In Toronto, riding the public transit in 2005 means being hit with yet another 5% fare increase and yet another impending union strike, while enjoying the same miserable service. Keep in mind that this is after the Ontario government gave the TTC several million bucks (I wrote about what the TTC should do with it here).
I can’t help but look up for guidance – or rather, looking toward the north, toward York Region. The York Region Transit services these far-flung affluent suburbs, where it is not uncommon to see Boxsters and Benzos parked outside the local WalMart. Apparently, the YRT has been widely successful with its automated fare machines and clean-smelling buses; the YRT reported its fourth straight year of increased ridership.
And they’re not stopping there. In September, the YRT will unveil VIVA, their express bus rapid transit system. Everything about VIVA will be cutting edge: the VanHool low rider buses will be equipped with bucket seats, GPS systems, and stoplight changing transponders. Bus stops will have lights, automated fare kiosks and LED displays indicating when the next bus will arrive. To increase efficiency further, the buses will run on an honour system.
This dream network, which will cover everything from Aurora to Markham, will cost York Region $11 million this year, but they are confident that it will boost ridership levels by one-third. And that’s not all; YRT plans to replace the bus rapid transit with LRT or subway trains in twenty years.
Maybe I’m comparing apples and oranges here, but it appears one transit authority has its buses in a row, and another doesn’t.