Crowd-funded bus takes a run at transit-starved Liberty Village
Pilot project will offer morning rides from transit-starved neighbourhood into downtown
Liberty Village residents tired of trying to squeeze their way aboard the jam-packed 504 King streetcar each morning might want to send Taylor Scollon an email. And a cheque for $25.
In a move to alleviate the cattle-car conditions transit riders in the west-end neighbourhood endure almost daily, Scollon has co-founded a service that will attempt to operate — at least on a trial basis — a private, crowd-funded bus service with daily trips into downtown during rush hour from the fast-growing neighbourhood along King Street West.
"We're trying to empower people in communities where maybe they feel under-served by transit," said Scollon who calls the concept Line 6, in an interview with CBC Radio's Metro Morning. "They just don't have the transportation options that they need or want. We're trying to empower those people to build better transit themselves."
Here's how it will work. For a minimum donation of $25, riders are guaranteed five seats on the bus. Scollon's company will charter the bus using a private company. Line 6 has a $2,500 funding goal before they will launch the pilot. So far, they have raised $1,450
Liberty Village has seen massive growth in recent years as condos have popped up in the area that was once home to factories and other industries. City services, transit in particular, haven't adjusted to keep up with the growing neighbourhood's needs.
"There's a lot of people trying to get to work every morning and the public transit options are just not efficient to handle that capacity," said Scollon. "We see this as an under-served community."
Wait, would a private bus service be against the law?
But while Scollon's business plan may be innovative, it could also be illegal. The City of Toronto Act gives the TTC exclusive rights to provide transit service in the city. Scollon feels he's on solid legal ground because Line 6 is a crowd-sourced service that he says simply brings together riders with a private bus operator.
"Our understanding of it is that if you're paying a group fare for a chartered bus, then you're exempt from that regulation," he said. "We're not a transit company. We don’t charge people fares, we don't own buses. We are a technology company."
TTC spokesman Brad Ross isn't so sure.
"We're monitoring the situation, we need to better understand their business model," said Ross Friday on Metro Morning. "Does it breach the City of Toronto act? We don't know yet."
Exemptions in the bylaw allow private charter companies to operate, but a regularly scheduled bus service? That could be a question for the lawyers.
Ross acknowledged that the 504 streetcar, which at 60,000 daily riders is the TTC's busiest surface route, does not always meet the needs of riders along King Street West.
"We agree that there needs to be better service in that area," said Ross. "There are things that need to happen to make that route more reliable to the people who live there."
He said the TTC is studying ways to increase capacity on King. Ross also mentioned the new higher-capacity streetcars, though they aren't expected to operate on the 504 route for another two years.
If the funding goal is met, the Line 6 Liberty Village pilot will run from Oct. 6 to 10. Scollon said if proves successful, he will try the concept in other neighbourhoods under-served by transit.