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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 04-29-08, 10:45 AM   #1
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Shame on Ontario...

Okay, living car free isn't necessarily possible for me since I drive about 150 km per day going to and from work. Between the price of gas, wanting for a bit more exercise and generally getting sick of the mental *********** that is the 401 highway through Toronto, Ontario, I decided to try using my folding bicycle and making use of the existing mass transit system. That would be GO Transit in Ontario. I have a couple of options available to me. I can bicycle about 12 km from my house to Union Station in downtown Toronto and hop a train to the end of the line and then ride another 5 km to my office. It takes about twice as long to get to work but the trains is almost always quiet and empty and I don't have to swear and wave my fist at the other drivers on the way in to work (generally the high point of my morning). I can also hop a bus from a mall about 7 km from my house and take the 1.5 to 2 hour indirect route to my work for about the same price.

Sunds pretty good so far, right? Well the down side is that GO Transit really shoots themselves in the foot when it comes to making their service useful. Trains departing an hour or more apart (not fun if you just miss one) Bicycle restrictions on the transit system and prices are way too high.

I can purchase a 2 ride ticket for $15.50, if I buy a 10 ride ticket it'd be about $1.25 less per day. My Mustang costs about $16 a day in gasoline, takes less than half the time for me to commute (about 45 minutes door to door rather than 2 hours door to door). My motorcycle costs me between $12 and $13 a day in gasoline and gets me to work in less time than my Mustang.

I have been making an effort to take the GO Transit at least once a week in order to reduce greenhouse emissions and save wear and tear on my vehicles not to mention reducing stress of avoiding another drive in rush hour traffic. If you have no vehicle then the GO Transit makes great sense. You pay about what you would for gasoline, you don't have to insure a car and you don't have to pay for maintenance and government licensing fees.

Unfortunately, for most of us in Ontario, Canada, a car is a necessity. Inclement weather sometimes makes riding unsafe (not that I haven't done any inclement weather riding, but there have been days when I knew it probably wasn't a good idea) If we already have to pay to insure a vehicle the only real (direct and tangible) benefit is the saving wear and tear on your vehicle. The trade off is time, something which is a precious commodity. GO Transit is pricing itself out of usefulness. Think about it, if a gas guzzling Mustang costs as much in fuel as a trip on the mass transit system, few people will choose the latter. Add to that deficient scheduling and some "anti-cyclist" policies and it makes the decision to use mass transit even more difficult to justify.

I'm interested in hearing from anyone else about their experiences with mixed mode commuting. What are your costs of mass transit vs the cost of fuel if you drove it yourself? What are their attitudes toward cyclists? How about your fellow non-cycling mass-trans travellers, what kind of attitude do you usually experience?
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Old 04-29-08, 11:16 AM   #2
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What about the local transit bus system? Doesn't Toronto have that?

Windsor, Ontario has an exemplary transit bus system here, but its bicycle support is limited to the bike trails and tourist areas.

Windsor has a good number of wheelchair accessible buses, and all of these have bike racks installed. Whenever an old bus runs down to the point where it can't be used anymore it will be replaced with one of these wheelchair/bike rack buses (thats the policy)

A ride on the bus is $2.35 (Canadian) and you can get a 'transfer' if your trip goes along two bus routes so you don't have to pay twice. You can also buy a sheet of 10 bus tickets for $25, or a month long bus pass that lasts the entire month for $75.

Maybe you could use a different program, such as carpooling with other people who need to take the same route you do. 4 people in a car means 3 less cars on the road.
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Old 04-29-08, 11:24 AM   #3
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Okay, living car free isn't necessarily possible for me since I drive about 150 km per day going to and from work.
sprockets, with all due respect, I believe the problem is not Ontario or GO Transit, but the fact that you live 75 km from work.

Can you see that changing at some point?
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Old 04-29-08, 11:32 AM   #4
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Nuclear Engineer? I take it you've chosen to live well upwind from Pickering just in case

Regarding bike restrictions on the train, one obvious solution would be to lock a beater at each end of the train ride.
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Old 04-29-08, 12:07 PM   #5
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There are lots of reasons that I have chosen to live in Toronto. Part of it is that I am a contract engineer hired as augnemted staff. I have worked at all three commercial nuclear plants in Ontario at least a couple of times each. Toronto is a good, middle point for the potential places of employment. Add to that the fact that my daughter lives in Toronto and well...

I would like to live within cycling distance to my work but it's just not really an option for me right now. When I was contracting up at the Bruce nuke plant I was cycling two to three days a week into work. It was a 25km trek one way; the Bruce plant had showers available in my office building and was very cycling/mass transit friendly, as is Pickering. Sadly Darlington (the plant I am at now) has no public transit system into it. I actually asked the site VP why it was the only plant in Ontario with no public transit access and he responded that there were not enough people interested in taking mass transit to work, in spite of the overcrowded parking lots.

I live in Toronto but work in Oshawa. The TTC (Toronto's transit) is limited to Toronto and into Scarborough but no farther east.
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Old 04-29-08, 12:56 PM   #6
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In general, I'd agree that car free living is not the most convenient option for anyone who commutes 150 km = 93 miles every day. Few people can expect to have direct door to office rail service unless they specifically choose their living arrangements with that goal in mind.

Even if you can't see a good way to become car free at present, I think it's still encouraging that car drivers are at least considering alternatives and supporting in principle the idea of car free living.
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Old 04-29-08, 01:10 PM   #7
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i have a folder, but i live in north york, and ride the "rocket" every day into the daily grind......

I find north york pretty good for cyclists as there are always people around, everywhere - so cars are a little more 'aware'

going long distances... dunno, u may want to consider mixed using transit and bike the rest of the way.
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Old 04-29-08, 01:18 PM   #8
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For a more normal length commute, the GO trains aren't bad (for anything else they're flat out terrible, since the only service is around first shift rush hours). It might be worth talking up the merits of the train to your coworkers.
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Old 04-29-08, 09:26 PM   #9
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There are lots of reasons that I have chosen to live in Toronto. Part of it is that I am a contract engineer hired as augnemted staff. I have worked at all three commercial nuclear plants in Ontario at least a couple of times each. Toronto is a good, middle point for the potential places of employment. Add to that the fact that my daughter lives in Toronto and well...
It's disappointing that the current arrangements don't allow for mixed mode commuting, but it's unfair to blame Ontario, GO Transit etc. It's just an unfortunate combination of circumstances. Hopefully your next contract will be at the Queen's Park location.
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Old 04-30-08, 08:06 AM   #10
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It's disappointing that the current arrangements don't allow for mixed mode commuting, but it's unfair to blame Ontario, GO Transit etc. It's just an unfortunate combination of circumstances. Hopefully your next contract will be at the Queen's Park location.
I don't think it's unfair to place the blame on GO or the Ontario government. GO is funded by the provincial government with our tax dollars. Policies on the GO system are somewhat slanted against cyclists.

The 401 highway is a provincially maintained highway. The Ontario government acknowledges that traffic will only increase with time. Since this highway cannot be further expanded through the GTA we are stuck with the same surface area having to accomodate more and more traffic. Ideas put forth by our government include tolls and increased taxes on those living in Toronto. What the government should be doing is addressing the real problem, there are too many cars on the 401 in the GTA. What we need is an economical alternative to driving. One that is both affordable and functional.

If the TTC can offer unlimited, transferrable passes for less than $110 per month, why then does GO not have a similar option? Right now, if I wanted a monthly pass, it would cost about $250. I would be limited to taking the Lakeshore East line only and service would only be available at half hour or longer intervals.

If the TTC can offer buses with bicycle racks then why can't GO Transit?

Our provincial government has the opportunity to "kill two birds with one stone" here but lacks the vision to make it possible. On the positive side, they are starting to recognize that we need a better mass transit system, but they are not doing enough about it.
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Old 04-30-08, 08:13 AM   #11
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Unfortunately, for most of us in Ontario, Canada, a car is a necessity. Inclement weather sometimes makes riding unsafe (not that I haven't done any inclement weather riding, but there have been days when I knew it probably wasn't a good idea)
Oh please, I'm in Ottawa and have been car-free all my life. At least half my friends are also car-free.
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Old 04-30-08, 08:14 AM   #12
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sprockets, with all due respect, I believe the problem is not Ontario or GO Transit, but the fact that you live 75 km from work.
+1

Talk about unsustainable lifestyles!
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Old 04-30-08, 08:48 AM   #13
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If the TTC can offer buses with bicycle racks then why can't GO Transit?
Maybe they can.

You could start a petition, or at the very minimum get in touch with GO through phone and email, and even contact a few local papers and create a story about them not having acceptable bicycle policies.

Thats the problem with these types of forums. Sometimes, we tend to rant here, but not work on a solution. Now, I'm not talking about you specifically. I'm just saying. I think your concerns sound pretty legit. So, time to go to the next step and work on making a change at GO.

It's a start anyways.. You could be the trailblazer that makes GO better for alot of other cyclists too.
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Old 04-30-08, 09:07 AM   #14
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Oh please, I'm in Ottawa and have been car-free all my life. At least half my friends are also car-free.
I have lived car free in the past. Unfortunately sometimes life puts you in circumstances when that simply is not a realistic option. I am not willing to give up a profession that I spent many hard years of study to become proficient in, similarly I am not willing to give up seeing my daughter on a regular basis. Since the are NO nuclear plants in Toronto and OPG head office has moved out to Pickering, I only have one other option. It's easy enough to live car free if you work in the city you live in, as I did for many years. Sometimes that is not always possible.

As for unsustainable lifestyles, nobody in this province has the right to be throwing stones. If you don't believe me we could always talk about electricity consumption or food production/transportation...

Last edited by sprockets; 04-30-08 at 10:52 AM.
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Old 04-30-08, 09:55 AM   #15
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"What we need is an economical alternative to driving. One that is both affordable and functional..."
That would be a mighty fine way to start out a letter to the editor of your local newspaper!
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Old 04-30-08, 02:11 PM   #16
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interesting...

post......I'm actually looking at a transfer to the Toronto area. My problem is one of housing though. In order to be able to afford a home I will have to look in the Newmarket and Barrie area. I asked about the use of the GO train and was told that its fine as long as you are on a regular schedule. With shift work, the train is negated. I'm currently able to walk or ride to work now but its looking like that won't be a lifestyle choice for me should I transfer.

Any other suggestions that would allow bike use and a flexible schedule? I've looked at the cost of commuting, and even adding that saving by not having to commute, I still can't afford a mortage closer to work!
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Old 04-30-08, 06:05 PM   #17
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I have lived car free in the past. Unfortunately sometimes life puts you in circumstances when that simply is not a realistic option. I am not willing to give up a profession that I spent many hard years of study to become proficient in, similarly I am not willing to give up seeing my daughter on a regular basis.
Well, at least now you talk about what you are "willing" to do (or not), instead of saying its because of weather or other reasons.

A lot of people get trapped with a long commute - heck, I'm not happy with mine, and its only 12km, but now is not the time for us to sell the house and move. HOWEVER you won't convince me that long commutes are not a problem, or that they should be considered acceptable or responsible for the majority.
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Old 04-30-08, 06:58 PM   #18
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There are lots of reasons that I have chosen to live in Toronto. Part of it is that I am a contract engineer hired as augnemted staff. I have worked at all three commercial nuclear plants in Ontario at least a couple of times each. Toronto is a good, middle point for the potential places of employment. Add to that the fact that my daughter lives in Toronto and well...
You've listed good reasons to stay in Toronto. Others around you might feel the same way. Are there other Torontonians at your workplace? Could you arrange a carpool or van pool system?
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Old 05-01-08, 07:05 AM   #19
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Well, at least now you talk about what you are "willing" to do (or not), instead of saying its because of weather or other reasons.

A lot of people get trapped with a long commute - heck, I'm not happy with mine, and its only 12km, but now is not the time for us to sell the house and move. HOWEVER you won't convince me that long commutes are not a problem, or that they should be considered acceptable or responsible for the majority.
I never said long commutes were idea, they are however a reality for many. There is also the child factor to considerwith when it comes to making the decision to "needing" a car.

When I graduated university my first job was at Darlington Nuclear. Like I mentioned before, there is no mass transit system available to the station and it was that first winter that forced me to buy a car.

Now that I am at an off site office within reach of public transit the decision becomes easier to commute. It still involves me waking up more than an hour earlier and dealing with GO Transit's inadequacies. In spite of that I am committed to doing this at least once a week for all of the reasons I stated earlier.

That being said I also applaud your effort to reduce your commute by living near where you work. It is a sustainable decision and one that I wish I could make. A quote from Mahatma Ghandi that has always stuck with me is "Be the Change you want to see in the World".
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Old 05-01-08, 07:12 AM   #20
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You've listed good reasons to stay in Toronto. Others around you might feel the same way. Are there other Torontonians at your workplace? Could you arrange a carpool or van pool system?

There are not any people living around me that I work with. I have however made the decision to move to the east end of the city closer to a GO station and some co-workers, with whom I have already discussed the possibility of a car pool.
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Old 05-01-08, 09:08 AM   #21
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That being said I also applaud your effort to reduce your commute by living near where you work. It is a sustainable decision and one that I wish I could make. A quote from Mahatma Ghandi that has always stuck with me is "Be the Change you want to see in the World".
I've been car-free all my life, as has my life-partner, so the choice of living space has always been based on easy access to everything we need. As was the choice of careers, for that matter. As you said, though, long commutes are a situation many people get themselves into, and THAT is something we need to change. I may always be a reality for some, it should not be tolerated as the norm for most.

Changing that pattern will be difficult, though, and poor city zoning in the past had created many barriers to sustainable living. Until recently I though we had a few more generations of "breathing space" to reform, before resources got significantly scarce and quality of life fell sharply. No I think we have 10-20 years.
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Old 05-01-08, 03:57 PM   #22
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If the TTC can offer unlimited, transferrable passes for less than $110 per month, why then does GO not have a similar option? Right now, if I wanted a monthly pass, it would cost about $250. I would be limited to taking the Lakeshore East line only and service would only be available at half hour or longer intervals.

If the TTC can offer buses with bicycle racks then why can't GO Transit?
Your first question, there is a lot more distance to cover. I think the cost for passes is reasonable vs. the distance travelled. Quality of service offered depends on density, and demand.

GO transit is planning to offer buses with bicycle racks:
http://www.thestar.com/News/GTA/article/413854

You should also be able to take a non-folding bicycle on GO to work since you are flowing against the "rush" particularly if you get on the train at Danforth.
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Old 05-03-08, 12:09 PM   #23
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Your first question, there is a lot more distance to cover. I think the cost for passes is reasonable vs. the distance travelled. Quality of service offered depends on density, and demand.

GO transit is planning to offer buses with bicycle racks:
http://www.thestar.com/News/GTA/article/413854

You should also be able to take a non-folding bicycle on GO to work since you are flowing against the "rush" particularly if you get on the train at Danforth.
While it's true that GO transit covers a much wider range of Ontario than the TTC, the monthly pass I quoted would only include a small portion of it (between Union Station and the Oshawa train station). Add to that the fact that service frequency on the TTC is usually every 5 to 10 minutes on the subway and every half hour on the train and it starts looking like less of an option. As you pointed out, the costs would be affected by density and demand. The province of Ontario needs to help commuters make the decision to take the GO rather than drive. I don't believe that increased taxes and/or tolls for the highway will not prevent people from driving, just add an extra burden to an already financially tapped populace.

I am certainly glad to hear that GO is making thie buses more "cyclist friendly". It's definitely a step in the right direction although I'd like to see more. For many commuters living outside of Toronto but working in Toronto a car must seem like the best option, I see it every time I take my car/motorcycle into work. The westbound lanes of the 401 are crammed with cars, often times travelling very slowly.

Carpooling is, by far, cheaper than GO Transit, especially if you can get 4 people or more in on it. The obvious problem of course is that not everybody can consistently keep the same hours. You only get one chance to get to and from work and if you miss your ride, you're driving.

GO transit is slower but if you miss your train you can still get to work, although you will be a half hour late. It is also more expensive than carpooling and, if you want to get into union station during rush hour times, you'd need a folding bike that you can hide in a bag. This is my only option until I move to the east end of Toronto.

The other option is driving. This is the most expensive option but the most convenient and, therefore the most common option. We have seen the price of gas rise to around $1.20 a Litre (approx $4.75 a gallon). I haven't noticed any less commuters in the morning and I can personally say that I have adjusted my budget to accomodate the increased gas prices. It seems logical that other commuters will have done the same.

Perhaps getting everybody to give up their cars all at once is unrealistic. That being said, there is no rule that says you have to use the same method to get to work every day. Maybe the government of Ontario should consider a multifauceted approach to easing congestion on the busiest stretch of the 401. Maybe offering tax incentives for people using more than one method of getting to work.

If every commuter would car pool 1 day a week and take the GO Train 1 day a week it would reduce traffic on the 401 by 40% during peak hours. Getting a tax incentive for the GO train would be easy. There is already a tax break available for those with a monthly pass. This should probably be extended to those purchasing a 10 ride trip pass (or even a 2 ride trip ticket). Figuring out a car pooling tax break would be difficult to impossible though. It'd be difficult to prove that you did it and impossible to verify.

Of course the problem is that people like to get into a routine. They have a morning ritual and getting them to change it will take some doing. It's hard enough to convince someone that you should take a bicycle toa corner store from time to time, try getting them to leave their car at home when they leave for work in the morning. Most people want to be "normal" and if someone is doing something different or unusual most people couldn't see themselves doing it.

So the next problem is how to get attitudes to change? Advertise on the mindless television shows that people watch in the evenings after work? Maybe a large scale government program that get the message across to commuters as well as making diverse commuting easier to do? I don't know. Maybe for now I'll do my bit by being the change I want to see. Start by changing attitudes in my office, maybe it'll catch on.
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