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Riders find TTC too crowded, poll finds

Posted: September 23, 2009, 4:20 PM by Rob Roberts

By Laura Blenkinsop, National Post

With the TTC’s ridership expected to hit a record 473 million passengers this year, a new poll shows one of the costs: half of respondents say the city’s transit system is too crowded.

An Ipsos Reid poll for Global News found 48% of respondents said they are not satisfied with the amount of available seating.

“The more people use the trains the more they want to see that they have room to get on them,” said pollster John Wright, senior vice-president of Ipsos Reid. “If it’s crammed to capacity you’re less likely to think highly of it.”

The poll also found 35% of respondents concerned about the courtesy of TTC staff, and about 25% unsatisfied with the reliability and frequency of service. Respondents were happiest with the directness of TTC routes and the speed of travel, both with satisfaction ratings of 81%.

“This has been the basic issue for the past few years. The TTC has been run on the basis of ‘Oh there’s room for one more on the roof,”’ said transit activist Steve Munro.

In May, the TTC set a new ridership record with 470.8 million riders in a year, up from the previous year’s record of 466 million riders. It is projected to hit 473 million this year. The commission meets tomorrow to discuss a $17-million shortfall, caused in part by the popularity of the Metropass.

TTC chair Adam Giambrone said the poll should be further broken down to distinguish between customer satisfaction during rush hour compared to the rest of the day.

“I think that most people understand that in a big city you’re going to have more crowding in the rush hour,” he said.

According to Mr. Giambrone, Toronto subways are less crowded during rush hour at 4.5 people per square metre than cities like Tokyo and Sao Paulo, which, he said, cram around nine people per square metre into their subways during rush hour.

The TTC regularly counts the number of people per bus and subway to monitor the congestion he said. Busses are expected to hold about 50 people during rush hour while subways hold between 1,100 and 1,200 people.

“We do monitor and adjust service every six weeks,” Mr. Giambrone said.

The Transit City light rail plan will see eight new lines criss-cross the city, with ground breaking on the first, Sheppard East, this month. The TTC’s Transit City Bus Plan increases bus service to every 10 minutes on 21 key routes and to 20 minutes up from 30 minutes on all other routes will start to take effect in 2010.

The city is buying 204 new streetcars from Bombardier to replace its old fleet, with the new vehicles able to carry almost twice as many passengers.

Mr. Giambrone said the TTC will soon begin preliminary studies for the Downtown Relief Line, a new subway line to connect the east and west ends of Toronto south of the Bloor/Danforth corridor.

Last Wednesday, Councillor Michael Thompson asked a council committee to amend the City of Toronto Official Plan to include the Downtown Relief Line. It was put off until a specific route is chosen for the new subway line.

Also in the works are new subway cars on the Yonge-University-Spadina line that connect as “one big tube” to allow for 10% greater capacity. Mr. Giambrone said the first order would come in early 2010 with the line completely converted in the next two to three years.

By 2016 the TTC aims to automate the Yonge line, requiring less safety space between each train, therefore allowing more trains to run on the line.

Four hundred and forty three adults living in Toronto were interviewed for the poll between Aug. 14 and Aug. 18, 2009. The results have an estimated margin of error of plus or minus 4.7 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.