The TTC regularly reports that it is running service at “x” percent of pre-covid levels. They aim to be back at close to full service and 80% of pre-covid demand by the end of 2022 with hopes for 100% in 2023.
Like so much of the info TTC publishes, this is a system average, and the actual ratio of pre-pandemic to current-day service varies from route to route and by time of day.
The charts in this article map the ratio of old and new service by percentages, and by the change in scheduled headway (time between vehicles). The summary headway data are taken from the opening pages of the Scheduled Service Summaries published by the TTC. Note that all values are rounded to minutes.
The pages below (click to open in a larger format) show which time periods and routes are operating less service today than in January 2020 (red) or more (green). Cells that are white indicate that the service is unchanged.
In a few cases there have been vehicle type changes on a route such as the restoration of streetcar service on 505 Dundas. The percentages are relative to the scheduled vehicles per hour with no adjustment for capacity. Similarly, a few bus routes have changed between regular sized and articulated vehicles.
In a future version of this chart I will flag and adjust for these situations.
The key point here is that there are routes operating with considerably less service compared to January 2020 than implied by TTC claims of service recovery. It is no surprise that riders on many routes complain of less frequent service. This is compounded by the TTC’s inability to operate reliable headways making waits for buses and streetcars both longer and less predictable.
The charts below show the difference in headways between January 2020 and May 2022. Negative values (red) indicate vehicles that arrive less frequently while positive ones (green) show more frequent service. For example, Line 1 Yonge-University now operates every 4 minutes in the AM peak compared to 2 minutes pre-pandemic (headways rounded to minutes).
The CEO’s Report contains the usual statistics about system performance, and there were few substantial changes from past months. These metrics deserve to be revisited along with the TTC’s Service Standards, and I will deal with them a separate article.
A frustrating problem with the CEO’s Report is that information in it is usually a month or more out of date. For example, ridership numbers are reported to the beginning of April even though it is now mid-May. In an environment where day-to-day changes in transit’s recovery from the pandemic have implications for service and budgets, more recent information should routinely be presented to the Board. It should not be up to Board members to ask staff for more recent figures.
The chart of recovery by mode takes us to April 1. The effect of the omicron surge in December/January was quite substantial, and the system has only now built back to a level above the peak in late November 2021.
The values in the report are over a month old, and they were verbally updated at the meeting in response to a question.
Pre-Pandemic Recovery Level
April 1, 2022 (Report)
May 7, 2022 (Verbal Update)
Further details appear in the Advancing Analytics presention later in this article.
Revenue rides are running ahead of the budgeted level after a poor start in January. The TTC expects that on an overall basis through the year, the budget and actual numbers will balance out although the actuals are currently running ahead. Much depends on the rate of growth of in person office work and post-secondary attendance.
The actual revenue from fares for the first quarter was $140 million compared to the budget estimate of $107 million. The pre-covid normal value was $313 million, and so there is some distance yet to travel in the recovery.
The overall TTC and City budgets have not yet been made whole by extra provincial and federal covid relief funding, and the City faces a gap of about $800 million in its operating budget. To counteract this, there is a proposal to cut back on capital-from-current spending so that capital projects will not weigh as heavily on the operating budget. However, this will defer some projects planned for 2022 and can add to future costs if more work is paid for by borrowing than by current revenue.
The TTC is currently studying how to cut $87 million out of its 2022 Capital Plan as an offset to the City’s shortfall. The need for this work does not vanish. It is simply pushed further into the future and adds to the unfunded deficit in the overall capital plan.
An important presentation in the meeting dealt with the analysis of TTC data. They have a wealth of information, but much of it is hard to get, and what should be routine stats on system operations are simply not available.
The TTC has now set up a group to pull together their vast collection of data and assist departments in making use of this under the name of a Centre of Excellence for Data Innovation. Examples of some of its work are included in the presentation deck, and the TTC intends to make much more publicly available soon. They also intend to provide access through an open data portal so that those outside of the TTC can make use of the data. (No details have been provided yet.)
Readers of this site will know of my long-running series of analyses of route operations, and these depend on access to vehicle tracking data that the TTC has provided since 2008. However, that is an ad hoc arrangement as opposed to one that makes data available to any who want it.
Here are some examples.
Access to Transit Modelling
Using origin-destination data for various types of trips, the TTC has mapped the effect of Line 5 Crosstown’s opening and the associated surface route changes. The map below shows changes in the 60-minute range for job access. The improvements are, understandably, concentrated along the Eglinton corridor, but they also affect feeder corridors where the faster Eglinton segment brings more trips under the cutoff level. Areas where access falls arise from route changes that impose longer routes or transfers that do not exist in the “before” network.
TTC ridership has been reported on aggregated, averaged values across all routes and times of day. This masks issues with specific routes, times and locations where service does not meet the demand or the standards TTC aims for in an era when people still want some degree of social distancing.
The table below shows several major corridors and the differences both in time-of-day values and in individual routes versus averages. Hot spots that are invisible in consolidated numbers jump out in this table. The slide below notes that this information can be used for deployment of demand responsive service, although the TTC still is not reporting exactly where and when that service operates.
Stop Level Analysis
The chart below shows the percentages of ridership recovered on a stop-by-stop basis. Note that there are no data for streetcar lines because these vehicles do not yet have automatic passenger counters installed.
Many stops, particularly in the outer suburbs, show a strong rebound in demand as of Spring 2020, a year ago, with a 75% level. This is well above the overall system averages reported at the time, and shows how averages can mask behaviour at the local level.
The map below shows the bus routes where recovery of ridership has been strongest including a “top 10” that collectively achieved 69% of former boardings by April 2022.
One problem with this map is that how a route becomes part of the “top 20” is unclear. According to the legend, this is by boardings, and that should eliminate relatively minor routes. If the real ranking is by percentage recovery, this might make more sense. A route could be short and have few customers in absolute terms, but do well measured against pre-covid performance.
By Mode and Time of Day
The charts below show how ridership has returned to different parts of the system at different rates.
In the bus chart (left), the percentages give the ratio of Spring 2022 values (yellow) to Fall 2019 (light blue). The degree of recovery is not uniform across the day. For streetcar and subway routes, the relatively low peak period recovery is quite clear, but off-peak demand is stronger.
Anyone who rides the subway knows that it can be crowded in the off-peak, particularly evenings, because service is less frequent but ridership is returning. According to the TTC, subway service will be restored over the summer and fall, but they provided no details of quantity or timing. Like so many aspects of TTC service, this will be subject to “resource availability” (for which read staffing and budget headroom).
Use of WiFi Data for Ridership and Origin-Destination Surveys
The TTC is working with the provider of WiFi services in the subway to collect origin-destination data on an anonymized basis, and hopes to extend this to surface routes as WiFi is rolled out there. This has an advantage over Presto data in that entire trips are captured, not just points where passengers “tap in” to the system.
Continuing the Masking Mandate
CEO Rick Leary reported that the province was has established a date of June 11 for a possible change in the masking mandate. This was done in consultation with transit agencies.
Mask usage has started to fall, but surveys show that 94% of riders are masking, with 88% doing so correctly. Commissioner Carroll asked whether surveys are conducted across the system because adherence varies by time and location.
Whether anything more will come of this remains to be seen considering the possibility that the province will drop the mandate, and that TTC prefers to be non-confrontational on the issue.
Human Resources Committee
The Board, in private session, approved a proposal to re-establish its Human Resources Committee for reasons not stated in the public report. It will consist of Chair Jaye Robinson, Vice-Chair Joanne De Laurentiis, and one additional member to be chosen by the Chair from among Council members on the Board.
It is unclear why the Board would make such a move so close to the end of its mandate, and this implies that there are events behind the scenes serious enough to warrant Board oversight.
As a general note, the TTC Board has been lax compared to those in previous terms in its oversight of management because Councillors are so pre-occupied with covid effects on the city.
Postscript: Performance Data From Other Cities
Two examples of the type of data available in other cities are linked below. Note how the level of detail substantially exceeds what the TTC has produced over the past two years. This should be an inspiration for what Toronto could have. A hat tip on this to Jarrett Walker (@humantransit), Jeffrey Tumlin (@jeffreytumlin) and Ari Ofsevit (@ofsevit) on Twitter.
Updated May 11: The schedule for completion of the final phase of the work at KQQR has slipped to fall 2022 according to the project website:
Previous delays, combined with some periods of adverse fall/winter weather, COVID-19 related labour shortages and supply chain issues have deferred completion of Stage 2 work (KQQR intersection, The Queensway and King Street West) to September 3, 2022.
Work on Stage 3 (the final stage) will start on Roncesvalles Avenue from the KQQR intersection to Harvard Avenue on September 4, 2022, and will be completed by the end of December 2022.
Work on the King-Queen-Queensway-Roncesvalles project continues with installation of new overhead at the intersection, completion of some new lane layouts, and utility work along the Queensway. Track construction is moving, albeit slowly, west from Sunnyside Loop toward the end of the existing right-of-way east of Parkside Drive.
At Dundas West Station, the road has just been closed north of Bloor except for a single northbound lane, and on Edna from Dundas to the west end of the loop for special work replacement. (As of May 9/22)
Traffic in the area is quite snarled because there are also minor track repairs underway on Dundas south of Bloor, and reconstruction of Bloor Street continues westward in the area to which much traffic has diverted.
Bus diversions are not the same as originally advertised.
40 Junction operates eastbound to Dufferin Station via Dupont and Dufferin returning westbound via Bloor, Lansdowne and Dupont.
168 Symington eastbound turns east rather than west on Bloor to Dufferin, returning westbound via Dufferin, Dupont, Lansdowne and Bloor.
504C King is supposed to be diverting southbound via Parkside Drive and Howard Park to Roncesvalles, but was running via Bloor and Dundas.
May 9, 2022
Eastbound road traffic is now using the streetcar lane, but the new lane arrangement and the curb separating the streetcar lane are now in place. The King Street leg of the intersection is complete, but not yet open.
On The Queensway west from Sunnyside, road rebuilding and track installation proceeds in bite-sized segments. It has now reached the point of blocking eastbound access from The Queensway to St. Joseph’s Hospital’s main driveway, and there is still a “slalom” where traffic shifts from the regular curb lanes to the streetcar lanes for a short distance.
Along the south side of The Queensway, utility work is still underway.
Dundas West Station
May 9, 2022
At Dundas West Station, the rebuilt track for the 504 King platform and the exit to Edna Avenue are in place, and excavation for the new 505 Dundas track is underway.
Dundas Street is blocked off except for one northbound lane, and Edna Avenue is closed in anticipation of track replacement for the north and east sides of the loop.
Today the Liberal Party of Ontario announced that it would cut all, yes, all transit fares in Ontario to just $1 if they are elected. The cut would apply through to 2023-24 (the provincial fiscal year end is March 31), and is sold as a way to get 400,000 cars off of the road every day.
This is a plan so simplistic, so poorly-thought-out, that even Doug Ford could have authored it, possibly after a few of his short-lived one dollar beers from the last campaign.
Regular readers here will know that I view across-the-board fare reductions as little better than snake oil because they benefit people who do not require more subsidy while doing nothing to improve what they actually use, transit service. The Liberal plan goes even further by giving massive fare reductions to regional transit riders who now pay double-digits for a one-way ticket.
They show the monthly saving for a commuter from Barrie’s Allendale GO station as $434.30. In other words, this plan would see a Barrie commuter subsidized by over $5,000/year.
In a separate pledge, the Liberals promise $375 million in annual transit funding to support existing systems, more service and “more intercity connections”.
Let’s check the math:
Each car represents at least two trips (fares) for a round trip (single occupancy)
The saving/trip is at least $2 based on local transit fares
The trip only uses one transit system (e.g. TTC, YRT)
There are 250 commuting days per year
This gets us up to $400 million per year.
But don’t forget that we’re giving a break to all of the existing riders, and just for the TTC that would be around 300 million rides per year, or another $600 million and change.
We have not even talked about other transit systems, or the much larger savings GO Transit riders would see.
The big problem, however, is that all this money will not buy one more bus trip’s worth of service. That forlorn display in transit’s shop window will not improve one bit even with a big sign “Sale, Only $1!”.
Buck-a-ride will not deal with the last mile problem of getting people who now drive to their transit trip be it a local bus stop or a parking lot.
Already, the TTC reports that it is increasing service on some routes because of crowding. Where will it put a large influx of new riders, assuming that they appear?
In the short term covered by this proposal, the TTC has some surplus vehicles (albeit no operators to drive them) because they are not yet back to full service across the system. Even at full pre-pandemic service, they had a generous number of spare buses.
Systems elsewhere in Ontario do not have the robust demand we see in Toronto and could have more headroom for growth within existing operations, but the ability to carry all of those new riders without extra operating costs should not be assumed.
With this announcement, the Liberals have side-stepped commenting on the really big issues like the scope of transit expansion they would fund and their vision for planning that doesn’t start and end with subway tunnels.
When they get around to publishing a platform, we might see how transit fits in their wider scheme of spending and priorities across the many government portfolios. For the moment, this is a cheap, ill-conceived piece of campaigning from the man who turned Metrolinx into his own photo-op generator, the Minister for Kirby Station.
Several of the service cuts implemented in November 2021 will be restored with the May 2022 schedules. This includes express service on several routes. Although planned service will be 6.2% lower than the original budget for this period, the TTC intends to resume restoration of full service through the fall to the end of the year.
Information in this article is taken from the May 8, 2022 Scheduled Service Summary and from a copy of the detailed memo on service changes which was provided by a source. Normally the TTC sends these to various people in advance, but for some unknown reason, the document has not officially been sent to the normal external recipients.
There are some conflicts between information in the two documents and I have tried to reconcile these with my own judgement about which is correct because it is not unusual for there to be discrepancies in descriptions of service changes.
Rapid Transit Services
There are no changes in rapid transit services.
The 501H/501L Queen replacement buses for service on the west end of the route will be shortened to turn back downtown via University Avenue, Adelaide Street and York Street rather than operating to Broadview & Gerrard or Broadview Station.
Eastbound buses will operate as 501U.
Bus service will be provided from Birchmount, Queensway and Eglinton divisions.
There is no change to the existing 501 Queen streetcar service between Neville Loop and Bathurst Street (Wolseley Loop), nor to the 301 Blue Night Bus operation.
Headways on 505 Dundas and 506 Carlton will be blended to allow for the shared terminal at High Park Loop.
The 505 Dundas routing change to High Park Loop will be officially recognized in the schedules.
Service will be reduced during most periods on both routes as a seasonal change.
306 Carlton Blue Night will operate with buses to Dundas West Station.
509 Harbourfront: Seasonal service increase evenings and weekends.
512 St. Clair: Service increase on weekdays.
Routes With Express Service Changes/Restorations
Local service improved during most periods on weekdays.
Weekend service rescheduled for articulated buses.
Weekend express service restored using artics.
939 Finch East Express:
Weekend service restored.
Local service changed from articulated to standard buses on weekdays with improved frequency of service.
Midday express service restored.
Express operation changed to articulated buses.
Minor service reallocation on weekday local service.
Peak period express service restored.
52/952 Lawrence West:
Service reliability adjustments weekdays
Express peak period service improvements
60/960 Steeles West:
Seasonal service reductions
Reliability changes and some weekend service improvements.
Peak period express service restored.
85/985 Sheppard East:
All 85 local service on weekends will now operate with standard sized buses rather than with artics.
Weekend 985 express service restored.
Note: These diversions are described in the service memo, but are not reflected in the scheduled service summary.
Effective approximately May 18, service will be diverted to Coxwell Station while the loop at Greenwood Station is closed for Easier Access construction. This work will last about one year.
Service reliability adjustments.
Northern terminus shifted to the Redlea cul-de-sac via Steeles and Redlea.
365 Parliament Blue Night Bus:
Weekend service that was removed in error in fall 2021 will be restored.
73 Royal York and 76 Royal York South:
Service reliability improvements
During some periods, the 73B Eglinton service will interline with the 76B Queensway service.
Recovery time reallocated to the south end of the route to reduce conflicts near Donlands Station.
95 York Mills:
Stops added on Durnford Road and Rylander Blvd for the 95A Port Union extension. These will be reviewed in advance of the September 2022 schedule changes.
Service reallocation affecting some periods on the following routes:
16 McCowan (peak periods)
17 Birchmount (peak periods)
36B Finch West (am peak and early evening)
81 Thorncliffe Park (peak periods)
Service reliability changes which generally widen headways during most or all periods:
30 High Park
93 Parkview Hills
Service reliability changes rebalancing driving/recovery time with no change in service level:
33 Forest Hill
31 Greenwood (peak periods)
33 Forest Hill (peak and weekday midday)
83 Jones PM (peak periods)
86 Scarborough early evening Zoo shuttle (restored, seasonal)
92 Woodbine South (weekends, seasonal)
996 Wilson Express (weekday midday and pm peak)
175 Bluffer’s Park (restored, seasonal)
75 Sherbourne: AM peak and midday (seasonal)
600 Run As Directed: The number of crews/buses assigned to RAD service will be reduced by about one third as full scheduled service returns.
With the restructuring of bus service in the waterfront and the creation of the 121 Esplanade-River route, there is no existing route to provide seasonal service to Cherry Beach or Ontario Place. Two new routes, 172 Cherry Beach and 174 Ontario Place-Exhibition will operate instead.
172 Cherry links Union Station to Cherry Beach. It will operate from Eglinton Division.
174 Ontario Place links Exhibition Loop to Ontario Place. It will operate from Mount Dennis Division.
Details of the changes are in the spreadsheet linked below.
Service on Lawrence East is provided by two routes:
54 Lawrence East local service operates from Eglinton Station east via Eglinton and Leslie to Lawrence, then east to two destinations:
54A runs to Starspray Loop near the eastern boundary of Toronto.
54B runs to an on-street loop via Scarborough Golf Club Road, Brimorton Drive and Orton Park Road. The direction of this loop reverses after 3pm.
954 Lawrence East express service operates during peak periods between Lawrence East Station and Starspray Loop.
As part of a proposed route reorganization in Scarborough, the TTC proposed splitting off a separate Brimorton service, but this scheme is on hold.
Following opening of Line 5 Crosstown, the 54 and 954 services will be rerouted to Science Centre Station at Don Mills & Eglinton. As part of the RapidTO scheme, red lanes are proposed on Lawrence between Don Mills and Starspray Loop. This article reviews running service quality and travel times on three segments of the route:
Port Union to Midland: Port Union is used as a screen line at the east end of the route because buses lay over at various places and in both directions making measurements right at Starspray Loop unreliable. Midland is the western screen line because it is just east of Lawrence East Station where buses might layover for various periods unrelated to traffic conditions.
Kennedy to Victoria Park: Kennedy is the eastern screen line because it lies just west of Lawrence East Station. Victoria Park is the western screen line because this was the originally proposed western end of the red lanes.
Don Mills to VictoriaPark: This section was added to the red lane proposals.
The schedules for both the local and express services are unchanged since September 2021.
Note that as in previous articles, data are missing for some days at the end of October and through November due to the cyber-attack on TTC systems.
As on other routes reviewed in this series, the distribution of actual headways is well beyond what is contemplated in schedules or even in the TTC’s Service Standards which aim to keep most service within a six-minute wide band of “on time” performance.
Bunching and wide gaps are very common, even on comparatively “quiet” days like weekends and holidays.
Severe congestion effects appear rarely and typically show up as bulges in average travel times for specific weeks and days pulling them away from normal levels.
Headways on the express service 954 can be quite variable and the range of values exceeds the typical 5-minute difference in travel times between local and express operation between Port Union and Midland.
Some improvement in service is possible with reserved transit lanes to make travel times more reliable, but this must be accompanied by dispatching service so that buses are regularly spaced.
In previous articles, I have documented the benefits of the King Street transit priority corridor between Jarvis and Bathurst Streets. This had the combined effect of reducing travel times at certain times, but more importantly of providing greater regularity.
Since the covid-19 pandemic began, traffic downtown has been considerably quieter than before. This article updates the stats on the priority corridor to show the period from immediately before the pandemic to the end of March 2022.
The changes in travel time in mid-March 2020 when a state of emergency was declared are quite evident, although to varying degrees by time of day and direction. The brown vertical lines in the charts mark this point.
The charts below are arranged with eastbound times in the left column, and westbound times in the right showing averages for various hours of the day beginning with the AM peak and running into the mid-evening.
In some periods that saw a drop in March 2020, travel times have not changed much over the past two years. Small changes are evident in early 2022, notably in the times for evening trips westbound where entertainment district traffic typically affects streetcar service, but not to the degree of pre-March 2020.
Comparable data for some suburban bus routes tell a very different story with a recovery to or beyond pre-pandemic travel times through 2020 and 2021. I will review several routes in a future article, and will return to King Street in fall 2022.
Note: Data in these charts include only vehicles on route 504 although the segment between Jarvis and Bathurst has been shared by other routes from time to time.
Route 39 Finch East operates from Finch Station with three branches:
39A to Neilson Road
39B to Morningview Trail
39C to Victoria Park & Gordon Baker Road (peak only)
The schedule was unchanged through the October-December 2021 period.
Route 939 Finch Express operates between Finch West Station and Staines Road with three variations. Service east of McCowan serves all stops, while for the section west to Yonge the 939s run express.
939B operates from Finch West Station to Scarborough Town Centre Station weekdays until mid evening, when it becomes the 939A and terminates at Finch Station.
939C operates only during peak periods between Finch Station and Morningside Heights.
On weekends until November 20, the service was split between the A and B branches as shown below. This operation was suspended on November 21 as part of the fall 2021 cutbacks. There was no compensating change in the local service, and the weekend service has not yet been restored.
Weekday early evening service was improved by the addition of 939A service on November 22.
The Finch corridor is among those proposed for “red lane” treatment in the RapidTO program between Yonge and McCowan.
The scheduled headways on the 39 and 939 routes would not blend even if they kept to their schedules, and so this analysis looks at each route on its own.
As with the previous article on the York Mills service, there is data missing from the period immediately after the cyber attack on the TTC in late October and into early November. However, this does not prevent analysis of the overall pattern of service.
Erratic headways are common on both the local and express services. These generally result from bunching in terminal departures or at route merge points, not from pervasive traffic congestion.
During the period reviewed here, missing buses appeared to be rare, and they fell generally in the latter weeks of the year. There does not appear to be an effort to space service to allow for the missing bus, and rather a double-headway travels across the route where the absent bus should be.
Average travel times over the proposed “red lane” section of the route between Finch Station and McCowan differ by about five minutes for local and express services.
Where there are congestion effects, they tend to last for a few days or weeks at a location, and then disappear. This implies that they are caused by short-term factors such as construction projects rather than being inherent to traffic patterns on the street. This has implications for red lane operations because there is no single location where transit priority will “fix” a long-standing problem.
Work on the reconstruction and reconfiguration of the King-Queen-Queensway-Roncesvalles (KQQR) intersection and approaches to it resumed in April after a winter hiatus. Work has also begun at Dundas West Station for the reconstuction and realignment of the streetcar loading platforms.
April 4, 2022
A significant change at KQQR is the removal of the “slip lane” which allowed eastbound traffic on The Queensway to “slip” past the intersection onto King Street without stopping. However, this created a safety hazard for pedestrians trying to reach the south sidewalk and the bridge to Sunnyside Park. The first four photos below show the construction of the revised junction from various points of view.
The fifth photo looks west on The Queensway at Sunnyside showing early stages of converting the mix-traffic streetcar lanes to a right-of-way matching what is already in place from Parkside westward.
April 20, 2022
By April 20, two weeks later than the photos above, work had progressed to complete the new south sidewalk and to concrete all of the King Street approach. That leg now awaits the asphalt top layer.
In the view SW across the intesection there is a mixture of permanent and temporary poles and signals, as well as the beginning of the spiderweb that will hold up new overhead for the junction. Some of the new traffic signals have been hung, but they are hooded or faced away from traffic pending the changeover from the temporary ones.
On both sides of Roncesvalles north of Queen/Queensway, work has begin on bases for new overhead poles.
West of Sunnyside, work has begun on track installation, but this will be done in stages as road traffic is shuffled around between old and new lanes. In the eventual configuration, the streetcar lanes will be reserved and protected with a curb east to Roncesvalles except where needed for lane crossings.
The TTC has not yet announced a date for resumption of streetcar service to Sunnyside on King and on Queen, nor further west on The Queensway to Humber and Long Branch.
Dundas West Station
The existing King streetcar track has been demolished and excavated for a new foundation. Track for the Dundas cars will be shifted and a new longer loading platform will be provided here.
In a comment on my article TTC eBus Study: Final Results, an alert reader noted that the claimed GHG reduction from the new fleet was vastly out of proportion. Here is the TTC’s chart from that report and accompanying text (highlighing added).
The TTC’s first 60 eBuses were procured from BYD, NFI and Proterra. Prior to the delivery of these eBuses, three garages (Arrow Rd, Mt Dennis and Eglinton Garages) were retrofitted with depot charging systems to accommodate charging up to 25 eBuses per location. All 60 eBuses procured have now been in-service between one to 2.5 years at the TTC with more than 2.5 million kilometres driven, and have reduced GHG emissions by 3.3 million metric tonnes.
TTC Report at p. 14
The basic problem here is the claim that for every kilometre travelled by an eBus rather than by a diesel bus, the saving would be over 1 Tonne of GHG. In the paragraph above, the saving should be 3.3 thousand metric tonnes, not 3.3 million. Who knows how many times this erroneous number will be cited.
The basic numbers are summarized in one paragraph on page 97 of the report:
The greenhouse gases (GHG) reduction is primarily due to the avoidance of diesel fuel consumption. At an average fuel economy of 0.53 l/km, the TTC’s Nova clean diesel buses release 1.4 kg of CO2 per kilometre driven. The generation of electricity also creates emissions through many factors including direct emissions from fuel-fired power plants. For Ontario, the average CO2 emission for base load power is 32 g/kWh. The eBus fleet in 2021 averaged 1.62 kW/km (including all non-operating energy consumption sources), which equates to emissions of 0.05 kg CO2/km. Based on the fleet mileage of 1,555,174 km in 2021, emissions associated with the electricity supply are 80.8 Tons CO2. An equivalent clean diesel bus fleet would have emitted 2,177 Tons of CO2.
Note: The highlighted value should be 1.62 kWh/km. This is a typo in the TTC’s original text.
Running the Numbers
To save readers from working through these numbers, here they are consolidated as a spreadsheet.
The table below compares the TTC’s cited numbers with calculated values. Where a value is calculated, I have not rounded it as in the TTC’s descriptive text. For example, the GHG emissions per km for eBuses is shown as 0.05184 rather than 0.05 kg/km. Cells highlighted in yellow have the wrong units, but this is what the TTC specified in its chart.
The problem here is that the line “GHG Savings” claimed is erroneously stated in Tonnes (1,000 kg) rather than in kilos making the numbers 1,000 times bigger than they actually are.
This has the absurd effect of making the “saving” per kilometre over 1 tonne when the diesel fuel we start with weighs less than 1 kg.
I checked with the TTC, and, yes, the chart is wrong. It should specify savings in kilos, not in tonnes.
The calculated emission savings are obtained by multiplying the “delta” value (difference in emissions by fuel source) by the reported fleet mileages. The claimed values are taken from the TTC’s chart above.
There is a further problem that the ratio of claimed GHG savings to distance operated varies from one vendor to another. There is no explanation for this although the report does cite different fuel consumption rates for each manufacturer’s bus.
Although I have asked, the TTC has not explained why these values are different.
Clean Diesels vs Hybrids as a Reference
There is a further issue with the numbers published by the TTC. They are based on a comparison with “clean diesels” even though some of the vehicles to be replaced include the first generation of hybrids with have lower fuel consumption.
The TTC reports that the GHG saving between a first generation hybrid and an eBus is about 1.315kg CO2/km, as against 1.379 for clean diesels (from the table above). This suggests that the first generation hybrids are not saving much fuel compared to the diesels (less than 5%).
Getting It Right
The main report contains a more reasonable number:
When the entire fleet is zero-emissions, the following benefits are expected to be realized:
1. Greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by approximately 250,000 tonnes of CO2 annually; […]
TTC Report at p. 3
In pre-covid times (2019), the TTC operated 145.1 million km with its bus fleet. At a saving of about 1.38 kg CO2/km, this translates to 200,000 tones of CO2, a somewhat lower figure than the TTC claims.
As Toronto launches into a new electric era, the TTC needs to clean up its statistics and calculations so that those trumpeting our efforts use the correct data.
Environmentalists, transit boosters, city planners, anyone who is touting electrification should be careful to cite correct figures for the expected benefit of eBuses.
I have no problem with “going green” and welcome the shift to electric vehicles. That said, it is important that the benefits be stated accurately and clearly so that “green” is not oversold. Toronto’s transit history is littered with hucksters.