Councillor wants community bus service expanded in Scarborough

News Mar 26, 2014 by Rahul Gupta York Guardian

A Scarborough councillor is accusing the TTC of slamming the door on a future community bus service (CBS) for his constituents.

Paul Ainslie said he’s been trying for almost two years to get a community bus route to serve residents in his Scarborough East ward who have mobility challenges, but don’t qualify for the door-to-door Wheel-Trans service.

Community buses, which look identical to the Wheel-Trans shuttles, make stops at medical centres, supermarkets and shopping plazas and can be flagged at any point along a route, making them popular with seniors in particular.

Six community bus routes currently operate hourly on weekdays between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. None of them are located in Scarborough.

Almost two years ago, Ainslie said he and residents met with a TTC consultant on mapping a potential CBS route, to service his and neighbouring Scarborough wards.

He said he is frustrated by a new TTC report that strongly recommends against any further expansion of the service, which he fears will bury his own request.

“They’ve already said point blank in the report they don’t want any more community bus routes,” said Ainslie this week. “We’re the largest city in Canada and we have five community bus routes. I think that speaks volumes about the mindset of the TTC.”

The staff report, which will be debated at Wednesday, March 26 TTC board meeting at city hall, advises against adding an new community bus routes until the details of a future plan are known on how to integrate Wheel-Trans and regular TTC bus services. That study is expected to be completed in early 2015.

With accessible buses now operating on all regular bus routes, the report finds ridership on community bus routes has fallen to half of the ridership levels seen 20 years ago with the exception of the 405 Etobicoke service, which has remained stable. Over the same time, ridership across the TTC has increased by nearly 30 per cent.

A further wrinkle is the service, which according to the staff report was never intended to be cost-effective, was supposed to receive funding from outside the TTC. But that only took place as part of a pilot program to introduce the service and since then, CBS expenses are funded via the transit commission’s Wheel-Trans operating budget.

It will cost $900,000 to operate the service in 2014, leading the report to conclude there is no money available to expand the existing service without negatively effecting Wheel-Trans service.

“There is no budgeted funding or resources to operate any new CBS service,” the report states. “Introduction of new CBS routes would require the TTC to take away resources currently used for Wheel-Trans door-to-door service.”

The staff recommendation comes after a city audit of Wheel-Trans completed in late 2012, which found the community bus service is not cost-effective due to an average ridership of just five passengers per hour combined with the need to pay nearly $2 million in overtime wages to Wheel-Trans drivers to operate the service the year previous.

Nevertheless, Ainslie said the TTC should take the cost-hit in order to improve local access to public transit.

“The only way you’re going to build ridership is going into communities like Scarborough, which are built and designed for cars and the bus stops are a greater distance apart than what you find downtown,” he said. “I think there’s a need and demand here and I really need TTC staff to be open-minded.”

Councillor wants community bus service expanded in Scarborough

News Mar 26, 2014 by Rahul Gupta York Guardian

A Scarborough councillor is accusing the TTC of slamming the door on a future community bus service (CBS) for his constituents.

Paul Ainslie said he’s been trying for almost two years to get a community bus route to serve residents in his Scarborough East ward who have mobility challenges, but don’t qualify for the door-to-door Wheel-Trans service.

Community buses, which look identical to the Wheel-Trans shuttles, make stops at medical centres, supermarkets and shopping plazas and can be flagged at any point along a route, making them popular with seniors in particular.

Six community bus routes currently operate hourly on weekdays between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. None of them are located in Scarborough.

Almost two years ago, Ainslie said he and residents met with a TTC consultant on mapping a potential CBS route, to service his and neighbouring Scarborough wards.

He said he is frustrated by a new TTC report that strongly recommends against any further expansion of the service, which he fears will bury his own request.

“They’ve already said point blank in the report they don’t want any more community bus routes,” said Ainslie this week. “We’re the largest city in Canada and we have five community bus routes. I think that speaks volumes about the mindset of the TTC.”

The staff report, which will be debated at Wednesday, March 26 TTC board meeting at city hall, advises against adding an new community bus routes until the details of a future plan are known on how to integrate Wheel-Trans and regular TTC bus services. That study is expected to be completed in early 2015.

With accessible buses now operating on all regular bus routes, the report finds ridership on community bus routes has fallen to half of the ridership levels seen 20 years ago with the exception of the 405 Etobicoke service, which has remained stable. Over the same time, ridership across the TTC has increased by nearly 30 per cent.

A further wrinkle is the service, which according to the staff report was never intended to be cost-effective, was supposed to receive funding from outside the TTC. But that only took place as part of a pilot program to introduce the service and since then, CBS expenses are funded via the transit commission’s Wheel-Trans operating budget.

It will cost $900,000 to operate the service in 2014, leading the report to conclude there is no money available to expand the existing service without negatively effecting Wheel-Trans service.

“There is no budgeted funding or resources to operate any new CBS service,” the report states. “Introduction of new CBS routes would require the TTC to take away resources currently used for Wheel-Trans door-to-door service.”

The staff recommendation comes after a city audit of Wheel-Trans completed in late 2012, which found the community bus service is not cost-effective due to an average ridership of just five passengers per hour combined with the need to pay nearly $2 million in overtime wages to Wheel-Trans drivers to operate the service the year previous.

Nevertheless, Ainslie said the TTC should take the cost-hit in order to improve local access to public transit.

“The only way you’re going to build ridership is going into communities like Scarborough, which are built and designed for cars and the bus stops are a greater distance apart than what you find downtown,” he said. “I think there’s a need and demand here and I really need TTC staff to be open-minded.”

Councillor wants community bus service expanded in Scarborough

News Mar 26, 2014 by Rahul Gupta York Guardian

A Scarborough councillor is accusing the TTC of slamming the door on a future community bus service (CBS) for his constituents.

Paul Ainslie said he’s been trying for almost two years to get a community bus route to serve residents in his Scarborough East ward who have mobility challenges, but don’t qualify for the door-to-door Wheel-Trans service.

Community buses, which look identical to the Wheel-Trans shuttles, make stops at medical centres, supermarkets and shopping plazas and can be flagged at any point along a route, making them popular with seniors in particular.

Six community bus routes currently operate hourly on weekdays between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. None of them are located in Scarborough.

Almost two years ago, Ainslie said he and residents met with a TTC consultant on mapping a potential CBS route, to service his and neighbouring Scarborough wards.

He said he is frustrated by a new TTC report that strongly recommends against any further expansion of the service, which he fears will bury his own request.

“They’ve already said point blank in the report they don’t want any more community bus routes,” said Ainslie this week. “We’re the largest city in Canada and we have five community bus routes. I think that speaks volumes about the mindset of the TTC.”

The staff report, which will be debated at Wednesday, March 26 TTC board meeting at city hall, advises against adding an new community bus routes until the details of a future plan are known on how to integrate Wheel-Trans and regular TTC bus services. That study is expected to be completed in early 2015.

With accessible buses now operating on all regular bus routes, the report finds ridership on community bus routes has fallen to half of the ridership levels seen 20 years ago with the exception of the 405 Etobicoke service, which has remained stable. Over the same time, ridership across the TTC has increased by nearly 30 per cent.

A further wrinkle is the service, which according to the staff report was never intended to be cost-effective, was supposed to receive funding from outside the TTC. But that only took place as part of a pilot program to introduce the service and since then, CBS expenses are funded via the transit commission’s Wheel-Trans operating budget.

It will cost $900,000 to operate the service in 2014, leading the report to conclude there is no money available to expand the existing service without negatively effecting Wheel-Trans service.

“There is no budgeted funding or resources to operate any new CBS service,” the report states. “Introduction of new CBS routes would require the TTC to take away resources currently used for Wheel-Trans door-to-door service.”

The staff recommendation comes after a city audit of Wheel-Trans completed in late 2012, which found the community bus service is not cost-effective due to an average ridership of just five passengers per hour combined with the need to pay nearly $2 million in overtime wages to Wheel-Trans drivers to operate the service the year previous.

Nevertheless, Ainslie said the TTC should take the cost-hit in order to improve local access to public transit.

“The only way you’re going to build ridership is going into communities like Scarborough, which are built and designed for cars and the bus stops are a greater distance apart than what you find downtown,” he said. “I think there’s a need and demand here and I really need TTC staff to be open-minded.”