Tuesday, April 16, 2013

My 'not-so-fun' TTC Experience

I love the HSR, and in comparison to the TTC I love it even more.

I took the GO train to Toronto today and used the TTC to get to my final destination. Where I was going wasn't too far out of downtown so I only had to take one bus (72 Pape). The experience with the bus itself was fine, but things about the TTC itself left me a little bit annoyed.

1) Why does the TTC not accept Presto!?

I'm an early adopter. Actually, I'm what you would call a pre-adopter. I bought my Presto card before the HSR even had the readers installed in our buses. When the cards were available for purchase at the Burlington GO Centre (from the GO Transit counter) I got one. I use my Presto card on board HSR buses and use it when I take the GO bus/train to Toronto. As long as I have a decent balance on my card I don't have to worry about it.

But the TTC doesn't have Presto on their buses. So instead of tapping the same card I used on the '2 Barton' HSR bus, the '18 Aldershot' GO bus and the '01 Lakeshore West' GO train, I had to use other means. Since I don't take the TTC much at all I first had to figure out how much the bus cost via my smartphone and the TTC website ($3.00 cash), then find a bank machine to withdraw money and then somewhere to buy something small to break the $20 into change.

Talk about inconvenient.

2) The TTC transfer system isn't as flexible as HSR.

In Hamilton when you board a bus and request a transfer (or tap on with your Presto card) you have a two hour window to complete your trip before having to pay another fare. You can ride any bus on any route an unlimited number of times for a full two hours.

The TTC uses a much more restricted transfer system, one that the HSR abandoned a decade ago. The Toronto Transit transfer "must be used at the first available transfer point (cannot walk to next stop) and must be used within reasonable time allowance to the transfer point. Not valid for stopover." This basically means that, while in Hamilton you can use your transfer on your return trip, in Toronto you have to pay another fare to travel back in the other direction.

Therefore what would have cost me $2.00 in Hamilton (traveled for 10 minutes in one direction, layover for 45 minutes and returned the 10 minute trip back to Union Station) cost me $6.00 in Toronto.

3) Short-turns help the system but not the passengers.

What is a short-turn? It's when the bus on a route, instead of travelling to the end of the line, stops short, turns around and heads in the opposite direction. As a passenger you have to get off the bus and walk the rest of the way (or take the next bus that comes).

It typically happens when a bus is behind schedule. You see buses in Hamilton when they start to bunch up on routes like '1 King' or '2 Barton' and start to leap-frog one another. It makes sense for the TTC to short-turn the bus because they can take a bus that is really behind schedule and help it get back on track, but is a major inconvenience to passengers.

Imagine being on the '1 King' bus travelling westbound for the Hamilton GO Centre in downtown but instead the bus turns left on Wellington Street and then starts heading back eastbound on Main Street. This is exactly what happened to me while taking the '72 Pape' bus. The driver announced that he was short-turning on Church and would be heading in the other direction, which meant that I had to get off the bus and walk the rest of the way to Union Station.

The HSR doesn't do this. Occasionally the bus will go out of service at the end of the line and "deadhead" until it gets to the point that it would be back on schedule. This isn't very common.

So today isn't what you would call a great experience with the TTC. Nice new buses, great frequency; high fare, no Presto smartcard, strict transfer policy.

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