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VIVA Experienced

Last month I wrote many nice things about VIVA. Last week, after missing the GO Bus from Markham to Toronto by seconds, I decided that it was a good opportunity to take an impromptu test ride on VIVA. I feel as though I may have been taken a little (not a lot) by the initial VIVA hype.
Here’s my reaction after trying the system out:
Travelling on a Friday at noon, I caught my first VIVA bus at Montgomery/Hwy 7, took it to the Richmond Hill Centre Terminal, and crossed over to a southbound VIVA bus that took me to Finch Station.
The Good:
Many seats face each other in foursomes. This is similar to a GO Train. This is great if you’re travelling with a group of people. It’s also a plus if the bus is empty, as it means there’s a lot more leg room and you can rest your legs or your bag on the opposite seat.
Most seats on the bus are elevated and the windows are big. I’m partial to travelling high above automobiles (similar to a streetcar ride, but not quite the same as the upper level of a GO train).
Time Displays: knowing when the next bus is to arrive is amazing. It made the 12 minutes it told me I had to wait for the next bus seem like 4 minutes (as opposed to not knowing which makes a 12 minute wait seem like a 40 minute wait).
Tables: there were tables, and someone had a paper notebook opened on one. They were likely doing homework or something more important than what I was doing. Once the on-bus internet service is operating, I can see myself moving to Richmond Hill just to have productive bus rides.
The Bad:
Many of the seats face each other in foursomes. This is not so great if you’re alone, the bus is full, you’re socially retarded (like myself), and dread having to look directly at someone for a 45 minute bus ride.
Time Displays: knowing when the next bus is to arrive is amazing, but it’s crummy when the display is continually wrong. Although the display worked perfectly for the first bus I caught, when I arrived at the Richmond Hill transfer point, the display said the next bus was due. I thought wow, that is frequent service and poised myself to board a bus I was expecting to arrive momentarily. After a few minutes I checked again and the display had switched to 6 minutes. About 15 minutes later the promised bus finally arrived. In this case, it turned out due really meant “you just missed the bus, sucker”.
Tables: there are only two tables at the back of the bus, and there are tables only on the Yonge Street buses. If they catch on in popularity, there are definitely not going to be enough.
The route most useful to me is the Highway 7 route that goes directly to Finch Station. It’s not running yet, and when it does run it’ll only be during peak hours.
York Region is becoming a confusing place to take transit. There’s York Region Transit, TTC, GO and now VIVA all servicing the same area.
The Ugly:
It seemed like I was moving in slow motion as the bus crawled along Highway 7. I now see that a York Region transit revamp is long overdue. The speed we moved at was worse than a congested TTC bus route.
Unfortunately, this unbus was not immune to the litter problem that plagues regular buses. Both on VIVA and other buses, it would be a nice thing to have both a place for travellers to put their garbage, and for the operators to clean the buses after they finish each round.
2005_10_07Seanb.jpgMixed Review:
The Richmond Hill Centre Bus Terminal is like a superduper glorified bus shelter. There’s no building to go into, no snacks to buy from vending machines, but a lot of plexiglass. You’re sheltered somewhat, but I wouldn’t want to be caught here for too long on a cold night in the middle of winter.
In Summary:
Definitely VIVA is for some, depending on when you’re travelling and where you’re travelling from, but for my occasional visit to York Region (about once or twice a month), I’ll be sticking to the GO.
What’s been your experience with VIVA so far?
First Photo: Wikipedia
Second Photo: David Eustache


  • david mccallum

    I took the Viva a few times this summer, near when they started up. I’ve been living for the past two years in Gothenburg, Sweden (there right now), and aspects of the system reminded of the one here.
    — The buses are nearly identical to the ones here, and they also use an honour system. There’s actually an unofficial fare hoppers’ union , where you pay monthly dues and if you get caught your fine is paid out of the dues. I’m a member here, but the GTA is in such need of systems like Viva that I wouldn’t have the heart to cheat them.
    — I usually take Yonge straight down to Finch. The Viva terminal “Richmond Hill Centre” was so unbelievably poorly thought out, and the obvious product of a car-oriented society. Having to turn through an intersection slows down the root incredibly. They should have just re-routed Yonge and stuck the terminal right in the middle., or built it underground or something.
    It may have just been starting up problems, but all the times I’ve taken the Viva it seemed like a York Region bus was tailing us, definitely not faster. Still, I imagine once people get used to the fare system it’ll be much faster during rush hours.
    — The buses really are awesome. After taking Viva for a few trips I tried to take the old YRT bus and I couldn’t believe how awful it was. I didn’t remember it being that bad. But I have a sneaking suspicion they’re using crappier buses to encourage Viva use.
    — Whether Viva’s good or not now is almost irrelevant. At least it’s a step in the right direction in many ways. Next step is unify the fair with the TTC.

  • dm

    Oh yeah, and the Viva branding is a little overboard. They’ve got a name for every single ticket and machine that are not at all intuitive. How am I supposed to infer that what I want is a oneRide ticket from its name? bah.

  • Fen

    “It’s also a plus if the bus is empty, as it means there’s a lot more leg room and you can rest your legs or your bag on the opposite seat.”
    I hope you don’t mean putting your feet up on the empty seat.

  • Sean Lerner

    Oh, I’d never put my feet up on the empty seats, but if say, there were someone unscrupulous enough to do this, well, the seats are a comfortable distance apart from each other to do this.

  • Michael Suddard

    Actually, GO Transit is scaling back its service along the Yonge Street corridor because of better service offered by VIVA and YRT (well maybe not YRT :) )