come are in red. When approaching a connecting line, the entire line flashes on the map and a special announcement is made to that effect.

As you would expect, verbal announcements are also made at each stop, telling passengers not only the name of the station, but whether the doors will open on the left or right.

Near every seat is a yellow strip to press in the event of an emergency, and according to the posted signs, misusing it is a $500 fine. I can’t imagine the fun the hoodlums and bums would have it if they put such a thing aboard Winnipeg Transit buses. There, it would be more fitting to put in a yellow strip to press if there wasn’t an emergency.

When passing the College station, I couldn’t help but notice the mural depicting Montreal Canadiens players. Maybe one of these days, Toronto will get its own NHL team.

I got off at the Sheppard-Yonge station, where I had to go up an escalator to transfer to the eastbound #4 line. It was then I realized there are two levels of this underground rail system. All this, while Winnipeg is still farting around with Rapid Transit. But again, I digress.

06_fairview
My subway ride came to an end at the Don Mills station, where I followed the crowd up to street level right by, oddly enough, Fairview Mall. I then proceeded east on Sheppard, stopping for pictures of 404, before turning south on Victoria Park Avenue.

19_universal
This is a shot I couldn’t resist. NBCUniversal just had to have a presence in the Center of the Universe.

22_401_wb_victoriapark
Crossing the 401, the world’s busiest highway, I continued south to Lawrence, west across the DVP to Don Mills Road, then south to Eglinton, where I again proceeded west.

37_raccoonguys
There are a lot of people in Toronto, but also a lot of raccoons, giving rise to new entrepreneurial opportunities.

38_eglintoncrosstown 39_eglintoncrosstown
On Eglinton, there were times when I was getting farther on foot than the cars were on account of the multiple lane closures as GO puts in the Eglinton Crosstown line. More superior transit service, while, again, Winnipeg still farts around with Rapid Transit at great expense with nothing but ridicule to show for it.

41_wynne
Farther down Eglinton, I ran into our esteemed premier’s constituency office.

43_rebelad
Across the street, not by coincidence, is a nice, big “in your face” billboard from The Rebel aimed squarely at Canada’s most unpopular premier. Of course, that distinction used to belong to Greasy Greg Selinger until he and his gang were unceremoniously thrown out of office. I posted this picture on Twitter today and it is quickly making the rounds in Twitterverse.

I was hoping to cover more ground, but growing tired and weary after putting on so many miles on foot, I decided instead to continue west to the Eglinton-Yonge subway station and return to Union. Oddly, one of the more popular stations on the route was not well-signed on street level, but I eventually found it and went below to catch a train.

Sadly, this was not a Presto-enabled station, so I had fork over the cash for a token. It also cost me a little extra, since the fare when paying with Presto is 40 cents cheaper. For those who are not aware, not only is paying with Presto more convenient, but cheaper. Each round trip to Toronto saves approximately $3.00, the TTC and OC Transpo fares are also cheaper with Presto, and the Hamilton Street Railway fare is only 50 cents when transferring from the GO bus. The card itself costs $6.00, but it more than pays for itself, even in the short term.

On board, the southbound train was packed, and I was lucky to get a seat after someone got off at the next stop. As in the northbound direction, the train moved swiftly, and I was soon back at Union.

Before getting on a Lakeshore West train, I wanted to make one last stop at the gift shop of the nearby NHL Hall of Political Correctness, known to most of you as the so-called Hockey Hall of Fame. Just for the heck of it, I wanted to browse around and to see if they had any small trinkets from the late Atlanta Thrashers, and I shouldn’t have been surprised when I didn’t find anything. On my way in, however, I could have sworn that I spotted Craig Ramsay, the last coach of the Thrashers, talking on his cell phone. Now that would have been an interesting encounter.

Following that diversionary trip, I returned to Union, where a Lakeshore West train was minutes from departing, so I went right up to the platform and found an empty seat. The train soon took off and I watched the familiar sights go by while recovering from a long day.

Everything seemed to be going normally until we got to the Oakville station. There, passengers who were disembarking got off, then the rest of us waited for the train to continue on.

But it didn’t.

Minutes later, our customer service ambassador, who again needlessly introduced himself as we were leaving Union, got on the intercom and told us this train was no longer in service because of “an emergency farther west.” He then instructed us to disembark and proceed to the bus loop, where buses would be waiting to take us farther west.

Great. GO suddenly turns into Rapid Transit.

I followed the rest of the crowd to the one waiting bus and was lucky to get on board. With no more room left, the bus took off, leaving countless numbers left to wait for another bus. We then proceeded through stop-and-go rush-hour traffic from station to station along the QEW. It was only on board that I heard from other passengers that there was a fire near the tracks, which forced the temporary closure of the Lakeshore West line.

When we got to Appleby, rather than take us one more stop to the Burlington station, we were told to get off the bus and wait for the next westbound train. No signs were posted as to which track it would be on or when it would be coming, so I just followed the crowd and asked a few people who I recognized from the bus.

Seemingly almost by accident, I ended up in the right place and ended up as part of an interesting conversation with three 20-somethings named Abby, Maria and Constantine.

Though soft-spoken, Maria was by far the most talkative of the three, and we listened as she espoused her theories on government conspiracies. According to her, the government wants to legalize marijuana to keep the people from thinking for themselves, briefly touching on how smoking weed opens up some part of the brain that normally doesn’t get used. I didn’t quite follow her thought process, but then she went on to talk about how the government might have started the fires in Fort McMurray because of the oil.

As Maria was treating us to her pseudoscientific thoughts, Abby grabbed onto the guard rail behind us and started doing some stretching exercises. I was again reminded of a former colleague who used to get up during meetings and go through all sorts of weird gyrations and contorting himself into varied and unimaginable positions. One loyal reader and former colleague will remember and no doubt laugh heartily at this reference.

After claiming to be able to read people’s minds and proudly stating “I am everything,” Maria then started talking about how to save money by peeing in the shower. I listened patiently as she and Abby exchanged their thoughts on this riveting topic. I just know I can use this stuff somewhere in a future writing project and conveniently left the fact that I was a writer with an off-beat sense of humor out of the conversation.

With so much writing fodder in the air, I was almost disappointed when the train showed up. We all got on and, minutes later, we pulled up to the Burlington station. After saying our goodbyes, I got in line for the #12 bus to St. Catharines and an hour later, I was back at Fairview Mall, again having squeezed full value from my travel dollars.

It ended up as a much different kind of adventure than I had planned, but no less interesting and one I won’t soon forget.