TTC looks at running bigger buses on Finch

Report suggests dedicated lanes could speed up the commute on Finch, the city’s second-busiest bus route.

May 5, 2011
Tess Kalinowski
Transportation Reporter
Toronto Star

It’s a bigger bus but it’s still a bus.

That’s the reaction of some to a report before the TTC board next week, which suggests articulated buses, potentially running on dedicated lanes, could speed the ride and relieve crowding for the 42,000 daily TTC riders on Finch Ave. W., the city’s second busiest bus route.

The TTC is looking at how to improve service in the city’s under-served northwest since Mayor Rob Ford has scrapped a plan to put a light rail line on Finch from Yonge St. to Humber College.

Provincial funding for the Finch project will instead be absorbed by putting an Eglinton light rail line underground from about Jane St. to Kennedy station, where it will run continuously onto the Scarborough Light Rail track. Ford has insisted that rail doesn’t belong on city streets, which are designed for cars.

Buses alone won’t be enough, said Mitch Stambler of TTC Service Planning.

“If we really want to make the Finch Ave. corridor more attractive to riders it would take more than articulated buses. We’re looking at different service designs that would put more capacity on the route,” he said.

Among the options are:

• A two-way bus-way along the Finch hydro corridor, similar to the one that serves York University.

• Dedicated bus lanes down the middle of Finch where the light rail line would have run. Alternatively, curb lanes could be made into bus lanes or work as HOV lanes such as those on Eglinton and Dufferin.

• Strategic road widenings for bus bypass queues at busy intersections that would allow buses to move ahead of cars.

• Fewer bus stops that would speed service but mean riders would have to walk further between stops.

• Other improvements could include proof-of-purchase payments to speed boarding or moving stops to the far side of intersections to reduce the time buses spend at lights. More intersections could get transit signal priority.

But none of the options are as good as light rail, said Jamie Kirkpatrick of the Toronto Environmental Alliance.

“This report is designed to squeeze more buses onto Finch and not look at how to deliver better transit for the people who live there,” he said. 

The report, which will likely be sent back for further study, concedes many of the options have obvious drawbacks. The hydro corridor busway would entail prohibitively longer walks to stops and would probably cost about $27 million per kilometer. The 17-kilometer route includes a complex crossing of Highway 400 and a section of the Ross Lord Park.

The center-of-the-road bus lane doesn’t address the mayor’s resistance to surface transit. But staff have an obligation to put all the options on the table, not to second guess political decisions, said Stambler. Bus lanes could be painted on the road within months, he said, if the city gives the go-ahead.

As Originally Published: TTC looks at running bigger buses on Finch