My world as a retired baby boomer is shrinking. Traffic problems in the Greater Toronto Area have become such a nightmare I’m reluctant to go anywhere. It seems easier to spare my nerves and stay home. Our choked road system has reached the point where I often decline opportunities for social outings rather than deal with the stress of traffic to get there.
The volume of traffic on the Gardiner Expressway, QEW, or particularly Highway 401 anywhere these days is so prohibitive that there are many destinations I simply will not visit under any circumstances. Yorkdale Shopping Mall at 401 and Dufferin Street is one of those places. So is downtown Toronto and my former family doctor whose office at Leslie Street and Sheppard Avenue East became too onerous to attempt after I moved to Mississauga. I had to make new arrangements for doctors and various other services to save spending an entire day getting to appointments and back. Even my friends’ home addresses have become critical factors in deciding whether or not to visit. And, before you suggest Highway 407, it is too far north, too expensive, and as a senior on a limited income, I’m too cheap to pay their usurious fees.
In the olden days, whenever I had to drive east of Toronto, I could usually count on the trip across the city taking about an hour. Then, I’d be in the eastern suburbs of Pickering or Whitby and pretty much home-free. Not anymore. Traffic jams or construction have put a stop to movement in all directions.
After a recent out-of-town lunch in Cobourg, I dropped a friend off at her place at Victoria Park and Kingston Road. It took me nearly two hours to navigate stop-and-go traffic through the city and along the Gardiner/QEW to get back home in Mississauga.
Don’t blame drive-thru’s for traffic pollution
A recent article in the newspaper about the pollution caused by drive-thru restaurants got my back up. The time I spend in the lineup for a Timmie’s steeped tea or at McDonald’s for a $1.00 Diet Coke to help fuel my misery as I sit in traffic pales compared to the hours spent sitting in time-wasting, pollution-laden traffic jams in the GTA. Then, there’s the delicate issue of how we negotiate bathroom calls while sitting in gridlock. Women don’t have the benefit of being able to pee in a coffee cup when nature calls.
Unfortunately, our transit system infrastructure has not kept up with the times and has become remarkably inconvenient. It’s possible to jump on the subway in Paris or London to get anywhere quickly, including the airport, but not in Toronto, unless you take the $12.35 Pearson-Union dedicated rail line that used to cost a ridiculous $20.00 each way until taxpayers revolted. That is an appalling situation. So much for our politicians representing the best interests of “the people”.
Mississauga will have its main street (Hurontario/Highway 10) torn up for construction for the next century to construct an above-ground transit line up the middle of the road. Please explain the logic of this to me. Is money the only reason subways are not being constructed? World-class? Hah!
Twice in the past week, I had occasion to drive west of the GTA on Highway 401 to meet friends. Both times, I was stopped in traffic jams in the middle of the day in Milton on a new five-lane stretch of highway that had previously been under construction for years. The first time, when we were on our way to dinner with friends in Guelph, we were stranded between James Snow Parkway and the next interchange for an hour on a sunny Sunday afternoon before we were able to exit north and skirt the problem, whatever it was.
A couple of days later when I was driving to meet friends for lunch at Aberfoyle Mill Restaurant, I was again trapped on the 401 in Milton with no apparent accident or construction to be seen before it finally cleared when I approached Highway 6 in Guelph.
Anyone who lives in the GTA is also familiar with the never-ending jam-up at the QEW and 403 intersections in Oakville. It’s no wonder road rage is rampant. How is it possible that no matter how many lanes they add, it’s never enough? Could it be the lack of alternative convenient public transit? Or are the words convenient and public transit mutually exclusive?
TTC is absolutely not the better way!
The Paris Métro was designed so that all stations would be no more than a ten-minute walk for its citizens to access. It works amazingly well and getting around Paris is a breeze. Their city planners took that visionary step a century ago. They do need to add more escalators, though. I should be able to hop on a subway in Mississauga to go downtown to catch a play or go to dinner but I can’t. The subway stops at Kipling in Etobicoke. For some bizarre reason, Toronto and Mississauga aren’t speaking to each other. Or, Mississauga and Brampton. My alternative is to drive (more traffic and pollution) to the GO station and pay exorbitantly for parking and the train to go downtown.
Aging boomers are going to increasingly rely on public transit which is not an attractive or even viable option. Climbing on and off buses (also stuck in traffic) with hip or knee replacements and sore feet, and making multiple transfers is hardly worth contemplating. Many bus stops do not have shelters or a bench (this is Canada after all, with more than our share of bad weather days) to make transit easier for seniors. We might as well stay home.
Now, at a time of life when boomers finally have the time to attend film festivals, downtown book fairs, hockey games, lunches with friends, and other events, traffic and transit problems prevent our participation. The stress is not worth it.
The new TTC Chairman Jamaal Myers recently appointed by Mayor Olivia Chow is a dedicated user of public transit. He sounds like a good choice; the only problem is he lives in Scarborough and I’m afraid Mississauga will once again be overlooked. Boomers in Mississauga need subways to access the city too. Hello? Is anyone listening?
My husband commented that we can be in Collingwood or London in less than two hours and it takes us that long to get to a downtown hockey or baseball game. I’d like to add, it takes that long to get to one of the downtown hospitals too. We obviously have different priorities.
The only silver lining is that I am now retired and no longer have to commute. I’m also thankful I am not a trucker trying to cope with the stress of navigating a big rig through the city. Lord thunderin’ jeesuz.
The downside is that I may never again leave my home. If you find me huddled in front of my TV in my jammies and slippers, with dirty hair, covered in dust bunnies and potato chip crumbs, then please rescue me. I need to get out but Toronto’s traffic is making it impossible.
How are you coping with city traffic? Staying home? UBERing? Moving out of town? Share your strategies. Personally, I think we should all move to Paris and take our tax dollars with us.