How Unreliable Is My Service? (Updated November 1, 2014)

November 1, 2014: Results for third quarter of 2014 have been consolidated into a new table below.

Route_Performance_Summary_2014Q3

Third Quarter 2014 Update:

The statistics have not changed much from the second quarter. One issue with many routes operating on wide headways (night services and express routes) is that they have consistently low performance values. Such routes should, of course, be measured for on-time performance, not headway adherence, because missed vehicles have a far graver effect on would be riders than on a route that operates every 5 minutes. Express-to-downtown routes (the 140 series) should be measured for on time performance in their catchment areas. Their headway once they are on the express leg of their journey is of no consequence to riders.

Second Quarter 2014 Update:

There is little change in the route performance statistics for the second quarter despite our having emerged from a bitter winter. The change from Q1 to Q2 is less than 10% for most routes with some improving and others falling behind. Those that are beyond the 10% mark can, in some cases, be explained by route-specific issues such as construction, but not all of them.

Two new routes appear for the first time, 172 Cherry and 195 Jane Rocket. It is mildly amusing that the Cherry bus, which must fight its way through construction downtown, manages a 69% reliability score while the Jane express service manages only 58%.

In this quarter, the 58 Malton and 52 Lawrence routes were combined. Their former scores in the mid-50% range have astoundingly improved to 81% on the consolidated route. I will follow this up with the TTC to see what magic they have wrought here.

First Quarter 2014 Update:

Route_Performance_Summary_2014Q1

The reported reliability stats continue to be dismal. Although it is tempting to say “ah, yes, but Toronto had an appallingly bad winter”, there is a basic problem here: the statistics reported by the TTC didn’t change very much and many routes actually improved relative to the end of 2013.

I will not rehash my critiques of this method of reporting service quality (see the original article below) beyond noting the the TTC’s targets show that irregular service will be the norm — 1 in 3 trips can exceed the target, but service remains acceptable. This means that in a typical day, a rider can expect to encounter at least one “off target” service in their travels.

Finally, a long-standing issue has been the inability to maintain reliable service on the Queen car due to its length and the mixture of Humber and Long Branch services. Although April 2014 is not included in these statistics, the CEO’s report for June 2014 notes an improvement in that month’s streetcar average:

The increase in performance was attributable to the turnback of the 501 Queen route at Humber Loop for the Gardiner bridge work. This shortened the route and promoted a more reliable eastbound service. [Page 10]

The original article from October 24, 2013, follows below.

The TTC has just published its headway reliability results for the third quarter of 2013.  These numbers purport to show the percentage of service that operates within 3 minutes, give or take, of the scheduled headway on each route.  The goal is that bus service does this 65% of the time and streetcar service 70% of the time.

On a daily basis, these numbers are rolled up to the system level, but this hides wide variations by route and time of day.  Weekends are not reported on at all.

The system barely manages to achieve its goal on good days, and has little headroom to absorb events such as bad weather.

To simplify browsing the route-by-route data, I have consolidated the three quarterly reports into one table.  The information is listed both by route, and ranked by the reliability index.

[The table originally linked here has been replaced with an updated version at the start of the article.]

There are many problems with these numbers:

  • On routes with short headways, it is easy to be within 3 minutes of target.  Indeed, it is difficult to get beyond that target, and even a parade of buses or streetcars may count as one “off target” and several (the parade itself) “on target”.
  • There is no measure of bunching, nor is there any indication of whether all or only part of the scheduled service actually operated over most or all of a route.
  • There is no definition of what part(s) and directions of the route are measured, or how this might skew reported values.  Performance at locations beyond common short-turn points may not be reported, or may be masked by data from central parts of a route.
  • There is no time-of-day reporting.  From service analyses presented on this site, it is clear that across the system, service at evenings and weekends is much less well-managed (assuming it is managed at all).
  • On routes with wide headways, on-time operation is more relevant to riders than headway because they must plan journeys based on the schedule.  This is particularly important where connections between infrequent services are part of a trip.

The TTC acknowledges that the headway adherence measurements are inadequate, and they are working on “Journey Time Metrics” based on the scheme used in London, UK.  This approach looks at typical trips and the time required including access, waiting, in vehicle and transfer times to better reflect service as seen by a rider.  For example, a frequent service with well-regulated headways is useless if the buses are full.  An advertised headway is meaningless if half of the service is randomly short-turned and wide gaps are a common experience.  The effect of a big delay in someone’s trip is much more severe than a short one because this adds to the unpredictability of journey times.

How, exactly, this will be boiled down into representative journeys while still preserving a granular view into system operations will be interesting to see.  I believe that a combination of metrics will be needed, and the managerial penchant for a single index to report the behaviour of a large and complex system is dangerous because of what it hides.  (I say this also from personal, professional experience in another field.)  Without the details, the organizational goal becomes one of “gaming” the system to ensure a lovely column of green tick marks on a scorecard that masks pervasive problems.

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88 Responses to How Unreliable Is My Service? (Updated November 1, 2014)

  1. OgtheDim says:

    I take it that despite the continued lack of improvement that Byford’s performance metrics are all ticketee-boo?

    Steve: I am still waiting to see the new Byford-era metrics published. The ones we have now are the same ones the TTC has used for years.

  2. Raymond Kennedy says:

    I don’t know how to describe the recent article (July 17th) in the National Post about Queen streetcar service. Sad, is one conclusion. It features a rush hour ride on the Queen Car westbound from Yonge to Spadina and return with a reporter. Rick Leary Chief Service Officer (new position?) ex MBTA 25 years and more recently YRT. John Morrison “head of streetcar operation” is the way he is identified. Is that his title? And, is this another new position? Never heard of either person.

    In any event after this short ride no doubt everyone has a handle on this service! Leary’s one observation is that sometimes your trip will take 20 minutes and sometimes 25 minutes. You have to allow for that. Very astute observation. I am betting regular riders allow a lot more variance if they want to get anywhere on time. In fact the car they rode was obviously late as a second car was right behind it. There are many more comments about the Queen Car but ALL are in the future, WAY in the future. I’ll bet riders would really like to see something done NOW! One ride from Yonge to Spadina and back won’t do it. Being out there DAILY might, just might do something. Its called _management_ and it requires on the spot observation and _action_ to get things done. Crack heads, kick ass, do whatever is necessary to get peoples attention that the status quo is not satisfactory. Like I said: sad.

    Steve: Leary’s comment about a five minute variation is the sort of out-of-touch remark that tells every reader how little he knows about the Queen car (or other routes) where long gaps are commonplace, and a variation of only 5 minutes in travel time would probably cause riders to fall to their knees in prayers of thanks to the transit gods.

  3. nfitz says:

    Steve:

    Bathurst is just recovering from a long-running water main replacement that blocked the southbound curb lane from last fall through to late spring.

    That means that St. Clair was less reliable than Bathurst! But how can that be the case? This is TTC’s showcase line that suffers from neither the undercapacity that kills Spadina, or the perennial construction of Harbourfront. It should have the best numbers going! It certainly shouldn’t be deteriorating!

  4. J. Routh says:

    I was walking by Queen and Kingston Rd on Saturday and noticed two 501 Humber cars going west in a convoy. Then a third 501 Long Branch pulled out of the loop right behind them. Must be magnets that makes them pull together like that.

    Steve: Maybe an early test of wider headways with longer cars. The TTC talks a good line on service management, but on the street, we all know what really happens. Saturday evenings are particularly bad because of the combined effect of entertainment-related congestion and far fewer supervisory staff “minding the store”.

  5. Malcolm N says:

    Steve said:

    “Without the details, the organizational goal becomes one of “gaming” the system to ensure a lovely column of green tick marks on a scorecard that masks pervasive problems.”

    Steve I would hope that there would be some reasonable attempt to approach this as a service metric for themselves. The on-time notion with a 3 minute variation and a low target achievement rate, however, does sound very much like creating a pat on the own back opportunity. I would hope that they would publish distribution information at the start, centre and end points on a line for each major line, and the number of vehicles not completing the route.

    This should be used highlight short turns, as these are very disruptive to service. This sort of metric should be a focus for the TTC, along with the types of numbers you have produced for the Bathurst bus, as you cannot fix what you cannot or will not see.

    However, I hate to say it, on some routes, the lack of support they receive in terms of budget for vehicles will compound the issues they have in basic line management. They need to be have the loading data able to identify regular surge loads (as you have pointed out in the past), schools, factory shift starts and ends, and the vehicles in service to meet them.

    The political decision to use high average loading standards as targets for fleet size and availability, begs for service disruptions, no load conditions and poor adherence to schedule, even if there was active management. Finer grained data is really required to make these decisions, and the city needs to make sure that it is included in the planned staff requirement and capital spending decisions.

  6. Raymond Kennedy says:

    195 Jane Rocket is a BIG improvement over the 35E Jane Express. When will the TTC introduce other Rocket express service on heavy routes such as 41 Keele?

    Steve: I know they are looking at express routes, but a lot depends on the balance of demand and the scheduled frequency. There is already an express branch on Keele, but obviously you want something more.

  7. L. Wall says:

    Tonight at 9pm (September 16, 2014) I took notice of a NVAS sign on the 506. It said the next vehicle was due in 55 minutes.

    The NextBus data shows 7 CLRV’s on the route that are supposed to be (in theory) providing “frequent service” (scheduled for 7.5 minute headway).

    Instead I saw several 20 minute gaps, a 30 minute gap, and a portion of the route where NextBus says there were no predictions available.

    I pray this was an anomaly with vehicles missing from the data but it’s sad that I’d almost believe it. According to the TTC twitter account there was a stalled streetcar on the route but that was over 90 minutes ago.

    Steve: I passed through Broadview Station just before 11 pm, and the NVAS sign showed immense waits for the King and Dundas cars. The online maps matched the displayed times. As I write this at 11:15pm, the NextBus map shows only 4 cars on the entire King route, 5 on Dundas, 5 on Carlton and 2 on St. Clair. This sort of thing happened once before when the schedules that are fed by TTC to Nextbus were out of sync with actual operations, and Nextbus did not recognize most of the vehicles on the street as having valid run numbers.

  8. Malcolm N says:

    Steve: These routes are beyond bad.

     41 Keele                        44.89 57.42 48.1  47.52 48.61 49 48
    141 Downtown/Mt Pleasant Express 52.24 49    44.67 45    45.9  45 49
    142 Downtown/Avenue Rd Express   48.93 40.67 30.67 37.67 48.15 41 40
    143 Downtown/Beach Express       61.46 54.67 41.67 46    47.48 51 47
    144 Downtown/Don Valley Express  35.9  35    32    36    38.48 34 33
    145 Downtown/Humber Bay Express  49.55 39.67 31.67 33    38.87 31 29
    160 Bathurst North               59.72 56.47 57.93 54.76 61.91 54 49
    

    What is up with these routes, to be allowed this to be that bad? (Given how wide the standard for adherence actually is)?

    Steve: In the case of the 14x series, as I said, a better measure would be on time performance at the origin areas of their trips as headways are meaningless once they leave these areas. As for Keele and Bathurst North (among others), they are bad because nobody cares enough to fix them.

  9. We need more LRT now says:

    63 Ossington and 512 St Clair very unreliable. 63 Ossington especially needs new supervisor/s. It might be worth our while to start contracting out individual routes to private contractors. York Region has done this with VIVA as well as many YRT routes and the result is that buses in York Region tend to be on time and NEVER have I seen seven or eight buses in York Region show up at the same time which is not too uncommon with the TTC. Also I wanted to say, why don’t we build LRT where there is support? If Sheppard, Finch, etc don’t want it, then use the money to build elsewhere like on Jane, etc. The provincial Liberals are willing to finance LRT on Sheppard, etc where they know that the residents don’t want it but they are not willing to support it in places like Mississauga/Brampton, Hamilton, etc where they know that the residents want it, sounds like a plan to not spend anywhere (perhaps to cut the massive deficit in Ontario).

  10. Malcolm N says:

    Steve said:

    “In the case of the 14x series, as I said, a better measure would be on time performance at the origin areas of their trips as headways are meaningless once they leave these areas. “

    The question however, would be while the schedule would be better, in effect to some degree does not this poor performance also mean poor schedule adherence as well. Also would it not mean very hard to predict waits.

    Steve: Self evidently if the headways are off target, the buses cannot be on time, but for an infrequent service it would be possible to be 10-15 minutes off schedule but still within 3 minutes of headway. Not much use to a would-be rider. We should measure and report on the factor that affects a rider’s perception, and for infrequent services, that is on time performance because people depend on specific trips at specific times. Imagine if GO trains left stations as erratically as TTC services do.

    Steve said:

    “As for Keele and Bathurst North (among others), they are bad because nobody cares enough to fix them.”

    This is the sort of thing that does very long term damage to the attractiveness of transit, and the general support for it. You cannot expect people who have come to believe the bus will not be there for them to support transit. I hope that the new mayor will make this a top priority.

    Steve: There are the usual excuses such as construction and congestion, but these are used to justify long-standing practices. When the average over 3 months stays bad for the better part of two years, this suggests that something is wrong with either the schedule or the ethos of bothering to keep to it.

  11. We need more LRT now said:

    The provincial Liberals are willing to finance LRT on Sheppard, etc where they know that the residents don’t want it but they are not willing to support it in places like Mississauga/Brampton, Hamilton, etc where they know that the residents want it, sounds like a plan to not spend anywhere (perhaps to cut the massive deficit in Ontario).

    Hmmm … I would go out on a limb and say that many (possibly a majority of) residents in those communities named above do not want LRT … they might want better transit and they might be willing to vote for a mayor or councilor who supports LRT but once construction starts and taxes rise, there will be significant public objections.

    It’s probably a bit more accurate to say that the Provincial Government at one time decided to pay the vast majority of the capital costs for LRT expansion in Toronto … and they have regretted that decision ever since. In Hamilton and Mississauga the message has been very clear, that if Toronto gets “free” rapid transit paid for by the province, they should get “free” rapid transit as well. The province, on the other hand, would probably prefer to go back to something like the arrangement in Waterloo, with 1/3 funding from each level of government.

    Either way, this still does not address the operating funds issues which will plague all transit agencies … and which are probably not going to be resolved anytime soon since the money in the Big Move proposed for existing transit service has quietly disappeared.

    On that note … Steve, many of the 905 transit agencies have GPS tracking and GPS tracking data. Have any agencies contacted you for information/feedback/advice on carrying out the same route by route data analysis that you are doing in Toronto?

    Cheers, Moaz

    Steve: Re your last question, I’m not sure, but none of them has contacted me.

  12. L. Wall says:

    It might be worth our while to start contracting out individual routes to private contractors. York Region has done this with VIVA as well as many YRT routes and the result is that buses in York Region tend to be on time and NEVER have I seen seven or eight buses in York Region show up at the same time which is not too uncommon with the TTC.

    It’s not uncommon for non VIVA routes to have headways of 45 minutes or 90 minutes. It’s hard to have bunching on routes where there might only be 1 or 2 buses.

  13. I love the quote from the CEO’s Report about the turn back at Humber for the 501 because of the work on the Gardiner. I tried using the current service twice now going eastbound, and I won’t be doing it again. I waited 20+ minutes both times for a streetcar after getting off the shuttle bus. How is this better service? There should be just as many streetcars as there are when the streetcars go through to Long Branch.

    Steve: Yes, in theory, but they short turn at Sunnyside.

  14. Isaac Morland says:

    “It’s hard to have bunching on routes where there might only be 1 or 2 buses.”

    Funny story. The Seattle Monorail had a collision due to bunching. Apparently it has two tracks, each with one train (similar to the Pearson Link). One would assume that collisions are therefore impossible. However, it seems the tracks effectively form a gauntlet at one end — both tracks load from the same side at that station, and in order to minimize the size of the gangway structure needed to access the farther track it comes closer to the other track in the station.

    Sure enough, the two trains collided in that station one time in 2005. Of course, the level of incompetence required to have both trains at the same end of the line when there are only two trains is truly breathtaking. Not caring about route management isn’t exclusive to the TTC.

  15. DavidC says:

    In your comments on the Q2 results of this rather meaningless TTC survey you said:

    “Two new routes appear for the first time, 172 Cherry and 195 Jane Rocket. It is mildly amusing that the Cherry bus, which must fight its way through construction downtown, manages a 69% reliability score while the Jane express service manages only 58%.”

    Clearly they were paying attention as the 172 reliability has now sunk to 46%. I am also “horrified’ that the 508 now has a 14% reliability – up from 11%. (I do not think I have ever taken a 508 – probably just as well!)

    BTW. I understand that the TTC continues to dither about the 72-172 split and whether these routes will ever be merged again and are also undecided as to whether the 172 part of the route will continue to pass in front of King Station – where it provides a very useful alternative to the 504. (It is probably indicative of the TTC’s efforts at ‘customer service’ that the two routes – 72 & 172 – seem to be completely uncoordinated with no way to see connection times. Splitting the route has also removed a very useful way for people living south of King to get to the Bloor-Danforth subway.

  16. Green the streetcar right of way tracks says:

    Why don’t they green the streetcar right of way tracks with real green grass? That will make streetcars more acceptable. Surely, emergency vehicles can travel on a bit of grass.

    Steve: Such has been a proposal both for QQ and for part of Eglinton, but the emergency services don’t like the idea.

  17. ECarlson says:

    “Such has been a proposal both for QQ and for part of Eglinton, but the emergency services don’t like the idea.”

    This is the sort of area where I start to give up on Toronto. No where else is this sort of arrangement a great problem, and nowhere else do the emergency services get an effective veto on urban design, and yet we here again and again that various things are impossible because the fire department doesn’t like it and doesn’t want to negotiate. At some stage we are really going to have to tell TFS to figure out how to work with the city they have if we want standards of design that aren’t based on making all areas maximally convenient for large trucks.

  18. nfitz says:

    In my experience waiting for a 14x bus at Jarvis/Adelaide in PM rush is that the spacing and schedule adherence even there is dreadful. If anything the travel time from there to the first suburban stop was more predictable than when the bus would actually pick you up downtown!

  19. Wogster says:

    I think Toronto has the idea that all problems it has are unique to Toronto. In reality all large cities have the same problems, and perhaps the TTC chief simply needs to ask some of his co-conspirators in other cities how they deal with issues.

    There are two types of routes, routes where headways are greater then 10 minutes, and routes where headways are less then 10 minutes. Routes where headways are greater then 10 minutes, should be allow to be up to x minutes late, but NEVER early. Routes that are less then 10 minutes should be that if you arrive at the stop, a bus will come by within 10 minutes.

    Part of the problem is that if a problem occurs at 6am, nothing gets done about it, until it sorts itself out during a slow passenger traffic period later in the day. Big brother should be reporting that a vehicle is behind schedule to control, so that a supervisor can get out there and fix it. For routes with headways longer then 10 minutes, 3 minutes late is acceptable, I’ve seen a route where there was a 20 minute headway and waited 20 minutes for a bus, took 20 minutes to walk home, and still had not seen a bus.

    For routes with headways less then 10 minutes, the tolerance should be 3 minutes or one headway period, whichever is less. A bus on a 2¾ minute headway should not exceed 2¾ minutes late. It’s simple a supervisor should find out from the driver what the problem is, so that it can be fixed. Sometimes it’s changing a route and making it more difficult to stay on time. Like forcing a bus into a left turn lane that takes 10 minutes to get around a corner.

  20. Green the streetcar right of way tracks says:

    Why don’t they green the streetcar right of way tracks with real green grass? That will make streetcars more acceptable. Surely, emergency vehicles can travel on a bit of grass.

    Steve: Such has been a proposal both for QQ and for part of Eglinton, but the emergency services don’t like the idea.

    The answer is probably is something like grasscrete … there is an approximate 30% price premium but there is the added benefit of reducing rain/storm water runoff and reduced need to invest in storm water collection.

    How that works in winter on a structure that sees lots of vibrations … would probably need to be tested.

    Cheers, Moaz

    Steve: The idea of grassed right-of-way on Eglinton is still alive. See my Council motion extracts in a reply to a following comment.

  21. DavidAH_Ca says:

    Green the streetcar right of way tracks said: Why don’t they green the streetcar right of way tracks with real green grass? That will make streetcars more acceptable. Surely, emergency vehicles can travel on a bit of grass.

    Steve replied: Such has been a proposal both for QQ and for part of Eglinton, but the emergency services don’t like the idea.

    As well as all the other benefits, I believe there is a minor safety advantage with grass. I would probably not have thought of this now except that I was on the 510 westbound tonight and we encountered a car heading eastbound on the other track. This is something I have seen several times on St Clair. It is not that hard for someone unfamiliar with the street to miss the ‘keep right of divider’ sign and mistake the streetcar RoW for another lane. This would be much less likely to happen if the tracks were imbedded in grass rather than what looks like a road surface.

    I have never seen this mentioned, and it might work as a (minor) lever with the city.

    P.S. The last meeting I was at for the Crosstown, Metrolinx was definitely planning a green median on Eglinton East, and it was, as I recall, enthusiastically supported by the attendees, with strong pleas to maintain this plan. Since the city is not paying for any of this line, Metrolinx may be able to keep the plan in spite of the usual objections.

    Steve: Council has approved the “green trackway” on Eglinton at its May 5, 2014 meeting (item EX41.2):

    2. City Council request Metrolinx to amend its current RFP for the Eglinton rapid transit project to include instructions to bidders to provide, as an evaluated element within the base scope of the project, as many of the following public realm improvements along Eglinton Avenue as are possible using the Public Realm Amount budget allocated to the project, in the following order of priority, and to provide a right to the City to determine whether to proceed with the public realm improvements proposed by the winning bidder:

    b. provision and maintenance of green trackway elements, comprising vegetation and ancillary features (e.g., drainage), along the portion of the LRT trackway between Victoria Park Avenue and Birchmount Road, where feasible and not precluded by the requirements for emergency vehicle access;

    f. that any unused balance of the Public Realm Amount fund allocated to the Eglinton LRT after provision has been made for the five priority projects listed in a) through e) inclusive, be committed to projects included in the following list:

    i. provision and maintenance of green trackway elements, comprising vegetation and ancillary uses (e.g., drainage), along the surface portion of the LRT trackway in locations that are not already specified;

    An attempt was made to undo this by Councillors Thompson and Berardinetti at the June 10, 2014, meeting (Item MM52.21), but this failed on the vote to reopen the previous motion.

    1. City Council approve changes to the Eglinton Connects Planning Study to remove the green trackway; permit emergency vehicles to efficiently enter and exit the trackway when on emergency response calls; and create designated separated bike lanes made possible by the removal of the green trackway and its reconfiguration for use by emergency vehicles.

    I am quite sure that another attempt will be made by the new Council, possibly with the support of the new Mayor Tory who is not generally supportive of Eglinton Connects.

  22. W. K. Lis says:

    Another problem is the large vehicles that are used by the fire department, garbage, works, and others. Bigger is better for them. Yet in Europe and Asia, they use smaller or narrower emergency vehicles. No problem with their narrow streets. Yet here in Toronto, having a green right-of-way is frowned upon.

  23. Ed says:

    Steve, the premium express buses are supposed to be premium. I don’t know where on their routing they are failing so badly on their headway adherence. Wherever it is, riders who have paid extra to ride these routes are going to be unhappy — except in the small-probability case that they are well ahead of schedule on the limited-stop runs.

    Mark Grimes, Ward 6 Councillor, has argued that there are no problems with transit in south Etobicoke, because the Humber Bay express bus isn’t packed with riders. The logic, best as I can figure it, is everything is fine everwhere in South Etobicoke because otherwise people would be selecting the premium route. This is the route that managed 31% headway adherence in Q2 and 29% in Q3. Apparently he is advised on transit by Dr. Pangloss, or possibly Pollyanna; the possibility that people don’t care to pay extra to be stuck in traffic on Lake Shore has not occurred to his office.

  24. Malcolm N says:

    Ed said:

    “Steve, the premium express buses are supposed to be premium. I don’t know where on their routing they are failing so badly on their headway adherence. Wherever it is, riders who have paid extra to ride these routes are going to be unhappy — except in the small-probability case that they are well ahead of schedule on the limited-stop runs.”

    I would put to you that, unless another bus happens along far enough ahead of its schedule, that it appears to only be a couple of minutes behind the one I just missed, I would be at least equally upset. Early would make for as bad a condition in an infrequent service, as I am now waiting for the next bus, or having to show up even earlier to ensure I do not miss the bus. Or if I have the choice drive … If a service is every 25-30 minutes, and it could be 10 minutes early, or 15 minutes late, when do I reasonably appear at the stop? Am I supposed to show up 12 minutes early to make sure I make it? To me put a bus at the stop when it is supposed to be there, or perhaps a up to 5 minutes after, and allow people to plan around it, otherwise the people who have an option are much more likely to exercise it (which is bad for all).

  25. William Paul says:

    “express routes=poor” is news to all us in the Beaches? For at least the last year all 143′s are pretty much on the money in the AM peak, both departure from Neville and downtown arrival times so if there is a problem I would assume it is downtown.

    Steve: I’m just reporting the numbers straight from the TTC’s website.

  26. Ed says:

    Malcolm N, these are express buses that load at one end, run non-stop, and then unload at the other end. I agree, if they are early at the loading end, that’s very not good. Once they’ve loaded up, no one would be upset if they took off like rockets and ran ten minutes fast at the unloading end.

    William Paul, the Beaches express has one of the better express route reliability numbers. I would also guess it’s well-used. Neither is the case for the Humber Bay express. I have yet to see one in the express portion of its route with standees, or even all the seats full.

  27. W. K. Lis says:

    It’s too bad that Toronto may not even look at Zurich to see how they control traffic entering the city.

  28. Malcolm N says:

    Ed said:

    “Malcolm N, these are express buses that load at one end, run non-stop, and then unload at the other end. I agree, if they are early at the loading end, that’s very not good. Once they’ve loaded up, no one would be upset if they took off like rockets and ran ten minutes fast at the unloading end”

    The pick up point time, to me is more controlled by the TTC. I would agree if you can shorten my ride by 10% I will be a happy camper. However, I think they have less control over the run time. If they have under-scheduled it (or selected a poor route) so they are consistently longer than time table, well that is their issue, and it should be corrected, so that I can at least attempt to board the right bus. They should have a reserve and flex (and a budget to cover it) to allow covering buses on the dispatch end when they do not have a bus to run the route as or at least close to the scheduled time, there is little they can do about accidents etc.

  29. DavidC says:

    As has often been noted here, the question of ‘reliability’ is actually composed of several parts and to provide a reliable service all need to be in place – at least on most days. Vehicles need to depart on time; be scheduled to depart at spaced intervals and to have a scheduled run-time that allows them to arrive ‘on time’ at the destination. The TTC clearly has problems with vehicles departing in convoys (so, on the assumption that the TTC tries to space departures, some are departing early, some late). From many of Steve’s detailed route analyses there is often an unrealistic expectation of normal running times which results in vehicles arriving late or, more commonly, being short-turned. I suspect that most customers do not care if vehicles come a bit less often as long as they come when they are supposed to and not as part of a convoy – part of which may then be short-turned. Route management is crucial and clearly needs MUCH attention and if route supervisors see persistent problems then run times probably need adjustment. (An interesting experiment would be to tightly manage one route (504?) 24/7 for a couple of weeks – even if this took route supervisors off other routes – and see how running a properly managed route with realistic run-times would look. I suspect customers would be happier.)

    Steve: You assume that the TTC knows how to “tightly manage” a route, that is to say, what exactly the goals might be of such an exercise.

  30. Malcolm N says:

    Steve said:

    “You assume that the TTC knows how to “tightly manage” a route, that is to say, what exactly the goals might be of such an exercise.”

    Steve, I would suggest that this start with a review of what comprises good service and the metrics required to deliver it. Start with dispatching the service on time/headway, with a down and dirty measure of success, every dispatch that is more than 1 minute off headway adds 1 to a count (1 to the count for each additional minute – either way, so early also counts as +). Make a short turn with passengers aboard count as a 5.

    At the end of the day if you had 200 scheduled runs and your count is less than 20-30 well I think that would likely count as a home run right now. (Remember minute early or minute late each adds 1).

    This target is likely tighter than what the TTC could make on any route right now, but a medium term goal should be to dispatch something above 90% of service within 1 minute of time (note not arrive, just depart) without using short turns. I think trying to focus on just such a goal would make it very clear where they did not have the correct run times and recovery times to make service work.

    They could then work on the metrics for their operations across the rest of their route. Start looking at what is required to hold that headway/schedule along the route.

  31. Peter says:

    So, we have been debating service quality, bunching, etc for years and when it gets extremely bad, TTC may take temporary action resulting in temporary improvement to the route in question until the scrutiny is lifted and the route falls back to normal where normal is long delays and several vehicles showing up at the same time and even in low traffic conditions and even on right of way routes.

    Why are we not willing to try a solution that has saved money and improved service in other jurisdictions in Ontario (YRT/VIVA, etc) as well as other provinces and around the world? I am not saying privatize all routes immediately but start with a route or two as a pilot project and see whether it improves service and reduces costs. If the pilot project succeeds big time (which I am extremely sure that it would and that is why the unions are so afraid of it), then we can move on to permanently privatize all surface routes (buses and streetcars).

  32. J Lee says:

    37 Islington Service is one of the most unreliable routes in Toronto. It comes every 6 minutes for the afternoon commute, but I often have to wait 15+ minutes…. Unacceptable

  33. Malcolm N says:

    Peter said:

    “Why are we not willing to try a solution that has saved money and improved service in other jurisdictions in Ontario (YRT/VIVA, etc) as well as other provinces and around the world? I am not saying privatize all routes immediately but start with a route or two as a pilot project and see whether it improves service and reduces costs. If the pilot project succeeds big time (which I am extremely sure that it would and that is why the unions are so afraid of it), then we can move on to permanently privatize all surface routes (buses and streetcars).”

    The issue here would be a need to ensure that we are willing to do with an outside contractor, what we are not willing to do with employees. Actually, create, measure and enforce quality of service metrics that are meaningful.

    The other issue would of course be that the funding would need to be adequate to make it feasible for someone to provide real service. In Toronto that would mean having more than just a bus every so many minutes as a measure, as there are peak and off peak issues, and loading standards that need to be kept in mind. I think that Toronto is now at a spot that it needs to get a handle on what constitute acceptable service metrics, before it can even approach this issue.

  34. Reg says:

    I would have to say that the 503 has to be one of the most unreliable services going.

    I know it’s torn to shreds at all possible chances by critics, but rightly so…. but I don’t understand why…

    It rarely shows up (although I am always blown away when 2 show up back to back), but sometimes it’ll be 40+ minutes before another decides to trundle along King or from Vic Park.

    Why do they even bother with this service anymore? either make it all day, and blend it into a weekend service… or get rid of it… I can get better service walking from the beaches up to Gerrard… (mostly, because the 501 has a hard time making past KR)

  35. Peter says:

    Reg,

    “I would have to say that the 503 has to be one of the most unreliable services going.”

    But it’s not just 503, it’s every streetcar route without a right of way for the whole route. I think that the TTC needs to look at creating right of ways for all streetcar routes. This can be done by creating extra space by removing patios, street side vendors, etc and where there are no patios, vendors, etc to be removed, the TTC needs to look at tunnelling and/or elevating the tracks. Where none of this is an option, the TTC needs to look at using articulated buses. If we want to improve service, then we have to be bold enough to make drastic changes like these.

    Steve: It’s not quite that simple, and your pet solution will not fix the basic problem that even with dedicated right-of-way, TTC service can be erratic. I will be publishing analyses of St. Clair, Spadina and Harbourfront soon.

  36. David says:

    “Peter:I think that the TTC needs to look at creating right of ways for all streetcar routes. This can be done by creating extra space by removing patios, street side vendors, etc and where there are no patios, vendors, etc to be removed, the TTC needs to look at tunnelling and/or elevating the tracks. Where none of this is an option, the TTC needs to look at using articulated buses.”

    “Steve: It’s not quite that simple, and your pet solution will not fix the basic problem that even with dedicated right-of-way, TTC service can be erratic.”

    I agree that there are problems with even right of way routes but would you use that argument to get rid of the right of ways? If not, then I think what Peter is saying is worth looking at: namely studying whether or not right of way improve service and also studying whether or not articulated buses can help fight gridlock and improve service on busy streetcar routes. I am not saying that the TTC should rip apart streetcar tracks or overhead streetcar power lines but that the TTC should consider a scientific study of comparing streetcars and articulated buses at least as a temporary pilot project on one or two routes. John Tory has not even taken office and Bill Blair is already proposing a freeze in police budget and reducing the number of officers and so I see no reason why other services (including but not limited to the TTC) will be spared budget freezes and reductions. TTC will be especially hard hit since Tory’s priority would be SmartTrack and the Gardiner Expressway and so under these circumstances, it will be difficult for the TTC to obtain additional new streetcars on top of the ones already ordered and so articulated buses may eventually be necessary to replace streetcars on one or two routes. I have no preference between streetcars and articulated buses and my preference is for whichever can provide better service and so I would like the two of them to be scientifically compared with actual pilot projects.

  37. Streetcar based DRL could be much cheaper says:

    Reading some of the comments above, I had thought that the new streetcars might make streetcars more acceptable in Toronto but that doesn’t seem to be the case with several months of new streetcar service now. Burying a line or two as suggested above will be expensive but so will be the DRL and a buried streetcar is a DRL right there and so I see no reason why not to bury a line either partially or completely. DRL is going to the from the Danforth subway crossing the Yonge and University subways and up to Bloor West subway but burying any of the streetcar routes from Broadview to Dundas West or from main Station to Dundas West will achieve the same purpose as a DRL and would actually be cheaper since we already have the streetcar rolling stock and their storage and maintenance facilities and talent instead of buying more subway trains and then building additional storage and maintenance facilities and technical and other staff for those additional subway facilities. DRL (streetcar based or subway based) may have to wait another 4 years though when we have a new mayor-elect as Tory will focus on cutting costs and taxes and building his beloved SmartTrack and there is no question of council overturning Tory as unlike Ford, Tory is well-connected and highly respected and a charmer too and so I am sure that he will be able to convince the left, right, and the centre at all levels of government to fulfill his agenda.

    Steve: There have been only two new cars and only on one route. That’s hardly the basis for deciding whether streetcars are more acceptable now. Burying an existing line or two would not achieve the same purpose as the DRL for a few reasons. First off, Broadview is too far west as an intercept point on the Danforth line for inbound trips. Second, it is a poor location for a northern extension to Thorncliffe/Flemingdon and Don Mills.

    Depending on whose projection you believe, the demand on the DRL could outstrip LRT capacity, and we would be into precisely the situation subway advocates talk about for other lines — if you’re going 100% underground there is no point in building to LRT standards.

    Converting a streetcar line to underground operation, aside from being hugely disruptive, would fundamentally change the nature of its service with stops pushed much further apart. With stations costing $100m or more, we would not see them nearly as closely spaced as they are on the Bloor-Danforth corridor which was itself once a streetcar line.

    For the record, years ago I advocated an LRT DRL, but have since changed to support subway technology in this corridor.

  38. Malcolm N says:

    Steve said:

    “Depending on whose projection you believe, the demand on the DRL could outstrip LRT capacity, and we would be into precisely the situation subway advocates talk about for other lines — if you’re going 100% underground there is no point in building to LRT standards.”

    To me this depends on where the line goes after it crosses the Valley, and what kind of extensions are reasonably possible. It would also depend heavily on what a real network model would yield with frequent service in the available GO corridors. I personally am of the mind that there are 2 major corridors that may come available to bring traffic to Don Mills and Eglinton, the CP if they ever manage to negotiate an alternate route like CN, and the Gatineau Power Corridor.

    Providing service in either would radically change the potential for bringing transit to the North East of the city, and both argue strongly for leaving the door open for a very high capacity link from the core to a location that can reasonably meet them, and where the core end does not rely on Union as a destination.

    Truly frequent service in both Richmond Hill and Stouffville, would reduce the expected ridership of a Don Mills to core subway, the question would be by how much? Also what future options do we want to retain as a city? That we could have a large transfer station from GO in CP and LRT (both Crosstown and Don Mills LRT, and possibly LRT in Gatineau instead of GO in CP) at Don Mills just north of Eglinton, is something that should be considered in modelling and technology choices. It could potentially also offer a point of transfer from GO or LRT in Richmond Hill. The network needs to be modelled with these options on the table. The Core end of the line needs to be modelled with potential locations in terms of best balance and coverage between the available lines. How desirable a location would this be for office if these services did meet here, and there was a quick link to the core.

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