BRAUN: Commuters dreading the return to Toronto

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Some days it’s tough to feel safe walking, driving or riding a bike in Toronto.

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Gnarly traffic, endless construction and bike lane skirmishes over e-scooters and mopeds have made negotiating the city difficult.

Transit is still a good choice, although wastewater surveillance says we’re in another COVID wave.

Add to current infrastructure woes a disturbing increase in antisocial behaviour — attacks on health-care workers and TTC employees, for example — which experts attribute partly to the lack of social contact for two years.

This is the landscape as thousands of workers prepare to return to the office this month.

Ontario Public Service workers return Monday, adding some 36,000 people to the happy urban rat race.

Like many other employers, the province is working on a hybrid model, an office/home mix. Nonetheless, the first phase of this return to work may be a nasty shock for commuters.

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Things changed during the pandemic.

As the Toronto Sun recently reported, new bike lanes will present a steep learning curve for any driver who’s avoided the city centre during COVID.

Between bike lanes and outdoor dining, Yonge St., between Bloor St. and Davisville Ave., is a nightmare; even the most fervent bike lane supporter will concede this section is a fail.

Then there’s this: “NOTICE: A CHANGE IS PROPOSED FOR THIS SITE” — the sign you’ll see all up and down Yonge St. right now.

That road is going to bristle with new condo towers. So, factor into the traffic
flow all those construction vehicles for the foreseeable future.

And don’t forget the Queen St. closure, between Bay and Victoria Sts., for the next five years, only the beginning of major car chaos in the downtown core.

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We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

At least here there’s a silver lining. That massive construction will create the new Ontario Line subway.

The downtown is definitely not a car-friendly space — even before you consider the price of gasoline, which hovers around $1.70 a litre.

As the economy reopens post-COVID and Russia continues to attack Ukraine, prices will stay high.

The cost of parking downtown is wild, too, although first you’d have to find some.

(Note: anyone using a handicapped parking pass they don’t actually need will have a special place in hell.)

Time spent commuting is spent best on public transit. Over the last few months, the TTC has slowly been returning to full service. You can see all the details at the service advisories online at

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Ridership is about half of pre-pandemic numbers. That’ll increase slowly, but it’s nice to think maybe transit vehicles won’t be super-crowded for the next while.

Spokesperson Stuart Green said the TTC continues to take extra steps to keep the transit system safe. 

“The good news is there are no documented links between riding the TTC and COVID transmission, but we have never taken that for granted,” he said.

To keep people safe, “we’re increasing service on the busiest routes at the busiest times of day to meet demand, making and keeping masking mandatory until at least April 27, giving away more than 3.5 million masks, installing hand sanitizer on all streetcars and in stations, putting all buses into service with windows open to improve circulation and disinfecting vehicles and high-touch points.”

Now spare a thought for the 64,000 people who left Toronto during COVID to escape the hustle and bustle.  And now have to come back to work.

That green GO bus has never looked prettier.

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