As Torontonians, we weren’t expecting culture shock at last year’s Editors’ Association of Canada Conference in Halifax. But at one point, we were standing on the side of the road, dumbly staring at the car that had just stopped a few feet from where we were about to jaywalk. What’s going on? Did his car break down? The driver smiled and waved, signalling that we could cross. Looking around for the invisible stop sign, we could not find one. Is he going to speed up and hit us if we walk in front of him? What’s going on?
To Haligonians, and to editors from some other parts of this country, street etiquette may seem a little pedestrian, but if you’ve never been to Toronto, host city to the 2014 conference from June 6 to 8, there are some things you need to know about navigating our city.
Be careful when crossing the street. Whenever possible, cross at the lights or crosswalks. Drivers don’t stop for jaywalkers — they might even speed up. We’re not all psychopaths, but the anonymity of being in a vehicle combined with the stress of navigating some of the worst traffic in North America sometimes puts us over the edge. Wherever you cross, check that the traffic is slowing down and walk briskly — at some intersections, making the cross before the lights change can feel like James Bond sliding under an almost-shut garage door. Watch for vehicles making turns (just because it’s your right of way doesn’t mean they’re stopping), and watch for other moving things: people on motorcycles, bicycles, scooters, skateboards, and rollerblades all share our crowded roads. And streetcars and buses move faster than you think.
Wear a hat. Between 11 AM and 1 PM, when the skyscrapers cast no shadows, it’s very possible to get a sunburn (ouch!) on your face, shoulders, and hair part in 15 minutes.
Walk the PATH. Fortunately for those who prefer the great indoors, the underground pedestrian network called the PATH connects the best downtown attractions. The easiest entrance from the conference venue is the Toronto Eaton Centre. From there you can enjoy an air-conditioned, shop-lined walk to Union station, the Hockey Hall of Fame, City Hall, and more! Check out the PATH map before going, as it can be quite tricky to navigate for the first time.
There are lots of pedestrian joys as well, like eating from hotdog stands, collecting free samples, and spotting fashionistas trolling for street-style blog photographers. Walking the city is the best way to explore, and we can’t wait to share it with you! But if you are going farther or the weather turns nasty, check out our helpful hints for navigating the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC).
Getting on a streetcar, subway, or bus costs $3 in cash. After paying a subway fare inside the station, get a transfer from the automated machines (they’re red). On streetcars and buses, ask the driver for a transfer, which allows switching between connecting routes along a continuous, one-way journey, valid on the day of issue and within an immediate time period. Note that you cannot board the same route where you obtained your transfer.
When exiting a subway station, find a spot that is out of the way and take a moment to orient yourself. Tip: find the CN Tower — that’s an approximate south marker. Also, in general, downhill is south and uphill is north.
The best way to take multiple trips in Toronto is to buy TTC tokens at a subway station from a machine or the ticket booth. When making four or more trips in one day, you get the most bang for your buck with a day pass. It costs $11 for an all-you-can-travel buffet. On Saturdays and Sundays, a family day pass is good for two adults (and up to four kids, ages 19 and under). Buy passes from Shoppers Drug Mart or at a subway ticket booth. For more info, check out the TTC website.
Need directions? Ask a TTC staff member or a fellow passenger — we’ve all gotten lost on the TTC at some point.