Updated September 6, 2010 at 4:50 pm:
Anna Mehler Paperny of the Globe and Mail writes about the difficulties of getting around on a bus network where service leaves much to be desired.
The better way? Don’t get Janet Fitzimmons started.
The East Scarborough resident lives less than five kilometres from her work in the Kingston Road-Galloway Road area. But the bus ride takes a good 40 minutes – once the Lawrence Avenue bus comes, if it isn’t full. If the weather’s nice, her commute is faster by foot.
“But I’m lucky: I’m able-bodied and healthy.” And, she adds, “my commute isn’t bad for Scarborough.” A colleague of hers takes three buses to traverse what’s barely a seven-kilometre direct trek.
Meanwhile, Tyler Hamilton of The Star tells of the travails of attempting to use service on Kingston Road in The Beach.
Last Tuesday I needed to head downtown – Bay St. and King St. – for an event. […] It was rush hour. I seemed to have plenty of time, so I decided to take the 503 Kingston Rd. streetcar route. Checked the schedule. Walked to my stop and arrived what I thought was 10 minutes early.
No streetcar. Twenty minutes later, no streetcar.
This is rush hour, remember. Finally a bus that would take me along Queen St. arrived and the driver encouraged me to get on. “The 503 won’t be coming. Take Queen St.,” he says. “It will get you close. Hop on.”
I hop on. A man sitting across from me leans over and says, “TTC, eh… it means take the car.” I offer a forced chuckle. The bus drives along Kingston Rd. for five minutes and then reaches Queen St. “Time to get off,” the driver says. Huh? I join a herd of passengers exiting the bus. Apparently I should have known about transferring onto a Queen St. streetcar.
Confused, I wait. I wait. I don’t see a streetcar. I see a cab. Hail it. It will be worth the $20 at this point – enough money, mind you, to drive half a month in my Honda Civic.
I share my frustration with the cab driver. “The TTC is good for the cab business,” he replies with a smile.
Of course, a regular rider would know that there is no such thing as a 503 car, at least not until September 7 when streetcar service returns to Kingston Road. The scheduled bus service is every 12 minutes on the 502 and 503 providing a supposedly blended 6 minute headway. Take the first thing that comes along if you’re going downtown. If it’s a 502, change to the King car at Broadview if you want King rather than Queen Street. This is the sort of survival tip a regular will know, but a novice won’t.
By the way, the streetcar services will run every 15 minutes, with an allegedly combined service of 7’30”. Don’t hold your breath. A big problem with both of these routes is that they are short-turned and wind up missing the very customers they are intended to serve.
Add to this the appalling off-peak service and you have a recipe for driving away customers. The 502 bus or streetcar is scheduled every 20 minutes, but only a few days ago I waited 36 minutes for one to show up. I had not just missed one, and so the gap was easily over 40 minutes. By the time we reached Queen Street westbound, we had a light standing load even on that wide headway, and we had also passed two eastbound 502s. That’s right: 3 of the 4 buses on the route were east of Coxwell. This is called “line management”.
The real irony is that the 12 Kingston Road bus comes and goes at Bingham Loop every 10 minutes. There is better service east of Victoria Park than west of it on weekdays. Evening and weekend service on the 22A Coxwell is better than on the 502. This is one of the few places in the TTC where weekday service is worse than at any other time, and that’s assuming the weekday service is vaguely on schedule.
An important part of improving bus services generally is that the TTC must stop thinking of the outer parts of lines as places where short turns and unpredictable, infrequent service are acceptable.
Original Article from September 2 at 12:26 pm:
Two interviews on today’s Metro Morning discussed the question of transit for “service workers” and for suburban travellers in general. The jumping off point for this was a new research paper from the Martin Prosperity Institute and the Cities Centre at UofT: “The Geography of Toronto’s Service Class and What It Means For the City of Toronto”.
The Institute uses a breakdown of jobs into three broad classes (I make no apologies for the political correctness, or not, of these terms, nor for the makeup of each group):
- The “creative class” includes managers, professionals (doctors, teachers) and computer programmers.
- The “service class” includes many job types whose principal characteristic is that they have less scope for independent action (cashiers, food preparers, administrative assistants).
- The “working class” includes those jobs which build things (manufacturing and construction) as well as truckers who move equipment and goods around in support of this class.
This breakdown is plotted by census tract to show the concentration of jobs by place of work (not by residence) for each class and to map this against the location of the transit system’s core routes (the subways). Although GO is not mentioned, it principally serves Union Station which is already within “subway” territory.
The report argues that more could be done to improve transit with better bus services as these could easily be implemented and would cover a much broader territory. However, the report is silent on the subject of travel patterns and of demand for cross-boundary 905-416 trips.
Without question, better bus service would improve the lot of suburban riders. Indeed, the TTC Transit City Bus Plan intends to do just that, but City Council refused to approve implementation of this plan due to budget constraints. The plan isn’t perfect, but it is a starting point for discussions about how the surface network can be improved. If this doesn’t show up as part of the 2011 TTC budget materials, at least as a proposal, I will be very disappointed.
In some quarters, advocacy of buses (like advocacy of subways) is treated as an either-or debate relative to LRT. This is a fundamental flaw. The question for any debate turns on projected demand, road capacity, operational constraints and financial viability.
Many corridors will never have sufficient demand to justify LRT, but they could support intensive bus service. Is the real debate one of giving up road space for LRT? Bus services running in mixed traffic have their problems, and BRT could address these, but at a substantial cost in lost road space. So-called “BRT Lite” is a sham involving mixed traffic operation with selected use of queue jump or reserved lanes where they can be fitted in without upsetting motorists too much.
If we are going to give over road space to transit, then the questions become which mode is appropriate for the route and whether specific technologies impose constraints or provide unique options. An example of the latter is LRT’s ability to operate underground and in trains. Many transit studies have been compromised by looking at all modes for an identical alignment and implementation. This effectively rules out options that could not reasonably be built with one of the modes and limits the alternatives under discussion.
I welcome the report’s focus on the capabilities of surface transit, but warn readers, especially those who would use the conclusions to downplay LRT alternatives, that the real issue here is the lack of transit to large sections of the 416 (not to mention the 905) and its implications for people working in jobs that are located in poorly-served areas.