Transit Urban Planning

Thoughts on Newmarket’s new Rapidway (updated)


Updated January 4 2017

Effective Sunday, January 8, York Region Transit will impose new service cuts on several of its routes, including Viva Yellow, which I describe below. One bus will be removed from the route, reducing headways from every 15 minutes to every 22 minutes. Service after 10:30PM-11:00PM will also be eliminated.

One wonders why, on one hand, there’s money to be hand to build fancy new bus infrastructure when there’s no willingness to fund transit that would make such capital expenditures useful.

As York Region gets set to welcome the Spadina Subway extension to Vaughan Metropolitan Centre [sigh] and continues to lobby for a Yonge Subway extension to Richmond Hill, it’s worth questioning whether York Region is really committed to operating a quality transit service, and if it is serious about reducing its dependence on the single-occupant automobile.

Original post, dated June 24, 2016

In September, 2013, I wrote a post in Spacing Toronto called “York Region’s Rapidways: the good, the bad and the ugly.” I went out to Markham to ride the first of York Region’s VivaNext Rapidways. With the recent opening of a similar Rapidway in Newmarket, and a new Viva Route on Davis Drive, I made a trip north a few weeks ago to check it out.

Viva is the brand used by York Region Transit for its network of limited-stop, proof-of-payment bus routes. When first launched in September, 2005, Viva was strictly a “BRT-lite” operation. Unlike regular YRT routes, the buses are fancier and more comfortable, the stops less frequent, and to speed up service, Viva operates on a proof-of-payment system where fares are purchased in advance from machines at Viva stops. and limited stops. A decade ago, all Viva corridors were supposed to be served by buses operating every 15 minutes or better, 7 days a week.

But a few years later, the cutbacks began to happen as York Region reduced funding for transit operations. Viva Green, connecting Markham to the TTC’s Don Mills Station, became a rush hour only route. Viva Orange, connecting Vaughan to Downsview Subway via York University was cut back as well and now only operates every 30 minutes outside of rush hour. Even Viva Purple (York University – Markham) had its operating times cut back. Worse yet, YRT reduced service on connecting conventional bus routes that feed the Viva system.

But while the region was reducing its spending on transit operations and raising fares, it was spending hundreds of millions of dollars on VivaNext, the region’s rapid transit plan. The plan calls for separated median right-of-ways on Highway 7, Yonge Street and Davis Drive, known as Rapidways, as well as two TTC subway extensions. York Region lobbied for, and got, a subway extension to Highway 7 in Vaughan which will open next year; it has also lobbied for an extension to the Yonge Subway from Finch Station to Richmond Hill. York Region, with its political clout, may just get that too.

Spending billions of dollars on building transit, without properly funding the services that use and feed into that fancy new infrastructure is a problem. This is what’s wrong with York Region Transit. 

Transit Urban Planning

Missed opportunities on the Mississauga Transitway

IMG_0343-001Route 107 Malton Express bus on the Mississauga Transitway at Tomken Station

After riding the UP Express back in March, the inspiration for a post on a proposed transit hub at Toronto Pearson International Airport, I went for a ride on the Mississauga Transitway.

I first rode the Mississauga Transitway on a snowy Monday, November 17, 2014, the day it opened. At the time, only four stations were opened — Central Parkway, Cawthra, Tomken, and Dixie. On my first visit, I was unimpressed. But I decided to give it another try after the two new stations opened, on a Saturday, when I had plenty of time to check out the service, the new stations, and the environs.

I have many thoughts and criticisms about this new piece of transit infrastructure, which will cost the City of Mississauga and Metrolinx a combined $528 million.

mississauga_transitway_map_en-670x340Map of Mississauga Transitway, taken from the GO Transit website

What is the Mississauga Transitway?

The Mississauga Transitway is a bus rapid transit (BRT) project. BRT is a term used in the transit industry to describe everything from limited-stop conventional buses, perhaps with some perks like all-door boarding and queue-jump lanes sometimes called BRT-lite (Brampton Zum is a good example), to fully grade-separated, high speed bus corridors that operate like metro lines (the Ottawa Transitway and Bogota’s TransMillenio system are good examples). Other busways in Canada include the Ottawa Transitway, to be partially replaced by light rail transit, the Gatineau Rapibus corridor, York Region’s Viva Rapidways, and Winnipeg’s RT corridor.

The Mississauga Transitway is a true BRT system, but it has several major weaknesses.