What’s the better way?

Who can make it from Queen and Jarvis to York University the cheapest, fastest and sanest? Two reporters find out

Reporters Josh Freeman and Shawn Star raced each other from downtown to North York during rush hour on Sept. 22 to see whether it is faster to drive or take transit. Here are the results.

Get Behind the wheel — Josh Freeman

5:40 p.m.

I’m already peeved about having my car down here because some guy who’s lot I stopped in for five minutes has demanded I cough up $3.50 before he’ll let me leave. “I’m running a business here,” he tells me. “That’s for sure,” I groan before forking over my car’s ransom.

I try with all my etiquette to turn left on Jarvis out of the lot. It’s just not happening in this traffic. I awkwardly change my left to a right and start off the race by driving further away from the finish line. Great start!

In my effort to make it back, I come to a stop at an intersection where a horse-mounted officer is occupying the bike lane. Anyone know equestrian traffic signals?!

5:55 p.m.

I’ve had to cheat a bit by going north along Sherbourne Street, a route I suspect others have turned to since the new bike lanes came in along Jarvis. But after manoeuvring my car through a series of congested one-way streets, I’ve found my way back to the course prescribed by Google Maps. Jarvis has added a little stress to my life, as I had to avoid cyclists utilizing those much-talked-about new bike lanes. But zero kills today—I’m doing well!

Hitting some light traffic on Mt. Pleasant Road, though. Beautiful scenery, but a shame I don’t have any sunglasses to shield my eyes from the blinding sunlight that’s emerged late this afternoon. It may be a long ride without them.

6 p.m.

Cruising along St. Clair Avenue now. The whole streetcar right-of-way fiasco was painful for most people here, but it’s made for a pretty pleasant drive now that it’s completed. That is, when you’re moving. I’m unimpressed that the 512 streetcar, cyclists and pedestrians alike are whizzing by me as I sit here in traffic. Hmmm…

A bit of a horn honking contest ensues as I approach Yonge Street. Perhaps others are perturbed about the bumper gazing? Don’t know what the fuss is about. Probably just the sounds of rush hour. Man that sun is bright!

Glad for the advantage of radio as I tune in to the World at Six. In the quiet of the car with the windows rolled up, it feels like they’re reading it just for me.

6:15 p.m.

Cut up Bathurst and now sitting in traffic on Eglinton Avenue waiting to turn on to the Allen Road. Turning lane feels longer than a bunch of nerds lined up for an iPhone (I’m still waiting for mine, just not in line). Can’t help but feel that shrewder drivers are out-manoeuvring me to the on-ramp. At the moment, I’m just doing my best to manoeuvre around a parked car without sunglasses. Blast this sun!

6:22 p.m.

Just approaching Downsview Station. Drive along the Allen has been traffic-free. Can’t help but feel a little smug as I zip past a couple of subway trains to my left. Wonder if it would be as smooth if they turned the Allen into a boulevard, as has been proposed. Has Shawn beat me to this point? Most of the way to York University now. Nearing the moment of truth!

6:30 p.m.

Been in the car for almost an hour now. Driving along Finch Avenue, coming up to Keele Street. As It Happens just came on the radio—always makes me happy if I can catch it in the evening. Incurring retinal damage driving into bright sunlight does not make me happy. Suspect Shawn may have beaten me—we’ll see soon…

6:39 p.m.

Just arrived at Shawn’s place near York University. Don’t see him anywhere. The car has won the day. Validation! Mine is the better way of getting across town, even if it did set me back roughly three litres of gas, $3.25 in “parking,” 25 km more on the odometer, some long-term vehicle damage from pot holes, a little stress and a stronger prescription from the optometrist. At least I got to listen to the radio. Those eight minutes saved were golden!

Ridin’ the rocket — Shawn Star

5:40 p.m.

Standing at the southwest corner of Queen and Jarvis streets, I curse the westbound streetcar that rolls past me. A couple traffic signal changes and a couple minutes later, and I found myself at the northeast corner, with the next streetcar in sight. Official boarding time: 5:44.

5:44 p.m.

The streetcar is only about half-full with many seats available, though I elect to stand anyway. The car reroutes at Church Street and heads south, giving me a momentary scare that we wouldn’t be hitting the subway line after all. Once we turn on to King Street heading west, my worry and confusion subsides: I realize we are Yonge-bound no matter what diversions we encounter.

5:51 p.m.

I get off the streetcar and into King station, and note that in the time spent on the streetcar I think I could have walked from Jarvis to Queen station.

Only a brief wait at our first stop, Union Station, where a surprisingly small number of people got on and off the train. There are still a good number of seats available.

6:15 p.m.

Just pulling into Glencairn station, making great time, predicting Downsview arrival at 6:24.

Not only have there been no delays, but there have been no driver switches or crawling between stations. Also of note, mayoral candidate Rob Ford’s subway plan must already have taken effect, because there has been no evidence of that terrible screeching sound at any stops.

The train has grown increasingly bare. Though with a cyclist on the train now, I’m left wondering if maybe the 1,000 km of new bike lanes, as proposed by Sarah Thomson’s Bike City Policy, would be of benefit at least to this passenger and the woman avoiding his front tire.

About a quarter of the remaining passengers get off at Yorkdale, which I assume is a mix of shoppers and people making connections with GO buses or other chartered buses.

6:21 p.m.

We leave Wilson station, and I wonder how long it will take to get through this final stop, since the trains always cross over tracks between Wilson and Downsview and can cause delays.

Much slower than expected, it takes seven minutes, and I exit the train at 6:28, with the train going out of service, much to the chagrin of passengers waiting to get on. They have already been turned away from the other out-of-service train on the other side of the platform.

6:30 p.m.

I get to the bus platform for the 196 Rocket to York University.

A bus pulls up, and as people are getting on, another one pulls up behind it. I take this bus every night on my way back from work and I have never seen this happen. Must be my lucky day. I get on the first bus. The second bus leaves with very few people on it. We sit for another minute, and the driver says the bus is out of service, but not to worry as a third bus is right behind us and we can get on that one. Did the TTC know Josh and I were holding a commuter race today?

Minutes later, we’re on our way. We go up the designated bus lane on Dufferin, then across the designated bus road through the hydro corridor that’s north of Finch and south of Steeles. I’m off the bus at 6:42.

6:45 p.m

I’m rounding the final corner to our designated meeting spot just south of the campus.

I get there to find Josh has already arrived.

One hour and six minutes total travel time from Queen and Jarvis up to York University, by way of street car, subway, and then bus. Not bad, except my competitive nature isn’t impressed that I lost. Without the lengthy Wilson-Downsview trek and the bus confusion at Downsview, it may well have been a dead heat, unlike the race for mayor.

About this article:

By: Joshua Freeman and Shawn Star
Posted: Nov 1 2010 3:01 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto