One of the critical points in the entire debate that is usually simply bypassed – is the basic concept of network.
There are 3 critical aspects to this idea, access to the city as a whole, and capacity. We seem to miss 2 of 3 – at least in the political debates.
The bus network is critical, but when we distort it too far from a basic grid, we lose some of the value, by either hugely extending trips, or making areas very hard to get to. The other aspect of course is reasonable speed. By pushing buses to awkward subway stops, creating massive terminus points for many bus lines, we distort the routes, and speed one set of trips only. We also make it easier to manage the system, by not having to worry as much about bus to bus transfers – which should be a substantial part of transit, if it were to be more neutral. The 3rd aspect is capacity, which oddly enough we also distort massively.
The most recent examples of this center around the Scarborough subway, but that is merely because it is the latest attempt at getting a new extension, or new line. The initial projections for ridership infer that there will be a very large change in land usage, or that a large number of Markham riders will be on the subway. The question becomes, is that where these riders should be headed, and of course that begs the question where are they actually destined for. Toronto, has a long history of building its transit network around subway. The problem now is that buses run 15 or more km to get the the subway, and the last few of these often in terrible congestion. This is seriously limiting the value of the bus service in Toronto.
However, subway is not a practical solution – if it is merely running along the bus route, as there is simply nowhere near the required demand to make it make sense. The problem now is, that there is really only capacity reasons that justify extending the subway network. We can no longer justify just making the lines longer, the demand is not there at the outer ends,even with large numbers of bus routes running there, and the inner portion cannot handle any substantial increase in loading.
The next changes in the subway system need to be primarily about network capacity, and they need to enable better access for bus as well. There is also a huge need to get more transit out of traffic, and thus make it faster. It would also help if we could redesign the surface network, so that it was more origin – destination neutral. If it would support a trip 2 km north and 1 west more easily, without having to go south to go through a subway station.
This to me has a reasonable solution – 1 actually spend some time modelling, and look at outcomes for trip times, ridership attracted etc, rather than electoral grandstanding. 2-Look at why riders would not select the most logical route in terms of transit.
This to me would likely result in 1 subway extension in Toronto – a lousy 2 km on Yonge to add a station at Steeles, and increase the turn capacity, and likely 1 new route required – to permit enough capacity to the core. It would push to the fore a real fare integration for GO and greatly improved service to the outer 416, including at least 4 trains per hour at the in Toronto stops for GO on both lines in Scarborough. It would place a real priority on LRT that ran to subway, and integrated with GO, and that would permit a complete rethink of the bus routes across Toronto.
We as voters need to do 2 things, 1 start thinking about how to make the city work, without expending 10s of billions, and how each step can make a real difference. 2 – look at our own rides realistically, and how a change in transit could be made to cascade in order to support our own area better. We are not talking about radical change, but minor change – that made a substantial difference. Bus routes that ran to the businesses we wanted to use, not only to subway. Bus routes that were generally shorter, and hence more reliable.
This also means – looking at a network where we are not as mortified at a transfer as we are currently. That means 1 – we need to get over it and 2-the TTC needs to be there when it says it will. We need to be prepared to make reasonable transfers, and they need to make the transfers reasonable. The beginning of this is design, but it is heavily anchored in service quality. Yes I want a cross platform transfer from LRT to subway, a shelter for bus to LRT, but I want the LRT there very regularly.