North Etobicoke needs better options from TTC

With the downtown relief line subway being floated once again as the mayoral race gets underway, it’s important that candidates and the TTC don’t lose sight of improving transit in North Etobicoke.

Mayor Rob Ford’s popular rallying call for “subways, subways, subways” has certainly proven seductive in the past, but North Etobicoke is facing its own serious challenges when it comes to transit. Ignoring this could have deleterious effects on the community.

Especially problematic is the current state of transit to Humber’s North campus on Highway 27 just south of Finch Avenue West.

According to fourth-quarter results from the most recent TTC quality report, the 96 Wilson bus route – which connects Humber North to York Mills Station – only pulls up within three minutes before or after its scheduled arrival to stops about 49 per cent of the time. More often than not, it’s either early or late.

The two other TTC bus routes connecting to Humber don’t score particularly well either, with the 191 Highway 27 Rocket achieving a rate of 63 per cent and the 36 Finch West one of 67 per cent.

Further underscoring the need for transit expansion in the area is Humber College’s growth.

This year, the Et Cetera reported Humber’s first-year enrolment hit an all time high, and it was already the largest college in the province. But despite this, transit options for students commuting to North campus leave much to be desired.

Admittedly, some action is being taken. This spring, the TTC is going to start running larger-capacity articulated busses along Finch Avenue West, and there’s also the long-planned Finch West LRT in the works.

The Et Cetera strongly supports both measures, but more needs to be done in the short term – particularly because the LRT route is years away from completion. According to Metrolinx, the LRT won’t be operating until 2020.

In the interim, there are a number of relatively cost-effective ways the TTC could improve service to Humber.

Until LRTs are running along the avenue, in its current incarnation, the 36 Finch West will remain a constant source of headaches for commuters.

While the 191 Rocket route is made up of just six stops, buses travelling to Humber from Finch Station are bogged down in a 90-stop journey.

To address the inefficiency of this route for students, the TTC should create an express bus that only stops at major intersections. The model for this already exists on other routes, including the 60E Steeles Avenue West, which serves students heading to York University.

The TTC could work with Humber to determine when the most students are commuting to and from North campus and provide express service accordingly. And creating a Finch West express wouldn’t just benefit students, because it would ease congestion on the regular 36B buses.

Meanwhile, the articulated buses set to hit Finch should also be implemented on the crowded 191 route as well.

A change that would help reduce crowding on current buses to Humber would be implementing baggage racks similar to those found on the 192 Airport Rocket to Pearson. Taking bags off the backs of commuters would free up space and get more students, staff, and faculty to school on time.

As TTC ridership continues to increase, the current system will only prove to be more and more inadequate at meeting demand, and no improvement – no matter how small – should be overlooked.