Transit 102: What is “Good Service”? (Updated)

Updated March 23 at 11:20 pm:  After this article was published, one commenter noted that the cleanliness and attractiveness of the system is another vital aspect of “good service”.  In my article, I had concentrated literally on “service”, not on the physical condition of vehicles and stations.  However, I do agree that a run-down, dirty system does not inspire confidence, and the TTC is looking decidedly shabby.

Tess Kalinowski has an article in the Star on the issue of station condition on the south end of Yonge Street where the BIA is doing a running audit to track progress on fixes.  The TTC has its own internal monitoring, and loves to trumpet improvements as a good news story, but the truth is that there is backlog of repairs that gets longer by the day.  This topic is worth a post in its own right, but I wanted to add the link to the Star’s article here as it fits right in with the comment.

In all the talk about who should run the TTC, or whether transit should even be provided by the public sector, one important question is rarely answered. What sort of transit service do we as a city want? What is “good” service?

“Good” is a relative term depending on your viewpoint. If your job is wrestling with municipal or provincial budgets, your outlook will be to restrain growth in costs and to limit expectations of service quality. This runs head on into schemes to redirect growth in travel from autos to transit. More passengers almost always mean more subsidies over and above any inflationary growth.

If you are a transit rider (or thinking of becoming one), you don’t want service that is barely acceptable. You want service that retains your loyalty and that you would recommend to others. Riding should grow because transit attracts customers, not as the “least worst” of options.

There are three essentials in transit service: reliability, frequency and connectivity.

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