Toronto's Liberty Village was an industrial hub 70 years ago, then a brownfield wasteland, and now a vast wasteland of seriously tall and ugly condo apartment towers, underserviced by retail and restaurants but also transit, with the busiest streetcar line in town trying to share space with car commuters. It's a real problem, so Brett Chang and Taylor Scollon crowdfunded the Liberty Village Express, which took its first run at 7AM this morning. The bus ride costs a little more than the streetcar ($5 compared to $3) but at least you get a seat and wifi for the 15 minute trip. Brett and Taylor told the Metro News:
People seem to be enjoying it. It's the first run for Line Six, a trial for a new company that says "No matter who you are or where you live, we want you to have better transit." But is this a good thing, essentially a throwback to when Toronto transit was private, disconnected and really terrible?
"People are so fed up riding the King streetcar, they’re interested in jumping on the bus,” said Chang. “We picked Liberty Village because we’ve seen that there are major transit challenges facing that community. There’s hyper-urbanization, there’s rapid growth, and the city has not been responsive to the transit needs of that community"
A hundred years ago, transit in Toronto was private, and it was finally made a public utility when people got tired of lineups like this. Surely it should be a wakeup call when people are setting up private systems that we need more streetcars, we need to get them in dedicated right-of-ways so that they can actually move, and we should get more people to be lake that woman on a bike, who just sails by the whole thing.
Transit in Toronto is terrible right now; the trains and buses are overcrowded, but the drivers want them off the road. Everybody is complaining. But is a private bus system the answer? Is it an appropriate free market response to a public service that doesn't deliver? Or should the city and the province invest in improving the system to meet the demand?