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Region's transit linked by one call

Wednesday, January 17, 2001

Public transit riders across the Toronto region now can make one phone call — not two — for commuter information.

Yesterday, the Toronto Transit Commission launched its “one call” service so that a customer can call the TTC and, if necessary, be routed to regional transit systems for additional information. The number to call is 416-393-INFO.

“It’s just another step to make it seamless,” said Rick Ducharme, chief general manager of the TTC.

In the past, customers seeking information on a TTC route and, say, another in Mississauga, would have to place a second call to the latter transit authority.

Some critics urge a single transit authority for the Toronto region, but Mr. Ducharme says a high level of integration exists between the city and its four suburban regions.

For example, the TTC operates buses into Markham and Vaughan. As well, Mr. Ducharme notes that the TTC accounts for nine out of 10 local trips in the Toronto region. Customer requests for cross-boundary travel represent only 3 per cent of calls to the TTC for route information.

“The growth market is cross-boundary,” he said. “It’s a small step, but it is still another step forward.”

But Mr. Ducharme is skeptical of calls for a single regional transit service because the TTC and GO Transit are so big relative to the other local authorities.

“Regional transit is the next logical step,” he predicts. He sees York Region’s move to a single system on Jan. 1, combining five small local services, as the future.

One authority for the region could raise more problems than it solves, he warns, because the regions may not want the same level of service or union agreements as the TTC.

Gord Perks, a spokesman for the Rocket Riders, a TTC consumer group, described the one-call initiative as a “glacial” improvement compared to what is needed to raise transit service across the Toronto region.

“I’m pleased the glacier has inched forward,” said Mr. Perks, who recalled being a member of a provincial task force in the early 1990s that called for one-stop shopping for transit riders.

The bigger challenge, he said, is increased funding for GO Transit to expand all-day train service beyond what is on the Lake Shore line.

“If service is about moving people regionally, that is what we have to do. No phone calls can do that.”

Mr. Ducharme agrees the “real issue” is “service out on the street.”

This year, the TTC is looking at several service improvements, as ridership is anticipated to surpass last year’s 410 million users.