Where’s My Transit Shelter? (Updated)

Updated June 9, 2008:  I have now received corrected counts of transit stops served by the TTC and have modified information in this post accordingly.

We’ve heard a lot recently about the amenities needed to attract riders to transit.  These include convenience and services at stops such as next bus information and shelter from whatever the weather might bring.

The City of Toronto is about to roll out their new street furniture program, and this includes new transit shelters.  Yes, those shelters, the ones we’ve all been waiting for all over the city.

We will continue to wait.

The contract for new shelters requires the advertising company to provide 5,000 new shelters, but they have until 2027 to finish the job.  We will get 300 this year, then 400 a year from 2009 to 2018, and then 25 a year from 2019 to 2027.  That doesn’t quite add up to 5,000, but who’s really counting anyhow?

Of the “new” shelters, most will go to replace existing shelters in 2008 and 2009, with only a paltry 30 and 40, respectively, in new locations.  Thereafter, the percentage may rise, but nothing has been confirmed.

[Updated information]  The TTC serves 8,540 bus stops and 715 streetcar stops within the City of Toronto for a total of 9,255.  Of these, about 4,000 have shelters today.  3,000 of those need to be replaced, and so by 2027, we will have:

  • 3,000 replacement shelters
  • 1,000 existing shelters
  • 2,000 net new shelters

This means that one third (just over 3,000 out of 9,000) stops on the system will still not have transit shelters.

The next problem is location.  You can reasonably bet that top priority will be driven by advertising considerations.  After all, we already know that the One Stop monitors in the subway reach over 80% of all riders (according to the company’s own rate card), so why bother going to the expense of putting monitors in lightly-used stations.  (There is huge irony in the presence of old, working Metron units at Davisville which, obviously, is not considered worthy of new monitors.)

Stops that have good visibility for advertising also, likely, have good transit service because they are on busy streets.  The next bus displays at such locations are of little use unless there is a major disruption because service is so frequent.  On routes with wide headways, there are fewer eyeballs, and probably no transit shelter until sometime after 2027.  Why tell someone when the next bus is coming, let alone advise of an unexpected delay or diversion, when there are not enough customers walking, riding or driving by to read the ads?

This is the folly at the heart of the TTC and City schemes for transit information facilities.  Rather than building them where they are needed, they will be built where an advertiser thinks they can make a buck and everyone else can stand out in the rain gazing with despair toward the horizon.

[Thanks to Ed Drass for the source information on plans for the new shelters, and through him to Mike DeToma at the TTC for the corrected info.]