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TTC set to consider costly new service plan

Westbound King St.streetcars lined up in traffic near Spadina Ave. on May 13.

Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

The Toronto Transit Commission will consider a new service plan this week that would include changes such as all-door boarding on streetcars and buses, but would also come with a multimillion-dollar per year price tag.

The TTC board meets Tuesday and will discuss implementing a series of staff recommendations aimed at improving service across the city's transit network. The list of changes includes creating a time-based fare system that would allow riders to travel any direction on one fare within a two-hour time limit and 10-minute-or-less wait times for certain bus and streetcar lines.

But in order to pay for these changes, the TTC would need and extra $19-million in its 2015 operating budget and an increase each year up to $69-million annually by 2018. The report also indicates that a $288-million boost to the capital budget, spread across five years, would be needed to implement the recommendations.

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The bulk of the increased funding would pay for labour, fuel and maintenance, said Brad Ross, TTC spokesperson.

"To increase service, i.e: to put more buses on the road at the off-peak hours would require more operators. That's where the costs are: it's labour costs, it's fuel costs of course and it's maintenance," Mr. Ross said, adding some of the other proposals — such as the switch to time-based transfers — would result in a loss of revenue, which would need to be offset by budget increases.

"To really improve the service that we provide to a growing ridership and a city that is bursting at the seams with congestion and that really is starting to significantly rely on transit, this will go a long way to help all of that."

The report, titled "Opportunities to Improve Transit Service in Toronto," notes that more impactful change will come from major transit projects such as the Scarborough Subway and Downtown Relief Line, but that these projects are between seven and 20 years away from completion.

"Toronto needs improvements to transit now in order to improve mobility for all residents, reduce worsening traffic congestion and air pollution, provide better access to Toronto's employment, educational and cultural opportunities, and achieve the City's objective of a more-sustainable transportation system," the report reads.

If adopted by the TTC board, the plan will then need to be approved by city council before it could be implemented.

Here is the full list of recommendations in the TTC report:

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a) implement all door boarding and proof-of-payment on all streetcar routes;

b) reduce wait times and crowding on bus and streetcar routes;

c) establish a city-wide network of Ten-Minute-or-Better bus and streetcar services;

d) expand the Express Route Network with new and improved express bus routes;

e) implement more transit priority measures;

f) add resources to improve service reliability and route performance;

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g) operate all routes all day, every day across the city;

h) change the one-trip-per-fare to a two-hour-travel-privilege-per-fare; and

i) expand the overnight bus and streetcar network.

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