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For TTC riders in a rush

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DICK LOEK/TORONTO STAR

Sean Lerner, 31, rode a lot of subway trains to research his TTC Subway Rider Efficiency Guide.

Enthusiast spent 400 hours to map subway stations

His guide shows where to sit for a speedy exit

KEVIN MCGRAN
TRANSPORTATION REPORTER

Sean Lerner wants to help you shave seconds off your morning commute.

The 31-year-old man quit his high-paying tech job to create a user’s guide to the TTC, one that lets you know where on a train you should sit so you will be as close as possible to the steps, escalator or elevator when you arrive at your destination.

“I always had a funny obsession about always making sure I was lined up at the right spot on the train,” says Lerner.

“I get some strange looks from people, especially when they find out I went to every single platform and lined up each door with the exit.”

He merged that obsession with a desire to create his own ‘zine (a do-it-yourself magazine) and learn more about web design.

He plans to give away his wallet-sized guides to passengers riding the subway, with the timing of the event to be worked out with the TTC.

A staged performance will feature Lerner’s friend playing a lost old man who could save the world and catch a criminal mastermind if he just knew the quickest way to the escalator at an upcoming stop.

Lerner comes to the rescue with his TTC Subway Rider Efficiency Guide.

He started the guide four years ago, but got seriously involved four months ago when he quit his job at Hewlett-Packard, where he designed computer system networks, to pursue self-employment in web design.

He estimates he spent 400 hours researching and mapping out the train stations, only to find most people have already plotted the quickest route for their home and work stations.


‘I always had a funny obsession about always making sure I was lined up at the right spot on the train’

—Sean Lerner


“It’s kind of almost become second nature for people,” he says. “When I mention the guides, they’re like: `I do that for home and work.’ Now they can do it for every station.”

For example, if you’re getting off at Bathurst and you want to go to the streetcars, sit in one of the two middle cars. But if you want to get to Markham St., you’re better off in the westernmost cars.

He’s received some encouragement from TTC chairman Howard Moscoe, who told him in an email he thought it was an “innovative” idea.

“We acknowledge him for his effort,” says Alice Smith, the TTC’s acting chief marketing officer.

Smith says the TTC plans to include similar information — along with much more — when its website is revamped by the end of the year.

While Lerner’s booklet includes information on stairs, escalators, elevators and exits, the TTC will create “station pages” including details on retailer locations, bus and streetcar connections, designated waiting areas, wheelchair accessibility, public washrooms, parking lots and passenger drop-off locations, Smith said.

For now though, Lerner’s guides are free, downloadable in PDF format at http://www.ttcrider.ca.

Lerner says more than 12,000 people have downloaded it so far.

There’s no advertising, and he doesn’t expect to make money on the venture, although he’s not opposed to the idea.

“I guess the motivation is to contribute something to the local cultural scene,” says Lerner, who’s been living off his savings and some rental income since leaving HP.

“I wouldn’t mind making money because I kind of need it, but my goal is to get it out to as many people as possible.”




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