The 2015 Toronto Pan Am and Parapan Am Games, even before they started, created a slew of changes around the GTA. Unfortunately, one of these changes involves transportation and traffic. As a public transport bus driver, my job is to drive 40 foot buses filled with people. This will be my third summer driving buses, so I’ve got a bit of experience and understanding of how this whole ‘public transportation’ thing works. I and my fellow drivers have some things we’d like you to know before heading out to any of the Pan Am Game Events.
1. DON’T TRY DRIVING TO YOUR PAN AM EVENT
I’m serious. Don’t even try. You most likely won’t find ANY parking nearby, you’ll spend a frustratingly long time driving around in attempt to find a parking spot and you’ll end up paying an arm and a leg for it if you ever do. Thankfully, the government has accounted for the lack of parking, by making event Pan Am attendees use public transportation. There will be very frequent games shuttles going between the major connecting ‘hubs’, such as Go Stations and major bus terminals.
2. DO YOUR RESEARCH
trying to make a functional, practical, and smooth plan for the Games, it’s really up to you, the public, to make sure you know how to get to where you’re going. Think about it: if you were to drive to Disney World, you wouldn’t go to the gas station right away to ask for directions; you’d use Google Maps and/or your GPS system to map out your route. The EXACT same thing should be happening when you use public transportation. Your best resource is…the internet (*le gasp!*)! Amazing, right? You can find all the information for every single route you could ever need for planning your excursions into the GTA!! I’ll even save you a bit of time and effort: if you’re going to an event in Ajax, for example, all you need to do is take the Go Train into Ajax and catch a shuttle right from the station to the event (look for the bus that says “PAN AM” or “PAN AM SHUTTLE”). You can find this kind of information at Durham Region Transit’s website, at GO Transit’s website or check out the Pan Am Games Transit Network Map to figure out exact which transit network will need get you to your destination.
3. DOWNLOAD THE 2015 GAMES TRIP PLANNER
Along with doing your research, having the right tools with you is a key part of a smooth commute. And one of the most valuable tools is the 2015 Pan Am Games Trip Planner App. Download the trip planner to make navigating the games even easier. The 2015 Games Trip Planner is a travel information source providing real-time traffic information for spectators and residents in Ontario during the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games. Planning your trip is easy – simply enter your starting location and destination, and the Trip Planner will give you the best route to get there with alternate route options. You can sign up to receive email or sms alerts about incidents and travel times along your customized routes on the ‘My Routes’ tab. Be sure to select the Transit option instead of Drive for transit instructions.
4. NAVIGATING THE GAMES VENUES
There will be a lot going on during the Games, not to mention the dozens of locations to find and navigate through. TO2015 and the Province of Ontario have worked closely with regional transit and transportation authorities to develop an integrated navigation program to guide you on your Games journey.
Here is a link to help decipher all those wayfinding letters to better help you find your way to your destination. Venues are identified in two ways: by its full name (such as CIBC Pan Am/Parapan Am Aquatics Centre and Field House) and by its unique three-letter venue code, such as PAC. To find the three letter code associated with your venue – check out the Pam Am venues website.
5. STAY SAFE
That might sound dumb, me having stated this, but I say it for a very good reason. People tend to not only forget that there’s going to be another bus/train coming within the next 5-30 minutes, but they also forget that they are risking their lives just to catch that a bus. Here’s a news flash for you: people have died, and die often, because they were more concerned about catching their bus then about using common sense and obeying pedestrian laws!
Running across the roads of the bus loops in front of the bus traffic, dodging street traffic (basically jumping in front of fast-moving vehicles) – these are all dumb, careless, and senseless measures just to catch a bus/train. And here’s even more to think about: if you did decide that catching that bus was worth dodging traffic, but you did end up getting seriously hurt or dead, guess who’ll get blamed? That’s right, the driver of the vehicle(s) that hit you. You are essentially not only risking your own life, but you are also risking the mental/emotional/physical well-being AND livelihood AND driver’s license of every person in your vicinity.
6. HAVE RESPECT FOR YOUR DRIVER, THE OTHER PASSENGERS ON BOARD AND YOUR FELLOW EVENT ATTENDEES.
As a bus driver, I am basically the face of my company that you get to see and interact with when you board my bus. While I am representing my company, this doesn’t mean I’m in charge of it. I don’t control the paths of the routes, nor do I have the power to set when I’m supposed to be at your stop, nor is it my fault if I arrive late to your stop (because seriously, have you even seen the ridiculousness that is traffic in Durham Region on busy days?).
Do not yell at your bus driver or get into disputes with other passengers. It’s rude and unnecessary, and doesn’t help the situation. If you’ve got a complaint, voice it to the transit company’s customer service line. Your input will be taken more seriously (and actually used) when you contact the customer service lines, than by just voicing your thoughts to the driver.
Additionally, be aware of how you smell to others. People can have an intense allergic reaction because you drenched yourself in perfume/cologne/strong smelling lotions. It’s not fun, and it is way more common than you think. Or how about these two words: Body Odour. Yep, the good ol’ B.O. It sucks being a passenger on public transportation with someone who just smells awful. So do everyone a favour: pay attention to how you smell, and forego those strong smells when you get ready to go out (whether that may mean actually showering, or just avoiding the Axe body spray or your favourite perfume!).
7. CONSIDER WITH CARE A FAMILY OUTTING
Use your brain when it comes to taking the family out to the Games. I know you think it’s wonderful to bring your kid to go see the nearest Pan Am event – they’ll treasure this for the rest of their lives, and probably won’t ever get a chance to go to an event like this ever again! It may be true that your kid may never get a chance to experience this kind of big event ever again… but also consider your child’s age, social skills, manners and attention span. Is your kid prone to meltdowns? Does your kid care less about how amazing something is and more about the instant gratification of treats and toys? Is your kid napping more during the day than being awake? These are all signs that maybe going to a Pan Am Games event isn’t a good idea. If bringing your kid to one of these events is just going to be so stressful and frustrating that you barely even enjoy it, then maybe consider not bringing your kid at all (or just watch the events from home or throw an event-watching party at your house!). Not only will you avoid the hassles of dealing with a cranky child (screaming terror child on the bus, anyone?), but you’ll also save everyone else around you those frustrations as well. But if you have a child that’s an ambitious young athlete or sports enthusiast just as passionate about these events as you are then these fantastic games will no doubt be worth the wait and will be a memory that will last forever for them.
I know I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg here, but I’m hoping my public transportation insight will aid you in your adventures during Pan Am! I’m a huge supporter of the Pan Am Games and I encourage you not to be afraid to leave your nest to go experience these once-in-a-lifetime events.
Think of it this way: if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!
Happy Pan Am and Parapan Am 2015!!