For a Better Brisbane

Canada Transit Special: Using bus to extend Toronto’s subway

Video: TTC1700, TTC – Buses at Kipling Station (HD Test Video 2) (Youtube). Shows the frequency of buses arriving at Kipling station.

In the previous post, this blog showed that there was far more public transport heavy infrastructure within the Brisbane City Council area than the entire Toronto TTC Subway system (Brisbane’s 85 train stations + 22 busway stations vs Toronto’s 69 subway stations) which serves a city over three times the population of Brisbane. How does Toronto manage to move almost 470 + million trips on far less infrastructure than Brisbane has?

To be fair, both cities are very different in terms of densities, population and layouts, however, you can see that the philosophy underlying the network is also different. The answer lies, in part, in using buses to boost the rail system ridership. This blog gets the impression that many people have the view that the only serious way to increase patronage is to spend huge amounts of money on effectively putting a train station on every street corner. This blog’s opinion is that this “brute force”, “rail to everywhere”, “metro station/light rail on every street corner like Paris” method is the slowest, most disruptive and most expensive way to increase ridership. Bigger does not automatically mean better.

Toronto’s “secret” is the non-sexy bus. These go to train stations and allow people who don’t live near subway stations to get to it- which sounds awfully similar to what Perth is doing on its newer train lines. In fact 98% of Toronto’s bus routes connect to a subway station– an extremely high level of tight integration. Although passengers are ‘forced’ to transfer to trains, it means that buses and trains can run frequently all day and night. The TTC Subway runs about every 5 minutes or better, all day. It spares passengers the even greater inconvenience of ‘low or no frequency’* that seems to be a feature of public transport in Brisbane. What is worse? A 3 minute walk from a bus to a train at an interchange or only being able to catch your bus during peak hours only and have low or no frequency service for the rest of the day?

The video shown is just outside Kipling Subway station. Now think of the last time you tried to get a bus from the train station, and how frequently the train and the bus came along? Did you imagine a bus coming every few minutes to your local train station and not bothering to look at a timetable? Or did you imagine a massive walk from a bus that ‘sort of goes near’ the train station, a long work and an uncertain wait on the platform?

‘Transfers’ in Brisbane are synonymous with inconvenience and this blog’s view is that the dislike for transferring could well be a ‘cultural feedback effect’ much like people’s dislike for riding Brisbane’s diesel belching, rattling, noisy, ancient history, un-airconditioned buses before people grew to like them when they were fixed up with BRT. If facilities and bus services going to train stations were improved, interchange may become second nature for people and transferring a minor or even non-issue.

The TTC’s bus network operated as an extension of the subway system, linking it to the whole of the city… This enabled the provision of a ‘Paris Metro’ style frequent service, running every 5 minutes or better until 1:45 am seven days a week. Frequencies like this would require extremely high densities if patrons walked to the station, but the TTC’s rail-bus strategy circumvented the density problem in the way Thompson argued in Great Cities and their traffic

– Paul Mees, Transport for Suburbia, Toronto and Melbourne Revisited, page 93

Buses after Midnight on Sunday you can catch from Kipling Station– to highlight the frequency and ability to travel at almost any time of the day or night** (makes you wonder whether Brisbane can really claim to have “world class” public transport):

  • 38 Lambton – every 30 minutes
  • 44 Kipling South to Kipling Station – every 15 minutes
  • 45 Kipling – every 20 minutes
  • 46 Martin Grove – every 30 minutes
  • 49 Bloor West – every 30 minutes
  • 111 East Mall- every 20 minutes
  • 112 West Mall- every 20 minutes
  • 123 Shorncliffe- every 30 minutes
  • 191 Highway Rocket- every 30 minutes

* peak hour only services which make up a substantial proportion of Brisbane’s bus routes.

** average buses per hour between midnight and 1am.

TTC Operating Statistics:

Kipling Station at Night:


Written by .

April 15, 2011 at 11:19 pm

4 Responses

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  1. Thank you for your comment michaelmcc88. Yes, the fare integration and ticketing is probably a bit more advanced over in South East Queensland, Australia.

    At the moment Toronto has a flat fare system but north of Steeles avenue there is an extra fare, I think transfers have to be picked up from a transfer dispenser machine and also tokens are unheard of over here.

    That said however, the frequency of service leaves Brisbane for dead. Everybody seems to have this stubborn idea that poor public transport is due to “not having enough infrastructure” when in fact the primary cause is likely to be network design and timetabling and service characteristics such as frequency.

    In the next post The BrisUrbane Blog will reveal that Brisbane actually operates significantly more bus routes than Toronto, a city with three times the population!


    April 21, 2011 at 2:39 pm

  2. Having lived in Toronto for 9 months quite recently I’ve really been nodding my head in agreement with your last few posts. Whilst I used it sparingly, the transit system always got me where I needed to go, and with a frequency that left a Brisbanite like myself flabbergasted. I used the Kipling station bus connection a few times for trips to the Airport and attest to the usefulness of such frequency.

    Would be interested to see if you cover the ticketing systems. That was the one area that made me think positively of Brisbane, namely the use of tokens and aversion to swipe cards in Toronto compared to the go card integration here.


    April 20, 2011 at 10:20 pm

  3. Thanks for your comment. The Ottawa Transitway (busway), Ontario operates much this way, except during peak hour, when express services are permitted to pass through the busway.

    Your correspondent once waited for at Cultural Centre busway one evening for a bus to Cannon Hill. There was a bus every few seconds but because one has to wait for “their” specific bus rather than catch the first service, TransLink said that the wait would be around 1 hour!

    A feeder and transfer model allows people to catch the first service that comes along, and a more frequent service at their interchange station. There will be some more posts later on highlighting the very high frequencies some of Toronto’s feeder buses.


    April 18, 2011 at 2:22 pm

  4. absolutely, the key is the transfer. i would love for the local bus to stop up at the greenslopes busway station to stop me driving there. i really don’t understand why this is not being done as it would be so easy. i also prefer to take a nodal transfer approach to my public transport trips using the cultural centre or KGS as a node point to transfer to another route than try and get a bus that does the entire trip as it usually saves time. further, the sheer amount of buses that do not even stop at the greenslopes station highlights the need…why not have more buses (or light rail) that just travel up and down the busway so you can just get on the first one that comes along.


    April 18, 2011 at 1:44 pm

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