Canada, North America, Toronto

Bixi rolling into Toronto

So as I mentioned in an earlier post, one of the things that Montreal has going for it over Toronto is the Bixi bike-share program.

With the program, you can either pay for a day pass ($5), monthly pass ($28) or yearly pass ($78) – well not really yearly because it only runs from May 1st to Nov. 30th. Apparently heavy snow and ice poses a problem for some bikers.

With your pass you can use and dock a bike at any station — the stations are located about 300 meters apart.

The first 30 minutes is included in your pass and then any extra time is $1.50 every half hour. (Though really you never need to take it for longer than half an hour because you could always dock the bike you have and grab another one.)

Now Montreal has exported this program to several cities, including London, England, which launched theres on Friday. (Side note – I’m heading there in two months time!)

Anyways, Toronto city council voted to get bixi next summer — if they meet a long list of requirements. Herein lies the problem.

One of the requirements is getting 1,000 people to sign up for the service by Nov. 1.

I know Toronto is the most populous city in Canada, but I have to say I’m doubtful that this is going to happen.

Having lived in Montreal for two months now, I have to say that Montrealers bike a hell of a lot more than Torontonians do. I’m talking people who own their own bikes.

So many people bike in Montreal, that many of the houses around where I live have home-made signs on their fences requesting people not to lock their bike there.

There’s a good reason for this too. Montreal has 502 km of bike lanes. (I know that seems like a huge amount but I double checked.)

You can basically get anywhere you need to go on a bike lane. (Many of them are actually separated by a cement barrier too).

Nothing like this exists in Toronto.

Of course, you could make an argument once the bike system gets set up there will be more pressure to make changes. And I hope this is true. I’m just scared that people won’t feel confident enough in their cycling abilities to want to try out a bixi system in downtown Toronto.

Furthermore, when Toronto announced this 1,000-person requirement they said if Montreal can get 28,000 to sign up, we can definitely get 1,000.

What I don’t think they are considering is Montreal only had 10,000 people by the END of their first year. The 28,000 is this year’s numbers.

Finally, I think a lot of people bike because they find the transit system too slow. (That’s why I bike in any case). The TTC is comes much more frequently than the STM. I have a feeling people aren’t going to give up their 10-minute subway ride to bike for 25 minutes.

Europe, Travel Tips

Planning for my European adventure

In October, I’ll be heading off to London, England for a six-week internship at the CBC bureau there. This will be the first time I’m traveling alone and the first big trip I’ve ever had to plan. So far, I haven’t really been thinking about it, but I was talking to a friend a few days ago and I realized that I leave in just over two months. I know a lot of things can take that long to process, so I’ve had this panicky feeling the last few days.

I’ve spent the last few hours reading blogs by other young travellers to get some advice. I’ve also been reading a Lonely Planet guide to planning The Big Trip over the last few days. Honestly, I’m overwhelmed.

There is so much to plan for! My first big dilemma is that I don’t know if I need a visa or not. I’m not technically working in England because I’m not getting paid, but I’m not sure if an internship would count as work. I also haven’t figured out my plans after my internship. I don’t have to go back at school for a month. I plan to travel Europe but I haven’t settled on what countries yet.

I have been to London before, but it’s been a while. I did go to Chile during reading week with my family this year and my parents had me do all the visa stuff by myself when I got there (in Spanish, no less) and I went to NYC with a good friend for my birthday, so I think I can figure out the getting off the plane stuff.

I think my main problem is that I don’t know what I don’t know. I’d love to hear some tips from people who have recently done a European adventure themselves.

Canada, Montreal, North America, Toronto

Montreal vs. Toronto

So I’ve been living in Montreal for two months now and I think this makes me qualified to do an official comparison between the two biggest cities in Canada.

Full disclosure: I’ve been living in Toronto for three years and I go to school there, so I have a lot more chance to party, so this list is probably biased.

I will be comparing Toronto and Montreal on categories that I feel are requirements to qualify as a good city.

1) Subway/Métro – I have to give this one to Toronto. I know people complain about the Toronto Transit Commission a lot.  But the TTC comes much more often than the Societé de Transport de Montréal, every five minutes versus every 10-12 and there are also more seats on the TTC. For some reason the STM métro has little pods of two and one seats. Plus side is you rarely sit with a creeper, down side is you rarely get a seat! Finally, I think the TTC subway is better at getting you to all the major landmarks in the city.

2) Biking – Montreal definitely takes this one. You can pretty much get anywhere you want in the city core on a bike path (most of them are separated by cement too). Montreal also created Bixi, the bike-share program, which has since been exported to London, England, Minneapolis, Minnesota and Melbourne, Australia. It’s also hopefully going to start up in Toronto next summer… if it can meet all the necessary requirements.

3) Bagels – Again Montreal takes this one. Montreal bagels really are the best I’ve ever tasted. I mean St. Urbaine bagels in the market is good… but Fairmount or St. Viateur is better.

4) Sports teams – I’m going to have to give this one to Toronto. While the Montreal Canadiens are far superior to the Toronto Maple Leafs. (As an Ottawa Senators fan, my two favourite teams are the Sens and anyone who beats the Leafs.) But, Blue Jays games are fun on a Saturday afternoon and Toronto FC is actually in the Major League Sports association. I haven’t been to a Raptors game yet, but at least I have the option. The Toronto Argonauts football team also seems to always beat the Montreal Alouettes.

5) Shopping – This one is tough. While the Eaton Centre in Toronto is way better than the Eaton Centre in Montreal. Montreal does have Simon’s, which I love. However, store hours in Quebec are regulated by the Province and they close far too early for my liking. Also Montreal has a very trendy/hipster way of dressing and it’s really just not my style. So I’m going to go with Toronto.

6) Take out – I don’t really cook much, so this one is very important. While poutine is great, I haven’t been able to find any good Thai, Indian or sushi in Montreal. There is also no Chipotle. The Shawarma in Montreal, though, is much better. I do like being able to choose between a variety of food though, so I’m going to have to go with Toronto, again.

7) Nightlife – As I mentioned earlier, I haven’t really been out in Montreal much, so this one might now be fair. I like the music better in Toronto and the bars are more exciting. But Montreal has a casino and you can by liquor at the corner store. I have a lot of people visiting this weekend and I’m going out tomorrow. I think I’ll wait to decide this one until I’ve spent a little more time in Montreal.

8) Expenses – Montreal is definitely a lot cheaper to live in than Toronto. If I lived here for a while, I could save a lot of money.

9) Weather – Toronto definitely takes this one. Montreal has the same thing as Ottawa – too hot and humid in the summer and way to cold in the winter. I like the temperate climate.

10) Tourist sites – Once again I think Toronto takes this one. The stade olympique is falling apart. The musée d’art contemporain is tiny and I really don’t care about Churches. Now Mont Royale park is awesome. I’m really going to miss that. The festivals are also amazing… and there are plenty of a free shows, something that Toronto needs to do more of! Still, I miss seeing Broadway shows and seeing what is going on in Dundas Square. Toronto has been cultural infrastructure I think. Place des Arts is nice, but it’s not being used to it’s full potential.