The app also highlights gaps in the GTHA's transportation network, from cycling to transit.
My commute is any cyclist’s dream—I ride 100 metres on a side street, and then it’s a straight shot down Sherbourne—one of Toronto’s only proper cycle tracks—to the beautiful and cyclist-friendly Martin Goodman Trail. From buffered bike lane to protected cycle track, it’s better than what most commuters have to put up with in Toronto these days.
So when I recently had mechanical difficulty that put my bike out of commission, I thought I was in trouble. Big trouble. TTC trouble.
I decided to get a Bike Share Toronto membership, despite knowing my little green Opus would only be in the shop for a few days. It seemed like a good emergency measure so I could be sure I wouldn’t have to hop on an overcrowded, under-air-conditioned subway.
And then I fell in love with an app.
When I downloaded the Transit App from the Bike Share website, it was love at first tap. For someone without a car, who mostly relies on their bike, but has friends throughout the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA), it made a big difference.
The app acts as a one-stop hub for all things transportation-related, from transit to cycling to hailing an Uber. If you wanted to use Bike Share, once you’re logged in, the app will tell you the docking stations around you, and let you know exactly how many bikes are available. Because you can get a ride code directly from it, you can skip the kiosk, grab a bike, and start flying (well, as fast as those 3-speeds can go).
“The app is like a plan B for when you don’t have your key with you,” said Laura Castano, Bike Share Ambassador.
Built and first launched in Montréal in 2012 the Transit App is now available in over 100 cities across North America alone, 35 of which are in Canada. Toronto’s app includes the TTC, GO transit, York Region Transit, Guelph Transit, Hamilton Street Railway, Grand River Transit, Brampton Transit, MiWay, Burlington Transit, Oakville Transit, Barrie Transit, Milton Transit, and Durham Transit.
The app helps you plan your fastest options to get from A to B, including options between different transit services.
The settings also allow for flexibility when giving a route. You can turn on your Bike Share membership, Car2Go membership, turn off things like subways, streetcars, buses if you’re not interested in taking those, and even minimize walking. Or turn that feature off if you like a good hike after a long bus ride. One problem with the settings is that they don’t offer a price option; meaning if you have a strict transit budget to adhere to you’ll have to look those fares up yourself.
The app is great for Bike Share, if you happen to only want to use it in the city. Using it certainly made clear that we still have a false perception that commuting only runs into the city in the morning and out of the city in the evening. While the expansion of the bike network did help me getting to my parents’ East York home, it didn’t help getting to my friends party in Ajax, or writing group at Pickering Playing Fields, or work that time I was going out to Mississauga in the morning and back to Toronto in the afternoon (mind you, GO didn’t help with that either—stupid Milton Line).
The app does two things: it makes it easier for us transit lovers and car-free folks to get out of T.O., while also revealing how poor transit is in many areas around the GTHA. Perhaps now that this is more visible we can rally behind our neighbours in the ‘burbs, and make sure that easily accessible and affordable transit becomes the norm for all of the GTHA.