One of the eight goals for 2051 is Interconnected Systems for Mobility, which entails providing access to all destinations using diverse transportation options for people in all communities, promoting active, healthy living, and safely and efficiently moving people and goods.
Transit investment includes the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension Project and York’s Viva bus rapid transit (BRT). The subway extension will provide an extension for the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) system between the city of Toronto and the York region. The estimated $2.6 billion project is expected to begin service in fall of 2016. The federal government has committed $697 million, the province of Ontario has provided $870 million, the city of Toronto has committed to fund $526 million and the Regional Municipality of York has committed to fund $352 million.
Viva, YRT’s BRT, was launched in 2005 and is growing. VivaNext is the next phase of Viva and currently there are five projects underway. Leary stresses, “We’re buying additional buses from Nova because we see the expansion of the service and the desire for more service.
“This region is the place to live, the place to work, the place to play. It’s about complete streets. It’s about communities.”
The commitment to the region to public transit was demonstrated, Leary says, by the region giving two free months of service following the three-month labor strike that ended at the beginning of this year. “They knew it was a negative impact on the individuals that lost their service, personally and financially, so all the savings from the transit that we derived by not providing service, the region reinvested that back to the taxpayer by providing free transit for those who had possibly changed their pattern of behavior because there was no transit.”
With three of the four contractors on strike, they were able to provide some form of service for 60 percent of their customers. Leary says, “We respected labor’s position but we still were able to maintain some service in this region for the majority of those who take transit.
“It’s all contracted out,” Leary says of the operations. The operators and maintenance is contracted out while the region is responsible for determining the routes, the stops, schedules, fares, enforcement and the ticket vending machine process and finance. “Most individuals that are residents in this region don’t even realize that the bus operators, — those that operate the service — work for private contractors.” He continues, “Their training is very similar, it’s all under your transit brand and although we’re not in charge of the employees, we are in charge of the operation: policies, procedures, dress codes, scheduling.”
The York Region Rapid Transit Corp. works in collaboration with the funding partners and Leary says in the region there’s $4 billion investment toward BRT itself. “The region is putting rapidways on the major throughways within the region. We’re purchasing and building bus garages in the region, we have invested in terminals, bus stops, every aspect … has been taken into consideration as we do this.” There’s been a large investment in BRT since 2005 and YRT is in the process of getting another 26 articulated buses. Leary explains they have priority signaling, jumping lanes, proof-of-payment on the vehicles, and in many of the areas there is designated rapidways to permit the buses to move around or through mixed-use traffic.
YRT started implementation of the regional farecard Presto in July 2011. Presto is the GTA, Hamilton Area and Ottawa’s OC Transpo’s regional fare system. Presto was first released in 2009 and has been expanding since.
YRT initially introduced the card in lieu of the 10-day ticket and in 2013, will expand the card to replicate the monthly passes and they will look at the potential for loyalty schemes in addition to what they already have today.
YRT has a number of fare categories and they didn’t start with every category at once. To help convert and educate riders, a lot of time was spent going out and setting up kiosks to introduce people to the new cards.