Globetrotting transit enthusiast attempts TTC speed run
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Adham Fisher holds his backpack in his hands and weaves around two men on the Union Station escalator. They do a double-take as he sprints toward the waiting train.
In Fisher’s world of record-setting transit riding, every second counts and dirty looks are expected.
“One train missed could be the end of the fastest time,” he explains.
The 27-year-old Brit came to Toronto to visit every TTC subway station as quickly as possible. He tries this all over the world — and attempts official Guinness records where they exist, in London and New York. To date, he has yet to break any, but came within 19 minutes of the New York City record last week — with a time of 23 hours, 11 minutes and 24 seconds.
Fisher applies the Guinness rules to every attempt, even those not officially recognized, like Toronto. He visits each station in the system and jots down the arrival and departure times from each “down to the second.” He collects witness signatures every step of the way and takes photos of each station as the doors open and shut.
“You have to be prepared to annoy a lot of fellow passengers, especially in rush hour,” says the man who always gets on a subway car, no matter how full it is.
Fisher works seasonally at Formula One campsites. He funds these transit trips out of pocket.
On Wednesday, his TTC research mission does not begin well.
He sleeps late on account of some residual jet lag, his phone dies, and the TTC station he visits is out of weekly passes so he has to buy a day pass, which doesn’t swipe.
But this is why research is important. With a notebook and map in hand, he says “aha!” frequently and jots down which subway car and door are closest to his next destination.
“Carriage three, door four,” he says, noting the quick getaway from the Sheppard line to Yonge.
The biggest challenge with the Toronto system is the far eastern section. Out of system transfers — on foot or another form of public transit — are allowed in Guinness rules. That means Fisher has to decide if he will make the transfer from Don Mills station to McCowan station on bus or on foot, or whether he should double-back on the subway.
He tries the bus on Wednesday.
“For goodness sakes, it’s been 27 minutes,” he says as the bus crawls along and he eats the rest of his Lifesavers.
He gets off at the corner of Sheppard and McCowan. He considers running to McCowan station; then he sees a bus.
“Catch the bus! Catch the bus!” he yells, nearly running across the intersection on an advanced green, waving his arms like he’s hailing a cab.
“I consider myself quite spatially aware,” he says, when asked if he’s ever been hit by a car.
Fisher made his first all-station attempt in 2004. He doesn’t know why he continues, except for the fact that it’s fun. He doesn’t know how long the attempt will take this Thursday. While Torontonians have made videos of visits to every station, the TTC isn’t aware of any official timed record, and it appears Fisher is setting the unofficial time to beat.
But Wednesday’s trial run isn’t leaving him very hopeful, thanks to slow buses and his lack of general TTC knowledge.
“I think the whole thing will be a disaster,” he says.