Freshman Transit

Posted by Sam on November 12, 2015

The Vari Reel


If you’re like me, a person who grew up far, far removed from the vast Toronto public transit system, listening to someone trying to give you transit directions in first year was the equivalent of trying to understand a turkey gargling oatmeal. Fortunately, although it may seem daunting at first, getting a hold of basic public transit in and around York is actually quite simple. If only there was a simple, easy-to-understand guide for eliminating the problems I faced in first year . . .


BOOM. We made one.


My colleague Arshia started us off in the right direction with her commuter tips a few weeks back, and now she’s passed the baton on to me. I’ve tried to write this guide with as many people in mind as possible, but of course I’m just giving my opinion as one student here at York. If you’re new to the City of Toronto, you’ll find a solid stepping-stone here to becoming acclimated to the public transit system.


Out on the Town

So it’s your first year, it’s the weekend and located at the bottom of your legs are two blue suede shoes because you’re an absolute dance fiend. You make John Travolta from Saturday Night Fever look like Gary the Snail from SpongeBob. If you’re heading downtown for such an adventure, you basically have two options:


  1. 196 (196, 196a, 196b . . . They all work) or 106Two buses (106 and 196), one at night, one during the day, with the Fonz giving a thumbs up.
  • Your safest bet is to depart from the York U bus loop, located just outside Vari Hall. You want to be on the same side as York Lanes. There you will find a post with the number “196” (the 196 is an express bus and is faster than the 106, whether you’re leaving York or coming back). You’re going to want to wait here.
  • [Leaving York] After paying the nice bus driver $3.00 (TTC buses), or swiftly swiping your (discounted?) Metropass, you are well on your way to Downsview subway station. From Downsview, you can then begin your trek southbound on the yellow line to wherever the party is happening (most likely St. Andrews station or Osgoode station).TTC map portraying all possible subway routes in Toronto.
  • [Coming back] Coming back is basically the exact opposite. All you need to do is get back on the subway and, if the station you’re in is still on the yellow line, and if it is to the left of Union Station (you’ll see what I mean if you look at the map above), simply head northbound back to Downsview station.
  • If it’s not to the left of Union station, such as Queen or College stations, instead of looping back down south through Union (which you can do if you want), simply head north until you reach Bloor-Yonge, switch trains to head west on the green line, stay on until you reach St. George (you can get off at Spadina if you wish, but you will have to walk a solid 100m through a tunnel to make the transfer), then make a final switch of trains, so that you are once again on the yellow line heading north toward Downsview.

    Murray Ross Parkway bus stop on an overcast day.
    If you’re taking the 196 back to York on the weekend and you live in the Village, this is your stop. It’s called Murray Ross, and it’s right beside the fire station.
  • Once at Downsview station, hop back on either the 196, 196a (avoid 196b here) or the 106, and head back to York. During the week, both the 106 and 196 will travel through the Village on their way to and from York, but on the weekends only the 106 will go through the Village. The 196 goes directly to the bus loop.
  • [Coming back ext.] If you’re going downtown on a Friday or Saturday, let’s be honest: you’ll probably not be coming back before 1am. In this case, your route home is a little different. Because the subway closes at 1:30am, you are going to have to take the night bus/streetcar back.
    • You’ll notice on the map that even though the subway is listed as closing at 1:30am, last-train departure times vary from station to station. Regardless, just to be safe, try to be in the station by 1:30am.
  • Depending on where you are downtown, you’re going to try to make your way to either the 353 (takes you closer to campus) or the 336 (takes you closer to the Village) night bus. You can reference the maps below to see where and how often these buses/streetcars stop.
    • Worst-case scenario, you reach into that left pocket and grab your Google Maps-infused device. Thank you, technology.

      TTC Blue Night Bus map. Blue in colour with routes of all night buses.
      Although this map is two years old, it still provides good insight into where and how often the buses stop.

Updated Blue Night Network. White in colour, with routes of Blue Night buses.


Other Scenarios

Animated gif of dog unsuccesfully attempting to catch a hot dog in it's mouth.

Next up, you just watched your last three eggs tragically slide off your one and only clean plate onto the barren lands of the kitchen floor. Although there are actually a number of grocery stores within walking distance of the Keele Campus, if you’re looking for a little more variety, you’ll find more options within busing distance. Fortunately I listed them (and provided directions) in a previous post.



Bae’s feeling a movie night? On Tuesdays, Galaxy Cinemas offers half-price entry for all shows. There are a few locations to choose from:


Colossus Vaughan (3555 Highway 7 West, Vaughan, ON L4L 6B1)

  • There are several ways to get to Colossus Vaughan. You can take the 501 Zum Bus or the Viva Orange, both of which can be boarded at the bus loop,  or the 20 TTC bus, which you can board at Founders and Steeles near Vanier College.
Very busy, packed crowd at a music festival.
A typical half-price Tuesday at the Galaxy. Image Source.

Yorkdale Mall (3401 Dufferin St, Toronto, ON M6A 2T9)

  • Again, hop on either the 196 (a or b) or 106, and head to Downsview subway station. From there, simply head south to Yorkdale station. Boom. Done.

Scotiabank Theatre (259 Richmond St W, Toronto, ON M5V 3M6)

  • Same directions as above, but instead of getting off at Yorkdale, you’re going to keep going until you reach Osgoode. From here it’s a five-minute walk.

Carleton Rainbow Cinema (20 Carlton St, Toronto, ON M5B 2H5)

  • Same as above, but you’re going to get off at College station. From here, it’s a two-minute walk. How do you get to College, you ask? The bus to Downsview, the yellow line south to St. George, switch to the green line eastbound, get off at Yonge-Bloor and head south again from there to College. It sounds more complicated than it is. This theatre offers seven-dollar movies with a student discount every day. Very cool, old-school movie house.


Now, with York being as diverse in population as it is, to create a guide catering to every single individual’s transit needs would be quite difficult, to say the least. What we can do, however, is help make transit easier and more accessible for students all across Toronto.

StudentMoveTO, an initiative supported by schools all throughout T.O., is the name of the game. Long story short, if you want a faster way to get to that hipster Korean BBQ place your friend just showed you, or a more efficient way to get to that out-of-the-way job you just got, maybe give that StudentMoveTO survey in your email a quick peek (yes, you did receive an email). It could make your life a lot easier in the long run. Happy travels!

(Note: All maps  and legends reproduced courtesy of the TTC.)



When you’re on the night bus at 3AM:

When you’re on your way home after an incredible job interview/Tinder date:

When you’re half asleep on the subway:

When you’re on that early morning grind:


Sam recently graduated with an Honours BA in Communications.

See other posts by Sam

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