The secret Toronto airport express bus

Last November, my father and I to took the bus to the airport.

At the regular TTC fare of $3 a ride, taking the Bloor-Danforth line to Kipling then catching the 192 Rocket (an express bus that travels along highway 427) is a bargain compared to the alternative $50-ish cab ride. Taking the subway and the bus, my dad and I were surprised that we could get from our house to Pearson in under an hour.

TTC Rocket 192

The 192 Rocket travels from Kipling Station to Pearson Airport along the 427. Image courtesy of the TTC.

It makes me wonder. Why isn’t the 192 Rocket promoted by the TTC, with maybe a little airplane icon above Kipling station on the subway map? Other then seeing people with luggage in tow every now and then on the Bloor-Danforth line, and the odd Air Canada flight attendant in full uniform, you’d never realize that the TTC was connected to the airport.

Kipling station airport

In Montreal, the bus to the airport was introduced in 2010 with a major ad campaign. The bus — numbered 747 — is painted brightly with the image of an airplane. As the bus makes its way through downtown Montreal and onto the highway toward Trudeau International, it becomes a moving billboard advertising itself as a viable transit option to the airport.

 

747 Bus STM

The 747 bus in Montreal. Image courtesy of STM.

I am definitely excited about the opening of the Union-Pearson express train in 2015. This city will benefit greatly from a direct route between its airport and central transit hub. At roughly $20-$30 per ride however, the UP Express won’t exactly be accessible to every Torontonian. I do hope the UP Express doesn’t mean the end of taking the bus to the airport.

And why is the TTC bus to the airport so secret anyways? It definitely affirms my suspicions that Toronto is thoroughly an Insider’s city. We Torontonians like our secrets. Our gems are accessible, but you’ve got to find them yourself. We have a great ravine system, but its trails remains largely unmarked. And just try to make your way through the PATH system for the first time.

So, apologies for breaking Torontonian code by exposing the express airport bus to the internet masses. But hey, it’s a good service!

Daniel Rotsztain is the Urban Geographer. Check out his website or say hello on Twitter!

Leading image by James Bow, from Transit Toronto

20 comments

  1. ….and at night, you don’t even need to transfer, as the Bloor-Danforth night bus continues past Kipling and up to the airport.

    Worth noting too that the #192 buses have modified luggage areas now.

    Side note: Kipling station is kind of interesting for a few reasons. Yes, you see plenty of people with luggage heading to/from the airport. You also see people carrying large boxes and other packages after stepping off of the Ikea shuttle bus. Annnnd, when there’s a Leafs/Argos/Raptors game (especially the Leafs) if feels like this station gathers the most jersey-clad fans heading downtown.

  2. I don’t think it is a secret, it is on the Pearson website.
    In Brampton, there is an Airport Express bus for only $3.25. No one I’ve talked to know about it. The ride is always near empty but a few airport workers. Whenever I tell people to take the bus when they ask me for a ride to the airport, they look at me like our friendship is over. There seems to be a stigma for taking buses (being lower class vs. flying being upper class).
    Another secret airport ride is hotel shuttles. My friends who lives right in the heart of Toronto often take Hyatt or Hilton buses. They’re under $20.
    Before I moved here, I came visit my friends and found that the Toronto International didn’t feel like a large city airport. There isn’t any sense of connection to the city. The workers will just tell you to take a cab or go rent a car. In JFK, Heathrow or Narita, the airport is the hub to everywhere. Until we get more connection between the airport, trains, buses, subway… we’re not yet a world-class city we want to believe.

  3. The 300A Bloor-Danforth Blue Night bus and the 307 Eglinton West Blue Night bus both provide 30 minute headway service.

  4. It’s a good service, one that I will continue to rely on when the rail service begins. TTC seems to handle it well, but stop placements and signage at Pearson Airport indicate GTAA sees transit users as low priority (an insult to the many low-paid workers at Pearson) and, possibly, public transit as unwanted competition for its lucrative parking business.

  5. I took this bus for the first time last summer coming back from Pearson and couldn’t believe how fast I was delivered to Kipling Station.
    More should be done to advertise this cheap alternative. Beats sitting in traffic in a limo or cab

  6. Being on the Yonge line, north of St Clair, I use the GO Bus at York Mills Station. It’s fairly inexpensive.

  7. Toronto sniffs Montreals’ farts when it comes to transit.

  8. Adora, I feel your pain. I take the bus occasionally after parking at Bramalea. It’s so much easier.

  9. Maybe Andy Byford will read this and get onboard with the Airport icon idea. Many other cities have this on their subway maps. It’s a no-brainer.

  10. Can’t tell if the author is trolling or really so ignorant. The existence of the 192 is fairly plain to anyone who chooses to do the slightest bit of research on airport transit options, as I did in 2006 on my first visit to Toronto. I didn’t find the bus particularly remarkable, nor did I consider references on the websites of the airport, TTC, and google maps to be revealing a “secret” in any way. It is perhaps a sign of the author’s particular attitudes towards transit that he feels a bus needs to be advertised on a subway map for it to be known.

  11. Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for your comment. I’m not exactly sure if this is trolling, but I am attempting to be playful with calling the bus secret. You’d be surprised how many people out there aren’t aware of its existence, including my father who has lived in Toronto since the 70s.

    I’m not sure what you are inferring about my attitudes about transit based on this post. I do believe in an integrated system, that is proactive in helping visitors and residents make connections between the places they are and the places they want to go — especially a place as important as an International Airport.

  12. It’s about consumers and users being savvy. I’ve known about it for a long time since I used to take the bus until I went to University. It’s also true that TTC could do better by creating awareness similar to what has been done in Montreal to bring it into focus for all bus riders.

    At the end of the day though, consumers/users of services have to be more proactive instead of passive in our navigation of our consumption choices. That’s a personal responsibility we all owe to ourselves.

    RaveOrBash.com

  13. Depending on the time of day I use the 192 about 50% of the time between my house &Pearson. One typo critique though, in 2nd paragraph: “other than…” (not “then”) is the grammatically correct phrase you want… Sorry to be a pedant but lately the transposing of then & than has been driving me crazy everywhere!

  14. If you think that the TTC airport bus (or buses) is a secret you may be in for lots of surprises in your life. As others have noted, it is noted on TTC website – prominently on the front page – and Pearson Airport site and there is also fairly prominent signage at the airport itself. An ‘article’ like this (‘playful’ or not) is more appropriate to an unmoderated blog not Spacing. Time for some quality control guys!

  15. From the Lawrence West Station, there are the 58A & 58D Malton bus. The other branches (58, 58B) bypass the airport.

  16. I took the 192 to the airport two weeks ago when I left on my vacation to Europe. I used the TTC’s trip planner to find out which bus to take and when I should leave my house. Worked like a charm. I continued to use public transit to get to and from the airport in London, UK and in Lisbon, Portugal. In both cities, the subways went directly to the airport and signs in the airport’s arrivals area clearly directed travelers to the subway station. At the entrance to the subway station were bank machines, ticket machines that took cash and credit cards and provided service/clear instructions in a number of languages, system maps, and instructions on how the transit system worked. I was relieved at how easy it was to navigate.

    And then I returned to Toronto and tried to take the TTC home from the airport.
    And that’s when I realized how ridiculously awful our system is. I’d befriended a family of Britons on the plane who had never been to Canada before and had offered to help them get to their hotel via the TTC, as it would have cost them a fortune to get to their hotel any other way. The airport signs in Arrivals directed travelers to taxis and a train, but there was no mention at all of public transit. The Britons stopped at a bank machine to get some Canadian money: it dispensed only $20 bills, as bank machines do. After following signs in the airport for “ground transportation,” a sign appeared that included a picture of a bus. We followed the sign and went outside, but found ourselves at a loading area for airport and hotel shuttles and no sign of the TTC anywhere. I finally asked someone who worked at the airport where I could find the bus stop and they pointed to one of the exits and told me to cross the road and I’d find the bus stop there. There was no sign in the airport indicating that there was a TTC bus stop there, but when we reached the spot where the person had directed us, lo and behold, there was a TTC post (I recognized it as such, but of course the Britons had no idea what it was) and a small crowd of people waiting at a bus shelter. There were no maps, no information about the TTC, and when the bus arrived, the driver looked at the Britons who were holding out their $20 bill and informed them that he didn’t provide change. While $20 for a family of 5 is still a lot cheaper than taking the airport shuttle, their first experience of Toronto after leaving the airport was getting screwed by the TTC through no fault of their own. They were handed transfers that they didn’t know what to do with, and arrived at Kipling station where I led them to the subway. If they hadn’t had me to chaperone them, it would have been fairly impossible for them to use the TTC to get to the city from the airport. And that’s why our system sucks.

  17. @Melissa Goldstein – Well, the reasons why most/all transit systems in North America don’t make change on the bus are (1) it slows down boarding and (2) it allows for thieves to rob the bus driver. I’d imagine some combination of these 2 factors are what drives the decision for North American transit operators to almost universally refuse to make change aboard buses.

  18. The following info from Steve Munro may be of interest for Yonge Line travellers to Mississauga International :)

    “The 52 Lawrence West and 58 Malton routes will be combined as route 52, and the 58 Malton route number and name will be discontinued. More service will run east between Lawrence West and Lawrence Stations as a result.”

    This means that from 30 March 2014 it should be possible to reach Lawrence/Yonge from Pearson without a change, as opposed to the current arrangement where a transfer between a 58 and a 52 must be done. There is also the Pearson-York Mills GO service, but that only runs hourly and at $5.70 cash fare.

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