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?
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.
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.