Monday, August 11, 2008

VIVA Transit Improvements for York Region

Recently I received a flyer in the mail from the York Consortium explaining there is an upcoming open house for transit on Monday August 11th at the Newmarket Municipal Offices. The open house is to unveil the future transit initiatives for York Region's VIVA Rapid Transit service.

Currently, VIVA runs buses along the Yonge Street and Highway 7 corridors that stop at major intersections only approximately every one kilometre or so. These buses opperate in "mixed traffic" (i.e. along with the average joe's cars and trucks) with some signal priority.

The current signal priority is if the bus is late by three minutes or more from it's schedule, the light will hold green for up to an extra ten seconds. But this is only the case if the particular intersection's light hasn't been affected by the same process within the last five or so minutes. What this "signal priority" actually means in practicality for VIVA transit riders is the VIVA buses travel. This is in contrast to the VIVA's initial claim in their initial video advertising campaign: "what do you call traffic signals that change green just for you?" As any current VIVA rider or driver will note..."Not VIVA".

There are many other issues with the current VIVA service that were initially promised in that video which any regular VIVA rider or driver can contend are complete fabrications: "what do you say about a ride every five minutes?" (If your lucky they arrive every 15 minutes and barely on time). "what do you say about never being late for work?" (I've been late for work once...but that was because I give VIVA an extra 30 minutes to screw up) and "a bit of fun on your lunch break?" (I used to work at Downsview Station...I wouldn't trust VIVA to get me to and from York University in a fifteen minute trip due to issues with the VIVA Orange even running on time!) and, my all time favourite: "what do you say to making it home in time for dinner every day?" (Not VIVA: Leaving Downsview Station at 5:00 P.M. on VIVA Orange to York University, transfer to VIVA Purple to Richmond Hill Centre at 5:25 P.M. after a MISSED connection with the VIVA Purple at 5:15 P.M. and north to Aurora on VIVA Blue to arrive at 7:00 P.M. means I've missed dinner...right and I report the missed connection to VIVA Customer service multiple times and nothing changes while VIVA claims they have resolved the problem...yet problem still persists...).

Now there is a look at the future which, if VIVA for once delivers on ALL it's promises, will significantly improve transit in York Region to where it should already be today. VIVA promises to cut existing travel time down by 40% with the implementation of VIVA only transit lanes up the middle of Yonge Street and other routes. These lanes would be similar to the dedicated streetcar tracks on Spadina Avenue in Downtown Toronto but with VIVA bus vehicles.

These lanes, as promised in the literature and website, will greatly improve the reliability of the VIVA transit service. However, this will only happen if the VIVA plans and executes these lanes correctly. Thus, don't get two excited if things don't turn out as advertised as VIVA has promised the world before and, like the above examples, have failed to deliver.

But hopefully, the above examples will dissappear as these lanes are introduced. In order for these lanes to successful the following aspects MUST be concentrated on:

1. VIVA vehicles in the transit lanes must have signal priority over all other traffic except emergency vehicles. This means no matter where in the sequence the traffic control system is at, if a VIVA vehicle approaches an intersection, it needs to have the green light to pull through. Failure to do this will mean VIVA vehicles will their own transit lanes but very little other advantages.

2. VIVA fare machines need to be either brought onboard vehicles or drivers need to keep moving. Quite often drivers wait for people to purchase tickets or get off the vehicle to assist in purchasing a ticket for a passenger. This costs valuable time that could be spent getting the fifty other people on the bus to their destination. Helping people get tickets also means the VIVA vehicle is unable to make connections due to lost time required playing around to get one person a ticket. It seems VIVA is only interested in getting the fares paid instead of getting people there on time. These priorities need to be reversed as fast and frequent transit service will only attract more fare paying riders.

3. On all VIVA routes the first concentration from now to until after the lanes are implented should be getting the frequency of the buses corrected. Quite often VIVA promises buses every fifteen minutes in off peak team and deliver a bus 20 to 25 minutes. The same goes in rush hour when VIVA promises a bus at least every 10 minutes and delivers one in fifteen to twenty if your lucky. Failure to deliver a bus on time in the frequency promised means VIVA's overall on time performance is suffering. A passenger trying to call Customer Service to report the frequency based on the schedule posted on their website is told VIVA doesn't operate on a schedule. This situation must change in order to provide the frequent and reliable service the VIVA concept has promised since it's launch.

4. Clean stations. Currently some of the stations look like they haven't seen a power washing or broom in a while. I will admit the glass on the shelters is cleaned regularly. However, at Golf Links southbound station in Aurora on the VIVA Blue line there has been garbage and vomit inside the shelter that still has to be removed even two weeks after I first noticed it. Stations need to be cleaned and garbage removed on a regular basis. One of the cleanest stations, that VIVA needs to model their services after, is York University. This station sees a large number of people coming and going on the VIVA Orange and Purple lines yet looks pretty good. This is because York University sanitation looks after the cleaning of this station.

Fast, frequent, reliable and clean transit is what VIVA needs to aspire to. The introduction of the VIVA only lanes will only increase the propsects of VIVA delivering on these words. If VIVA is able to deliver these concepts, VIVA will finally be able to deliver what was advertised since day one.

1 comment:

  1. VivaNext is the future of Viva – rapid transit in york region. The plan will see not only subway extensions, but the current fleet of rapid transit vehicles will increase from about 90 to 190. This is expected to raise the number of trips taken by transit to 30 % by 2026, up from 8% now.

    Will the plan help you – speak up! A new blog has been created by the people responsible for planning, designing and building the system. Read what they’re saying and have a say at They also have a poll to see if people support the Yonge subway extension. Go and vote!


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