Wednesday, November 6, 2013

How to Survive a Subway Shutdown

I take the TTC (Toronto public transit) everywhere because I am too cheap to own a car or pay for cabs. I usually enjoy my commute because I go against traffic in the morning and usually get a seat. However, once and while the TTC decides to be a butthead and the subway goes down. Since this happened to me just yesterday, I thought I would share my how-to on surviving TTC shuttle buses.

Source: Torstar New Service
Now, let me take a moment to separate emergency shuttle buses from planned shuttle buses. When the TTC plans a subway outage for repair and maintenance, I find the buses are actually pretty decent. You can usually catch one quickly and it doesn't affect your life that much. But unplanned shutdowns means thousands of commuters clamoring to get on the one shuttle bus that shows up.

I don't entirely blame the TTC for the terrible emergency shuttle buses. They have to quickly get drivers and buses together and the streets become so congested with people getting picked up or taking cabs (especially at rush hour!), that the buses can't even make it to the station.

Here is a quick little rundown of "TTC Situations" that may help you make your plan:
- Injury at track level can often mean someone jumped in front of a train. This one can be a doozy and take a long time to get the subway back up and running
- Fire Investigation is often just smoke at track level from some garbage catching a spark. In my experience, these clear up within 10-20 minutes
- Passenger Emergency usually means an illness and passes within a few minutes
- Signal problems can go either way- but in my opinion often last a long time and if the subway isn't shut down it will probably be a snail

 So what should you do if you get stuck in the midst of it?

1. Avoid the Situation
Just leave. Leave the station, grab a magazine and get some food. Come back when everything is fixed. One time I was supposed to meet friends in North York for drinks and then stay over at their place downtown and the subway went down, so bought a magazine and got some dinner and just hung out for a couple hours until they could work their way down. If the subway is down for a few minutes, try picking up a free newspaper or going for a walk for a bit.

2. Find an Alternate Route
When the subway goes down at work, I try to find another route home on the TTC. There are often buses that head south pretty far, and then I can get off at a streetcar line and take the streetcar to pretty close to my condo! It takes a bit of time, but I find it is quite comfortable and low-stress. You can also hail a cab, but in a big shutdown that can be near impossible.

3. Be Firm, But Polite
If you really need to get home NOW, try and be patient. Everyone is in the same position and it sucks all around. That being said, don't be a pushover. Work your way calmly to a bus. Who knows- you might meet someone new! I met a new friend one day when we got off a bus that was cemented in traffic and decided to walk home together. If you find your stress level rising, text a friend or tweet about it- your friends can cheer you up!

Please share your subway horror stories and coping mechanisms! I avoid that shuttle bus at all costs :)


  1. I kind of feel let down that I've never experienced a TTC shutdown. Although, I do feel way better prepared to deal with it now. Haha :)

  2. Well, in my case when the subways are screwed there are usually other lines to take as an alternative, but once I did get evacuated from a train. The train I was on, after being stuck in the tunnel for about an hour, pulled up to the train in front of it - that was pulled into a station - and we had to walk through all the cars, through the new train, to get out. I never knew what was wrong with the train, I just walked to a different line 2 blocks away and went home. Sucks, though. The one good thing is that everyone understands when there are train delays that make you late.

    1. One time my train half pulled into a station and then the train lost power. We sat there in the dark (with locked doors) for a good 5-10 minutes before someone came and let us out!

  3. Depending on what the situation is, I'll either wait it out or I'll walk. Do you remember when the shooting happened at the Eaton Center? I was getting on at King just as they shut down the subway line to find the suspect. I ended up walking all the way to Rosedale station and got back on the subway there. It was nice to have a clear head and get some fresh air. It was even nicer that the subway wasn't crowded when I got back on it!

    1. That is a long, but doable walk! I do remember that day because I had been IN the food court just an hour before the shooting!!! but I had left and I cant remember where I was when the subway went down

  4. I do not have a subway horror story, thankfully. My office moved from Front & University to Port Credit (that's a change of scenery right there) so now I drive to work. I actually miss taking the TTC! I had so much extra reading time then. My favourite though was when I lived at Yonge and Davisville and I worked across from the Summerhill station, just off Yonge, so I just walked to work. Ohh I miss those days.

    1. I used to walk to work when I worked downtown (though, only in nice weather). It was so nice!!! Now im 45 minutes on the TTC. I DO get a lot of naps in now tho :)

  5. Dude! I've been riding the TTC as my main mode of transpo since I was 8. I've had some wild experiences....

    This summer there seemed to be a giant delay every morning. There were so many 'medical emergencies' that turned out to be false alarms I became jaded. Now if I hear 'medical emergency' I think to myself "there'd better be an actual decapitated head or giant pool of blood at that station or ELSE!!"

    Yup - crazy behaviour!

    1. Ya I dont get that. Like, if I feel faint or sick I would probably get OFF the subway. Actually, I have run off the subway once when I thought I as going to be sick. That was a fun day...

  6. I am not a huge fan of the subway but I've been on it pretty often lately and have experienced two 'quick' shutdowns. One was just on the weekend and there was a fire investigation at a station on the complete opposite end of the line. It only lasted about 5 minutes, but it was still annoying! I could not rely on public transportation every day because I get so annoyed with the waiting + mass amounts of people haha


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