Subway service in Toronto could start earlier on Sundays next year, reflecting a growing city where residents' travel patterns are changing.
"Toronto doesn't stop on Sunday mornings, nor should the TTC," Mayor John Tory said Thursday.
The change is one of a slate of options laid out by Toronto Transit Commission staff as the agency's budget committee prepares to meet next week. Other ideas include boosting service reliability, more express bus routes, streetcar service on Cherry Street and running trains no more than three minutes apart on the Yonge-University-Spadina line, until 10 p.m.
These improvements have a projected net cost of $9.6-million next year, according to the TTC, and rise to a net annual cost of $23.8-million in subsequent years. The ideas are being floated even as the agency grapples with a $54-million shortfall in its 2016 forecast. A fare increase is expected to help address that gap.
The service change with the strongest political backing appears to be opening the subway an hour earlier on Sundays. The trains now begin running at 9 a.m. on Sundays, three hours later than on other days. Mr. Tory has long advocated for earlier Sunday service, and on Thursday, TTC chair Josh Colle publicly threw his weight behind the idea.
"I think the days of sleepy Toronto on Sundays is long, long behind us," Mr. Colle said. "There are a lot of people who still have to work in the morning. We hear it certainly around special events on Sundays, which there seems to be one every weekend in Toronto now. "
Any of these proposed service changes would have to be approved by the TTC's board. And the money would have to be found within the subsidy approved by city council next spring. The cost of opening at 8 a.m. on Sundays would be about $1-million per year. Ramping up the feeder bus network to bring passengers to the subway would roughly triple the cost.
Both Mr. Tory and Mr. Colle stressed that the roadblock to more Sunday service has traditionally been operational rather than financial. The TTC uses the additional down time from Saturday to Sunday to do maintenance work .
Mr. Colle plans to introduce a motion to freeze the cost of the monthly Metropass, which has jumped in recent years even as the cash fare remained unchanged. He argued that keeping the cash fare stable has had the effect of reducing the discount available to riders buying tokens or passes. And although he acknowledged that there are social-justice implications to fiddling with the policies around single-use fares, he cast that change as inevitable. "I think a cash fare hike is certainly something we're considering, and more because of the need to shift behaviour," the TTC chair said, adding that adjusting the cash fare would be one way to prompt riders to change their habits as the agency moves to a "cash-less, token-less, transfer-less world."