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TTC’s 5-year, $779M plan calls for major improvements to streetcar network and bus services

Bus-only lanes part of TTC’s 5-year service plan
WATCH ABOVE: The TTC is honing in on five of its busiest bus routes as it seeks to improve the wait times and passenger experiences. Shallima Maharaj reports.

Toronto Transit Commission staff are proposing an ambitious, $779-million plan aimed at providing major enhancements to its network of buses, streetcars and subways.

However, transit agency staff said hundreds of millions of dollars in new funding still needs to be secured in order for the plan to be fully implemented.

“It’s about looking forward to better service. It’s better service on our surface routes,” TTC spokesperson Stuart Green told Global News on Thursday.

“It complements the capital investment plan that we have, which talked about all of that infrastructure work that we need to do to accommodate growth and sustain the system as it is today.”

READ MORE: Number of planned TTC subway closures recommended to increase in 2020

The 2020-2024 service plan, which still needs to be reviewed and voted on by the TTC board on Thursday, made several capital recommendations aimed at overhauling service, such as:

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– $414.5 million over five years for new streetcars to enhance the network (all money that requires a funding source to be determined)
– $164.1 million over three years for new bus service (all money that requires a funding source to be determined)
– $83 million over five years for streetcar maintenance and a storage facility (all money that requires a funding source to be determined)
– $58 million over five years toward transit priority initiatives such as queue jump lanes and transit signal priority ($30.3 million out of $58 million is funded)
– $41.8 million over five years to explore bus rapid transit lanes (only $1.8 million out of $41.8 million is funded)
– $15 million over five years to expand customer amenities at key stop areas (all money that requires a funding source to be determined)
– $1.1 million over five years for next vehicle arrival signs (all money that requires a funding source to be determined)

If approved, TTC staff said the above initiatives would mean an annual $174-million cost to the transit agency’s operating budget by 2024.

READ MORE: Older fleet of TTC streetcars set to go out of service on Dec. 29

Green said while many of the proposed capital budget items are currently unfunded, he pointed to potential future council budget requests and funding from a dedicated tax increase recently proposed by Mayor John Tory, as well as applying for funding from the provincial and federal governments, as potential sources of revenue.

In the lengthy report to be reviewed by the board, TTC staff said its five-year plan and 10-year outlook — developed after public consultations — sets up a vision to respond to a number of issues.

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“[The plan] communicates to our customers and stakeholders the strategic priority for service improvements and ensures these improvements address immediate needs, such as increasing population and employment, congestion and changing travel patterns, while still being focused on achieving the City’s overall goals with regards to enhancing mobility, climate change, resilience and social equity,” the report said.

However, staff warned of several potential “risk factors” that could affect the plan such as a delayed opening of the Eglinton-Crosstown LRT line in 2021, delayed implementation of the Line 1 automatic train control system, a delayed opening of the Finch West LRT line, if Line 3 (Scarborough RT) is forced to shut down due to not being able to operate, if funding for buses isn’t provided or if funding isn’t provided for new streetcars and associated maintenance facility upgrades.

“If multiple risks occur, the TTC would need to look beyond delaying service improvements as a contingency measure, and assess service cuts to address any significant gaps in the network,” the report said.

Here is a more detailed look several of the initiatives being proposed by TTC staff, which officials noted could change throughout the annual service planning process:

Bus service
– Expansion of the express bus network
– Enhanced bus service in Scarborough
– New service for communities in North York, other areas where there is growth
– New overnight services
– “Explore” exclusive bus-only lanes on parts of Jane Street, Steeles Avenue West, Finch Avenue East, Eglinton Avenue East and Dufferin Street
– “Explore” stop consolidation, all-door boarding and other measures to “speed up” service
– Reallocation of services after the Eglinton-Crosstown LRT opens (scheduled for 2021)
– Realignment of services after the Finch West LRT opens (scheduled for 2023)

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Streetcar service
– Addition of 60 new streetcars to provide more frequent service on all routes
– Enhanced services on the 501 Queen, 504 King and 511 Bathurst routes

READ MORE: Frontline workers want more from Toronto’s transit plan for those in poverty

Subway service and stations
– More trains to operate on Line 1 after completion of the automatic train control signaling system (estimated to be finished in 2022)
– New bike repair stations and high-capacity bike parking facilities at 49 subway stations

System-wide initiatives
– Create queue jump lanes for buses and streetcars (allows vehicles to bypass lines of vehicles, allowing transit vehicles to cross intersections after the lights change)
– Add more transit signal priority intersections to help vehicles “move quickly through intersections”
– Improve connections between TTC and microtransit shuttle services (such as the West Rouge autonomous shuttle trial)
– Work with Toronto Parking Authority to expand the Bike Share program to the city’s suburbs
– New formalized pathways connecting neighbourhoods to transit services
– Piloting new transit services in identified neighbourhood improvement areas
– Increasing accessibility at major stop areas along with new seating and heated shelters
– Installing new real-time next vehicle arrival signs, wayfinding measures, increased lighting and larger platforms and sidewalks
– Changing schedules to “reflect actual operating conditions,” improving overnight schedules
– New vehicles to help when there are service disruptions
– Work with regional transit agencies to better integrate service along shared corridors