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Transit riders urge TTC to address crowding issues

The Toronto Transit Commission Board approved a plan on Tuesday to implement bus-only lanes on some of its busiest bus corridors across the city.

Concerned transit riders spoke out during the online TTC meeting, urging leaders to move quicker on implementing the bus-only lanes, citing health safety concerns as the city grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was one of several topics that shed light on some of the difficulties passengers are already facing as ridership starts to increase.

William Pham, a young transit rider who attended the meeting, said he finds it difficult to physically distance on his bus route which makes him worried about taking transit for not only himself, but also his family and neighbours.

“It would be jam-packed, it’s like sardines,” he said. “Instead of breathing air you’d be breathing someone else’s body odour. It was just so packed.”

Crowding on TTC vehicles is nothing new, but it has certainly become more problematic now, during a global pandemic, when physical distancing is crucial to fighting it.

Pham is one of several riders urging the TTC to speed-up plans to implement bus-only lanes which will help relieve congestion on busy bus routes.

The TTC estimates bus-only lanes will save the average customer two to five minutes per trip – that adds up to a whopping 16-40 hours a year.

As the city reopens, ridership is also increasing. According to TTC,  it is growing from a 14 per cent low to 26 per cent as of July 4.

Bus customers rely on transit services the most: bus activity has increased to 40 per cent of pre-COVID-19 levels, compared to 22 per cent on subways.

The two priority corridors which tend to get the most volume are Eglinton and Jane. On Eglinton, the corridor serves 56,000 customers on average during the weekday and bus lanes will be introduced by this fall. The bus lanes on Jane will be implemented next year.

City council will now have to approve the plan. Transit riders are hopeful they’ll pick up the pace on the project.

“We need that capacity now,” says Pham. “These bus lanes are too little too late and I want them implemented now — not in the next century.”

The TTC Board also debated a motion today to launch free wifi on buses and streetcars. They voted unanimously to look into it. A report is expected in November.