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The Canada Line Skytrain to Vancouver International Airport costs $4. (file photo) (DARRYL DYCK For The Globe and Mail)
The Canada Line Skytrain to Vancouver International Airport costs $4. (file photo) (DARRYL DYCK For The Globe and Mail)

Road Sage

Why the road to the airport in Toronto is paved with pain Add to ...

Last week I was high, as bike-lane-loving high as you can only get in Vancouver. I was on the Canada Line Skytrain to Vancouver International Airport. I’d paid my fare ($2.75 – it should have been $4 but I messed up) and enjoyed a quick, pleasant 20-minute zip to YVR. The trip was costing me less than a double latte.

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For the rest of the country, getting to the airport is like living the movie Midnight Express – but instead of getting assaulted and tortured after you get off the plane, they do it to you on the way to the airport as well. This was surreal – maybe some Vancouverite had sprinkled marijuana powder on my cornflakes and I was tripping?

But it was happening. I was experiencing the miracle that can only occur when amateur athletics and public transit collide. What real need and common sense can’t accomplish, the arrival of an amateur sporting event can manifest. If you host an international amateur sports event, your city automatically gets a train running from the city to the airport. It’s mandatory. If you want the “world to come and play,” the “world” expects a civilized and cheap way to get to and from your airport. The YVR Skytrain line was built to accommodate increased ridership during the 2010 Winter Olympics. The city had needed one for decades, but it wasn’t until the Olympics came to town it actually got built.

Take Toronto, we need one desperately. Today, unless you’re going to Shanghai, it takes longer to get the airport than it does to reach your destination. You have to account for construction and the inevitable congestion caused by some idiot rear-ending some other idiot. Time of departure is of no consequence. I’ve been stuck in traffic at six in the morning. Flying to Montreal? You have to leave three hours in advance to make a one-hour flight because we don’t have a train running to the airport.

This situation is set to change because in 2015 Toronto hosts the Pan American Games. The city has needed a train for decades, but it’s taken the impending arrival of about 10,000 athletes to actually get the thing made. The Union Pearson Express is currently under construction and will run from Union Station to the Toronto International Pearon Airport. “In 2015, the GTHA will step into the global spotlight,” its website proclaims. And the Union Pearson Express will provide thousands of spectators and participants from around the world with a new experience – a warm and convenient first welcome to our city and province.”

Thank heavens for those spectators and participants, though they did little to help me on my last excursion. I booked my trip to Vancouver on points. It was easy. I simply built a time machine and traveled back to 1998 when there were still seats available for a July 8-17, 2013 trip. As a result, the combined costs of my taxi and limo rides to and from YYZ were more than the cost of my flights.

Some would suggest taking public transit. But why not just walk? It would be as arduous and take the same amount of time. Service is limited, sporadic and sadistic. Put it this way: if you Google the word “contempt,” you get a map of the Toronto Transit Commission’s 192 Airport Rocket bus route.

Why not park at the airport? I looked into it. Weekly rates were reasonable, but a nine-day fee at Park’N Fly had my stay costing around $140. So I chose to take a taxi to the airport and a limo home, which would cost me (with tip) $160 and gave me the option to have a few drinks on the plane if I so desired.

How were my airport commutes? Outbound, I took a cab and was tossed around until nauseous. It was a good prelude for whatever ordeals the airlines had in store for me – like tenderizing meat. On the trip home, I opted for a limo. Having arrived into Toronto at 1:30 a.m. and waiting 30 minutes to discover my luggage was lost, I craved a little comfort.

“Sure,” the man said, and gestured me toward his car. I stopped cold: he was pointing to a Dodge Grand Caravan. This guy expected me to pay upwards of $70 to ride in a minivan (the same kind I own). Now, I was exhausted, but even if I'd just slept 12 hours on three Xanax, if I’m paying limo rates, I expect a limo. You can bilk me, rig the system, arrange things so a city of five million is ripped off by a few taxi and limo companies, but don’t ask me to ride in a minivan and tell me it’s a limousine. Do not, as the man once said, relieve yourself on my head and tell me it’s raining.

“There’s no way I’m getting into that car,” I told him and stood my ground.

In a few seconds, a town car pulled up. The ride was smooth and, as I cracked the window and drew in some of Toronto’s polluted humidity, my thoughts drifted back to my journey on the Skytrain. I closed my eyes and dreamed of the 2015 Pan American Games. I have no idea what they are or who competes. I have no interest in anything to do with them. All I know is they will accomplish what decades of actual need have not. Their website says “Viva Pan Am TO 2015 Expect the Unexpected.”

I’ll settle for a few bronze medals and a train to the airport.

Follow Andrew Clark on Twitter: @aclarkcomedy

Follow on Twitter: @aclarkcomedy

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