Wednesday, February 28, 2007

How "Service Standards" Can Kill Transit Improvements

While I have high respect for Steve Munro and all he's done to further the transit issue in Toronto, he and I don't normally see eye-to-eye.

Except for today.

His latest post talks about how minimum densities and projected ridership standards (which lead to caps on how much the TTC is willing to subsidise the service) can result in places which desperately need service going without because they fall just under the standards. The blue night network is a perfect example.

The last 106 runs tend to be full on club nights, so there is a demand for blue night service to York University, at least on some days of the week. In addition, the campus is far from existing Blue Night routes on Jane and Finch. It's a long walk, and even more intimidating at night, considering the forests you would need to walk past. Clearly, there's need and a demand...

But (and this is a generalisation) the two main arguments against sending Blue Night service to York U are the ridership standards and the distance to other corridors. The Keele corridor doesn't have much ridership above Finch, and the Steeles corridor is mostly industrial in that area. It doesn't meet the minimum densities necessary for night service. Also, York University's night ridership is heavy, but not really year round. As for distance, it is conceivable to walk 15 minutes from the campus to either Jane or Finch, so it doesn't meet the minimum separation.

This is just a single example, but its occurring across the city. If we hold all new services to the current standards, we won't see very many new routes. Perhaps we need to move towards a loss leader mentality where we build service to encourage new riders from the start, not wait until after they've settled into car-based lifestyles to bring transit to them.

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