What surface transit route would you change, and why?

By July 23, 2019 No Comments
The Golden Mile in Scarborough

In advance of our event on July 30, Hacking Surface Transit in Toronto, we asked our panelists to comment on which surface transit route in the city they would pick as most in need of efficiency improvement, and why. The answers were varied, indicating just how much our grid could use tweaks across the board.

Our greatest opportunity for making an impact is choosing these lines that carry the most people. 

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Barbara Gray, General Manager, Transportation Services, City of Toronto

The TTC’s recent analysis shows how significant some of Toronto’s bus routes are for getting people around. The TTC operates 12 bus routes that each carry more than 30,000 people per day. Our objectives are to increase reliability of surface transit and move more people more efficiently on our major bus routes. I think we need to look at surface transit routes across the City and consider how different kinds of improvements will work in different contexts. We also need to consider how improving some of the busiest bus routes – Dufferin, Finch, Lawrence, Jane and others – will build out and strengthen the overall transit network.

Andrew Miller, Associate Director, Mobility, Sidewalk Labs

The obvious and straightforward question is, what about doing a 501 Queen streetcar pilot, akin to the just-made-permanent pilot on King? With ridership second only to King, Queen deserves exactly the same treatment that King got, for the same reasons. No other tweak could deliver as much benefit to so many people. 

To add grist for the mill, let me give you an oddball: Finch BRT. The conventional Finch West TTC bus service has immense ridership and it’s easy to see why–there’s no alternative to it for east-west public transit in northern Etobicoke and Scarborough. It’s a great candidate for BRT treatment. Finch LRT is moving along, by fits and starts, but designating bus-only lanes for Finch now would improve matters for thousands of long-suffering riders each day until the LRT is finally delivered (in 2023, we hope). The only problem is that, just like Eglinton LRT, improvements to these lines will drive more traffic to Line 1, which is already overburdened north of Bloor. Overhauling Bloor-Yonge Station also has to be a priority.

Raktim Mitra, Associate Professor, School of Urban and Regional Planning, Ryerson University

When urban main streets are resurfaced or upgraded, they should be redesigned using principles of Complete Street, so that they are attractive and safer for pedestrians, cyclists, transit users and drivers alike. This could improve service efficiency for surface transit, but also more walking and cycling uptake can reduce pressure from already overcrowded transit buses, streetcars and subways. More than a third of current transit trips in Toronto (35%) are less than 5 km in length, many of which could be completed on foot or by bicycle, particularly in neighbourhoods with retails and employment along the main streets. Carlaw Avenue in the east end is an example. Despite relatively higher density of residential and employment uses, the street has poor transit service, and is not walking or cycling-friendly.  

Matti Siemiatycki, Associate Professor and Director of School of Cities, University of Toronto

I’m not sure I could identify a specific route, but I think we need to be looking at the heavily travelled routes that run from the inner suburbs into the downtown core, like Finch, Jane and Dufferin. These lines carry tens of thousands of riders per day, and they’re running in mixed traffic. Our greatest opportunity for making an impact is choosing these lines that carry the most people. 

The great thing about surface routes is that many of the interventions available are relatively cost effective, and quick to implement. I don’t see any reason we can’t tweak these routes (to get them running faster and more reliably) as pilots to see how they work, then make tweaks and adapt as we go. I say, let’s be ambitious and experimental, and let’s do this now!


Hear much more from these experts at our next Urban Innovation Cafe event on July 30: Hacking Surface Transit in Toronto | Get your ticket