Tag Archives: Toronto

A Tale Of Two Cities – And Two Bike Sharing Systems

By Micheline Maynard

During my week in Montreal and Toronto, I had my eye out for evidence of bike sharing. I didn’t have to look far in Montreal, which is considered one of the world’s top bike friendly cities. Toronto was a much different story.

I’d booked my Montreal hotel near the Atwater Metro station in Westmount, the traditionally English part of the city, because I wanted to get around with ease. Upon checking in, my hotel clerk handed me a neighborhood map. “Here is the Metro station, you just walk two blocks down the hill,” she explained. “And here are the Bixis.”

In fact, it hadn’t even taken me that long to find them. As soon as my taxi pulled out of Montreal’s central station, I spotted a man on a Bixi waiting at the light.

Over the next few days, I spotted Bixis in all the neighborhoods I visited, at all times of the day, even late in the evening after I was coming back from dinner. People rode Bixis to lunch, and to work, and out for drinks. Late one afternoon, I passed the Atwater Bixi dock and found it held just one bike — all the others were in use.

Ahmed El-Geneidy, associate professor at the School of Urban Planning at McGill University, smiled when I told him that. Montreal, he explained, is the equivalent of a model home for Bixi, the bike sharing company that dominates the world market. It constantly brings visiting civic officials to the city to see bike sharing in action. So, naturally, Bixi docks and bikes are plentiful.

It was not the same in Toronto. Continue reading

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Filed under Bike Share Review, bike sharing, public transportation

Public Transit Is More Popular Than Ever, And That’s The Problem

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Toronto’s day transit pass (left) and a Montreal 3-day pass.

By Micheline Maynard

Over the past few years, there has been a record demand for public transportation. Environmentalists think that’s great news. So do businesses near bus stops and subway stations.

There’s only one problem. The interest in public transportation is swamping cities’ ability to provide fast and comfortable service. Every day, Twitter is full of alerts about train lines breaking down, subway delays and street closings that cause buses to detour.

I experienced some of these issues with the public transit lines in Toronto and Montreal during my visit. While they didn’t keep me from getting where I needed to go, the delays and detours threw me off schedule. Multiply that by the thousands of people who use the systems each day, and you begin to see that productivity can be under pressure.

The first problem happened on my first ride in Toronto. I hopped aboard a street car headed toward Lit Espresso Bar, on College Street, a main east-west route, figuring I’d revive myself after my Via Rail journey from Windsor.

Perhaps a mile into the trip, the driver made an announcement that our journey was going to entail a “short turn.” That means the car wouldn’t proceed to the end of the line, but would dump passengers off at the next stop, where they could pick up the next car.

It turns out this happens all the time in Toronto, and the transit authority even produced a video at one point to explain it. (The video is now gone from YouTube.) Essentially, if there’s bad traffic, construction or too few people riding a streetcar, the system dumps people off and turns around. Continue reading

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Filed under Curbing Cars, public transportation

Lessons Learned Getting Around Without A Car

By Micheline Maynard

Last week, I set off for Canada to do research for the upcoming Curbing Cars book. I decided before I left that I’d try to get around without a car.

You might think that’s a reasonable idea, since Toronto and Montreal have extensive public transit systems. I’ve lived in big cities, after all, such as Tokyo and New York, where I didn’t have a car.

But I usually drive to Toronto, or get a rental car while I’m there. And, because I wanted to see different parts of Montreal, I originally planned to rent a ZipCar for a few hours, only to find the service isn’t offered there.

Instead, I wound up using every kind of non-personal car transportation available to me. It was an experience that taught me how difficult it can be to adjust to living car free, once you’re used to jumping behind the wheel. But many people get along that way. In fact, the number of car free families rose in the U.S. last year for the first time in a half century.

Here’s how my trip went. Continue reading

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Filed under bike sharing, cars, Curbing Cars, Driving, public transportation

Curbing Cars Checks Out Transit In Canada

A streetcar in Toronto.

A streetcar in Toronto.

By Micheline Maynard

Curbing Cars is a North American transportation project, so this week I’m headed north (or technically south, if you’re standing in Detroit). I’m visiting Toronto and Montreal, checking out their blends of bike sharing, public transportation, walking and driving.

Follow my visit on Twitter @curbingcars (with the hashtag #cccanada) and on our Curbing Cars Facebook page. I’ll be posting regular updates on the people I meet and the ideas that I hear about.

There will be plenty about both cities in the upcoming Curbing Cars ebook, and we’re looking for your suggestions on what to see and do. Drop me a note in the comments.

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Filed under bike sharing, Curbing Cars, public transportation, urban planning