What the heck is happening on Finch?

What the heck is happening on Finch?

Finch Avenue West is one of the lingering casualties of Rob Ford’s war on Transit City. One of the busiest bus routes in Toronto, serving three priority neighbourhoods, the existing service was supposed to be replaced by an LRT line, but has been in a state of protracted limbo ever since the mayor declared Transit City dead. This has forced Toronto’s most underserved transit commuters to choke on the ridiculous combination of packed buses and gridlock with no promise of improvement in the near future. The TTC has been asked to look at ways to address the current service—you can read the report they’re considering here—but the options basically range from “slight improvements” to “piecemeal half-measures that won’t help much, if at all.” We look at four such proposals after the jump.

1. Transit City with buses
Curb-separated, dedicated bus lanes in the centre of the street with their own traffic signals would be almost identical to the LRT plan that was scrapped—only cheaper and, of course, with buses (possibly even articulated buses for greater capacity, with a new fare-handling system for greater efficiency).

2. Use the hydro corridor north of Finch
This scenario doesn’t involve taking over any current road space, but it also ignores one of the biggest problems for the corridor’s current commuters. The increased travel time to and from the route could end up cancelling out faster travel. Plus, there are areas where construction could create a nasty snarl.

3. Curbside lanes
The lanes wouldn’t be curb-separated like those proposed in idea number one—just lines painted on asphalt that rely on other motorists not to drive over them (be it through increased law enforcement or the much cheaper honour system).

4. Bypass lanes
Instead of dedicating specific lanes for buses, this option basically gives buses shortcut options to scoot around traffic. It’s cheap and relatively easy to monitor, but in a city that freaks out over cyclists passing gridlocked cars, we can’t imagine motorists accepting this idea.

All of these solutions come up against the brick wall of Toronto’s 2011 transit politics. The mayor made it clear that roads are for cars and that he wasn’t interested in a transit solution that takes lanes away from drivers. The sad thing is that a dedicated busway system (bus rapid transit, or BRT) is actually a well-proven method of expanding transit on the cheap—a BRT system is being built in Mississauga, and Ottawa has had a decent BRT system for years. Also, as the TTC itself notes, the first proposal could later be expanded into an LRT if Toronto rekindles its love affair with rail sometime in the future. But from the outset, the mayor and others have framed the issue in such a way that excludes the most effective solutions.

Sure, it’s easy to dismiss the entire issue as just another example of political football—but what about the people left waiting as overflowing buses continue to pass them by?

Buses could get exclusive lanes on Finch West [InsideToronto]
Opportunities for improved bus service on Finch avenue (PDF) [TTC]