Transit from Pickering to Bowmanville gets mixed reviews in GTA transit study

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Published July 6, 2023 at 12:14 pm

The challenges of providing transit service to a wide geographic area is the key rationale behind Durham Region Transit’s middle-of-the-pack C+ rating, according to newly released transit report cards on 11 different transit services from the Toronto Region Board of Trade.

The average score was based on frequent and basic services, reliability, transit priority, 24-hour service, integration with neighbouring transit systems and service improvement in 2022.

Durham’s score was influenced by a poor rating for frequent service, with the report noting that service is “much improved” since 2010 but that the majority of residents and workers are not within walking distance of a route running every 15 minutes.

Durham Region Transit (DRT) did draw praise for its comprehensive on-demand service, which is universal in rural areas and 24-hour in urban areas – the only transit agency outside Toronto with such coverage – a “valuable” perq for shift workers. But the service can “struggle” with long waiting times in busy periods, according to the report.

The base transit service in Durham is challenging to provide due to relatively long travel distances and widely dispersed origins and destinations, though the 74 per cent score for residents and 75 per cent score for workers was far superior to the grades (16 per cent and 22 per cent) handed out for frequent service.

Durham Transit scored well for reliability (74-75 per cent) and “moderately high” for on-time performance at 72 per cent. A 32 per cent growth in service since 2010 was noted and the service’s integration with Toronto and other 905 routes was also given three stars, though the report also noted that full fare integration with GO Transit could allow the Lakeshore East route to better function as a rapid transit backbone for the region.

Transit priority in Durham drew mixed results, with the future BRT along the Kingston Road corridor and the future Simcoe Street rapid transit line in Oshawa helping the give the region three stars in the category. But the report also noted there are no “firm provisions” for future transit infrastructure in major growth areas such as north Pickering, which would make it “much easier and less expensive to add rail transit or BRT in the future.”

Durham’s overall score of just under 60 per cent puts the service on par with Waterloo, Hamilton, Brampton and Burlington and behind Mississauga (69.32) and Toronto (69.21). Milton’s transit score of 19.34 was the worst rating of the 11 transit services in the study.

Toronto, unsurprisingly, has near universal coverage for its residents and workers but the report acknowledged it’s a lot tougher to achieve that in the 905 regions. It should be noted that many 905-equivalent areas in the United States have little or no bus service at all, with routes rarely running in the evenings or on weekends. The difference is especially apparent in Toronto, where many areas enjoy bus service scheduled for every 10 minutes or better, while many similar areas in the United States have hourly bus service or worse.

Transit in Toronto scored poorly in reliability, with congestion and near constant construction on many routes affecting the city’s overall score.

The Toronto Region Board of Trade is advocating in the report for fair service integration among all transit agencies operating in the region so that riders can pay consistent fares and rely on harmonized schedules.

Giles Gherson, chair of the Economic Blueprint Institute at the Toronto Region Board of Trade, said the provincial and federal governments must support municipalities’ transit operation and equipment costs to meet the growing demand.

“The population has massively outgrown the system and certainly in outlying municipalities in particular,” Gherson said in an interview with Canadian Press.

The GTA is “fortunate” to have a network of transit systems that enables nearly two million people to travel to and from work and other destinations every day, the report said, but the transit network was also called a “work in progress” and a “patchwork of municipal and regional services” with each transit system facing its own unique challenges and constraints.

“In many cases, our current shortcomings are the result of a historical lack of resources for transit. Municipalities also face an even bigger challenge – a surging population,” the report declared. “Suburban cities now find themselves pressured to stand up an urban quality transit system that helps residents move within and throughout the region, enabling access to jobs and opportunities that lie beyond municipal borders.”

“Time, investment, and regional collaboration will help us to close many of the current gaps,” the report declared. “With chronic congestion costing us $11B annually in lost productivity, driving talent out of our region and slowing post-pandemic recovery, transit has a critical role to play.”

With files from Canadian Press

 

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