Premium-priced bus goes into effect next year
By DAVID NICKLE
November 27, 2008 6:08 PM
Public transit between south Etobicoke and Union Station won’t be the hour-or-more ordeal it has been, after the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) bucked the recommendations of its staff and approved an express bus to take west-end commuters to and from downtown Toronto.
TTC staff had argued that the proposed express bus wouldn’t draw more than 40 new riders a day onto the system - mainly leaching existing riders, from other, slower routes like the 501 Queen Street Car.
But commissioners were swayed by Angelina Chiu, chair of the Humber Bay Shores Condominium Association’s Transportation and Traffic Committee. She came before the commission Wednesday, to argue the case for better, faster transit in the 8,000-person-strong west waterfront condominium community.
“While it may appear that our community is well-served by public transit, the average travel times by transit are very high compared to vehicles, which makes transit inefficient,” said Chiu. “The average travel time is 10 minutes absent congestion, and 20 minutes in congestion to downtown. Transit time is twice that.”
Chiu said that residents in the community would eagerly embrace a premium-priced express bus to downtown Toronto. A recent survey her committee conducted indicated that 85 per cent would be willing to pay the premium- which indicated, she said, that the TTC would get far more riders than staff had estimated.
Indeed, she pointed out that several of the condominiums already use private shuttle buses, paid for through condo fees, to get residents to and from work downtown.
Mitch Stambler, the TTC’s manager of service planning, stood by his numbers.
“We don’t think there would be poor ridership - we think it would be relatively high,” he said. “It’s just that most of the people on it would be using the 501 streetcar otherwise. Our argument is that we don’t believe we’d get a lot of new riders. We’d just take the fares we’re collecting on one service and put more on another service.”
But commissioners lined up to support the motion by commissioner and Ward 5 (Etobicoke Lakeshore) Councillor Peter Milzcyn, to go ahead with the express bus despite staff advice.
“It’s a no-brainer to say that if people have a public transit alternative that’s in the same timeframe as driving, they might take that,” said Milczyn. “Telling them to putter along the Queen line, that’s not time competitive.”
In the end, even TTC Chair Adam Giambrone supported the improvement - although he predicted that the ridership wouldn’t likely materialize.
“This trial is going out on a limb for the commission - and I expect that staff are going to be proven right at the end of the day,” he said. “So it’s going to be incumbent on residents to use it. Anybody who is going away to a parallel service is going to jeopardize this one’s continuation.”
The bus route will commence next year.