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cityscape

Ask Torontoist: What’s Happening at the Toronto Coach Terminal?

Did the TTC really privatize operations there? And will the place ever be renovated?

A reader who wishes not to be identified asks:

I’ve heard that the TTC recently privatized operations at the Toronto Coach Terminal. Is that true? If so, will the crumbling building ever be renovated?

Torontoist answers:

The Toronto Coach Terminal, for anyone who doesn’t know, is the big intercity bus station near Bay and Dundas Streets. If you’ve ever been there, you probably remember it as a somewhat unpleasant start to your trip. Its 1931 art-deco exterior is nice enough, but on the inside passengers must contend with the remains of a 1980s reno job that all but gutted the building. There’s no room inside for people to line up, so queueing for buses happens outdoors, in a garage-like space with open sides.

The coach terminal is owned—and was, until last month, operated—by a subsidiary corporation of the TTC. And yes, it’s true that its operations have been privatized recently. As of July 8, Greyhound Canada and Coach Canada are running the place on a five-year lease, and paying the TTC $1.2 million per year (plus utilities and taxes) for the privilege. Previously, Greyhound and Coach had been paying the TTC a commission on ticket sales.

The reason the TTC decided to change the arrangement was that its contract with Greyhound and Coach forbade it from taking a commission on online sales, which account for an increasingly large percentage of overall ticket sales. “Rather than just close the terminal, as it was getting increasingly difficult to break even, we negotiated this lease with the coach carriers,” TTC spokesman Brad Ross wrote in an email. Even before the change, the terminal sometimes turned a modest yearly profit. (In 2011, budget documents say it earned almost $700,000.)

The TTC moved its unionized coach-terminal workers to other jobs. Non-union workers were fired.

Currently, Coach Terminal travellers wait for their buses in conditions that are less than ideal. Photo by {a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/by_pui/5063506921/"}PLTam{/a}, from the {a href="http://www.flickr.com/groups/torontoist/"}Torontoist Flickr Pool{/a}.

As to whether or not the station will be renovated at any point in the foreseeable future, the answer appears to be “no.”

Although the TTC was collecting a $2.50 “facility fee” from each ticket sold at the station, the proceeds were never earmarked for improvements. “The facility fee was used to allow the terminal operations to break even on a cash flow basis,” wrote Ross. Greyhound Canada and Coach Canada are still charging the fee, but a spokesperson for Greyhound said the companies aren’t planning any major overhauls—though, under the terms of their lease, they are required to handle maintenance.

But take heart: a coach-terminal renovation may soon no longer be necessary. Metrolinx is looking for ways to build Toronto a new bus terminal, somewhere closer to Union Station.

Ask Torontoist features questions posed by you, and answered by our elite team of specially trained investigative experts (also known as our staff). Send your questions to ask@torontoist.com.

Comments

  • http://twitter.com/MarkJull Mark Jull

    As someone who takes Greyhound from this terminal quite a bit, I don’t find the terminal as depressing as it’s usually made out to be. It is significantly cheaper (and, oddly, faster) than my other option, VIA, so I don’t mind the terminal being a bit frumpy. From my experience, the terminal staff was friendly and visible, which makes it feel safe. I haven’t been to the terminal since this contract came in, so I don’t know what the staff are like now.
    I worry that the demands to remodel it will result in higher fares or an increase in the ‘facility fee.’ I think this more-affordable public transit option is more important than how the building looks to those who don’t use it.

    • Anonymous

      I’m sorry, Mark, but the place is showing its age, and is outgrowing the demands placed upon it. Toronto needs a bigger coach bus terminal, and has needed it for decades (especially one with ease of ingress and egress towards the main highway that the coach buses will be using.) If there were a better solution of having this place stay (or better yet, if the TTC had planned for this place better by rebuilding it into a multilevel terminal similar to the Port Authority bus terminal in New York the same decades ago), then we could talk about keeping it. But I think that the time’s come for it to go, and I wish that there were a way to not have it be so expensive (if bus trips will be like that at the new proposed place) but it probably won’t happen.

    • Amy L Mccluskey-murphy

      as far as terminals go I have been in worse not so much in canada but the terminal in buffalo new york is in dire need of renovations. Some taps in the women’s alone don’t work, and there isn’t an single working outlet for today’s devices to be found ANYWHERE(luckily buses these days have plugs) I suppose given a choice I’d take toronto with little wifi 2 food stands, a bathroom WITH all working taps and a convience store over alternatives.

  • karen

    It’s difficult to think of a bus terminal more suited to buses and less suited to people than this one.

    • Anonymous

      I couldn’t agree more, and can only assume the down votes came from people who’ve never been in a line that had to shuffle over because a bus is pulling in, or stood in a combined line for a gate serving three buses arriving in the same 30 minute window, or cross what is essentially a garage to find their poorly indicated gate.

  • karen

    Shouldn’t there be a single web site listing the schedules and fares? Too logical?

    • Anonymous

      A site of any kind would be a good start.

  • OgtheDim

    “Non-union workers were fired.”

    Umm…..laid off surely, with legal severance amounts and rights to EI. Unless the city wanted a massive labour law lawyer bill.

    (look I get some of you at Torontoist think all managers are evil uncaring beings, and a few think anybody not in a union will automatically get messed around but can you at least attempt to use proper descriptives?)

  • Sean Butters

    Old news but gives you insight to what kind of new Terminal will be built: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/1112225–landmark-bus-depot-loses-its-lustre