Global Health Nursing Conference 2016

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On Tuesday, March 15, 2016, I attended the Global Health Nursing Conference held at the University of Toronto, hosted by the Nursing Undergraduate Society at UofT. The purpose and the theme of the conference this year was to shed light on Refugee and Immigrant Health.

This year’s conference is particularly poignant due to the current social climate regarding the war conflicts that have started occurring in 2011 (and are still ongoing) within Syria, and the large influx of Syrian refugees within Canadian borders. Throughout this night, we explored topics related to refugee and immigrant health, and ways in which nurses play a significant role in facilitating access to safe and appropriate for a vulnerable population. The wide variety of panelists, speakers, and session facilitators encompassed a diverse group of registered nurses [RNs] and nurse practitioners [NPs] from a variety of different global health backgrounds. They offered their experiences and perspectives on global health, the impact that nurses can create in health care on a global scale, and the types of work in which nurses can play a part in on an international health care level.

This event garnered significant attention from a variety of different undergraduate nursing students. The evening was comprised of attendees from UofT’s second-entry BScN program, Ryerson’s BScN program, Nippissing, York, etc. It was refreshing to see variety in different nursing backgrounds, making it an optimal night for opportunities to network, meet new people, and make new nursing friends!

The first part of the evening began with a panel of four RN speakers with diverse careers within global health. Some of them worked in various acute care and community health settings in different parts of the world (i.e Sudan, Ethiopa, Sierra Leone), implementing global health initiatives such as surgical programs, vaccination clinics, maternal health education, etc. Some of them worked within the local community (i.e Women’s College Hospital), addressing refugee and immigrant health needs and concerns in the Greater Toronto Area. Having these varied experiences and backgrounds in nursing come to light truly widened perspectives and opened many minds. The nursing students in attendance, a majority of whom have yet to have any solid exposure to global health nursing, were able to think of adequate health care outside of a framework that is well-resourced, highly affluent, and well-supported by a competent government structure. We were forced to think critically about what health care and health care delivery looks like in various populations and cultures, and how we – as Canadian nurses – can use our influence to affect change, in order to improve global health outcomes. Moreover, we also had the opportunity to think critically about how to address global health issues within our own local community. Various speakers spoke about what immigrants – specifically refugees – experience, in terms of health services, once on Canadian soil. We discussed barriers they often face to receiving appropriate care, such as a lack of adequate health care insurance coverage and a lack of unfamiliarity in terms of navigating a new system. The panelists did a fantastic job in articulating that our roles as nurses are to ensure that immigrants and refugees receive a care that is reflective of our health care system’s values and beliefs – that is, a care that is individualized, patient and family-centred, and comprehensive.

 A highlighted global health organization that was brought to attention during this period of the evening was Medicins Sans Frontieres [MSF]/Doctors Without Borders. A number of the RN panelists discussed their own experience in working with this organization and how MSF carries out various global health initiatives in a number of resource deficient countries. The purpose of MSF is to provide medical support and services where it is most needed on a global scale, and to ensure that health care systems and organizations are well-supported and have sufficient resources to deliver adequate care across boarders. More information on MSF and their work, as well as how to get involved, can be found on:

Medicins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders

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The next portion of the evening was a dinner and Social, where we got to engage with the founders of the company iamsick.ca. iamsick.ca is a company that has created a technology platform in the form of an app and a website, to help facilitate access and equity to adequate health services in your own area. They have developed a system whereby one is able to access the most appropriate health care provider, for their specific needs, online. Furthermore, through this system, they are able to minimize things such as emergency visits, wait times, etc., as it specifically matches the individual’s health need with the specific health service and provider that addresses that need. iamsick.ca is a company that began at UofT and has grown over the last four years, with a large number of consumers that have been helped through its services. They work directly with healthcare providers and organizations to ensure that the link between patient and provider is more effectively established. iamsick.ca ensures that health needs do not go unaddressed and are addressed appropriately. For more information on iamsick.ca, please visit:

iamsick.ca

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The last portion of the evening involved Breakout Sessions, from which students were to choose whichever session they would like to partake in, to develop more knowledge in more specific niches of global health nursing. I chose to take part in the Sick Kids International Paediatric Global Health session, due to my interests in maternal and paediatric health. In this last hour of the evening, the Nursing Manager and the Advanced Nursing Practice Educator from Sick Kids International and Sick Kids Centre for Global Child Health spoke about paediatric health and nursing care on a global scale. They spoke about their past, present, and future projects and global health initiatives to address gaps in international paediatric care. A significant gap that they have found in terms of global child health is that nurses internationally lack the advanced competencies of paediatric nursing care, making it difficult for them to deliver the care that their country’s paediatric population requires. Sick Kids Centre for Global Child Health has taken steps towards developing a project that educates nurses abroad about paediatric nursing and paediatric care, in order to empower that country’s health care providers. This project has been a focus for a large part of their work and they hope to continue educating various nurses in various parts of the world, to ensure they receive adequate paediatric nursing education and training. For more information on Sick Kids Centre for Global Child Health, and to learn more about their work, please visit:

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The Hospital for Sick Children – The Centre for Global Child Health

Needless to say, the night was successful and the nursing students in attendance learned a lot about global health and how nursing plays a pivotal role in global health. With Canadian nursing school curriculums having a strong focus on nursing in the local and national community, there is a significant lack in education about the work nurses do on an international and global scale. This conference has definitely enabled nursing students across GTA to develop their knowledge and awareness in global health nursing, and has inspired us to build careers built on the foundation of community health development alongside with acute care development.

3 New Year’s Resolutions for Ryerson Students

It’s that exciting time of the year… the official last day of 2015! Tomorrow, not only do we welcome a new day, but a new year – the first day of 2016! 2015 has been such a big year for so many of us, and with the near year staring us straight square in the face, we look forward to making 2016 even better than 2015.

During this time of the year is when the infamous “New Year’s Resolutions” begin to be concocted. These New Year’s Resolutions are meant to outline our goals for the upcoming year, with the intent to stick by them no matter what. These resolutions are generally goals towards self-improvement. Some popular ones are include:

“Get healthier.”
“Save more money.”
“Stop procrastinating.”
“Cut down on coffee.”
“Sleep earlier.”

While the above-mentioned resolutions are wonderful resolutions, they are typically difficult to maintain unless you have discipline made of steel. Many of us are mere humans who make mistakes here and there that veer us off-track from our resolutions, and we find ourselves just neglecting and forgetting them altogether. In my opinion, New Year’s Resolutions should be two things: Specific and Realistic. They should be specific enough to fit your personal goals and aspirations, and it helps to really narrow your focus on what you can do to really achieve these goals. They should be realistic enough so that you’re not asking too much of yourself and you won’t be overly-stressed out or feel overly-pressured if unable to achieve them.

Therefore, with these criteria in mind, I have created for you a list of New Year’s Resolutions that hopefully resonate with you more and you are able to hopefully stick to in 2016:

3 NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS FOR RYERSON STUDENTS

1. DO NOT BE SO TRUSTING OF THE TTC OR GO TRANSIT
Think you can wake up at 7:00am because it only takes you 15 minutes to get ready, takes you 10 minutes to get to the station, and the train/subway/bus comes at exactly 7:30am every morning? Think again. If you’re a first year student who is still learning the ropes when it comes to commuting, and you currently have this mentality, you’re in for a rude awakening. The TTC or GO TRANSIT, although extremely helpful and necessary, have a knack for being quite unreliable when it comes to being on time. Don’t assume that you will have a smooth commute, free of delays or late arrivals each day. Do yourself a favour and wake up earlier in order to arrive at your station earlier so you don’t miss that 8am exam worth 40% of your grade. It may suck but you know what else sucks? Missing an 8am exam worth 40% of your grade because your subway was experiencing delays.

2. TRY TO AVOID THE TEMPTATION OF THE EATON CENTRE ASKING YOU TO BLOW YOUR MONEY THERE RATHER THAN GO TO CLASS
Going to school in Downtown Toronto is all kinds of fantastic – and also forces you to face all kinds of temptation. That being said, Ryerson University’s prime location gives you access to absolutely everything, including one of Canada’s largest and most popular malls, The Eaton Centre. There’s nothing more tempting than it finally being pay day, but you’ve got a class that day, and walking past Eaton Centre with “SALE” signs on the window. This kind of excitement is enough to get your blood pumping. But if you knew what was good for you, you’d repeat this mantra: “You don’t need another Roots sweater. You do need to pass this class. You don’t need another Roots sweater. You do need to pass this class. You don’t need another Roots sweater. You do need to pass this class.

3. GET OFF YOUR PHONE WHEN YOU’RE WALKING DOWN YONGE ST, YONGE & DUNDAS SQ – OR ANY STREET FOR THAT MATTER
It’s 2016 and communication and human interaction is at it’s highest. Unfortunately, the form of communication that 99.9% of the population resorts to nowadays any form that our cellphones allow us – SMS, iMessage, WhatsApp, etc. It’s hard not to have our phones in our hands, heads down, eyes on the screen, and responding to everyone and everything 24/7. When you’re a Ryerson student, this is especially difficult when you’re trying to get to class and having to weave through the hundreds and thousands of people in Downtown Toronto each day. You’re risk for running into things is already increased by going to school in Canada’s major city alone – you’re only increasing your own risk by texting while walking. Do yourself and others around you a favour – wait until you get to the SLC to reply to that text or check that email. Keep your head up when you’re crossing the Yonge & Dundas Sq intersection. Let’s start a new campaign this 2016: Ryerson Students Against Text-Walking. Let’s make it happen, people.

With that being said, I’m sure you can think of tons more. I sincerely hope you’ll take these three into consideration when coming up with your own New Year’s resolutions. Let us know how you get on throughout the year. If you stick to them and achieve your resolutions – fantastic! You’re on the road to success. If you slip up a little bit and veer off track – it’s never too late to get back on track! You, too, are on the road to success.

Most of all, I hope you have a wonderful 2016 filled with health, happiness, success, and love. Stay safe this New Year’s Eve and enjoy yourselves!

Happy New Year and let’s make 2016 a great one!

Sushi & Beer

Every week I ride the Bloor Street Subway out to Scarborough and back into the city. If you have been on the subway before you know what it’s like; people talking, sitting, reading, and minding their own business as the train rumbles beneath the city streets. The subway is a kind of strange place because it’s full of people who we do not know and who we do not always notice or even pay any attention to, we are generally concerned with who is in our immediate surrounding and when our stop is coming. While on my most recent trip home from Scarborough I noticed a man getting on the train at Coxwell Avenue. I was sitting on one of those old stained red and silver seats nearest to the sliding doors with my head leaned up against the glass. I was half asleep, as I often am on the subway, the rocking and warmth having lulled me into a semi-conscious state where the Queen could walk on by and I would still be trying to hold my eye lids open (this is also why I often miss my stop). As I sat there with my head half-tucked into the top of my wool winter coat, my collar popped up around my neck, and my toque low on my face I saw the man enter the train and sit down on the floor. I thought that in my sleepy stupor I was seeing things; why would someone sit on the floor when the train was half empty? This man caught my attention and pulled me back into consciousness as I continued to observe him.

 
He sat on the floor with his back leaned up against the red doors opposite me, these doors wouldn’t open again till Yonge Street So he had time to make himself comfortable. As the train pulled us farther into town I saw more and more of this man; his grey hair sticking out from under his tattered blue and white Maple Leafs toque and the dark creases and dry pale skin that enveloped his hands and face. His acid wash baggy blue jeans were torn up at the bottom showing off his beat down formerly white sneakers and he wore an old Maple Leafs jersey which matched his hat. The man was carrying a reusable shopping bag with him that looked like it only had one tug left in it before it feel completely apart. I found out later that in this bag he was carrying his dinner, a small take-out box with a few maki rolls in it and a pitcher of light beer wearing its own toque to minimize spillage. After the man removed the contents of his bag with extreme care so as to protect them from the unstable and unpredictable movements of the train he did something that in the moment surprised me. He put his hands together in prayer, closed his eyes, and began whispering something I was too far to hear. He then took a single maki roll and a sip of beer and cautiously returned his meal to his dilapidated sack. As I watched him eat I thought about how I never thank anyone for my food other than the waiter who brings it to me. This man was thanking his Lord for the pitiable amount of food he had and yet I take a full cupboard and fridge for granted.

 
Our journey continued across the Bloor Street Viaduct and I noted the darkened sky lit up with the luminous glow of downtown business towers and condos reflecting off the clouds. Our train stopped on the bridge and I could feel the wind brushing against the sides of the train, the doors rattling in and out, and the screech of the wheels as we slowed to a halt. Looking out the train window I felt the whole city get cold even though this is an unusually warm December. I wondered to myself where this man would go, what would he do when he reached his stop and was faced with a still harsh December? In the time that I was distracted by the city skyline and my thoughts I hadn’t noticed that my traveling companion had slipped into his own state of half-consciousness. He stretched his legs out along the doorway and his head and back were upheld by the glass separating the seats from the doors. His left hand and arm were hugging his shopping bag and in his right hand he had a lighter. It was at this point that I saw the cigarette sticking out from under his toque amongst his scraggly hair. He was playing with the lighter, rubbing it with his fingers and tapping it on the train floor. At one point he threw his arms up into the air and as they crashed back down to the floor I could see his face drop into sadness, as though he were giving up and submitting to the thoughts that were running around in his mind. Maybe he was expressing frustration, depression, despair, desolation, or hopelessness, I don’t know what he was thinking but he did not seem happy, he looked tired; exhausted in a way that I hope I will never have to feel.

 
Our train picked up and we started into the tunnel, eventually reaching Sherbourne Street where the man rose to his feet and switched over to the opposite doors now lying directly beside me. As the doors slid open at Yonge Street I watched the changing faces of the new passengers. Men and women went from smiling and laughing to disturbed and disgusted. People scoffed and turned up their lips in a grimace, passing judgment over someone they didn’t know and had no contact with. Some people didn’t even notice him as he lay at their feet. Every person with the exception of one man parted at the doorway moving further into the train and filling it. The man who remained bent down and pinched the arm of my now sleeping traveling companion waking him up. The new man dressed in a dark woolen coat and boots asked the laying man to get up as he was in the way, even though he was not bothering anyone. It’s not as though people were stepping over him to get to closed doors that would not open again until Spadina Avenue which I later learned was this man’s stop. A heated conversation ensued with yelling and swearing resulting in a now irate and fatigued man being forced up and out of his resting position and off the train. This entire exchange was pointless and unnecessary and only resulted in anger and the perpetuation of stereotypes. After the altercation the atmosphere on the train changed, for a moment there was a noticeable dip in the collective mood. The woman across from me said “what can you do?” and shrugged off the whole event, the man next to me said to his friend “they’re all the same” and continued their conversation as though nothing had occurred.

 
Why was this happening? Why did this whole show come about? Why did this man feel it was his right to upset and force someone off the train who was doing nothing wrong? Was he assuming that because of the way this man looked or was acting he shouldn’t be on the train with us? Or perhaps he went into the situation with good intentions, but we all know where that road leads. I don’t know why this happened but all I can say is that my traveling companion deserved the same peace and respect that I receive. I am often asleep on the train and while I may not be lying on the floor no one bothers to wake me. Being in a seat puts me in no one’s way but this man was in no one’s way either. He knew the door schedule and would have gotten up the same way he did the last time. This man never even said anything to anyone, he was minding his own business the same as everyone else and yet society decided it was their right to intervene and not to help but to make things worse. It’s been my experience that assumptions do not lead to good solutions and going into a situation with stereotypes in the back of your mind will not help but hinder. People experiencing homelessness aren’t stupid or worth less than anyone else. This man simply wanted a warm place to eat his sushi and beer and to take a nap, he was not impeding the travel of or bothering anyone else and yet he was interrupted and attacked. Why?

Last Week of Classes

It is last week of classes at Ryerson. Some of you may be graduating and starting a new chapter in your life. Too bad we do not have a reading week before exams. Although, it would be a great idea to give students more time to study. Since we are all short on time, I would like to remind myself and you folks of a few coping strategies in an easy to read format.Exams

Be sure to drink lots of water as you must stay hydrated to think straight. You might have learned in high school science that brain is mostly made up of water. When studying, keep a refillable water bottle with you to ensure you stay hydrated. Be sure to eat healthy food. Avoid eating chips and other junk food from the vending machine. Grab a protein bar and keep them in your backpack. Sitting all day in library with no breaks can make concentration difficult. Stretch out your fingers, legs and shoulders occasionally. This will help you stay focused. Take breaks every couple of hours. Go for a quick walk to stretch your legs.

The other goal should be to work smarter and not harder. You can’t read the whole text book and expect to remember all the tiny details for the exam. This is not practical. The goal should be to summarize notes and focus on the important topics. I have found that by doing practice questions, I am able to understand the concepts better. If a professor has assigned practice questions, do them. There is a good chance that they will end up on the final. If a professor said that he/she will be holding an exam review session, be sure not to miss it. They will likely provide hints and what to expect on the final exam.

Try to limit the time you spend on internet because this is the time when you need to work your hardest. One of the things that have helped me focus during exam season is reducing the use of Social Media sites (such as Twitter and Facebook). Therefore, take some time off from social media sites as studies have shown that students do much better on exams when there are no distractions.

As we all know planning is the key to succeed. Plan your study schedule and include appropriate breaks. This will help you avoid cramming the night before an exam where you have to go through tons of reading material. If you commute to university, there is a good chance that it takes you between 30 minutes to +1 hours to get to Ryerson. Spend this time wisely by reading.
Goodluck on your exams.

When the “Man-spread” is an Issue

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Over the past few months, “man-spreading” has become a household term.  The transit controversy was discussed on the evening news, newspaper articles explored the issue and it appeared on social media.  For those who missed the uproar of the term “man-spreading”, it means angling ones legs in a way that takes up more space.  It’s been most noted on public transit and is generally done by men.  I have been wanting to write about this for a while but have been waiting for the parade of ridiculous articles to pass.

There were a lot of opinions and stories on “man-spreading” that diverted from the main discussion.  There were articles on how the seats on the TTC are small and do not accommodate all body types.  True and an important issue, but that has nothing to do with the “man-spreading” discussion.  There were articles about people putting their feet up and taking up seats with their bags which diverted us away from the topic of “man-spreading”.  There were articles about how men need to spread out due to their anatomy and asking them not to was a violation of their rights.  The Men’s Rights Activists had a good time with that one.  The final group of articles was close to hitting the nail on the head but not quite; they discussed men who spread so far that they take up two seats so no one can sit beside them.  This is part of the “man-spreading” issue but there’s a piece that is missing.

For me, “man-spreading” becomes an issue when I’m sitting beside that person.  It’s an issue when the person beside me is sitting with their legs wide open while I’m sitting with my legs together and they’re being crushed against the side of the seat.  Even with my legs like that, the person beside me still has their leg on mine.

Living in Toronto, you have to get used to not always having your own personal space.  It’s not an option during the morning commute where everyone is packed in and pushed up against each other in the subway.  Almost everywhere in Toronto is busy and being in each other’s personal space has become so common we don’t even think about it.

Despite personal space being less common in Toronto daily life, I like to have it when I can.  When it’s not rush hour and I manage to get a seat, that is a time when I can have personal space.  During that time, I don’t want someone’s leg almost on top of mine and to be crushed against the side of the seat just because someone can’t be bothered to close their legs.

Be courteous to other people on transit- stop “man-spreading”.

Photo from: cbc.ca

A Subway Tale: Don’t Watch, Act!

Dundas Station

This upcoming school year will be my third year living in downtown Toronto.  I have embraced all that comes with living in a big city; lots of people, busy streets and walking everywhere.  The one thing about a big city that I have not embraced is the idea that big cities are unfriendly.  I find Toronto to be a very friendly city.  People hold doors, say “excuse me” and despite keeping to ourselves, we do talk to each other sometimes.  I dislike when we are compared to New York as an unfriendly city and cringe at the murder of Kitty Genovese where witnesses did not act or call police.  I have heard Toronto described as the city that will stop to help you if needed while other large cities will walk by if you’re lying on the sidewalk.  My experience on the subway during the first week of school made me question whether we are still the friendly city that will stop or the big city that keeps walking.

I was buying tokens during afternoon rush hour and saw a crowd around a young girl.  She was really disoriented and didn’t look well.  I was about to get on the subway but noticed that although people weren’t walking away, they were just standing there watching.  No one was asking if she was okay or even that close to her.  Everyone just stood over her watching and waiting.  Another woman and I went over to ask her if she was okay.  She wasn’t okay and was in need of medical attention.  We put an ice pack I had on her neck and waited for the paramedics to come.

I’m not writing this to say hey, look what I did.  I’m writing this to say we need to look at who we are becoming as a city and this scenario is a good example of why we need to do that.  When we went over to the girl, most of the crowd left.  One man bought a bottle of water and a woman went up to street level to use her cell phone to call an ambulance.  That’s four people who took action while the rest of those travelling through Dundas Station just watched or kept walking.  I understand hesitation to insert ourselves into situations that do not involve us but sometimes it’s necessary.  This girl was 18 years old, just moved here for school and had a medical condition that was extremely debilitating at the time.

Since this happened I keep thinking about what if the four of us kept walking and went home or got on the subway.  Would any of the people who were just watching act and ask if she was okay or call an ambulance?

I think Toronto is right in the middle of being a friendly city that stops and the big city that keeps walking.  We may not walk away but standing and watching isn’t doing anything for the person in distress.  When things like that happen we need to act if we want to be a friendly big city.  By acting we were able to bring the girl’s fever down and she was talking and coherent by the time the paramedics arrived.  Watching wouldn’t have done anything.  The next time you see something similar don’t watch, act!

Photo from: Wikipedia

The Problem with Accessibility Guidelines

man in wheelchair on sidewalk with snowbank between him and the bus stop

With the introduction of the AODA, Ontario will have to abide by a set standards of accessibility guidelines. While this is a positive move for Ontario, these guidelines leave much to be desired. I recently went to a speaker series on the AODA. The speaker commented how far ahead Thunder Bay was in accessible transit, as their entire transit system is fully accessible. As luck would have it, I found myself in Thunder Bay a few days after that speaker series.

Being impressed by Thunder Bay’s accessibility I was determined to learn the transit system and commented to several people that I heard how great their transit system was. The looks were quizzical and then they let me in on a little secret. Transit in Thunder Bay may have buses that kneel but it is far from being truly accessible. Transit in Thunder Bay is based on a loop system. Rather than taking a direct route, buses loop around large areas. According to one woman I spoke with, it can take it over an hour to get from her destination to home. A trip that in a car would take roughly 10 minutes. Also, because of the loop system the buses come every 15-30 minutes depending on the route. This doesn’t sound like a long time, until you are waiting outside in -45 degree weather with no bus shelter and you are on the side of the highway because the snow hasn’t been cleared from the sidewalk. Then what happens if that accessible spot on the bus is already taken? And this is considered fully accessible transit.

Another example of guidelines run amok is the AGO. This is a relatively new, beautiful building which meets accessibility guidelines, but totally misses the mark. All new buildings must have an automatic door opener. The AGO has these, but they are impossible to spot. The inside buttons are so randomly placed that they have since added arrows to attempt to indicate which door they open. The outcome being more confusing. The building has a beautiful wooden ramp which weaves its way from the entrance to the lobby. While it is architecturally stunning and meets accessibility guidelines, it fails in usage. I was there with a man I work for, who is a wheelchair user and we were heading up the ramp and almost ran into someone coming down the ramp as it is impossible to see the other end. A woman I know told me that she didn’t even know the ramp existed. She has low vision and the fact that the ramp is all wooden, made it impossible to for her to see the entrance to the ramp.

The problem with guidelines is sometimes we forget that accessibility must go hand in hand with accommodation. It is as if meeting guidelines is enough. The reason for accessibility, the people, are forgotten. The buses can kneel, therefore needs are met. The AGO has automatic door openers, so isn’t that enough? While guidelines are helpful, they should be just a guideline. Accessibility guidelines should be the minimum done, not the maximum. If the best we can do is take a transit system which doesn’t work for any riders and add kneeling buses, then perhaps before we pat ourselves on the back we need to rethink these guidelines.

Transportation: Toronto vs. Montreal

public transit

During Reading Week I traveled to Montreal for a little get-away before school started again.  Montreal is a greatly populated urban city, just as Toronto is.  For any urban area, public transportation is a huge concern and heavily debated topic.  The hotel I stayed at in Montreal was mid-town so I got to experience taxi, bus and subway transportation.  Since I rely on public transit in Toronto, I couldn’t help but compare Toronto and Montreal’s transit systems.

Taxis:
I would take a cab in Toronto over Montreal any day.  Every cab driver I had in Montreal was trying to cheat us one way or another.  They would start the meter then check their GPS for directions, take their time at stoplights instead of turning or my favourite was the guy who just dropped us downtown because he didn’t know where we were going.

Buses:
I’ve been living in Toronto for a year and a half and I still rely on the vocal and visual prompts for bus stops.  In Montreal, the buses don’t have either.  If you can’t see out of a window or you don’t know what the area looks like, you’re in trouble.  This would also be an issue in terms of accessibility.  Those prompts are to accommodate those with visual or hearing impairments yet Montreal doesn’t have either.  The physical structure of the buses seemed to be more spacious than Toronto buses.

Subways:
First of all, has anyone else noticed that the subway doors in Montreal open before the subway came to a full stop?  You shouldn’t lean against any subways doors, but especially not those in Montreal.  Montreal has us beat on the number of subway lines and how often they intersect, allowing opportunities for transfers.  The price for a monthly pass is almost half the price of those sold in Toronto.  I do like the Toronto subways because they match with North, East, South and West, which makes it easier to determine if you’re going in the right direction.  The Montreal subway stations are much cleaner.

Even though Montreal and Toronto are a 5 hour train ride away, they are both large urban areas where citizens rely on public transit.  Both cities’ transit systems have pros and cons as expected within cities as large as Montreal and Toronto.  If these cities want to improve on their public transit, they should take a look at the other.  If you combined Toronto’s accessibility accommodations with Montreal’s number of subway lines and prices, you’d have a perfect transit system.

Sources Used:
Image from https://cfo.asu.edu/pts

The TTC is Not Your Toilet

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Today a man almost peed on me. That’s not a sentence you normally hear and not something I ever expected to have happen but there it is none the less. And while I have experienced the odd annoying person clipping their nails next to me on the bus or the hoards of people who clamber on while wearing full back packs or the slight shoves down the stairs during rush hour, I would always have said the majority of people on transit respect each other. That changed today.

I was heading home and was moving slowly to let others pass. I stood on the escalator with only one other person behind me when I heard splashing. Thinking someone had spilled something I turned around to see, not a coke or coffee sloshing on the steps, but a man aiming his stream in my direction. Thank god I was wearing rain boots. Is that where we are at now in this city? Where strangers will pee on one another in the subway?

It’s not like this is the first time I have seen someone peeing in the subway. It’s always been outside the station in a corner or at the far end of the platform but this was the first time it’s affected me directly. Recently, my partner (who never usually takes transit) was riding the subway home late one night. He noticed a man harassing two young women. He went up to the man and requested that he leave the women alone. All of them got on the same subway car and man paced up and down bashing his fists together. He eventually got off the subway but not without spitting in my partners face first. When I heard this I had two reactions, one was a sense of pride in my partner and the other was to shake my head and intone “you shouldn’t have gotten involved.”

I know those reactions seem contradictory. I believe that one reason for those reactions was, in part, based on gendered responses. But I also wonder if it relates to how accustomed I have become to seeing people disrespect each other on transit. My partner, as the novice transit rider, was appalled at others behaviour while I am almost immune to it. Today changed that.

Toronto is not so large of a city that we can forget to respect each other. That we can move around anonymously. Even if we could, do we want to live in city in which citizens don’t respect each other? I don’t. I know that I am part of the problem. I may not be peeing on others, but I rush, I hustle for the seat, I glare at the person whose music is too loud. It takes something as surprisingly rude as almost being peed on to realize how disrespectful we have become on transit, but today changed that.

Bass.

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Becoming A Super Straphanger should be the goal of every city dweller. With fuel prices at an all time high, private vehicle costs at a premium and road congestion at maximum capacity, relying on public transit is, in fact, one of the best ways you can get around. And it doesn’t have to be complicated. Simplifying the transit fare process in something already in the works, and as the city grows, we are encouraged even more to change our travel norms from car to train dependency.

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Here in the GTA, a new electronic fare payment method is making its way throughout local and regional transit systems. The PRESTO card (shown above) allows users to load monetary value via cash, debit/credit or online. Several local transit agencies, including Brampton Transit, Durham Transit, Mississauga Transit, Oakville Transit and VIVA have fully equipped their transit bus fleet with PRESTO tap boards (what you tap your card onto to pay your fare). It is applauded for providing transit commuters with cost effective convenience – no more waiting in line to pay fares or reload at transit stations (though this is an option). Using PRESTO can significantly reduce the time you spend going to pay fare or breaking change (given that transit agencies accept cash fares in exact amounts only). In addition, users are provided with access to their existing balances via online registration at www.prestocard.ca. A simple set up, one can check their ridership summary, add fare value, choose a default route (for additional trip discounts) and even access their annual ridership costs for tax return purposes.

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The transit agency spearheading the PRESTO fare adoption has been GO Transit. Beginning in late 2010, GO Transit began implementing PRESTO as an alternative to their popular 10-ride and monthly GO passes. Hesitant at first, riders began to switch over, realizing that using PRESTO allowed them to pay even less than they originally did for their monthly trips through a new ‘Co Fare‘ system. Achieving significant results in its first two years, GO Transit has successfully eliminated their 10- ride and monthly passes at the start of 2013 for PRESTO fare payment method only. Individual tickets can still be purchased at GO Transit terminals and kiosks for casual riders.

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As a student, it is important that money be saved at every opportunity. Using a PRESTO Card to get to/from school, work placements or just around town is making a smarter choice for your budget. The TTC has sparingly implemented PRESTO on their transit network, with several of their subway stations having PRESTO Tap Boards for users to pay their way through. It is expected that the introduction of the new Light Rail Vehicles next year will include full PRESTO Card use, with a complete PRESTO fare adaptation by 2016. From campus, Union Station is the closest PRESTO Card pickup location. Once purchased, register online and return the following day with student ID for student fare pricing (about 15 percent lower than regular base fare). Note a minimum $10 value is required for each reload. A bid you adieu, Straphanger of the Twenty First Century.
$MART.