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We started September on vacation in Asia and didn’t get back until the 17th. I was hoping that since we were in Asia in September this year (in the past we would go in August), it would be cooler – but it was actually just as hot (if not hotter) than August! Except for a couple of days in Busan, the temperature was above 30°C every day!

We were in for a shock then, because when we returned to Toronto the temperatures were in the mid-teens! Autumn had arrived indeed.

The two week vacation was a vacation for Apollo as well as he took a break from advancing. Before our trip he had started taking his first steps, but then he regressed since he didn’t get to practice walking much while away. He has since improved and can walk from the living room to the kitchen by himself (without falling).

The big news in Toronto after we got back from vacation (who knows what happened while we were gone) was the talk of the subway extension into Scarborough. Both the federal and provincial governments have committed funds to the project so it might actually see the light of day. For someone who had to ride the LRT and then transfer at Kennedy for many years when I was a teen, this is great news. For the other areas of the city that were hoping for a transit line (light rail even, not a subway), not so much.

September started with labour action between the teachers and the Ontario government and the NHL vs the NHLPA. Neither of those were resolved yet, although several other labour disputes were (auto workers, NFL refs). The Ontario government seems to have cutbacks across its public servants in its sights and are taking a firm stand against the teachers to start.

I ended up using tokens (& my PRESTO card) instead of buying a Metropass this month and bought a 50 roll this month ($130). A few days later, the TTC decided and announced that they would raise fares 5¢ starting in January. Thought about buying a second roll before the run on tokens started, but that’s a lot of investment!

After a hot summer, September arrived with a blast of cold weather. It suddenly got cool enough that a jacket was necessary in the morning, and I even saw people wearing their winter jackets (no Canada Goose yet though, only UGGs) by the end of the month! As the weather got cold, we did some more yard work to try and get rid of weeds, etc; but I am starting to think that this is a lost cause.

I was a bit disappointed this month that Amazon MP3s haven’t had a lot of promotions. The feeling started in August, but it really sunk in in September. Guess the summer of freebies was just for the summer!

This year, as I have been riding the subway, I noticed that there are a lot of advertisements for books – the dead tree kind. Typically they are for mysteries or thrillers (come read xyz’s latest book that is EVEN BETTER than their last one) and can be found on both smaller landscape and larger portrait formats. They aren’t advertising well known (to me) books, like say The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or Hunger Games, but lesser known releases

This strikes me a bit weird, because I see reading books as a dying format (although newspapers are surviving quite well on the subway), especially the physical book kind – I see many people with Kindle/Kobo/Sony/No-Name ebook readers now. In fact, I’m curious whether readers riding the subway would decide to buy a book based on seeing an ad – you likely wouldn’t be reading a book by the same author! For example, if you were listening to your mp3 player (more likely), specifically listening to say…Eminem. Would you decide to buy the Drake album if you saw an ad for it? Maybe it’s just a hint for you to check out something new.

But then that seems like a low rate-of-return for paying for the large portrait-sized ads. I actually wonder if it is the TTC advertisement department approaching publishers and introducing them to the idea of advertising to bored, book readers on the subway? I haven’t seen a surplus of unused ad space on the TTC, but you never know!

This February was part of a leap year so was almost as long as a normal month. It certainly didn’t feel any shorter than any other month. It was my second month at my new job and I have been settling into the routine. Based on my expert calculations, I bought a Metropass this month and contributed more than necessary to the TTC’s revenue; which would be fortunate for the TTC as there was a lot of discussion this month about the transit future of Toronto (i.e.whether we will have subways everywhere or light rail).

This month, I spent my spare time reading more articles through Instapaper, working on a project to pick some photos that I’ve taken over the last 10 years and put them into physical albums and playing Star Trek Online.

This month also continued the light winter we had this year, although there were a couple of larger storms (comparatively) but it is still an easy winter.

My commute to work has changed quite a bit now that I have changed jobs. In the past, Pauline would drop me off at Finch station and I would take the VIVA Pink directly to work (no need to transfer). On the way home, I would take the same bus to Finch and then walk back home (it didn’t seem worthwhile to pay a token to travel ~1km, in traffic). This path would take about 30 minutes in the morning and an hour and a bit in the evening

In the even nearer past (i.e., while YRT has been on its 80+ day strike), I would take the Finch bus from the stop outside my house, and then transfer at Warden up into York Region. Coming home from work, I would get off at the TTC stop across from my house and didn’t need to walk from Finch station. In practice, this ended up taking longer than taking the VIVA+walking because I had to wait for the inconsistent schedule of the 68B and I couldn’t take any express Finch buses since I had to get off at an intermediate stop.

Now, my commute is much shorter, I just need to take the local Finch bus to the station and subway for a few stops. Because I have to transfer every 5 minutes or so, and the frequency of the local buses have been pretty good so far (perhaps they are optimized for this direction instead of my previous opposite direction); my commmute is actually too short! I can’t sleep on my commute anymore or have enough down time to read a book or listen to music – I haven’t even been using my iPod on the commute!

Now that I have a subway job, I have to decide whether I should use tokens every day or buy weekly/Metro passes. Sure passes are more flexible and convenient, but I don’t really take the TTC that often aside from going to/from work. Plus, passes are quite expensive in Toronto. Right now, a token costs $2.60 each while a Metropass costs $126 per month*. I also have the option of getting a weekly pass when I can predict heavy TTC usage; but a TTC is a clear rip off. At $37.50 a week, it works out to $162.50 a month ($153.12 with three weeks off)!

So the calculation comes down to whether I should use tokens or buy a (normal) Metropass. What’s the number of trips per month where the costs start breaking even? At full price, it would take 48.5 trips before you break even – or about 24 days of work. However, you can now get a 15% tax credit for each pass which is a $18.90 savings each month bringing the effective cost of each pass down to $107.10. At that price, you need to take 41 trips or about 20 days of work to break even**.

In January, because I was on vacation in the first week, I won’t make it to 20 days and have been using tokens. This year’s February is a bit weird and I will make it to 20 days so I’ll buy a Metropass that month. I think I will consider Metropass purchases on a month-by-month basis now!

* I don’t think it’s worthwhile for me to subscribe to the annual Metropass since there are some months, when I take vacation, where I might take 10 or 20 fewer TTC trips than average.
** The same calculation for a Metropass subscription is 19 days, so a subscription doesn’t offer much advantage from a cost perspective.

Here is a problem with the TTC:

The 68 Warden (north of Steeles) is supposed to come every 20 minute or so, and should be spaced accordingly. Except, in real life, due to the riders or the drivers or traffic, it doesn’t happen that way! In this case, 40 minutes worth of buses going south are now approaching the same stop, and the next bus is 50 minutes away (instead of 20 minutes). Or at least that’s what they say, who knows if the next northbound bus is actually going to go north of Steeles?

Why are there 6 northbound Warden buses around 401?

VIVA typically doesn’t have this problem. Sure their drivers make $7 less per hour than TTC drivers, but maybe it’s because YRT invests those $7 into other job roles that make sure their buses are on time!

Ever since grade 8, I’ve relied on public transit in some capacity or another (although I do take long breaks awake when I have a personal car). I can only remember a transit strike affecting me once, which was back when I was in high school and I ended up riding my bike to school instead. The current YRT strike is the second time.

In reality, there is no large affect for this strike on me, I am fortunate that my work is supplied by both TTC and YRT/VIVA so I can switch over to using the TTC. Of course there is a lot of little frustrations and changes:

  • Did you know that you have to add 10¢ on top of your “extra fare” north of Steeles now? This is to match YRT prices (with the side effect that you can use YRT tickets as the extra fare). I wonder if that will increase to an extra 30¢ when YRT raises its fares in the new year
  • YRT asked TTC (or so TTC says) to change the frequency of the Warden bus from ~15 minutes to ~20 minutes. At the same time, YRT decreased the VIVA Pink frequency from 10-12 minutes to 15+ minutes. I wonder if they want to prevent people from switching to TTC?
  • I have to pay almost 2X per week to get to work now. If I take VIVA, that’s $26/wk and now it’s $50+/wk
  • The cost per day is $10.20, which is a lot of tokens and dimes to stock up on (20 tokens and 10 dimes a week). After doing that for a week, I just ended up buying a GTA pass for $52/wk
  • TTC drivers have much less skill than VIVA drivers. A lot of TTC drivers jerk their buses a lot, either to accelerate or brake, so the ride is uncomfortable and bumpy. I’ve only noticed once or twice on VIVA.
  • The last strike (in 2008) lasted two weeks. This one feels like it will last much longer, because there aren’t any talks or negotiations scheduled! It’s almost like they will be off the job indefinitely. That is frustrating, but what can you do? They have a monopoly and there is no real alternative.

The TTC made tokens more complex (i.e., two toned), but it looks like ongoing war with the token counterfeiters has escalated. The ball’s in the TTC court now, when are we going to get smartcards & micropayments (and I don’t mean Presto?

The stat that pops out at me in the CBC article is this:

On average, 2,000 fake tokens are used on the TTC every day, he said.

That’s a lot of tokens and riders, you could easily be sitting next to one. The worst part is that they may have only saved 50¢

frig…now that school’s started there’s at least like 3 or 4 times more people on the finch bus in the morning…