Mayor John Tory says a new priority bus-only lane that will connect Kennedy Station to the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus should be in place by this fall.

The city previously announced plans to accelerate its implementation of five priority bus corridors outside the downtown core and officials now say they intend to start with the Eglinton East corridor in Scarborough.

“We picked Eglinton East as the first project because it is one of the busiest bus corridors in the city, even during the pandemic,” Tory said at a news conference on Wednesday morning.

The mayor said the 10 TTC bus routes that partially or wholly operate within the corridor serve an estimated 56,000 customers each weekday.

“Of these 10 routes, four bus routes… utilize at least 50 per cent of the length of the corridor and those routes carry 47,000 people on an average weekday,” Tory said.

“By way of comparison, the Scarborough RT carries 35,000 passengers each weekday, and the Sheppard subway carries 52,000 passengers each weekday. So you can see that this bus corridor with all the routes that service it is a very busy place indeed.”

The estimated price tag for the Eglinton East project is $7.628 million in capital costs and $155,000 in one-time operating costs.

Tory noted that by implementing the Eglinton East priority bus corridor, the city anticipates operational cost savings of about $2.5 million annually and capital cost reductions of about $6.3 million per year.

He added that the bus lane is also expected to result in travel time savings of about two to five minutes per trip.

“When you do that math, for regular customers who rely on this service every single day, that equates to 16 to 40 hours of time saved every year. At the high end, it is the equivalent to not having to go to work for a week,” the mayor said.

When the Eglinton East project is finished, work will begin on the Jane Street corridor, which is expected to be completed in 2021.

The city says it plans to implement the remaining priority bus corridors along Dufferin Street, Finch East, and Steeles West in 2022 and beyond.

The total estimated cost of introducing exclusive bus lanes along the five corridors is $41.8 million.

“One of the things we’ve discovered in the course of the pandemic is that when you have an urgent situation on your hands, such as a pandemic, all of a sudden things that people previously told you would take years to do can get done faster and we are determined to apply that to every area of government life and every area of service that we are providing to people,” Tory said.

“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, these were some of the busiest bus corridors… in the city and they remain so today. They are carrying and have carried during the pandemic frontline workers to work, students to school, helping residents to get groceries and all kinds of other things.”

The accelerated bus corridor plan will be discussed at next week’s virtual TTC board meeting.