Metrolinx Agenda and Regional Transportation Plan

The agenda for this week’s Metrolinx Board meeting has been online for about a day.  From this, you can link to the final version of the Regional Transportation Plan and to other reports.

I am not going to comment in detail on this material until after the Board meeting so that I can incorporate any information about discussions there as well as last-minute changes, if any.

There is some interesting reading in the covering report concerning feedback from the public consultation process, and the changes made to the draft plan flowing from those meetings.  The public appears to be ahead of Metrolinx on some things especially on the need to move projects that will relieve demand in the Yonge Street corridor forward from the 25-year to the 15-year plan.  I will be writing about this in much more detail in coming days.

Another important evolution in the RTP is that Union Station is now one of the “Big Moves”, a major goal in its own right.  How much Metrolinx has actually thought about the implications of all of the service they plan to concentrate on that site is quite another matter.  This too will be the subject of a future post.

An important change in tone came in later versions of the RTP as it evolved — this is a “conceptual plan”, not a prescriptive, carved-in-stone map of what will be.  That change, had it come earlier in the Metrolinx process, could have avoided many spats about proposals that were touted long before anyone even knew what was required.  Moreover, Metrolinx could have concentrated on the larger picture — where are the demands, how would people flow through various optional networks — rather than trying to nail everything down in one definitive map.  We still don’t know enough about alternative approaches to the transportation problems, and probably won’t until Metrolinx gets around to its detailed studies.

Those studies (the “Benefits Case Analyses” or “BCAs”) have not yet appeared on the public agenda although we know when they are supposed to be available.  The BCA for York Viva was presented in private session at the November board meeting, and the BCA for the Scarborough RT is up this week.  Metrolinx needs to stop hiding vital reports in private session and bring this most important step in project and alternatives evaluation out into public view.

Finally, the eternal question of money remains unanswered, and there is almost a three-year built-in hiatus between the completion of projects paid for by the MoveOntario seed money, and the point where new funding might actually flow to Metrolinx.  This is an unacceptable delay whose only purpose is to buy political time for the options of tolls or some other form of additional tax to be massaged into public acceptance.

We are supposed to be planning a sustainable transit network, not an election campaign, and the sooner Metrolinx and Queen’s Park get on with figuring how to pay for everything we need, the better.

Humber Bay Gets Its Express Bus

Today, the TTC, in the best tradition of oiling the squeaky wheel, agreed to a one-year trial operation of a premium fare express bus from eastern Mimico to Union Station.  This ran contrary to the staff recommendation that the route would not meet the criteria for a financially viable operation.

During the debate, Commissioner Hall suggested that, as a condition of this trial, the Humber Bay condo owners should stop operating their own private bus service over the same route.  However, this idea was withdrawn.  Chair Adam Giambrone supported the scheme with reservations, but expected that the ridership numbers would bear out what staff predicted and the route would not survive its one-year review.  We shall see.

This service will require 3 additional peak buses to provide 5 inbound morning and 4 outbound afternoon trips.

I cannot help observing that this situation (the demand for a special bus) mirrors the situation in the Beach.  The TTC is reaping the effect of two decades of ignoring the poor quality of service offered on Lake Shore.  Despite all the claims of better operation on the 501, the efforts at managing operators to avoid short turns only takes place in the east, and has yet to be implemented westbound at Roncesvalles.  Moreover, the 3 morning trips on the 508 Lake Shore, trips that should run like clockwork, are not predictable or worth waiting for.

It will be amusing to see whether the TTC manages to get the buses to their stops on schedule, and how long it takes for the would-be riders to complain about infrequent, unreliable service.

It’s always interesting to listen to people talking about how fast they can drive downtown, and therefore how good the bus would be.  They ignore the need to walk to a stop, to wait for a bus and to get through downtown traffic to their stop.

Meanwhile, all of you whose routes are still crowded will wait a little longer for service meeting the TTC’s own standards.  Even with recent increases, there remains a considerable number of routes that are overcrowded and for which the TTC has no spare equipment.

Sometime late in 2009, we may see the 501 Queen service extended from Humber to Park Lawn, provided that the forty-two municipal agencies that appear to be incapable of co-ordinating any transit-related construction can get their acts together.  It will be intriguing to see what effect this has on demand for the premium fare bus service and what the comparable running times, including waits, really are.