Despite imminent plans to build subways and exclusive lanes for buses and streetcars, the majority of GTA transit vehicles will continue to travel on streets where they mix with traffic.
Riders have become used to the slow speeds and uneven frequency of service that can result, but we trust that somebody in power is trying to minimize the impact of congestion on transit.
There have always been tools that, if actually used, can allow streetcars and buses to move more quickly and arrive at more evenly spaced intervals — tools like close supervision of transit routes or banning cars from making left-hand turns.
One Toronto route has become a particular focus of rider frustration — and also a guinea pig for testing potential improvements. The Queen 501 streetcar has received special attention ever since a petition circulated last summer among users fed up with bunching and short turns.
For months now the TTC has been trying to smooth out vehicles on this very long line. Next Monday officials will offer a progress report in a free public forum at City Hall. Following on a previous session held late last year, 501 riders can come and describe any changes they have noticed in the quality of service. Everyone is welcome.
Transit staff will outline future measures that could result in faster, more reliable service. There is a long list of possible remedies, which are divided into three categories: Changes the TTC can make to its own operations; changes the City of Toronto can make to the roads; and, lastly, changes in the way the Toronto Police Service enforces traffic.
Monday’s meeting could be the first time the public will hear city and TTC managers discuss together the pros and cons of measures like banning left turns, altering traffic light sequences or extending parking prohibitions on transit routes — where “rush hour” bans could start earlier and end later.
Several TTC commissioners plan to attend, including chair Adam Giambrone and Toronto Coun. Sandra Bussin, who represents the Beach neighbourhood where 501 discontent is highest.
Respected transit commentators James Bow and Steve Munro are also expected and I’ll be moderating the event, which starts at 7 p.m. on Monday in committee room 2 at Toronto City Hall.
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Last Thursday, I overstated the number of transit stops in Toronto. The TTC serves 9,288 stops within city limits. About 4,000 of these have transit shelters, a total that is expected to grow to 6,000 over 20 years. However, only 30 new locations will be added in 2008 and just 40 in 2009. Since the city is more interested in replacing older structures, riders will have to wait years for protection at stops that currently do not have shelters.
That’s too long.