By David Fleischer
York Region Transit and the TTC are eying a pilot project that could make getting to and from York University a lot easier.
If it goes forward this summer, commuters on both sides of the Toronto-York Region border will be able to take Viva buses from Downsview Station to York University without paying a double fare.
"It's an opportunistic thing," TTC service planner Bill Dawson said.
Even at peak periods, the 48-person Viva Orange buses average only seven riders on the stretch before heading west into Vaughan.
By contrast, the TTC's 196 York University bus averages more than 50 people at peak hours and is at or over capacity virtually all day.
"It's a unique situation. We think it's the only place on the boundary where this would occur, because of York University itself," Mr. Dawson said.
York Region Transit general manager Don Gordon said they floated the idea with TTC some time ago but it took time to negotiate an agreement.
Helping break the logjam was in the interest of Metrolinx, the regional transit authority, that wants to see more seamless cross-border transit.
The pilot project could provide a model to be applied elsewhere, Mr. Gordon said.
It may seem like common sense but the ability to pick up and drop off riders in Toronto has been an ongoing issue.
Riders on Yonge Street may have noticed that when their buses cross Steeles they do not pick up passengers waiting for TTC buses, even though they are all going to Finch Station.
Unlike the Viva Orange buses, however, those buses tend to be relatively full, meaning a similar change there is not in the cards, Mr. Dawson said.
Mr. Gordon agreed, but said something similar could be looked at for the Green line, which terminates at Don Mills station, down the road.
In the meantime, there seems to be no downside for York Region.
"This is a case of us filling empty seats and getting revenue in return," Mr. Gordon said.
Under the terms of the pilot project, TTC and YRT will split revenues 50/50; a benefit of 49-cents per passenger, or about $70,000 for the region's coffers.
As transit becomes more integrated across the border, the old double-fare system is becoming increasingly complex, however.
Already, the TTC and YRT have agreed those boarding the Spadina subway will only have to pay a single fare to travel to Toronto. They will still have to pay a second fare to board a YRT or Viva bus, Mr. Dawson said.
Fare issues are subject to an ongoing review, Mr. Gordon said and simply eliminating the fare boundary would cost both TTC and YRT money.
Some kind of fare-by-distance system could be implemented in the future, but tends to be best suited to rail rahter than bus-based systems, he said.
The policy is due to the license under which YRT operates, forbidding it from doing so and it will require an amendment to allow the pilot.
The pilot is set to launch in August, coinciding with the opening of York's dedicated busway.
Regional council votes on the proposal at its June 25 meeting.