Private bus planned for Park Lawn residents

CityNews | posted Thursday, Oct 5th, 2017

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It’s one of the fastest-growing neighbourhoods outside the downtown core, but residents say getting around the Park Lawn and Lakeshore area on transit can be difficult. That’s why a neighbourhood association is trying to fund a private shuttle bus.

Torontonians have seen this before — in Liberty Village — where residents frustrated with the crowded King streetcar route tried to create their own solution. A high-density neighbourhood with few transit options, entrepreneurs came up with the “Line Six shuttle,” a bus for hire.

Its trial run appeared fairly successful, but its owners backed away when they realized they faced legal challenges for competing against the TTC.

In Etobicoke, resident Scot Johnson is organizing a crowd-funding campaign to start a private bus route in the Park Lawn area. He thinks he’s found a way to avoid going head-to-head with public transit: selling memberships instead of tickets.

“We will provide this service as a free perk to membership within the Park Lawn Lakeshore Improvement Area (PLIA),” he explains on the fundraising page. “We have engaged several consultants on this to ensure we are operating within the rules.”

The bus would pick up passengers at four locations and drive them to Mimico GO station. It would operate Monday through Friday during rush hours. Aside from helping people get to work, Johnson says he hopes a private shuttle would actually encourage more public transit in the area.

“The long-term focus of this project is to demonstrate the need for Park Lawn and Lakeshore Road to a have a more community-accessible GO train station, ideally located at the site of the Mr. Christie Plant,” he writes on the page.

As CityNews first reported, demolition of the nearby Mr. Christie plant has begun, with condos slated to rise in its place. While the developer is open to creating a transit hub on the site, Metrolinx has already determined that a Parklawn station isn’t economically viable.

The TTC says it’s working with the city on a long-term transit strategy for the area. Phase two of Toronto’s Waterfront Reset Study will include recommendations for improving transit options in the area, says TTC spokesperson Stuart Green.

“The study will make recommendations for a thorough transit service along the waterfront from Long Branch in the west to Woodbine Avenue in the east,” he said in a statement to CityNews. “As part of the study a number of streetcar improvements in the Humber Bay Shore/Park Lawn area are being considered.”

The results of the study will be presented to city council by the end of the year.

The Mimico GO station has a daily ridership of about 1,500 people — a number that would likely be higher if it were in a more accessible location, residents say. It’s about a twenty-minute walk from the neighbourhood along roads with few sidewalks, or a five-minute drive for many commuters, but parking is difficult to find. Many residents choose to drive downtown instead, contributing to the congestion problems on Lakeshore Road and the Gardiner Expressway. Johnson believes this shuttle will help curb those problems.

As well as the Waterfront Reset Study, the City of Toronto is working Park Lawn Lake Shore Transportation Master Plan. “This study will also identify opportunities to improve transit service in the area between Ellis Avenue, Park Lawn Road, The Queensway, and Lake Ontario,” says Green.

Depending on when you purchase the membership, it costs between $175 and $225 and includes unlimited, non-transferable, ridership for four-months. The group says they need to raise $25,0000 through those membership fees and advertising opportunities to launch the project.

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