Cars are a way of life in Canada and around the world. While most of us enjoy the freedom they offer, their costs can be a burden on the budget. Not everyone can live without that expense, but those living in a city have more car-free options available to them. This is especially true for those living in Toronto, as the necessity of owning a car is highly subjective. While many suburbanites own two vehicles, is that necessary in the city? Is one car even needed? Today, more and more Torontonians are eschewing car ownership in favour of living closer to the city, but can you get by in Toronto without a car? What are your options?
THE TTC IS GROWING
The Toronto transit system is often subject to a great deal of complaint, but many such systems are. In actuality, Toronto’s public transit system ranks 3rd out of 70 North American cities in Transit score. For the uninitiated, the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) is extensive, in that everywhere that is within city limits can be reached on the TTC system for a flat fare of $3.25. Although the system can sometimes not be the quickest or most comfortable way to navigate the city, it is constantly improving. In 2008, Metrolinx launched a 25-year, $50 billion transportation plan for coordinated, integrated transportation in the Greater Toronto Area. The first wave of the project is currently underway via the Eglinton Crosstown, which will be a 19km corridor between Keele and Laird Street. Other investments in transit priority includes the King Street Pilot Project, launched late 2017, which gives priority to the 504 Streetcar, one of the busiest transit routes in the city.
UBER AND TAXIS
While it might be sacrilegious to include Uber and taxis in the same section, both services provide an easy and relatively inexpensive way of navigating the city. Uber services like UberX and Uberpool are cheaper than taxis, and more convenient upon pickup and arrival due to a cashless, app-based system. Taxis are in direct competition with Uber, but are a tried and true method of navigating the city. Uber is still very new to the Toronto transit scene, having recently been deemed legal in Toronto, but many of the controversial regulations in regard to Uber have yet to be decided by the city.
BIKING FOR SUCCESS
Cruising around on a bicycle is a great way to get around the city and is a trend that is gaining a lot of momentum. More and more Torontonians are ditching their cars for bikes. Like the TTC, Toronto’s biking infrastructure is growing at an impressive rate. More biking lanes, cycle tracks, and shared roadway routes and trails are being planned over the next decade as the city is adopting the ‘if you build it, they will come’ mentality. The city will make biking an even smarter alternative to car ownership than it is now. Additionally, as mentioned in a prior post, Toronto has a very under-appreciated network of bikable trails, with over 600km of paths sprawled throughout the city.
RENT WHEN YOU NEED TO GO OUT OF TOWN
Toronto car-sharing services have been expanding in high gear. Between Zipcar, Autoshare, and Car2Go, there are lots of options for people who need a car occasionally. With an initial deposit and per-use fee, car-sharing programs are reasonable to join and easy to access. They have become a perfect solution for weekend trips to Costco or Ikea and more can be read about them here. Car rentals are also plentiful and reasonable within Toronto, although prices do increase on holiday weekends.
LASTLY, CALCULATE YOUR SAVINGS
The most important factor for many to forgo car ownership is the savings on car insurance, gas, maintenance costs, and the car itself. Canadian’s spend an average of $5,250 a year on vehicle costs, and an average of 84 hours a year stuck in Toronto traffic. Add on that parking your vehicle in the city costs Torontonians another $332 a month, is the benefit really there? The same 2014 study showed that the average cost of Toronto transit is only $406. With all the options available to Torontonians and the associated savings, it might be time to embrace life without a car in Toronto. Do you think you can go completely car free?