As gas prices continue to increase to the point at which the average family will no longer be able to afford to drive their cars, we may see a great upheaval. The demand for housing close to transit will increase to the point where the desire to keep urban neighbourhoods stable will buckle under development pressure. At the same time, owners of homes in auto-dependent suburbs will be unable to sell their properties due to the high cost of commuting. This will not happen overnight, but signs of such a future are visible today. As such, we must change our transportation network to change the way we build and navigate around cities. In this second post about building an integrated transportation network for our region, I will look at more drastic changes that will lead to better integration within the regional transportation network.
As I stated in my previous post, transit service across the region is inconsistent - no consistency in fares, fare media, transfer privileges, transfer locations, service standards, service hours, or even the names of terminals served by different agencies. In part I, I examined ways we can tackle the low hanging fruit by streamlining the names of stations and terminals, route names and numbers, the customer information systems and streamlining the holiday schedules. In this post, I will take a look at how we can change the local bus network to better serve riders who make cross-border bus trips.
Cross-border Bus Routes
As I have said before, I am a firm believer that regions are much more important than individual cities when it comes to competing for people and investment in a globalized world. As such, I feel that municipal boundaries are irrelevant to the travelling public – as well as to the economy and the environment. Therefor, I feel that a truly integrated transit network should ignore municipal boundaries. In the Greater Golden Horseshoe today, there is very little consistency as to what happens when a bus reaches a municipal boundary. In some cases, the bus turns around after dropping passengers in a deserted industrial area. In other cases, the bus must run “drop-offs only” to a distant terminal, then return “pick-ups only” until it reaches the border. To better integrate the various transit systems, we need to change the way routes behave when they reach the border.
In general, buses should not drop passengers at the border simply because it has reached the border. Rather, system-to-system transfers should be made at the nearest transit terminal, station or destination where the transfer can be made pleasant for commuters. A good example of this philosophy are the connections between Brampton Transit and Miway. The vast majority of transfers between these two systems can be made at Sheridan College, the Hurontario / 407 GO Park-and-Ride, and at various malls. Services on Dixie Road, Bramalea Road and Mississauga Road do not connect at terminals, but this could be improved by designating a single high-quality bus stop as the official transfer point in lieu of a route extension. Express routes, on the other hand, should never end at arbitrary municipal boundaries and should always travel between major destinations.
In Toronto, the situation is slightly more complex. Buses from the surrounding local agencies are not permitted to transport passengers between two locations in Toronto, resulting in an inability to pick up passengers on their inbound trip while in Toronto, and an inability to drop off passengers until they reach the border on their outbound trip. In some areas of the city, Toronto residents must wait for an infrequent TTC bus as dozens of Miway buses drive by, legally unable to pick them up. Rectifying this policy decision will benefit bus riders in areas where service overlaps, and this will be most pronounced near the Mississauga border. On Bloor Street West, Burnhamthorpe Road and (potentially) Rathburn Road, the Toronto Transit Commission could turn over service to Miway which already provides equal or better service. The TTC could then redeploy resources to other areas of the city. On Yonge Street and on Steeles Avenue between Bathurst Street and Bayview Avenue, a similar change in policy could allow York Region Transit to provide supplemental service.
Today, some services in York Region are contracted to the TTC. Some of these routes, particularly 107 KEELE NORTH and 105 DUFFERIN NORTH, serve a terminus relatively close to the border and spend very little time in Toronto. Others, however, are extensions of already very long TTC routes which connect to the Bloor-Danforth subway. While it is not necessary to terminate the contract and have York Region Transit operate these routes, finding a terminus closer to York Region – a GO station perhaps – may provide better service than an hour-long ride to a subway station in Scarborough. An example of this philosophy would be to eliminate north-of-Steeles service on 24 VICTORIA PARK in favour of additional service on 224 VICTORIA PARK NORTH. This would send all riders to the much-closer Don Mills station, rather than half to Don Mills and half to the distant Victoria Park station.