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Looking for an alternative to waiting on the corner of Strachan and King for a packed streetcar ride to the downtown core?
UberHOP, a new shuttling service offered by transportation network Uber, launched on Tuesday in Liberty Village and the Distillery District. There are four pick-up locations: Liberty Village, Fort York, City Place and in the Distillery District. For a $5 flat rate, commuters can be shuttled along any of those four routes towards the financial district between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. In the afternoon, the service will run from 4:30 p.m to 7:30 p.m and will return from the financial district to the same morning start up points.
The new service will be free during its launch week — until Dec. 18.
The 504 King streetcar is typically packed with Torontonians looking to commute from the popular Liberty Village neighbourhood to the downtown corridor on weekdays.The line up to get on the 504 is so extensive that riders usually have to wait while full streetcars drive by, sometimes skipping their stop altogether. UberHOP looks to provide an alternative to the busy TTC service by offering vehicles otherwise used for UberXL and UberSUV for their new shuttle service.
The service has come under fire by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and the Analgamated Transit Union. It was confirmed at the Wednesday TTC board meeting that the TTC is speaking with their lawyers about their monopoly on public transportation in the city, and whether or not UberHOP is legal. According to the City of Toronto Act, exemptions to this monopoly include rickshaws, pedicabs, taxicabs, vehicles used for providing sightseeing tours, and buses owned and operated by a corporation or organization solely for its own purposes, without charging a fee for transportation, among others.
This isn’t the first time a shuttle service like UberHOP has been implemented. A crowd-founded company called LineSix attempted to start a shuttle service between Liberty Village and the downtown core. It charged customers around $5 a trip. Despite its popularity, the program was shut down due to legal complications.
The launch of UberHOP, and even LineSix, demonstrates a strong need for more transit options on King St. The congestion of the busiest streetcar route in the city has become a big problem and needs to be addressed with appropriate long-term solutions. Addressing the need for the relief line is essential. The relief line would cut through Liberty Village and provide transit users with a viable option to commute downtown.
Public transit is the most viable option for commuters and the relief line would put the TTC back on the map as a competitor for alternatives such as UberHOP. In the meantime, the TTC will have to accept that they may not be the number one choice on King St. any longer.
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