Crowdfunded Liberty Village

Crowdfunded Liberty Village bus makes first run

First of the community-financed transit service sets off at 7:45 a.m. from highrise complex

(FULL CREDIT:  Olivia Carville Staff Reporter, Published on Mon Oct 06 2014)



A crowdfunded bus service for transit-starved Liberty Village residents has made its inaugural run Monday morning.

The privately-run bus service, dubbed the Liberty Village Express, set off on its first run of the morning at 7:45 a.m., with a total of four trips scheduled from the corner of Pirandella and East Liberty Streets to Union Station.

Co-organizers Brett Chang, 23, and Taylor Scollon, 24, coined the concept after hearing about the neighbourhood’s transit woes.

Over the past few years, West Toronto’s Liberty Village has grown into a huge complex of highrise apartments and townhouses.

The transit system can no longer cater to the growing population and the area is significantly underserved by public transport, Chang said.

The 504 King streetcar, which collects the Liberty Village commuters, is the busiest streetcar route in the city, carrying on average 60,000 people per day. It is often too crowded to pick up the neighbourhood residents or “they stuff them in like sardines,” Chang said.

Liberty Village resident Andrew Willis, 27, told the Star public transit was “almost non-existent” in the highly populated area.

Fellow resident Stephen Wright said the lack of public transport was tarnishing the neighbourhood.

“There are too many people and no real regard for how the people move — it’s more about the cars, “ he said.

Chang and Scollon created the company Line Six Transit to provide the community with “an alternative, faster, more comfortable and more human way to ride,” Chang said.

Commuters donate $25 per week for five rides — which is $2 more per ride than the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) $3 token.

So far, Line Six Transit has signed on 64 backers and raised $2,775.

The Liberty Village Express pilot service is running from Oct. 6 to 10. If successful, it will continue to operate and the pair hopes to roll the service out into other areas underserved by the TTC, Chang said.

The TTC has a legal monopoly in Toronto, but Chang said Line Six Transit was not violating any local bylaws or competing against the commission.

“We see ourselves as complementary to the TTC, “ he said.

TTC spokesman Brad Ross has previously said the commission was not concerned with the new business venture, but that it would be monitoring the situation.

Chang believes Line Six Transit is one of the first crowdfunded bus services in the world.

“Communities designing transit is new to the world. We have not heard of it before,” he said.

City councillor Mike Layton (open Mike Layton’s policard) (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina), who has been pushing the city, TTC and Metrolinx for more transit options for Liberty Village, says he’s not sure if the business model will work. It may be a more comfortable ride, but with traffic and no signal or lane priority, it’s not clear the bus will be any faster.

“You should be able to get around this city in a reasonable amount of time in a reasonable amount of comfort without resorting to a private service like this,” he said.

But he acknowledged that in Liberty Village, the condos were developed before appropriate services were in place.

All-door boarding on the TTC — something transit officials have recommended begin in the New Year — should speed service on the King car. With 60,000 riders a day, the streetcar carries more people than the Sheppard subway.

Metrolinx is also looking at ways of serving more Liberty Village residents on the GO train from Exhibition. That would offer commuters a seven-minute trip to Union Station every 30 minutes, said Layton.

“We’ve estimated there are 2,000 people travelling from the subway to Liberty Village every day at the three streetcar stops that serve (the area). If we can get the 2,000 people off the King streetcar, that will be an enormous relief of pressure to folks travelling on that car who don’t live in Liberty Village and maybe don’t have the luxury of just walking over to a GO train station, “ he said.

A group of condos along Queens Quay has been providing shuttles to various city destinations for about 30 years, said Ulla Colgrass, member of the York Quay Neighbourhood Association.

“People just wouldn’t move here unless there was some means of transportation,” she said.

Condo residents own the minibuses and pay for the service through their condo fees.

“The fact somebody had to put a private bus service into play, something we don’t even contemplate within the city, to get downtown from a bustling residential and commercial neighbourhood because the public transit wasn’t adequate, that says it all.

During a press conference Monday morning mayoral candidate John Tory was asked about the bus service.

“And I can tell you right now I have answers for that in the short term and the medium term. The short term answer is I’ve already said in my platform there will be an express bus service the TTC will run as they should be doing, between Liberty Village and downtown. Long term, there will be a SmartTrack station right there at Liberty Village and people are going to be able to get to work.”

With files from Tess Kalinowski and Paul Moloney