As riders recover from the uncertainty of labour negotiations and we wait for TTC employees to vote on their tentative contract, it might be a good time to look at upcoming transit improvements. The lasting news of 2008 is a major increase in TTC bus service at all times of the day, with further capacity being added to streetcar and subway routes outside peak hours.
The commission is in the midst of a year-long service expansion partly to reverse drastic cuts made back in the 1990s, but also to address crowding that has overwhelmed many parts of the network.
The TTC regularly adjusts service every six weeks but for several years these changes have appeared relatively minor. After two controversial taxes were approved last fall, the first wave of new TTC service arrived on Feb. 17, 2008. Although terribly overdue, the list of route increases was impressive. Those of you who ride busy surface routes have had enough time to tell if conditions are slightly better — what do you think?
February was just the beginning, says senior TTC planner Scott Haskill. “We added more service March 30, and we have a few more smaller service increases coming on May 11 — and then just wait for the fall, because that’s when it all starts rolling in.”
Now that Toronto city council has passed its 2008 budget, transit riders can look forward to two more waves of significant expansion in September and November. The TTC is gradually lowering the threshold of when a vehicle is considered overcrowded, meaning extra buses will be added sooner — throughout the day. Due to a shortage of vehicles, expect more streetcar service only during off-peak hours.
Subway signal limitations likewise prevent extra trains from running during rush hours, but Haskill says that frequent service will be extended in September. This means the morning and afternoon peak periods are to last longer on the Yonge-University-Spadina line. More Bloor-Danforth trains will run later in the morning, too, and possibly the evening.
November brings the next major phase of the long-awaited “Ridership Growth Strategy” — when almost all TTC surface routes will operate at least half-hourly as well as continuously from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily, or 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Sundays. In 2009, the plan is to ensure the whole network offers frequencies of every 20 minutes or better.
After years of getting less service than we needed, the TTC is at last catching up. And that’s not all. GO Transit is also boosting bus service this week — more details on Thursday.