Durham transit and the TTC

Many Durham College students say public transit in the region is expensive compared to Toronto’s, which has more routes and service times.

Caitlin Brennan, a first year Web Design student at Durham College, finds taking the bus to Durham College every day frustrating. Like many students, she feels the Toronto transit system is better than the Durham transit system.
Jennifer Sorichetti, a second year Graphic Design student at Durham College, agrees. She takes the TTC on weekends to see her boyfriend in Toronto and takes DRT during the week to get to school.
Sorichetti said DRT doesn’t match the service seen in Toronto despite the fares being so similar, adding that she will sometimes wait up to two hours for a bus to arrive in the Durham Region.
But both transit authorities say it’s a complex comparison.
Durham Region Transit (DRT) operates six routes to and from the Durham College North Oshawa campus, and about 70 routes throughout all of Durham Region.
The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) operates almost 200 routes, including streetcars, buses and subways throughout Toronto and into Scarborough.
Vincent Patterson, general manager for DRT, says routes and travel times are decided based on the demand of a particular area.
According to Patterson, 80 per cent of urban-area transit customers have access to a bus stop within five minutes of walking from their house, and 98 per cent are within ten minutes.
Planning routes and stops in the Durham Region is based on “how far do you have to go from your house to reach your network,” Patterson said.
Matt Whigmore, a second year Legal Studies student at Durham College, said he takes the 916 (Rossland East Route) and thinks the system is pretty good, adding it “stops pretty close to my house.”
Both DRT and TTC rely on provincial and federal funds to operate, but they also collect fares from each passenger.
The TTC costs $3.00 when paying by cash or token, and the DRT costs $3.10 when paying with change.
According to Patterson, DRT fares cover approximately 37 per cent of running costs, leaving the general public and government subsidies to fill in the gaps.
“What’s not covered by the fare box revenue comes from homeowner taxes,” Patterson explained.
The fares for the TTC cover approximately 73 per cent of running costs, with the remaining monies coming from municipal and provincial subsidies, according to the commission’s website.
Patterson says DRT has done well for its age and funding, noting that TTC’s budget is substantial compared to Durham’s.
“No transit agency in North America makes money,” Patterson said.
He added that population is a big factor in how much money the commission has to work with for expansion, buses and operators.
Danny Nicholson, corporate communications supervisor for the TTC, said Toronto’s system works well.
“The TTC expects to carry 540 million passengers this week,” he said, which is pretty typical given the number of people commuting to Toronto for work.
There are plans to increase routes in DRT in the next few years, heading to and from Ajax and Pickering. The TTC has expansion plans as well, and both transit commissions have projects underway.
According to its website, the DRT “has achieved many of the goals set out in its inaugural year (2006). One of these goals is to increase ridership and enhance travel options for persons with disabilities on both specialized and conventional services.”
DRT officially started in 2006, collaborating all Durham transit systems into one, creating the ‘one-fare’ policy as opposed to previously separate community systems.
The TTC was created in 1925, and overtook four existing streetcar lines run by several other companies, and has since expanded exponentially throughout Toronto’s downtown core.
Durham College students have access to a program set up with DRT called the U-Pass, which acts as a transit pass for the entire school year. This now costs $154 per student each year, and is charged automatically within tuition costs.
Prices for the U-Pass are increasing to $120 per semester over the next three years.