Sunday, November 15, 2009

My Submission to "What's ahead for the next 5 years?" at YRT

YRT & VIVA is looking for resident input into their next five years of planning (i.e. until 2015). As a regular weekday and sometimes weekend rider commuting from Aurora to points southward I feel I'm quite able to provide some feedback based on my extensive experience on YRT & VIVA Services in York Region. On a dayly basis I ride at least 3 routes including one VIVA route, one YRT Route and a shared YRT & TTC Route to get to work. In other words I rely on transit to get me to and from work and sometimes on weekends to where I need to be. Below are some suggestions and my experiences on the YRT & VIVA systems to support my recommendations.

Connections (Transfers): Connections between transit routes need to be at least five minutes in length. For example, VIVA Blue arrives at Yonge Street & Carrville Road at 8:00 A.M., a passenger dissembarks and crosses the street to catch the Westbound YRT Route 85 at 8:05 A.M. would be a successful connection. Today the connections are much tighter than this which results in a passenger dissembarking one bus only to see the bus their hoping to connect to leave without them. This only frustrates the passenger. Also, if a route is running a couple of minutes late this allows the passenger a possible chance to get across the street in time to hopefully reach the connecting bus. Trip Planner: Remove the Trip Planner as it is currently useless on weekdays during peak periods. Otherwise, update the schedules (See Schedule Adherence) the Trip Planner uses to provide better information. If I cannot get from "Point A" to "Point B" with the information shown 90% of the time, then what use is the Trip Planner? Hopefully a significant improvement in updating YRT/VIVA schedules will fix the poor performance of the Trip Planner that I've experienced.

Further on the Trip planner, there currently is a "Tip" at the bottom of the results page that reads: "We recommend using trip plans with at least 5 minutes between transfers. This will allow for any unexpected delays and will provide you with sufficient time to reach your transfer stop." Then perhaps the Trip Planner should account for this instead of recommending connections with less than 5 minutes most of the time in it's results. As it stands now, the Trip Planner shows connections that have less than 5 minutes and doesn't show the next connecting bus if the connection is missed leaving the passenger stuck at the stop wondering when the next bus will come or the passenger is forced to search around for better scheduling of the connecting bus. Instead YRT/VIVA should be supplying accurate information that follows YRT/VIVA's own "5 minute" recommendation that would allow prospective riders to get all the information they need for their trip from accurate Trip Planner which was one of the initial ideas for the "Trip Planner" in the first place when YRT launched it. With the "5 minute connection" Trip Planner implemented, the trip planned route rider would feel lucky if they actually made the earlier connection and be, in theory, ahead of schedule. As a regular transit rider it feels good to be either ahead or right on scheduled time instead of behind schedule.

Schedule Adherence: YRT schedule adherance on some routes is pathetic. The words "schedule adherence" basically answers the question: "Can the bus arrive by the scheduled time or, at most 2 minutes late?" The answer should be "Yes" or "No." With YRT Customer Service I've received replies that as long as a bus reaches a point within ten minutes of the scheduled time then the bus is considered "on time."

The above situation occurred when I complained to YRT that the TTC 107B Route (operating within York Region) scheduled to arrive at Rutherford GO Station by 5:18 P.M. and failing to do so consistantly between May 2009 and October 2009. I made complaints to YRT Customer Service via both phone and e-mail. In fact, between at least July 2009 and October 2009 the 107B made the time schedule less than 10% of the time. But apparently this is fine with YRT Customer Service.

In actuality what needs to happen is the YRT/VIVA routes need to be properly audited over periods of time. Periods being audited should include both peak (i.e. morning and afternoon rush hour) and off peak routing (i.e. other times of the day). If the audit shows that the majority of the time the bus fails to reach a location (i.e. Rutherford GO Station) at the scheduled time consistantly then the schedule for the route should be relooked at, edited by transit planning staff and implemented. This process of editing the schedules would only improve what YRT currently has in place where some buses at time periods, like the TTC 107B, never seem to make the YRT posted route schedule.

Further, if schedule adherance improved, via revisions to the existing schedules, then the Trip Planner would be more useful to transit riders. Transit riders would then have confidence that the Trip Planner would be providing accurate information. This is unlike today where the Trip Planner currently has several issues noted in the above section labelled " Trip Planner".

Cleanliness of Bus Stops and Stations: Currently VIVA Stations and major bus stations do not look like they are properly cared for. An example, the Golf Links Southbound VIVA Station located here on an average day is littered with Tim Horton's coffee cups with the garbage bins overflowing. Thus, cleanliness of the stops could signficantly be improved in garbage pick up was increased.

The garbage bins at the stops look like they haven't seen a proper power washing for quite some time. Also, when the garbage bins are cleared by the contractor I've witnessed the three bags (1 garbage bag and 2 recycling bags) be thrown on the same trailer and not seperated into compartments similar to a regular municipal recycling truck. Since the bags are all the same black bags mixed up together in the same compartment on the trailer there is obvious no way for the contractor to later sort the bags properly into YRT's three streams (1 Garbage, 1 Paper for recycling and 1 for beverage containers for Recylcing). Thus all three streams from my point of view end up in landfill. This means YRT's claim to recycling efforts seems to rather suspect.

2 Zone Fare: I've yet to figure out the rational for the Two Zone YRT fare. YRT claims that fewer people live in the northern service region of Aurora or Newmarket. However, the towns of Newmarket and Aurora are growing quite rapidly and between them have a population way over 100,000 in a less square kilometre area than the City of Vaughan (Population 240,000) I would even venture to guess that there are more people per square kilometre than the City of Vaughan as well living in these two communities (Aurora alone has a density of 960 per square Km to Newmarket's 1951 and Vaughan's 873 per square KM according to Statistics Canada) Yet, Aurora and Newmarket Residents pay a 2 zone fare while the population density, which is supposed to improve transit ridership, would indicate that this fare suppliment is not required.

If YRT contends then that distance should be required for a two zone fare lets look at two cases using Google Maps to calculate the distance: One traveller venturing from Vaughan Mills Mall to Markham Stouffville hospital would travel, according to Google Maps, 34 KMs. A traveller going from the Newmarket GO Terminal to the Finch Subway Station would travel 32.3 Km, or approximately 3 KMs less than the Vaughan Mills Rider. Yet the Newmarket Traveller is nailed for an extra dollar due to YRT/VIVA's "Two Zone Fare". The Two Zone Fare kicks in as soon as a transit rider crosses both the Bloomington Road and King Roads.

Then YRT makes the two zone fare even more complicated. To keep the southerners happy that their children won't daily have to pay the two zone fare, YRT allows students travelling to Seneca College King Campus to not pay the 2 Two Zone fare. This is despite the Seneca College King Campus Students do cross both King Road and Bloomington Roads on their way to class. However, if YRT bases the 2 zone fare on population, then Seneca College King Campus, located in King Township on Dufferin Street north of Bloomington Road, then students there should be paying the 2 zone fare. This is because the surrounding population itself of King Township is 18,000 to Aurora's 52,000 (never mind adding in Newmarket's over 75,000 population to the mix). If the reason for the lack of two zone fare into Seneca King College Campus is distance, than why should someone travelling from Wellington & Yonge Streets in Aurora to Bernard Terminal (located at Bernard Avenue & Yonge Street in Richmond Hill) to grab a Whopper at the Burger King there have to pay the two zone fare? This exemption to the Seneca Students only causes further inequalities to Aurora and Newmarket Residents.

Thus with distance and population figured in, YRT's Two Zone Fare policy is nothing but a cash grab discrimination towards the transit riding population of Aurora and Newmarket.

VIVA Bus Maintainence: VIVA Van Hool busses, that are no more than 5 years old, continue to have mechanical difficulties. Usually in the summer I find one or two busses a week on Yonge Street alone off to the side of the road waiting for a tow or a mechanic. As a taxpayer I find this especially disheartening that these busses worth over three quarters of a million dollars are on the side of the road stranding passengers who pay, in 2009, the highest transit fares of any local transit agency in the Greater Toronto Area.

From the busses I've ridden and hear back from YRT Customer Service the main issues seem to be one of two things: 1. The "turbo chargers" (at least twice ) and 2. The breaks ceasing up (once in the middle lane of Yonge Street just south of Industrial Parkway South).

The recent addition in 2007 and 2008 VIVA busses will probably start showing these same mechanical issues will soon appear if nothing is done in terms of better maintenance practices and supervision by YRT over their private contractor Veoilia on this issue.

I hope to see significant improvements on the issues above in the next five years. If these issues are addressed, plus increased transit improvements promised by VIVAnext, the YRT/VIVA system will thrive with increased ridership.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah I agree with you on the 2 zone fare, that it is a money grabbing thing. I live one stop north of Bloomington and get off at Weldrick and have to pay two zones, when someone from Bloomington or King road can pay only one zone and go all the way to finch if necessary.
    So how do we stop the 2 zones to make it fairer for all.


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