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.]

16 thoughts on “Where’s My Transit Shelter? (Updated)

  1. There is a southbound at Dundas and University and the only bus that stops there is the Avenue Road Premium Express to let off passengers, so no one would ever use the shelter to wait for a bus.

    There should be a minimum number of boarding passengers before a shelter is allowed to built.

    Shelters on ROWs are maintained by the TTC so would not be part of this contract and as Transit City is built it will reduce number of shelters.

    Steve: One of my favourites is right near my home, eastbound on Danforth at Broadview. The only people who would ever use it are those riding eastbound on the Bloor Night Bus. However, it’s at a WONDERFUL location to display advertising for all the cars crossing the viaduct.

    I am not sure whether arrangements like this make the private sector look worse for being so crassly commercial, or the public sector for being so stupid in signing such a contract.


  2. There is huge irony in the presence of old, working Metron units at Davisville which, obviously, is not considered worthy of new monitors.

    Do not underestimate the business that boarding kennel drums up from those…


  3. Privatisation is such a wonderful creation. Public sector good is subjugated to the ability to make a profit. Obviously it would be “innapropriate” to ask the private sector partner to provide service where the opportunity to make a profit is diminished. Please remember (not you Steve, but other readers) that this same level of “public service” would be delivered by private sector delivery of transit service – efficient perhaps, but lousy.


  4. There should be some basic formula, for example, persons X waiting time, to determine where they go. When you have to wait 1 minute and 20 seconds for a bus, you’re not going to get very upset if you get a little rain, but when you are waiting 30 minutes out in middle of nowhere Etobicoke, you just might.


  5. Is nobody suspicious about how the specs for these contracts are drawn up? How do you end up with specifications for providing a public service which end up being contracts for providing a private service? Unfortunately, I think that it’s because the public officials aren’t very swift.

    The TTC doesn’t do much of a job with the shelters it provides, either. The new shelter westbound at Yonge and St. Clair was designed so that the maximum number of people will get wet boarding the streetcar during the rain. Someone who is ultimately responsible to the electorate approved that design. If only the electorate cared.

    Steve: And never mind that the fabrication contract was given to a company that couldn’t build them properly leading to many delays in their installation.


  6. Sometimes, the private sector can be of benefit to a public system. I think it is a case of the city not being creative. Bus shelters should not be about just advertising. Bus shelters can be used as a retail space too.

    Advertising dollars are not very reliable. Sometimes, ad companies goes bust. Using it as a retail space is much more stable in terms of income. No matter how bad or good the economy is, people will always drink cola.

    Put some cola machines and other vending machines, the cost of maintaining a bus shelter decrease significantly. If someone is waiting 20 minutes for a bus, why not have a cola and a bag of chips? The city can also charge the Metro for the right to exclusively distribute newspapers at the shelters. Once again, not everyone ends up at a metro station. They can read the Metro on the bus.

    There are always people looking for business partnerships and sponsorships. If the city can tap into those money, it will help the TTC. I don’t mind if someone wants to neon lights at a bus shelter as long as my fare stays low. It might actually make the bus stop more visible at night.


  7. I prefer the older bus shelters. Yes, the newer ones look nice but seem to trap the heat more on a hot day due to the extra glass.

    Incidentally, did you notice that the TTC shrunk their system maps to fit the smaller “MIssissauga” frames? With an aging population, you’d think the TTC would make it easier to read the maps, not harder.

    Ironically, the city has been installing larger white on blue signs at intersections to better help motorists, based on similar ones in, (wait for it), yes, Misssisauga.


  8. I’ve heard of the idea to put cola machines on GO trains, but in bus shelters? Can you say vandalism?


  9. Cola machenes on GO Trains?! That would be of great benefit for those long trips from Rouge Hill to Hamilton Station! Those trips for me that is …

    Here’s a simple solution make the city build the shelters, the city maintain them, and make revenue on the ads. The private sector in this case is not doing a good job in covering our streets, so let’s do it ourselves.


  10. I do not agree with vending machines at bus shelters. We’d be subjected to more and more passengers eating on transit and the litter would be everywhere. It would represent decay for the system. It would be better for there to be no shelter at all.

    I am also a nanny statist who thinks that one of the values of public transit and functioning urban spaces is improved public health, and junk food works against that goal, although the first argument should be the highlight of my post.


  11. My biggest beef with the new transit shelters is the alarming rate at which they get vandalized. Virtually all of them seem to have graffiti scratched on the glass.


  12. Cola machines would also need to be powered 24/7. You’d need quite a few solar panels to power a refridgeration unit.

    Steve: During the summer we will use the solar panels to make espresso!


  13. My local favourite is the bus shelter on the north side of Eglinton just west of Yonge outside the Yonge/Eglinton centre. Takes up a lot of valuable and heavily used sidewalk real estate yet no bus stops there during normal hours.

    Steve: Yes, I love how we can have night bus stops in locations with lots of advertising exposure, while routes that have heavy demand languish without them.


  14. What I love is that most of the Street Car shelters are absolutely useless if it’s raining. I take the awful 501 and I’ve seen people get totally soaked when cars drive by and splash them. You have to wait at the edge of the road if you don’t want to get splashed and run across traffic in the rain when you see the street car coming. It’s ridiculous. They shouldn’t even bother with those middle of the street shelters at all, since the only time you really need a shelter is in the rain.


  15. Grafitti or vandalism is a symptom. Vandalism can only happen if very few people passes by that shelter or uses it. For example, if the 169 Hungtingwood route carries 20000 people per day, there would be about 833 people using that line per hour. That means at least 10 people will use every stop. It is hard to scratch or spray paint something if there are other people around. In short, increase ridership and the vandalism will dissappear.

    I do not believe that vending machines will cause people to litter more. Buses should have garbage cans. The bus driver can empty at the end of the route.

    Anyways, all glass shelters may look nice. However, it is not very safe. I see too many shelters broken because of last night’s car crash. I hate to be in a glass shelter with dangerous drivers around. It should be reinforced with steel.

    Steve: I suppose all those riders on the SRT protect those cars from vandalism. It has reached the point where there is no car that is without scratchitti. The TTC does not seem to expend a lot of effort cleaning this up, and it has become an accepted part of the landscape.


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