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High hopes riding on $52M TTC upgrade

Upping frequency of bus service on 21 key routes part of scheme to lure 7.5 million new riders a year

Aug 22, 2009 04:30 AM
Tess Kalinowski
Paul Moloney
Staff Reporters

In a bid to transform the experience of riding a city bus from good to great - and attract 7.5 million new riders a year - the TTC wants to beef up service to the tune of $52.1 million a year.

Upgrades would include running buses every 10 minutes on 21 of its 139 routes, beginning in the fall of next year.

Dubbed the Transit City Bus Plan, the proposal calls for improvements by 2015 ranging from more frequent service to more express routes and vehicles that are less packed. The 55-page plan, which goes to the commission for approval Wednesday, would see operating costs increase by $52.1 million annually. The TTC expects to gain $13 million in extra fare revenue, leaving $39 million to be covered through city coffers.

The TTC would also look to city council to provide a further $76.8 million in capital funding, the biggest item being the purchase of 56 extra buses.

Most of the 21 key routes already have 10-minute service at peak hours, but upgrading that to all day would add $10.1 million in annual operating costs, including paying 80 extra drivers.

Having the buses run in dedicated lanes would make service faster, easier and cheaper, but the TTC isn’t advocating that, said Councillor Adam Giambrone, who chairs the TTC.

Giambrone said bus lanes on Bay St. and Eglinton Ave. don’t work well because of a lack of enforcement in keeping other vehicles out.

“Until we are able to figure out a better way to do the policing, whether through cameras or more on-street enforcement by Toronto police, I don’t think we’re looking to recommend more bus lanes at this point,” he said.

The bus plan focuses on what the TTC can do by itself without seeking cooperation from other agencies and motorists, said service planning manager Mitch Stambler.

“The implementation of more bus lanes or bus rapid transit requires a much bigger involvement on the part of the city’s transportation services and all other users of the road, and it becomes a more challenging thing to implement,” Stambler said.

Giambrone said the plan recognizes that 300 million riders a year take a bus at least partway - about 60 per of the TTC’s total ridership.

The bus plan also builds on last year’s historic, $56 million a year boost in service, by which the TTC matched bus operations to subway hours on about 90 per cent of its routes, moved to 30-minute service throughout the city, and reduced crowding by 10 per cent on some of the most packed routes.

Under the new plan, an extra 75 routes would get 20-minute service all day by 2013.