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Nine ways to improve the TTC
(Hey! None of them are subways or LRTs!)

This year is election year and everyone is talking about transit. And, everyone, it seems, has an idea on how to improve TTC services, to make it “the [even] better way” to get around.

Not surprisingly, the TTC has lots of ideas, too. Tucked away down as the last item of the supplementary agenda for this week’s Toronto Transit Commission meeting, is a report, “Opportunities to Improve Transit in Toronto”, outlining many of them.

The document addresses a fundamental flaw in the pre-election giddy-season grandiose plans of municipal candidates and their seemingly endless debate of countering “subways, subways, subways” with “SmartTrack” or light rail transit or whatever…

The fundamental flaw is this:

While Toronto certainly needs more rapid transit lines, any new lines approved today are at least seven to ten years away before entering service. Even the projects already under construction — the subway extension to Vaughan and the Eglinton Crosstown LRT — are several years from completion. How do people get about in the meantime?

Moreover, emphasizing rapid transit over other forms of transit doesn’t help improve service for commuters as they travel to and from the subway. What good is better subway or LRT service if you face infrequent service or overcrowded buses before you reach the station? Better or more subway service doesn’t reduce the commuting challenges for the thousands of TTC passengers (like us) whose daily trips to and from work are strictly by bus or streetcar and don’t involve a ride on rapid transit.

According to the report,

“The TTC knows, and has proven that, despite many conflicting views and arguments, Toronto’s citizens want, need, and respond very favourably to perceptible basic improvements to existing bus, streetcar, and subway services. In 2003, the TTC introduced its Ridership Growth Strategy — a strikingly-simple document which said that Torontonians would increase their use of transit if basic improvements were offered to them such as:

  • reduced crowding and waiting times on peak-period services;
  • city-wide availability of services, in every neighbourhood, during all off-peak periods;
  • more comfortable and convenient off-peak service, in the form of adequate seating capacity to avoid the need to stand; and
  • more-convenient fare media such as a transferrable Metropass.

“The TTC began implementation of these improvements in 2004 and… the public’s response was immediate, significant, and long-lasting. Unfortunately, in more-recent years, owing to City budget pressures, a large number of these improvements were undone in order to reduce the TTC’s operating costs. Indeed, recent slowdowns in ridership can likely be attributed to the reversal of these changes as TTC reaches peak capacity.”

The TTC’s timing in presenting this report to its board now is impeccable. This is the last meeting of the commission before the municipal election, and some or all of its members may no longer be sitting on the board after October. The commission can readily approve this report without political consequences, and those who are politicians will appear transit-friendly to voters when they go to the polls October 27.

Since the report requires the City to increase the TTC’s capital and operating budgets, the newly elected City Council must consider the report at meeting early in its term. Will Councillors still be as enthusiastically in favour of improving local transit, when the rubber hits to road, or more precisely, when the dollars fill the budget, seeing as they’ll have another four years before they have to face their transit-traveling constituents at the polls? Let’s hope so.

Here are the TTC’s nine recommendations for improving transit:

  1. implement all-door boarding and proof-of-payment on all streetcar routes;
  2. reduce wait times and crowding on bus and streetcar routes;
  3. establish a city-wide network of “Ten-Minute-or-Better” bus and streetcar services;
  4. expand the express route network with new and improved express bus routes;
  5. implement more transit priority measures;
  6. add resources to improve service reliability and route performance;
  7. operate all routes all day, every day across the city;
  8. change the one-trip-per-fare to a two-hour-travel-privilege-per-fare; and
  9. expand the overnight network of bus and streetcar routes.

We’ve reported on, some, but not all, of these ideas before, as part of the TTC’s Ridership Growth Strategy, which the board approved in March 2003 and the Transit City Bus Plan, which the board approved in August 2009.

  • You can read “Opportunities to Improve Transit in Torontohere. (.pdf)

  • You can read the Ridership Growth Strategy here. (.pdf)

  • You can read the Transit City Bus Plan here. (.pdf)

Also read Steve Munro’s blog post for his detailed review of the report and its recommendations here.

Proposed Ten-Minute-or-Better Route Network

ttc ten-minute-or-better-network.bmp

Proposed Express Route Network

Proposed express route network.bmp

Proposed All-Day, Every-Day Route Network

Proposed all-day every-day network.bmp

Proposed Overnight Route Network

Proposed overnight route network.bmp

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