My Secret List of Toronto Driving Shortcuts
The other day a friend asked me about a driving route that is currently fouled up in a major way by construction, and it got me thinking about my list of driving shortcuts in the city. Now these are time shortcuts, some of them my wife refers to as "long cuts" and longer in distance some of them may be but I promise you that, especially in rush hour, knowing these routes can save you plenty of time.
So without further ado here are some of my secret shortcuts to Toronto driving. "Not so secret any more!", you say and you'd be right, which is why I can't give you all of them. Sorry.
Some General Advice
With the exception of some areas and routes (discussed below) in general Toronto traffic, at least the worst of it, is very rush hour centric. It seems obvious but do remember just because a street or route is bad at one time of day doesn't mean it always is, and in fact you can be free and clear even when it is bad as long as you're going in the "right" direction. The point here being that when driving you shouldn't dismiss a route just because it might be clogged at certain times of the day.
North-South in the Eastern part of the city
The secret route here revolves around one of the best hidden little secrets of Toronto driving, Leslie Street. Leslie Street from Eglinton to the 401 is a driving timesavers gold mine. There aren't many lights in comparison to alternate routes, you can get on and off at convienent spots and the traffic is much lighter than alternates as well. If you're headed north or south anywhere between Yonge and the DVP at pretty much any time of day this is the route you should be on. Even in the worst of rush hour and going with the traffic you will beat Yonge, Bayview, Don Mills or the DVP on Leslie.
From the north end Leslie connects right to the 401 which is useful, at the south end it's a bit trickier but easy enough to get right downtown. Heading south on Leslie when you get to Eglinton turn right. Then get in the left hand lane to make a left turn at the very next light (Brentcliffe Road). You may arrive at this light and discover that the left hand turn lane is backed up for a long, long way. That's okay because I'm telling you this is the longest advance green in Toronto. Turn left onto Brentcliffe and then right onto Wicksteed Avenue and in moments you're at the intersection of McRae and Laird.
From there depending on where you want to go you can make your next move. Heading to Riverdale/The Beaches? Head south on Laird, across Millwood and on into Riverdale. Going downtown? South on Laird to Southvale/Moore Avenue and then head down the Bayview extension all the way to King. Heading uptown? Take McRae to Millwood, Millwood to across Bayview and then cut down to Davisvile Ave across all the way to Yonge and beyond.
South in the Central-Western part of the city
This route isn't as long (or as good) as the one above but I blame the fact that the western half of Toronto just sucks to get around, maybe if the Spadina expressway went where it was supposed to things would be different but the fact remains it's just more tricky and there's less you can do about it. It also suffers from being a one-way only route. It helps if you're going south but can't help you coming north. Nevertheless there is a handy little shortcut from Eglinton/Bathurst to Dupont and Davenport that uses Russell Hill Road.
On an aside I recently became aware that this road is named after one of the most notorious slave owners in Toronto history. There have been a few attempts to rename the street because of this but they have all failed. I think that's pretty shameful to be honest with you, hopefully at some point this will be properly addressed.
Moving on... Russell Hill is tricky to get to from Eglinton, although the best way is probably off of Old Forest Hill Road (which intersects Eglinton at the top of the hill just east of Bathurst. It's relatively easy to get to on St Clair but part of the time savings is the north part so if you can get on it before that's good. (Note that some/all of the parts north of St Clair are two ways, so be careful and don't think it's one way all the way). Once you get south of St Clair you're smooth sailing, with a few twists and turns, until you get dumped north of the railway bridge that crosses Dupont/Spadina right north of where Dupont and Davenport meet up. From there if you're headed downtown just go over to Avenue Road and then down University.
East-West Across the North and West of the City (401 from Avenue to 427 area)
Nope. Sorry, you're outta luck. Nobody has ever found a good route across that part of the city and I'm inclined to believe there just isn't one. The only thing that can ever help you in that area is the 407, but depending on where you are actually going that just takes you way too far out of the way to be effective.
A few months back I took a taxi to the airport at 6am. There was a traffic jam, heading west mind you which is against the main traffic flow, from the Allen Road to the 409. At 6 am! So you're just screwed, leave early, hope for the best and be glad you don't actually live in Etobicoke. If you do live in Etobicoke, especially north Etobicoke, really, you need to move.
East-West on Bloor/Danforth from Yonge to Broadview (and area)
There are two secrets on this route and both will save you a lot of time if you have to go from Broadview/Danforth to Yonge/Bloor at rush hour or if you even only can use one part of these routes from different sources and destinations.
I should mention here that this route is certainly one of the ones where it's not always bad. If you're going at non-peak times, or headed the opposite way to rush hour just stay on Bloor/Danforth and it's great. When you are with rush hour traffic though... it's ridiculous, it's not uncommon for what should be a 10 minute drive to take well over 30 (and sometimes even longer). This route will cut the time down to a better 17-18. So yes, this is longer than things will take at the best of times but when traffic is bad it's a great one.
Rosedale Valley Road. Rosedale Valley Road is your friend on this route, running from the Bayview extension south of Bloor right up to almost Church and Davenport. There can sometimes be a lot of traffic here too, and waiting for the 4 way stop can take some time, don't worry once past that it's non-stop to Bayview and away you go. Plus there is some nice scenery along the way, certainly more picturesque than a view of the back of St Jamestown so it's a win all around.
Once you get to Bayview turn left and head up to the second secret part of the route Pottery Road. Pottery Road will take you across and up the valley to the intersection of Broadview and Mortimer. Mortimer is a great east/west route if you need to keep going that way, and if you need to go south Broadview is okay. Pottery is a great little road for connecting Leaside and North Riverdale in general so you can use it for those purposes as well, much better than anything involving Pape Avenue for sure. The only caveat with Pottery is if you have a manual transmission and you're not always the best of friends with it you might want to give it a pass. Sometimes you can be stuck on the hill waiting for the light, and it's pretty serious hill to be honest with you.
Beaches/South Riverdale East/West to Downtown
Adelaide/Richmond to Eastern Avenue are your friends here. Look the reality is that when you're on any east west street between University and Church traffic, in rush hour, is just going to suck. There's nothing you can do about that, but once you get past there Adelaide (out of downtown) and Richmond (in to downtown) are really fast routes across to Eastern and from there all the way to Leslie if you want. Very few lights and a lot less traffic than any alternatives.
A final word of advice
Whatever you do never take the DVP. The DVP is for tourists and idiots, so unless you're using it at 3am you're taking the wrong route. Because even then it's 50/50 that there will be a traffic jam from 401 to Lawrence in both directions.
I would say the same generally applies for Allen Road, the 401 from 427 to Avenue Road and anywhere on the Gardiner except that sometimes you just have no choice. So if you can at all avoid any of those, I'd do that too.
|© 2008 Max Stocker|