Map showing the route and stops proposed for a new express bus route on Finch Avenue East, starting October 12, 2010. A larger version is here. Image by Laurence Lui/Torontoist.
On the heels of the TTC announcing substantial increases in service—which will start next Tuesday—to reduce overcrowding on its buses, riders can also look forward to a new, faster bus route to the northeast part of the city.
Starting after Thanksgiving weekend, the TTC will be launching a new “Rocket” express bus route on Finch Avenue East, to help speed up commuter trips along the corridor. The route will replace the existing 39E express branch of the Finch East route, and provide limited-stop service between Finch Station on the Yonge Subway and Scarborough Centre station on the Scarborough RT. The new service is the first visible sign of the TTC moving ahead in implementing its Transit City Bus Plan [PDF], announced in August, 2009.
The 199 Finch Rocket will run on Finch Avenue East to McCowan Road, before turning south to Scarborough Town Centre, making just thirteen stops in between. The service will run Monday to Saturday until approximately 10 p.m., every four to six minutes during rush hours, and every five to eight minutes at all other times. Although the route will run in mixed traffic, the reduced number of stops compared to the local service and the existing 39E express route will cut travel times for many commuters. In addition, two intersections, at Victoria Park Avenue and at Don Mills Road, have been identified as priorities for queue jump lanes for buses, where buses can bypass waiting traffic. (Those lanes are planned for construction over the next couple of years.)
This isn’t the first time that the TTC has introduced a Rocket route to improve service along a heavily traveled corridor. With the opening of the Sheppard Subway in 2002, the 190 Scarborough Centre Rocket was introduced on Sheppard Avenue between Don Mills Station and Scarborough Centre Station. That route now carries over eight thousand passengers daily. Rocket routes also provide express service between major destinations (think Pearson International Airport, or York University).
The new Finch route should be a relief for the forty-five thousand passengers daily on route 39, students at Seneca College among them. Most significantly, though, the route indicates the TTC’s willingness to invest in bringing higher quality transit services into areas of the city without access to rapid transit—the type that the Martin Prosperity Institute recommended just days ago to help ease the City’s social divisions. The 199 Finch Rocket may just be an initial step in implementing a city-wide network of routes like it, but it will hopefully lead the way for more in the years to come.