WATCH ABOVE: Crowdfunded bus could be an alternative to the crowded King St. streetcar. Mark McAllister reports.
TORONTO – Toronto’s next bus route might be downtown, east-west and open to only a select few if a crowdfunding effort is successful.
Dubbed Line Six Transit, the idea is to crowdfund bus lines to run along custom-built routes with the fundraisers being guaranteed seats on the bus.
The first line, The Liberty Village Express, would provide an express bus to Union Station for residents of the badly under-serviced Liberty Village neighbourhood.
Taylor Scollon, the co-founder of Line Six, says they chose Liberty Village for the pilot line because the area is so poorly serviced by transit.
As of Friday morning, 60 people have pledged $25 each for a total of $1500 to help run the bus from October 6 to October 10.
$25 is the minimum donation and works out to $5 a ride – more expensive than the TTC’s $3 token.
If the Liberty Village route is successful, Scollon hopes people will crowdfund routes across the city.
“You pick a pick up point, a drop off point. Then you have other people in your community, your colleagues or your neighbours, chip in a certain amount of money and once that route is funded, we provide the bus and the logistic support to keep everything running on time,” he said.
But the idea could run into a few speed bumps.
The City of Toronto act gives the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) the exclusive right to provide transit within the city – making it a legal monopoly.
The legislation does exempt chartered vehicles used to transport a group of people paying a group fee.
“We have a big transit system to run and what they’re proposing is something we’re going to monitor. We aren’t overly concerned,” Ross said. “It may well be within the guidelines of the city of Toronto act but it’s not something we’ve taken a close enough look at to see if it would be in breach of the act.”
Scollon is confident he’s not interfering with the act and says there’s some condos in the city which already provide similar charter buses.
But, he said, he’s not running a charter bus service. Instead, he suggests he’s running a technology company that connects people to the bus.
“We’re just changing the way that bus is chartered. We’re a technology company, we provide technology and we provide logistical support, we don’t charge a fare, we don’t own any of the buses. It’s really a charter operation and we connect those charter companies with people who need better transit options.”
The 504 King Streetcar is only a block north of Liberty Village but it’s also the TTC’s busiest streetcar routing carrying an average of 60,000 people each day.
“We know that the king 504 route is one that has a lot of riders, it is our busiest route of all surface routes. In fact it is busier than the Sheppard line on a daily basis,” TTC spokesperson Brad Ross said in an interview Friday.
The city together with the TTC is taking a number of steps to alleviate some of the gridlock that may be motivating the crowdfunding effort.
The TTC may introduce all-door boarding in 2015 to try and speed up how quickly people can get on streetcars.
And the city announced Friday the extension of rush-hour parking restrictions on King Street West.
-With files from Mark McAllister