Best way to plan a timely day trip from Rochester to Toronto?
October 20, 2009 5:48 AM   Subscribe

TorontoFilter: I have a ticket to go to this event on Friday, at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts. I live in Rochester, NY. What are my options for getting there on time?

My original thought was to just drive there and drive back same-day. I'd leave Rochester at about 5AM; Google Maps estimates a 2hr40m drive, and the past few times I've been through Canadian customs it was only a few minutes through. I'm a reasonably capable driver, I have a Garmin with Canadian maps and I enjoy road trips, so this is my natural inclination.

I'm wondering, however, if customs is going to be far worse at "commute-time" (since anyone trying to get to Toronto by 9am will be crossing around the same time), if the traffic is likely to be bad in Toronto (while I've been to Canada a few times recently I haven't been to Toronto in ages), and if my previous plan is a little fool-hardy. If the traffic is going to be gnarly and it's easy/on-time to use public transit or a train, I'd rather just do that then stress over traffic/lanes/turns/parking/etc. Looking at Google Maps, I'm noticing the theatre is only one or two blocks away from both a subway stop and Union station... so I'm wondering if one of these would be advantageous.

Normally I'd totally be up to spending the night in a hotel, but at the moment I'm in-between client checks, and a hotel close to the event is more then I'd like to swing right now - for that reason I'm really looking towards an in-and-out day trip. I suppose a hotel on the outskirts of Toronto or somewhere in-between Toronto and Niagra Falls would be an option too, but I'm not sure where a good place to check would be, so suggestions there would be good.

So, any thoughts? I notice there's a morning train that runs from Niagra Falls to Toronto, which seems reasonable if the train is actually on-time. I assume I could also park somewhere outside the city and take the subway, but I'm not sure how much time that would save. Or am I too worried about Toronto traffic and I'll be fine just driving in?
posted by agentmunroe to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total)
Were it me, I'd leave a half hour earlier in the morning and either get acquainted with the area of just sit and have a coffee when you get there. That half hour will save you some traffic woes once you get on the Gardiner Exp. But that's coming from someone who would prefer to drive than take a bus/train any day.
posted by heavenstobetsy at 6:13 AM on October 20, 2009

Best answer: Driving at rush hour and hoping to get there on time might be somewhat of a crap shoot.

I'd do both car and train. There's the GO Train just off the 403 at Aldershot, it works as a kind of park-and-ride, and is generally reliable and frequent in the mornings/evenings. Leave your car there, and then take the GO into town. Union station is only five minutes' walk from St Lawrence Market. And, at the end of the day, there'll be a GO Train back.

Aldershot GO location

Lakeshore West schedule: east towards Toronto Union, west towards Aldershot

A day pass is CA$17.60, which compares well with parking costs downtown.
posted by randomination at 6:33 AM on October 20, 2009

Best answer: (Or, the next stop in, Burlington GO, may work better for you)
posted by randomination at 6:35 AM on October 20, 2009

You might want to take the Lewiston/Queenston bridge; it'll be less busy than the Rainbow or Peace Bridges. There's an 800 number for border traffic info (1-800-715-6722) and website too that you could check just before leaving. The Lewiston bridge is listed as "Whirlpool Bridge". Oh, and here's a page about the Niagara Falls Bridge and Whirlpool Bridge conditions.

All that aside, once you hit the 40-whatever and Gardiner, expect a parking lot. You might want to take the train :) From St Catherines (the one closest to the Whirlpool Bridge), the train leaves at 6:57 and gets into Union Station around 8:35.
posted by jdfan at 6:49 AM on October 20, 2009

Best answer: Seconding randomination. Driving into the city core at that time of day is not for the faint of heart. Much less stress and more reliable to ditch the car and take the GO.
posted by SNACKeR at 6:51 AM on October 20, 2009

Best answer: Nthing the GO. I would agree with jdfan about taking the train in from St. Catharines (I heart taking VIA to Niagara), but the only train back to St. Catharines in the evening leaves at 5:45 p.m., which doesn't give you much time in the city.

Better to take the GO, whose last train to Aldershot is at 12:38 a.m., giving you plenty of time to have dinner, see a show, etc.
posted by girlpublisher at 7:01 AM on October 20, 2009

Jdfan, the Whirlpool and Q-L bridges are listed separately on the CBP page. The Q-L bridge is listed under Lewiston.

The Whirlpool Bridge is reserved for NEXUS card holders.

The CBP page reports US-bound delay times only. The Canada-bound times are listed on the CBSA page.

You can also get delay times for the Q-L and Rainbow bridges on Twitter.

There is ongoing construction on the 190 approaching the Q-L bridge and on the 405 leaving it; there is also ongoing construction on the QEW through St. Catharines. At the time of day you'll be travelling, I don't foresee any traffic tie-ups in these areas. Once you get past Hamilton, though, you'll be in the thick of morning rush hour.
posted by Gridlock Joe at 7:54 AM on October 20, 2009

Thanks, Gridlock. I'm not usually the one driving.
posted by jdfan at 8:05 AM on October 20, 2009

Best answer: Just a note that at rush hour the Go Train is usually busy. Still a better option than driving, but just a heads up that you may end up having to stand (although if you get on at Aldershot or Burlington, you'll probably be able to get a seat).
posted by backwards guitar at 9:20 AM on October 20, 2009

Best answer: you'll be able to get to the Aldershot or Burlington GO station without hitting much traffic. though there is some construction on the QEW through St. Catharines as mentioned, you'll be passing through early enough that it shouldn't be a problem.

in my opinion, parking your car and taking the train into downtown Toronto is worth it. you'll be sitting on the QEW/Gardiner for a very, very long time otherwise.
posted by gursky at 12:47 PM on October 20, 2009

Response by poster: Excellent - the Go train it is. I may also get up a tad earlier, but I'm not going to worry too much about it - I'm looking forward to the adventure more than the talk itself.

Thanks, everyone, for the sanity check.
posted by agentmunroe at 6:00 AM on October 21, 2009

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