[This article is cross-posted with spacing]
Spacing exclusive – we have learned that the Toronto Transit Commission will announce a major service increase. Smarting from recent customer service issues including higher fares, sleeping employees, and rush hour service cuts, the TTC will roll out an ambitious plan for rapid transit expansion. New routes will utilize the city’s waterways to link the downtown core with neighbourhoods across Toronto.
The plan – Amphibious City – calls for partially grade-separated waterway routes as the means to quickly move commuters to and from the city’s core. Several new routes will operate as soon as this summer. In mid-March, Spacing lamented minor service cuts by the TTC and GO – despite increased ridership and higher fares. We now learn that the cuts released enough operators for intense training allowing a “quick launch” of new services.
The preliminary fleet of seven-year old “Hippo” buses will operate on three routes by the end of June. Several routes will be added in coming years leading up to the 2015 Pan-American Games.
The news of an upcoming official announcement, barely a week after the Ontario government’s budget delivered a kick in the teeth to Toronto’s LRT plans, is surprising. However, TTC officials explained to us that this is part of a contingency plan for any Transit City delays. Hippo buses will be cheap to implement, require much less money in construction costs, and the first phase can be implemented without going through a lengthy environmental assessment.
The purchased Hippo buses, acquired by the City of Toronto from a defunct private tourism enterprise, will provide service until larger and wheel-chair accessible vessels can be acquired, preferably from a Canadian manufacturer.
Some dredging and remedial work will be required for service on inland waterways such as Highland Creek or the Don River.
Speaking to Spacing insiders, TTC Chair Adam Giambrone called this the “most exciting transit news since Transit City.”