The decommissioned Scarborough RT line has created more challenges for commuters traveling in and out of Scarborough with students back in school, transit users say.
TTC announced the closure of the Scarborough RT on Aug. 24, a month after a train car derailed near Ellesmere Station, sending five people to hospital with minor injuries.
Roughly 30,000 daily riders were forced to transition to other modes of transportation.
Around 22,000 of those riders are expected to use the new shuttle bus service – which began operation on Aug. 26. Line 3 was initially set to be decommissioned on Nov. 18.
Commuters riding the shuttle buses said they endure overcrowding, longer commute times and unpredictable wait times.
“Transit riders are not satisfied with what is happening right now,” says August Puranauth of TTCRiders, a transit advocacy organization.
“Now, with the Scarborough RT not running, that means even more crowding with the return of students to school.”
Many high school and university students, who once relied on rapid transit, now depend on buses to commute in-and-out from schools. Puranauth said trips to school are taking 10 to 30 minutes longer since the service cuts and closure of the Scarborough RT.
The district of Scarborough is home to 35 secondary schools and two post-secondary institutions. The University of Toronto operates a 300-acre satellite campus in the Highland Creek are and Centennial College, which publishes the Toronto Observer, has three campuses spread across the district.
Toni Castro is a Scarborough resident who frequently used rapid transit to commute to her job. Now, she tries to adjust for unpredictable commute times.
“Sometimes it’s quick because of the frequent buses,” says Castro. “But there are times where I am late to work because of the traffic going to Kennedy Station. Instead of a five minute ride from Lawrence RT to Kennedy, it sometimes turns into 15 minutes depending on traffic.”
Priority bus lanes in effect
As of Aug. 22, TTC contractors and the City of Toronto Transportation Services department have stencilled temporary road markings and signage to establish bus-only lanes for quicker movement.
Red-painted curbs are now present on lanes southbound on Midland Ave. and northbound on Kennedy Rd. between Eglinton Ave. and Ellesmere Rd. The priority bus-only lanes have lead some motorists who rely on these roads to express concerns about potential traffic.
The frequent bus service and congestion in the Kennedy Station bus terminal led the TTC to permanently close the north commuter parking lot at Kennedy Station to develop a layover site for stalled buses.
This plan will reduce congestion and maintain safe bus operations while construction on a new bus terminal continues. Expected to open in fall 2023, the new terminal allows for the extension of eight bus routes to Kennedy Station, removing the need to transfer.
City officials plan to remove the rapid transit infrastructure within two years to build a dedicated busway along the line’s route between the Kennedy and Scarborough Centre station.
City council, however, is calling for the province to fund the estimated capital cost of $58.6 million for the busway development.
Call to action from NDP MPP
A statement from NDP MPP – Scarborough Southwest, Doly Begum, on Aug 23. says the province must provide “urgent” and “real solutions” to residents in Scarborough, who are “not new to broken transit promises.”
“For decades, Scarborough’s transit needs have been an afterthought or a perennial political promise from those in power that has yet to be delivered,” Begum said. “The RT’s derailment should be a wake-up call for urgent provincial investment, so people’s mobility and safety are never at risk again.
“Enough is enough, and we need commitment from the province to ensure that the decommissioned RT corridor is turned into a dedicated busway to replace Line 3.”
Frequent bus service is expected to run at least until 2030, as work on the Scarborough Subway Extension project continues.