Bus lanes to be examined for more of Toronto’s busiest surface routes

Four busy stretches of road will be added to a plan that could help some of Toronto’s busiest bus routes move more smoothly.

City council voted Tuesday to endorse the existing Surface Transit Network Plan, as well as to study the feasibility of adding four more busy stretches:  Finch Avenue East between Victoria Park Avenue and McCowan Road; Dufferin Street between Wilson Station and Dufferin Gate; Lawrence Avenue East between Victoria Park Avenue and Morningside Avenue; and Steeles Avenue West between Pioneer Village Station and Bathurst Street.

Staff say that it will take two to three years of planning and consultation before any of the routes can be sped up with priority bus lanes and/or signals. 

Mayor Olivia Chow moved a motion Tuesday to accelerate the time frames around the design and implementation of the surface transit network plan where possible.

Speaking with reporters ahead of the meeting, she said the move will make transit a more attractive option.

“No one wants to be stuck in traffic whether they are in a bus or in a car. Rapid TO helps reduce congestion by making it easier to choose transit and provides better service and reliability to riders,” Chow said.

According to the city, 70 per cent of all TTC journeys include a surface transit trip.

“It (RapidTO) was introduced in 2019. It’s now 2024 and hardly anything has moved,” Chow said. “So it is critical we get the riders moving again.”

When the item came up at Executive Committee last week, many deputants came out to describe their frustration at being stuck on slow buses in the city. 

Shelagh Pizey-Allen, executive director of the transit advocacy group TTC Riders, said commuters were initially excited when they heard about the plan some four years ago, but have grown frustrated with the lengthy consultation. She recalled that volunteers used children’s paint to add a bus lane on one busy route in 2022 in order to make a point about how easy it could be to implement changes that would make a difference. 

“People have been over consulted and haven’t seen any action. They’ve been consulted for three years now,” Pizey-Allen said.

So far, 20 priority roadways have been identified for inclusion in the plan. Studies have already been completed or are currently underway for Eglinton Avenue East, Jane Street, Steeles Avenue, and Victoria Park Avenue.

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