The Works

New Starts: Toronto Gets New Private Bus, and British Horsecar Line Options

A Toronto neighborhood gets its own version of the “Google bus” while its waterfront street gets its streetcars back, and a 140-year-old horsecar line is about to move on the Isle of Man.

A crowded Toronto streetcar has new competition in the form of a private bus service. (Photo by VascoPolonia)

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Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy transportation projects worldwide.

Toronto Gets Its Own Version of the Google Bus
Toronto’s 504 King streetcar line is the busiest and most overcrowded in the city, carrying more than 50,000 riders every day, an increase of 10,000 since 2007. Residents of neighborhoods just outside the city center complain that they must often wait while several packed-to-the-gills streetcars pass by them before they can get on a car headed for Toronto’s financial district.

So, in finest capitalist fashion sense a la the Bay Area’s Google bus and Boston’s Bridj, two young entrepreneurs identified a need and filled it, thus firing a shot in a larger battle over transportation in Toronto.

Twentysomething entrepreneurs Brett Chang and Taylor Scollon have launched an express bus service to ferry residents of Liberty Village, a new housing development, to Union Station during peak hours. The Liberty Village Express charges passengers $5 for an assured ride into downtown Toronto, complete with complimentary Wi-Fi and coffee or tea.

Columnist Michael Gee, writing in The Globe and Mail, argues that Torontonians should not worry that Line Six, as this new service is also known, is the forerunner of a separate but unequal mass transit service for some Toronto residents. Rather, he says, this is a creative solution to a seemingly intractable problem, one that the Toronto Transit Commission has yet to solve — and may not be able to even with the introduction of new, higher-capacity streetcars on the line.

One of the other proposed solutions for the King Street trolley crush has exposed a marked division regarding transportation.

The Toronto Star, reported that an opinion poll revealed that residents are just about split down the middle over whether they support or oppose a proposal to ban auto traffic from King Street at rush hour. The line follows the old City of Toronto vs. outer borough divide that propelled current Mayor Rob Ford (who opposes the idea as well as streetcars in general) into office: 52 percent of Scarborough residents and 49 percent of North York residents opposed the idea, while 51 percent of those in the old City of Toronto supported it.

And Toronto Streetcars Return to the Waterfront
Meanwhile, also in Toronto, the 509 Harbourfront streetcar line, which runs from Exhibition Loop to King Street via Union Station, returned to service Oct. 12th after the completion of a major phase of a three-year construction project that is reconfiguring Queen’s Quay, which the line uses.

In its report on the line’s reopening, blogTO called the development “the first bit of concrete news to remind us all that the complete mess on the waterfront is actually progressing towards something that promises to be a major improvement over the former makeup of the street.” Work on the redesign of Queen’s Quay began in 2012 and is scheduled to wrap up next year. When finished, the street will boast a new waterside pedestrian promenade, a relocated roadway — the reason for the suspension of streetcar service — and a separate bike path, an extension of an existing waterfront bike trail.

Relocation in the Cards for Isle of Man Horsecar Line
The horse-drawn Douglas Bay Tramway on Britain’s Isle of Man, in service since 1876 and one of only a handful of horsecar lines operating worldwide, is being relocated as part of a project to rebuild Douglas’ bayside promenade.

(Photo by SP Smiler)

BBC News reports that an exhibit was held over the weekend at the Douglas Sea Terminal to gauge public opinion on the two alternate relocation proposals, one of which would move the line to the promenade walkway itself and the other of which would move it to the highway that runs alongside the Marine Gardens.

Infrastructure Minister Phil Gawne, acknowledging that there were “strong feelings” for both proposed routes, told the BBC, “This represents an investment in the Isle of Man’s infrastructure for the next 50 years and we must get it right.”

The horsecar line is a seasonal tourist attraction, as are most of the horsecar lines still in service. It operated at a loss of £250,000 ($402,500 U.S.) in the season just ended. The line will be out of service for all of 2015 while the reconstruction proceeds.

Know of a project that should be included in this column? Send a Tweet to @MarketStEl with the hashtag #newstarts.

The Works is made possible with the support of the Surdna Foundation.

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Next City contributor Sandy Smith is the home and real estate editor at Philadelphia magazine. Over the years, his work has appeared in Hidden City Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer and other local and regional publications. His interest in cities stretches back to his youth in Kansas City, and his career in journalism and media relations extends back that far as well.

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