If I Had A Billion Dollars

[With apologies to The Barenaked Ladies]

From time to time I get asked “Is There Any Hope For Transit?” (it’s a question that deserves caps on all the words).

Everything these days is doom-and-gloom, horrendous deficits, downloading, uploading, fiscal inbalance, and nobody is giving an inch.  I was asked this while sitting in a bar today talking about the TTC, and in the best tradition of all good bar conversations, started to work something out on a used napkin.

This post is a cleaned up version of that napkin.

The infamous Ridership Growth Strategy got us 100 net-new buses that may actually start providing additional service sometime late in 2007.  That’s as far as we got.  No buses for 2008, 2009, to the horizon and beyond.  Nobody wants to plan for it because the numbers scare them to death.  More accurately, the thought of the numbers scares them to death because nobody has bothered to work this out yet.  You saw it here first!

Meanwhile, some members of Council, not to mention developers, construction companies and other boosters of ways to waste public money, want to build one, no two, no THREE new subway lines.  Cost: somewhere around $4-billion plus inflation.

What happens if we spend some money on the surface network, on the lowly bus system?  Let’s not worry for the moment about reserved lanes or anything else, let’s just get the fleet back to its 1990 level.  Our peak service in 1990 was 1,550 buses and by 2001 this had fallen to 1,302 (248 buses).  Allowing for spares, this is a drop in the active fleet of about 300 buses.

What would happen if we started buying 100 new buses (over and above our needs to replace old, worn-out ones) for the next five years?  How much would it cost?  What would happen to the level of service?  How would this scheme compare to subway construction as a way to increase ridership in the system? Continue reading