The Future of Toronto Transit: Will We Ever Be Happy?

toronto transit

Toronto’s public transportation system is always a hot debate. Torontonians are constantly waiting for “the next big thing,” like more subway lines, a fully integrated PRESTO card system, larger streetcars and the list goes on. No one is sure if we will ever get it right. Let’s go over the key issues and what’s coming for Toronto commuters.

Transit privatization

Many Torontonians have demanded all or parts of the transit system be privatized. We may never get there for multiple reasons. Many of the TTC bus routes just aren’t profitable. They lose more money than they make, which requires the resources of the government to sustain. There is no way a private operator would want to take on something that isn’t profitable. We’ve also dreamt of a major expansion to Toronto’s subway system, but the design, development, build and maintenance of such a system would cost billions.

This makes the pool of possible suitors extremely small, and for a private company to turn a profit is difficult to forecast. Privatization, even if we get around just two of the major roadblocks mentioned above, will take lots of time and money and it may or may not solve our issues.

Lack of public funding

Unfortunately, the TTC operates on an extremely low government subsidy per rider compared to all other major North American cities. It seems the problem is too little government support as opposed to private sector involvement. Until we see collaborated support from senior levels of the government, funding will always remain a roadblock. What is changing? With new street cars coming, as well as the pilot of time-based transfers on the St. Clair 512 line, the TTC is showing us improvements are coming.

Also, unlike many other public transportation systems across Canada, the TTC operates 24 hours (on some routes). Larger streetcars will decrease boarding times, and that’s a positive sign. But the system remains broken as streetcars just can’t do things that buses can.

PRESTO card system in the works

A full PRESTO card system for all of the TTC is slated to be ready by 2015 in time for the 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games, but TTC chair Karen Stintz has recently expressed her doubt on this timeline being met. Union Station is also in the midst of an upgrade. There will be a second platform and an expansion of the concourse to include a single TTC fare-paid area, as well as pedestrian bypass routes to help alleviate overcrowding and improve passenger circulation. This is all expected to be finished by 2015.

Union Pearson Express

The Union Pearson Express looks promising. This will be an express train that takes passengers from Toronto Pearson International Airport direct to Union Station in downtown Toronto. The Express is expected to be completed by 2015 just in time for the Pan/Parapan Am Games. This service will run every 15 minutes and will be an expected 25-minute ride.

This is much better compared to the almost 1.5-hour ride to Union Station using the TTC. Fare price has not been announced yet, but the Express train will take the PRESTO card. It seems the Pan/Parapan Am games have really pushed some efforts along. Come 2015, we will hopefully have some of the improvements many of us have been waiting a long time for. Are these changes enough, or do you expect more from Toronto?

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