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VIVA + York Region Transit

The demographics and urban structure of York Region are not that different from Brampton or Durham. They're all suburban municipalities with a wide range of incomes. Sure there are some percentage of people in York Region, who currently say that they'd never take transit, but if I still lived in YR I'd probably say that too because YRT's service is not a practical way to travel around. I was in York Region recently and considered taking Viva since my origin and destination were both near Viva stops, but it apparently would have taken twice as long as driving so I just drove. If even people along Viva routes don't have useful transit service then it's no wonder that York Region residents discount transit as a competitive option.
The challenge of more wealthy residents is not so much an issue on YRT's ridership itself, but the impact such wealthy (and rural) residents have on York Region's budgeting for YRT. It certainly isn't helping things, but we are discounting the pull that King, Stouffville, Aurora, etc. have on these decisions. Southern York might be comparable to other GTHA municipalities, but these exurban/rural communities have a strong pull that has resulted in YRT's somewhat limited resources being spread very thin. This has disproportionately impacted southern York, which is already at best apathetic.

This has resulted in very little interest in improving transit service at the top, so even if YRT wants to, the best solution they can come up with today is to reallocate service primarily onto trunk routes/arterials. Yet, they can't (won't) as it staffs the people who do use lesser-ridden routes. This matters because of the lower frequencies across the board; arterial routes can't generate the ridership that would show that they are more worthy of service than hyper-local routes.

YRT knows that the service levels they offer are not ideal across the board. But with the data they have, and with the practice of increasing service in proportion to ridership, there is little 'evidence' and by extension will to seriously fight for more funding to try and grow ridership. Simply put, based on the conservative way they look at things, it is very hard to make council(s) budge on things. Not to mention that by contracting out operations, there isn't much flexibility to find more hours over time- it always has to be a 'big' move.

It is easy to say that YRT could 'optimize' what service they do have, but its difficult to do that when there are other, competing interests within YRT that are more important from an internal perspective. The kind of optimization they are focused on is improving how service is delivered on their end, which unfortunately does not remotely translate to a better user experience. At best, this is a net-zero-sum game. In short, I don't think they are fundamentally worse than many GTHA agencies' practices (although they are certainly not better than many like Brampton) but many vested interests keep the focus away from tangible improvements.
 
York Region is in some ways too large - Steeles to Simcoe.
Route 50 is the only one which reaches Lake Simcoe, it's hardly tanking YRT's finances on its own.

More broadly speaking, YRT doesn't even try to serve fairly ordinary suburban areas let alone rural areas. Look at these big gaps on the map, many houses are more than 2 km from a bus stop (and many others are only served by a rush-hour-only route such as the 32).
Capture2.JPG


This argument would only be valid if YRT had to provide regular transit service to all of York Region, but that is clearly not the expectation. They provide fixed-route service where they think it's viable and just provide on-demand service for the handful of people who have the audacity to travel without a car.
 
The challenge of more wealthy residents is not so much an issue on YRT's ridership itself, but the impact such wealthy (and rural) residents have on York Region's budgeting for YRT. It certainly isn't helping things, but we are discounting the pull that King, Stouffville, Aurora, etc. have on these decisions. Southern York might be comparable to other GTHA municipalities, but these exurban/rural communities have a strong pull that has resulted in YRT's somewhat limited resources being spread very thin. This has disproportionately impacted southern York, which is already at best apathetic.

This has resulted in very little interest in improving transit service at the top, so even if YRT wants to, the best solution they can come up with today is to reallocate service primarily onto trunk routes/arterials. Yet, they can't (won't) as it staffs the people who do use lesser-ridden routes. This matters because of the lower frequencies across the board; arterial routes can't generate the ridership that would show that they are more worthy of service than hyper-local routes.

YRT knows that the service levels they offer are not ideal across the board. But with the data they have, and with the practice of increasing service in proportion to ridership, there is little 'evidence' and by extension will to seriously fight for more funding to try and grow ridership. Simply put, based on the conservative way they look at things, it is very hard to make council(s) budge on things. Not to mention that by contracting out operations, there isn't much flexibility to find more hours over time- it always has to be a 'big' move.

It is easy to say that YRT could 'optimize' what service they do have, but its difficult to do that when there are other, competing interests within YRT that are more important from an internal perspective. The kind of optimization they are focused on is improving how service is delivered on their end, which unfortunately does not remotely translate to a better user experience. At best, this is a net-zero-sum game. In short, I don't think they are fundamentally worse than many GTHA agencies' practices (although they are certainly not better than many like Brampton) but many vested interests keep the focus away from tangible improvements.
You seem to be under the impression that I believe that YRT's planners are to blame. That is false. I am well aware that the issues with YRT stem at the Regional Council level for the reasons you state here.

But I'm still not sure how different the demographics really are in York Region compared to Durham for example, which also has huge areas of exurban development. I'd be happy to be proven wrong if someone takes the time to look up some stats.
 
My point was more the region itself is too large as the southern half has little in common with the northern (which reaches Lake Simcoe). Sort of like Caledon within Peel.
Okay, but how does that prevent us from running transit service in the southern half? Are you talking about the political pressures that @Sunnyside described, or are you saying that there's actually some practical reason that we can't run decent service in the densely populated portions of York Region?
 
You seem to be under the impression that I believe that YRT's planners are to blame. That is false. I am well aware that the issues with YRT stem at the Regional Council level for the reasons you state here.

But I'm still not sure how different the demographics really are in York Region compared to Durham for example, which also has huge areas of exurban development. I'd be happy to be proven wrong if someone takes the time to look up some stats.
The demographics are different in some sense, but I wouldn’t say extraordinary. Especially not for the southern half. Even just using censusmapper to look at income stats would reveal the most relevant information anyhow.

I did somewhat attribute that argument to you, but moreso to bring my point of politics up as It doesn’t seem to be mentioned often. It usually sounds like YRT itself is the one to blame, so I took the opportunity to broaden things.

There might be room to argue that having such a large region makes it hard to serve any urban/rural split well. There’s certainly arguments to the contrary, but it might be a wicked mix of relatively young, moderately well-off cities in the south, plus a greater-than-average proportion of wealthy exurban and rural residents everywhere else. Things might change though; Halton region’s service providers also suck, but we aren’t seeing the same calls for action. A better YRT is at least in the public consciousness.
 
They used to have a very popular VIVA Purple route, from Markham all they way to York U. The demand was so good that they had to run additional buses between Richmond Hill Centre and York U at peak periods. Now, VIVA Purple terminates at RHC, and you have to make 2 transfers to get to York U: first to VIVA Orange at RHC, and then to the subway at Vaughan Centre. Part of the reason is that York U wanted the buses out of their Commons terminal once the subway opened.

But, noone prohibited YRT from running VIVA Purple to the Pioneer Village station, where they have a terminal. Many York U students would be able to walk from there directly to their classes. For those who need to get further south, there would be 1 transfer in place instead of 2. However, YRT opted for the simplest route structure: one VIVA route on Hwy 7 East, another on Hwy 7 West, regardless of the trip generators.

I used to commute to York U on the Viva Purple. Going westbound, the wait to turn left onto Keele from Highway 7 could be as long as 15 minutes during peak hours. And Keele itself was also heavily congested from both university and truck traffic. I think YRT wanted to run a bus from RHC to Pioneer Village, but probably realized that the real issue is fare integration. It would be much faster to take one of the GO 407 buses from RHC to Highway 407 station, then take the subway down - it's just that this is a journey that involves 2 or 3 agencies (YRT-GO-TTC), but that issue will go away with fare integration.
 
It would be much faster to take one of the GO 407 buses from RHC to Highway 407 station, then take the subway down - it's just that this is a journey that involves 2 or 3 agencies (YRT-GO-TTC), but that issue will go away with fare integration.
Even with fare integration it strikes me that adding a route 360 stop at the 407 GO terminal and running a full service on it might actually be worthwhile.
 
the wait to turn left onto Keele from Highway 7 could be as long as 15 minutes during peak hours
That wait time was greatly reduced with the dedicated bus lanes and vertical white bar transit signal phase, but Viva Purple was cut back to Richmond Hill Centre a year after that section of rapidway opened so it couldn't make use of it for very long. I believe Viva Orange westbound now uses that signal phase to go straight, which occurs before the main left turn signal phase. smh, buses abusing their outdated signal priority.
 
Route 50 is the only one which reaches Lake Simcoe, it's hardly tanking YRT's finances on its own.

More broadly speaking, YRT doesn't even try to serve fairly ordinary suburban areas let alone rural areas. Look at these big gaps on the map, many houses are more than 2 km from a bus stop (and many others are only served by a rush-hour-only route such as the 32).
View attachment 533615

This argument would only be valid if YRT had to provide regular transit service to all of York Region, but that is clearly not the expectation. They provide fixed-route service where they think it's viable and just provide on-demand service for the handful of people who have the audacity to travel without a car.
The issue is the budget that YRT is provided in the first place. The problem isn't that YRT has to somehow serve anywhere, everywhere, all at once, but rather they're strapped for cash to run regular service on important routes, and politicians from the northern parts of the region are never going to approve of budget increases for services they don't believe would be beneficial.

It also doesn't help that the Viva Rapidways have been a net negative in terms of the agency's financials, with the increased maintenance cost for the stations eating into money that would otherwise be used for better service (this is according to someone I know who recently worked there).
 
Route 50 is the only one which reaches Lake Simcoe, it's hardly tanking YRT's finances on its own.

More broadly speaking, YRT doesn't even try to serve fairly ordinary suburban areas let alone rural areas. Look at these big gaps on the map, many houses are more than 2 km from a bus stop (and many others are only served by a rush-hour-only route such as the 32).
View attachment 533615

This argument would only be valid if YRT had to provide regular transit service to all of York Region, but that is clearly not the expectation. They provide fixed-route service where they think it's viable and just provide on-demand service for the handful of people who have the audacity to travel without a car.

To be fair that area not served (Stonehaven) is probably one of the wealthiest areas of the region. It's almost entirely very large homes housing people with very high incomes who are unlikely to be taking a local bus.

Someone in a house like this probably isn't going to be a regular rider of an hourly local bus:

1705511744399.png


That said - It's not an excuse for the wider level of extremely poor public transit service in York Region, particularly in the southern municipalities where the ridership would be there if the service simply ran.
 
To be fair that area not served (Stonehaven) is probably one of the wealthiest areas of the region. It's almost entirely very large homes housing people with very high incomes who are unlikely to be taking a local bus.

Someone in a house like this probably isn't going to be a regular rider of an hourly local bus:

View attachment 533748

That said - It's not an excuse for the wider level of extremely poor public transit service in York Region, particularly in the southern municipalities where the ridership would be there if the service simply ran.
Exactly, people living in smaller detached homes, townhomes, condos, and community housing such as most areas in Richmond Hill, Oshawa, Toronto, Peel Region where many recent immigrants settle, and Hamilton usually take the bus more often.
 

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