Getting from Bala, Ontario to Pearson International Airport in Toronto?
July 28, 2010 10:07 AM   Subscribe

Getting from Bala, Ontario to Pearson International Airport in Toronto?

I’m planning to drive from a friend’s cottage near Bala, Ontario to catch a flight at Pearson International Airport in Toronto. Around how long should I allow? Google maps says 2 hrs 15 min or so, but I wonder if there are other possible concerns for traffic or construction or anything (or any place I could find out about such concerns closer to the date).

I’ll be driving around mid-day on Sunday, Aug 15.

Alternately: Is there a way to get from Bala [or thereabouts] to Pearson that’s better than taking a rental car?
posted by PersonAndSalt to Travel & Transportation (17 answers total)
Coming down the 400 from cottage country on a Sunday? I predict 6 hours. The 400 is a parking lot on Friday nights & Sundays during the summer. Good luck.

As for other options there's probably a shuttle/van service from Oriillia but I'm not sure if any of them go as far as Bala.
posted by GuyZero at 10:13 AM on July 28, 2010

Response by poster: Seriously six hours? Is it better earlier in the day?
posted by PersonAndSalt at 10:16 AM on July 28, 2010

Oh yeah, traffic is horrible on that route on Sundays. If you can get to Gravenhurst, there is a train to downtown Toronto, and then you can catch a shuttle to the airport.
posted by nprigoda at 10:24 AM on July 28, 2010

Response by poster: nprigoda - Looks like there's only one train a day out of Gravenhurst, and it arrives too late to catch my flight.
posted by PersonAndSalt at 10:27 AM on July 28, 2010

Six hours is nuts. I've heard of five-hour drives when the traffic is at its most hellish, but that's rare. Mid-day Sunday (like noon) is usually significantly better than later in the day when people are leaving their cottages. My girlfriend's cottage is near Gravenhurst, quite close to Bala, and without traffic that drive could be made in two hours. Having said that, it is always possible that accidents and volume significantly increase the drive time.

Basically, the thing to do is to wake up nice and early the day of your flight and listen to 680 News (or you can get the latest traffic report on their website if you have internet at the cottage). See what traffic is doing. Budget accordingly - if it's bad, you may need to give it three hours, or four since you really don't want to be late for a flight. The other thing, oft-overlooked: use side roads. They can be clear when the highway is jammed. South of Barrie, Hwy 53 (Sideroad 5) parallels the highway to the west. It's not quite as nice a drive as 54/10 to the east. At 88 you can connect up with 27, which takes you basically to the airport, or jog east and take Weston Road/56, which is a nice drive down. These are not as fast as the highway - the point is that if there's an accident that totally shuts the 400, you're not stranded, though you need to allow extra time. But if traffic is smooth on the highway, it's a fast drive.
posted by Dasein at 10:35 AM on July 28, 2010

Obviously, have a look at Google Maps to see what I'm talking about. And take a road map with you in the car.

Also, it should have read "jog east at Hwy 9 and take Weston Road/56" - you can't get directly from Sideroad 5 to Weston Road.
posted by Dasein at 10:39 AM on July 28, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks Daselin. We do have internet at the cottage, so I can get traffic info there. I'm not a super-experienced driver, so I'm a stranger to all this sort of stuff.

Sounds like if I leave early in the day (like 11 or noon) the traffic will not be *so* terrible. Is that right?
posted by PersonAndSalt at 10:41 AM on July 28, 2010

If I were trying to do this drive, I'd definitely plan for lots of extra time, as others have said. I'd prefer to have extra time at the airport, rather than sitting in traffic while my plane took off! You really are heading into some of the worst traffic I've seen in my life. So, yeah, leave a little earlier than you think is reasonable, and just bring something to read at the airport!
posted by Richat at 10:47 AM on July 28, 2010

Earlier is obviously better, and it's true that there are no guarantees - there's only the one major route down, so an accident can really snarl things. The point is, first, that it's not usually that bad, and, second, that you don't need to sit helplessly in traffic, or get stuck in it in the first place. When you get in the car, listen to the traffic updates on 680 News; if there is a report that traffic is slow ahead, get off before you get stopped and head for the side roads. You could have a route planned out ahead - if there's traffic before the 400/11 merge, you do X, and if it's busy after, you do Y. The 400 down to the merge is not going to be a problem, because it's twinned (unlike 11). When you get traffic from both highways though, the 400 can be busy. If you hear that there are problems, get off beforehand and take the side roads. You will be fine. I predict the whole drive will take no more than 3 hours.
posted by Dasein at 10:50 AM on July 28, 2010

Response by poster: Is the traffic that bad all day, or just in the afternoon/evening? Is it better in the morning? I'd rather have an easier drive and time to kill in the airport, than a more stressful/slow drive. How bad would traffic be if I left at, say, 10 or 11?
posted by PersonAndSalt at 10:51 AM on July 28, 2010

Incidentally, that prediction does not mean you shouldn't leave extra time - if you have a flight, you just have to accept that you don't get to spend a lot of the time at the cottage that day. I'm just saying: don't dread the drive. It can be quite pleasant on the side roads. Not as fast as the highway, but a consistent 80-100, with nice farmers' fields everywhere.
posted by Dasein at 10:52 AM on July 28, 2010

Response by poster: If I want to avoid traffic snarls - is a good GPS a substitute for the radio?
posted by PersonAndSalt at 10:53 AM on July 28, 2010

It's better in the morning. If you left at 10, I would be shocked if it were busy due to volume. The only unknown is accidents.
posted by Dasein at 10:53 AM on July 28, 2010

No, because the GPS won't tell you traffic, not in that part of the world. It will help you know where you are, but it's not a substitute for a map that you can pull over and look at to plan your route. 680 News is your friend.
posted by Dasein at 10:54 AM on July 28, 2010

It will be better on Sunday morning vs Sunday night. Sunday night will be miserable. Sunday morning may well be empty roads but the 400 is easily clogged by a single accident. I'm not a side-road kinda person, but that's not a bad suggestion if you have a map and/or a GPS to keep from getting totally lost.
posted by GuyZero at 10:54 AM on July 28, 2010

Yes, 10am should not be too crazy. It starts getting bad abound noon or 2pm and hits the peak after 5pm, if I'm remembering correctly.
Sorry the train won't work for you. It's quite a pleasant ride.
posted by nprigoda at 12:25 PM on July 28, 2010

Response by poster: (After some looking around: I think it might be more practical and cheaper for me to take a shuttle from Oriillia, as GuyZero suggests, rather than getting a rental car...)
posted by PersonAndSalt at 6:25 AM on July 29, 2010

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