Life North of Steeles

The York Region Transit website contains an intriguing document, the proposed Service Standards on which design of the YRT/Viva network will be based.  Interesting reading especially while we contemplate the imminent butchering of the TTC’s network.

The network is intended to be a combination of base, grid services that will operate at a minimum level of service depending on the time of day because of their role in the network.  Other services will be overlaid on this grid including local buses , community buses and express services.

The goal for an express service is that 75% of the passengers in a corridor should be able to use it and achieve a 15% saving in travel time.  Depending on how corridors develop, both the origins and destinations must be concentrated enough to reach the 75% figure, and this may be aided by local feeders into express nodes.  However, the 15% time saving is a not a huge amount unless the express portion of the route is long.  Indeed, such a saving may come about as much from skipping local stops as from transit priority schemes, but maintaining and improving the saving will require true transit priority to cut through congested areas.

The system will be measured on three indices:  ridership per capita, cost recovery ratio and hour of service per capita.  To their credit, YRT recognizes that these measures must be considered as a package balancing goals like increased ridership and service with costs.

Individual routes are measured based on passenger boardings per vehicle hour.

The target cost recovery for the system will be in the range of 40 to 45 percent.  By comparison, the TTC takes in close to 80 percent and may be pushed higher thanks to budget cuts and fare hikes.

The boarding standards are somewhat confusing.  Page 17 claims that there is no loading standard for Base routes because they are mandated by the network design.  However, page 18 gives a standard for Base routes of 30 average / 10 minimum during peak periods, and 22 average / 7 minimum offpeak.  Viva routes are expected to achieve 50% better than the Base routes.  

The TTC bus network averages 71 boardings per hour on an all-day basis from a low of 20 (Keele North which exists as a contract service for York Region) to a high of 112 (Main).  Remember these numbers when you read about service cuts on “poor performing routes”.

It’s good to see that YRT has codified its service design guidelines because this provides not only a consistent way to evaluate existing and new services, but also a comparison against the goals expected of other transit systems.  Will the 905 regions be prepared to continue subsidizing their transit services this heavily as ridership grows?  What will happen when they hit the inevitable “catch-22” that adding more service and carrying more riders increases the deficit?  Will Queen’s Park finally take a serious role in funding local transit, or will the 905, like Toronto, be starved for operating funding? 

3 thoughts on “Life North of Steeles

  1. I’ve always wondered why York Region seems to be wasting taxpayers money on wasteful transit projects while neglecting its planning to build some mixed use neighbourhoods. With the exception of what’s being built in Markham, the vast majority of York region is pure sprawl. Yet they are spending money to bring two subway lines into the region. I guess they are living by the motto that if you build it they will come. There are only a handful of bus routes in York that are well used. Yonge and Bayview are tops, then Highway 7. The Yonge extension will be well used once built. An interesting thing is happening in Thornhill. The locals have setup a group called SOY: Save Our Yonge to protest the ROW for buses on Yonge, set to be built starting next year.

    I personally think that if they will be building a subway up to Hwy 7, then there is no need to build the bus lanes for VIVA as it will cause massive gridlock in that area for many years. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts opinions on the Yonge extension and the proposed ROW on Yonge from Finch to Hwy 7.

    Steve: A Yonge extension is unlikely to open for about a decade, and something has to be done about the bus congestion now. Moreover, this will be built with provincial (and possibly federal) money, not York Region money. Indeed, they even tried to set up the operating agreement for the Spadina extension so that Toronto would pay all of the losses for the line. York seems to love expanding transit as long as somebody else pays for it.

    As for “Save Our Yonge”, the areas opposing the bus lane are so far north as to be laughable. They will never, ever see a subway, but they might get an LRT in a few decades.


  2. Steve, Thank you for some sanity about the York Region subway extensions.

    I live one long block away from Yonge north of Highway#7. I have seen the posters being put in the windows of many of the businesses here along Yonge. This “S.O.Y.” group gives the impression to everyone that the road will be ripped for a while and cause a mess through Thornhill. Funny, if I remember the road will be torn up more and for a longer time period with subway construction. I have a feeling that merchants are not informed enough or are content with the situation as it is.

    Unfortunately,the Yonge buses (be it VIVA or YRT) will still be packed and the road extremely congested especially during the rush hours. There has been no thought from this group how astronomically high the cost in billions will be for just one KM. of subway as opposed to BRT or LRT. My biggest fear is this group doing what the St. Clair merchants did in singling out incumbents who, although they are doing the right thing by supporting the ROW, are contrary to their beliefs on only one issue and will try to have them defeated be it with fact or fiction. The other sad thing with all of this, is that all steps have stopped for now concerning the ROW. Even the region is planning for subways and nothing else until further notice. A quick fix might have been the BRT/LRT. However,until the province comes clean with the pre election promises after the vote, we are stuck where we are right now!

    Lastly the feds haven’t committed anything, right? That’s the biggest reason why there will be no northern subway. I only wished some others up here realized that.


  3. Paul said, “The locals have setup a group called SOY: Save Our Yonge to protest the ROW for buses on Yonge, set to be built starting next year.”

    Actually, York Region has suspended the bus lane project from Highway 7 to Steeles pending the future of a subway. The SOY group in Thornhill is upset that they have not CANCELLED the project.

    As I have posted here and on my LRT website (, I am opposed to expanding the subway beyond Steeles as it is a waste of money to build something with that level of capacity that will never be utilized more than half its capacity. While I would rather see LRT implemented from now, the bus lanes are the way to go for the interim.


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