Torontonians woke up to a fortified city Friday, as thousands of police officers enforce a tight security grip in the downtown core and residents brace for the weekend G20 summit.
Despite the international gathering, however, there were few signs that the world has started to descend on the city's doorstep. The morning commute has been largely unaffected as tens of thousands of people either took the day off or are working from home to avoid the hassles of moving around in the downtown.
The heart of the city is under a virtual security lockdown, though vehicles moved through the security area surrounding the summit site and wider traffic restriction zone. Street corners are guarded by knots of police officers while security guards stand outside local business.
The first security scare of the day turned out to be a false alarm. One of the summit buildings was evacuated and the international media centre was put under an early-morning lockdown after a bag was left unattended. The situation was resolved when a journalist claimed the bag.
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The Globe and Mail is providing extensive coverage of the first summit day, from highways and public transit to protests and the meeting itself. Several reporters fanned out across the city to provide updates on the morning commute.
Today may be the most relaxing rush hour in Toronto history.
Traffic on highways surrounding Toronto was lighter than usual. There were, however, delays caused by collisions, congestion and roadblocks for delegates' motorcades. At one point in the morning, Ontario Provincial Police reported a hazard caused by several geese walking by Highway 401 near Victoria Park Avenue.
The TTC system operated normally, with lighter than usual volumes. By the heart of the the regular morning peak, which lasts from 8 a.m. to 8:45 a.m., seats on some trains were slightly harder to come by than earlier in the morning and some passengers had to stand. But that was a far cry from the cattle-car conditions of a normal rush hour, with much lighter loads than even a typically lighter summer Friday.
"Anecdotally, ridership is lighter today," TTC chairman Adam Giambrone said in an e-mail. "We won't have counts for another week, but it is safe to say that fewer people are on the system than would normally be the case for a Friday rush hour."
Bank employee Roman Manastyrski, 47, said he didn' t think those opting to stay home were doing so out fear of violent protests - just fear of inconvenience.
"I think they don't want to bother with the hassle," he said. "Too much hype from you media guys."
"It's empty, extraordinarily empty," said Dina Kovalenko, 38, on her way to her job at a downtown bank, at an alternate office outside the security zone.
"If it weren't for the G20, this place would be jammed," said a man who declined to give his name.
At Union Station, GO trains were running on time and daily commuters said the volume was much lighter than usual.
"Pretty empty, pretty fast," commuter Susan Mussakowski said of her commute. Ms. Mussakowski, who lives east of Oshawa, arrived at Union Station on a GO train at about 6:20 a.m. She estimated there were only about 10 people on her train, instead of the usual 50.
In anticipation of delays, Nathan Restivo arrived at Union 40 minutes early for his train. Mr. Restivo, who was headed out of the city for the weekend, had with him a large plastic bag filled with personal items for his trip and was surprised he hadn't been stopped or questioned by police because of the bag.
"Not even a blink," he said, pointing to a group of about eight officers congregating nearby. "They're just shooting the breeze, they're not even pretending," he laughed.