Friday, March 09, 2007

What We Can Learn From YRT

Among my circle of friends, I often bash York Region. This stems from what I call "village name misuse" in Woodbridge and Maple. According to some, Woodbridge extends from Steeles to Major Mackenzie, and from Highway 50 to Highway 400. Similarly, Maple is anywhere from Teston to Steeles, and from Highway 400 to Bathurst. Essentially, this makes the Vaughan redundant. Why not call it "The City of Maple-Woodbridge." Developers and real estate agents trying to make property more attractive to buyers have corrupted our collective sense of history. For me, Vaughan and Maple will only be the original villages which grew up around their respective train stations. Everything else is just Vaughan.

But I digress. Here's what we can learn from York Region Transit:

Low Cost Rapid Transit
VIVA has show us that subways don't always have to be built to bring rapid transit to the cities. We shouldn't be building permanent stub lines at the end of subways, but we should be building Bus Rapid Transit and Light Rail Transit on most new corridors.

Miniature Park and Rides
Large Parking Lots at subway stations are necessary, but are a waste of space. By reserving a few rows of parking at malls and community centres along high-frequency corridors, parking problems at the major terminals can be reduced. The YRT lot at Al Palladini Community Centre is a half example - it's at a community centre, but it's not a high-frequency corridor.

Mini Buses
This is an ElDorado National EZ-Rider II. It's 30 feet long, seats 21 people in YRT spec, and has two wheelchair positions. Most importantly, it's small and can navigate narrow streets which a 40 foot bus couldn't dream of driving down. This gives them the ability to run buses deep into neighborhoods. Giving people as close to door-to-door service as possible is key to improving ridership.

One of the possible uses of these vehicles is the community bus concept, where buses travel deep into neighborhoods, and can be flagged down anywhere along the route. Residents could be more accepting of these vehicles, due to their smaller, less imposing size.

A Slick Website
YRT website has all the tools that a good transit website should have
  • Easy to navigate
  • Schedules in spreadsheet form, accessible from the main page and via a search box
  • Easy to print schedules
  • The ability to see service updates and news from the main page.
  • A trip planner (in the works)
  • It doesn't look like a bunch of code hacked together in 45 minutes.
Lifestyle Marketing
If you head along Highway 7, you'll see YRT banners hanging from the streetlights with messages like "whoose meets wow", "unbus 2 work", and "from A to Being". Some would argue that it's lame, but it markets transit as a lifestyle choice. Hopefully one day, it will become more than a lifestyle choice - it will be a given.

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