July 22, 2019

What's Next, Bike Share Toronto?

Back in 2013, Toronto held the “Feeling Congested” consultation series to reduce gridlock and included a recommendation to expand Toronto’s bike share to 5,000 bikes. Earlier this month, this goal has been fulfilled with the newest of the 465 stations being installed in the Junction, Bloor West Village, the Beaches, East York, and Midtown. With this goal achieved, where should Bike Share Toronto go next?
Targeted Suburban Expansion

The current Bike Share Toronto map – which is close to what WSP proposed in April 2016 – shows very few stations in Scarborough, Etobicoke, and North York. To help set an example for Toronto and other cities, Montréal announced a bold expansion last year which would increase their bike share network to almost 11,000 bikes by 2028 (currently 7,250) and have stations in every borough. Last week, Toronto City Council approved the Bike Plan Update which included a motion from Councillor Paul Ainslie to develop a plan to expand bike share across Toronto.
Bike Share Toronto map as of July 21, 2019
Proposed bike share expansion stemming from existing network (SOURCE: WSP - April 2016)
As for where the new stations should be built, the WSP report included proposals for satellite expansions near TTC and GO stations. Four satellite areas made WSP's short list which include York University, North York Centre, the Sheppard subway corridor, and Scarborough Town Centre. Based on the station potential analysis and recent developments, I would also add the following as priority areas for bike share expansion:
Proposed satellite bike share networks based on TTC and GO coverage (SOURCE: WSP - April 2016)
  • Etobicoke Waterfront – With two GO stations (Mimico and Long Branch), Humber College Lakeshore campus, the Waterfront Trail, the Lake Shore bike lanes, and the Queen streetcar, this is hands down Etobicoke’s most viable location.
  • Six Points – The Dundas-Bloor-Kipling interchange under construction – including bike lanes on all three streets – is the site of a TTC/GO transit hub and Etobicoke Centre; a priority area for development intensification. Adding bike share stations there and at Islington, Royal York, and Old Mill TTC stations could help make the case for further Bloor bike lane extensions to Kipling.
  • Eglinton Crosstown – The first phase of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT from Mount Dennis to Kennedy is expected to open in 2021 (or 2022). Factor in the proposed bike lanes, development intensification, and attractions such as the Ontario Science Centre and you have a strong case for bike share across Eglinton into Scarborough (and eventually Etobicoke).
  • Thorncliffe and Flemingdon Parks – Bike lanes were installed in these two neighbourhoods last year. The connections to the Eglinton Crosstown and the Don River trail system, as well as the high density of the area, makes this an attractive target for future expansion.
Operational Improvements

In addition to further expanding the bike share network – which should at least be doubled to 10,000 bikes – several operational improvements are needed to make the system more effective. The first that’s needed is to increase the ride time limit from 30 to 45 minutes before extra charges kick in. This is especially important with bike share stations being spaced further apart outside of the downtown core.
Another issue that frustrates me with Bike Share Toronto is the payment options in terms of the lack of options between the three day pass and an annual membership, as well as the occasionally malfunctioning touch screens. For the memberships, Bike Share Toronto should consider adding one month and/or three month options. This would be helpful during the winter when people aren’t as keen on taking their bikes out, including me as it’s not practical to bike to Dufferin-Lawrence during the winter months. Bike Share Toronto should also consider allowing payments via PRESTO card as with the TTC and GO Transit to reduce the need for the touch screens. Finally, PRESTO could help pave the way for fare integration.

Looking Further Afield

Of course, expanding the bike share network into the inner suburbs will not be fully effective without expanding the overall cycling network. While there are some useful projects from the bike plan update that will help (e.g. Eglinton, Scarlett, Willowdale, Winona), Toronto needs to make a more concerted effort to expand bike lanes in the inner suburbs despite the lower level of support compared to downtown. More cyclists living in the inner suburbs need to organize to help build the necessary community support; especially along Danforth and Eglinton in Scarborough, Yonge in North York, and Bloor in Etobicoke. Beyond Toronto, other nearby municipalities should introduce their own bike share programs as Hamilton has done with their SoBi and include fare integration with GO Transit and their local transit networks to help solve their own first and last mile challenges.

Ride Toronto!
Rob Z (e-mail)

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