It would appear that the T.T.C. is going to go another year without making a real effort to expand its bus fleet. There does not appear to be a concerted effort to address the issue of headway management, and appropriate spacing of service on busy lines either.
The question now needs to be, what are the priority needs for service, and where are the worst current service levels. Everybody is talking a good game in terms of addressing overloading and congestion. The problem is that in a city like Toronto, it is unlikely that any small number of rapid transit lines can hope to address the basic issues without a broad and well used feeder system. This means for the most part buses. If these buses are overloaded and unreliable, only those that must use the system will. The worse the basic operation of buses, the less attractive using transit as a whole will be. SmartTrack has no meaning without a decent feeder system, and that means at the least solid basic bus service.
Today there are 4 basic areas that are clearly overloaded – 1 the Yonge subway, 2 – the Streetcar network 3- the Scarborough RT 4-Most of the heavier bus routes in the city.
Yet there is a proposal now to buy new trains for the Sheppard Line to test one man operation. While I can appreciate the desire to test the idea, the impact of the cost savings on this line are small, they would not soon justify the investment. The TTC needs to look to satisfy more urgent needs, it needs to look to provide service first. Buy train sets – yes, for Yonge, to act as gap trains and fill signal capacity right to the absolute max during the morning peak. Keeping 6 trains at Davisville, to dispatch to clear the Bloor platform at peak hour makes sense, added capacity on Sheppard is not now required, and adding trains is simply a question of pulling from the large number of unused ones now available to match the trains currently on Sheppard.
There are buses required to support emergency/breakdown response, buses to address the need for additional capacity on the RT route and on many bus routes across the city. There is a need for buses to be prepositioned to meet super peak loads to permit basic line management to work. There is a need to provide more downtown direct express service. There is also a clear need to build in a reserve for basic line management, and to go to a headway based system on the majority of Toronto’s larger routes. This would mean always having a bus and the terminus ready to dispatch. I would argue that if anything based on the current shape of service, and growth, that the proposition to add 10% to the bus fleet is actually on the light side. Toronto needs to find space to fix basic bus service before building any subway extensions.
Toronto could look to add many express buses in Scarborough and Rexdale in a matter of a year or so. There is a need to lease space in the short term, and build garages in the longer term, but action can be taken to address most issues in a year or so. This means creating a substantial increase in the number of buses and the space to store them. There is industrial space available in Scarborough, in both southern and northern Etobicoke, and we should be able to find a way to add 200+ buses within a year. Express Bus routes to the subway, that had frequent service, decent shelters, and space to board would start to address the desire for subway, as what people want really is service. This service is required to make any plan other than LRT work anyway (and even if we opt for LRT, these buses will be required to meet growing demand).
GO rail (or ST) can help in the outer 416, if we have bus service to the stations, and there is decent shelter at those locations. Subway can work better, if bus service has capacity and space to be comfortable and is reliable.