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To drive or not to drive

I’m writing this post from some lounge called Apropos at Toronto’s Pearson Airport. I’m waiting to board my flight to Denver and kick-off the 5th Penn Annual. Technically, the Annual is being held in Jackson Hole this year, but 2 of us are jamming in a few extra days in Vail beforehand. I like to make the most of these trips.

As I was arriving at the airport, I made sure to check up on the status of the new Union Pearson (UP) Express station that’s currently under construction and slated to open in spring 2015. Once the line is complete, Union Station and Pearson Airport (Canada’s two busiest transportation hubs) will be connected by a 25 minute express train operating every 15 minutes. I’m pretty excited about this.

One of reasons I’m excited is because I think that really great cities should be easily navigable without a car. I’m not saying that cars shouldn’t be allowed or that we should make life purposely difficult for drivers; I’m saying that the decision of whether or not to use a car should be entirely personal. Some parts of Toronto meet this criteria, but other parts most certainly do not.

One of the parts that doesn’t is the trip to Pearson. Today, getting from downtown to Pearson on public transit is a terrible experience. I don’t recommend it. And so you’re basically forced to drive, get a ride or take a taxi. That’s fine, but it’s not ideal—particularly for non-residents.

I like to think of visitors to a city as customers of that city. From the moment they land in the airport, they’re now using your product or service. And for most people, the first thing they’re thinking about is how they’re going to get to where they need to go. How are you going to help them?

If you can put them onto an express train, and quickly and comfortably bring them into the city, then you’re already impressing them. Unfortunately though, we often don’t think of visitors in this way—unless you’re hosting some major event like, say, the Pan American Games. Then you really start to think about customer experience.

Either way, the Toronto experience is about to get a whole lot better next year. And I’m excited about that.

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