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TTC unveils service boost

46 overcrowded routes to be improved starting Sunday, with 31 more beefed up by summer

Feb 15, 2008 04:30 AM
Tess Kalinowski
Transportation Reporter

For more than two years, TTC riders have complained about being kicked to the curb watching crushload buses fly past their stop as they stand waiting in bad weather for a vehicle with room to board.

But that should start to change this Sunday, when the bulk of a major service expansion kicks in on 77 bus and streetcar routes across the city.

The TTC announced yesterday that 43 overcrowded, underserviced bus routes and three of the city’s busiest streetcars will have more service during rush hours, off-peak times and on weekends.

A further 31 routes are slated for increased service before summer.

And in the fall, bus and streetcar routes will begin running as long as the subway does - from about 6 in the morning to 2 a.m. - bringing Toronto’s transit service back to a level not seen since the 1980s.

The overall improvements will cost $21 million this year and $56 million in future years.

Among the busiest routes that will become more rider-friendly this weekend are the 29 Dufferin bus, the 133 Neilson route and 36 Finch West.

“Investing in public transit is essential if Torontonians are going to be able to access our city,” Mayor David Miller said in an announcement at a TTC bus garage yesterday.

“The bus is the backbone of our transit system. It reaches neighbourhoods that don’t have rapid transit by streetcar or subway. I’m very pleased service will be increased significantly in the northeast and northwest quadrants of this city that have a significant demand for buses.”

Buses on many of the affected routes will now come every seven minutes instead of every 10, said Scott Haskill, senior planner for transit service. But even routes that run less frequently will be improved.

“It all comes down to the improvement on each individual route at the time that a customer needs to travel,” Haskill said.

Then there’s the issue of overcrowding.

“There are a whole number of bus routes across the city where people haven’t been able to get on,” said TTC chair Adam Giambrone.

Buses will still be busy in rush hours, “but you should not be packed in like a sardine,” he said. “What these service additions do is allow us to address that overcrowding and bring our buses, which may handle up to 70 people, down to a more comfortable 54 - and that’s really critical.”

When the transformation is complete at the end of the year, the TTC expects the extra service to attract between 15 million and 20 million new riders to the system, which would bring the annual total of trips to something approaching 475 million, well beyond the 1988 record of 463.5 million.

“The point of today’s announcement is that we will be meeting that new ridership coming on to the system and providing quality service across all parts of Toronto. We have the resources, partially as the result of fare increases, to be able to go in and put the service on the road,” said Giambrone. Funding struggles prevented the TTC from improving services sooner.

This year, 129 extra buses are being added beyond the number needed to replace old ones being retired, and the TTC plans to hire double the 400 or so operators it usually hires each year, said chief general manager Gary Webster.

But more riders and better service also mean higher costs, he cautioned. To keep the buses running, each paid fare requires a 62-cent operating subsidy.

Although service is being added to the Queen, King and Carlton streetcars, it isn’t as much of a boost as the TTC would like, owing to the size of its fleet. At present, it has 248 streetcars. New light-rail vehicles won’t begin delivery until at least 2010.