The Myth About More Service on King

Over the past year, oft we heard the TTC argue that adding service is of no use because vehicles just get stuck in traffic.  More service does not lead to more ridership.  This is hogwash, but they’ve been getting away with it.

Let’s look at just what sort of additional service the King car has enjoyed.

Back in the dark ages of 1990 before a recession and service cuts took their tolll, the King car provided the following service:

  • AM Peak: 2’20” combined service west of Church, 3’30” to Broadview Station
  • Midday: 6’00”
  • PM Peak: 2’43” over the entire route
  • Early Evening: 7’17”
  • Late Evening: 9’20”

The route operated 4,600 vehicle miles or about 7,360 km of service and carried 58,800 passengers per day, and the Lake Shore route did not yet exist.

By 2000, the service looked like this:

  • AM Peak:  A 4’00” headway from Dundas West to Broadview overlaid by a 4’00” headway east from Roncesvalles for 12 trips corresponding to the peak eastbound demand to provide a 2’00” headway for 48 minutes.
  • Midday:  6’20”
  • PM Peak:  4’00”
  • Early Evening:  7’30”
  • Late Evening: 10’00”

The route operated 4,300 vehicle miles or about 6,880 km of service and carried just under 52,000 passengers per day, and the Lake Shore route did not yet exist.

By 2003, the service looked like this:

  • AM Peak:  A 4’00” headway from Dundas West to Broadview overlaid by a 4’00” headway east from Roncesvalles for 16 trips corresponding to the peak eastbound demand to provide a 2’00” headway for 64 minutes.  Three trips on Lake Shore fit into this but they are widely enough spaced that they do not make a big impact on the headway seen by riders waiting in Parkdale or King/Bathurst.
  • Midday:  5’40”
  • PM Peak:  4’12”
  • Early Evening:  7’15”
  • Late Evening: 10’30”

The route operated 4,200 vehicle miles or about 6,720 km of service and carried just under 48,000 passengers per day.

Today, the service is:

  • AM Peak:  Same as 2003
  • Midday 4’45”
  • PM peak 3’45”
  • Early evening 7’00”
  • Late evening 9’00”

The King and Lake Shore routes operate a total of 7,100 km per day and, according to the TTC stats for 2005, carried 47,900 passengers.

[Updated Feb 5] When the TTC says that it added nine cars to the route, this is simply not true in the context of recent service changes.  Relative to 2000, extra eastbound trips have been added to the AM peak, and midday service has been increased.  However, there has not been the magnitude of change one would imply from “nine more cars” because overall the amount of extra service is small.

[Updated Feb 5]  The number of cars in service in the AM peak on King and Lake Shore was 44 in 1990, 38 in 2000, 50 in 2003, and 48 today.  Note that in 2003, the route was under major reconstruction.

The combined 2’00” AM peak service has been in place since 2000, with a few trips added by 2003.  Meanwhile, the wider headway of the afternoon peak remains.  One might reasonably ask whether the prospect of a tedious wait for a trip home is a disincentive to people who might ride the marvellously improved AM peak service.

The improved midday service, implemented in September 2005 as a first step in the Ridership Growth Strategy was worthwhile, but this probably happened after the 2005 riding count was taken, or was in place for only a short time before.

The TTC must stop misrepresenting the issues of service, demand and traffic congestion.  We are deadlocked with a bogus claim that more service doesn’t generate more riding and a demand that exclusive lanes are the only solution to our problems.  The logical conclusion is that we shouldn’t spend more on TTC service because it won’t make any difference.  What, then, is the purpose of the Ridership Growth Strategy?

It’s Official: The TTC is Overcrowded

The TTC Operating Budget presentation on January 31 included TTC Budgets and City Building, an overview of how the need for better service and a rejuvenated fleet are integral to our hopes for achieving the city building goals near and dear to some political hearts.

At this point, the TTC is in the hole by about $33-million for its 2007 subsidy requirement (the difference between what the City budget folks set as the target for the TTC and what they actually need).  Given that the TTC is one of the Mayor’s central platform issues, I think we can assume that this problem will vanish sometime over the next three months.  A fare increase doesn’t seem to be in the offing, but what is really troubling is that real progress on “Ridership Growth” will not appear until late in 2007 and early 2008.

Remember that the Ridership Growth Strategy is four years old this March and people might justly wonder when some of its promises will appear.  Yes, we have the transferrable Metropass and tax deductability that makes passes attractive to a wider base of users, but we are waiting for more service.  An important part of RGS is a change in the vehicle loading standards so that a service is deemed to be “at capacity” at a lower load factor than today.  This means, in theory, that service will be added before people resort to riding on the roof rather than afterwards.

The one flaw in this premise is that you need vehicles, operators and budget headroom to run more service.  Outside of the rush hour, we have vehicles today, but we don’t have operators and more importantly we don’t have budget.

Two charts in the presentation show just how far behind the system has fallen in dealing with pent-up demand.

The Map of Overcrowded Routes shows those that were already overcrowded in late 2006 plus those that are predicted to be overcrowded in early 2007.  In this context, “overcrowded” means that the loads exceed the pre-RGS loading standards.

The Chart of Service Vs Demand shows the total service provided in terms of vehicle hours.  Obviously, this is a rough surrogate for capacity given that vehicles come in different sizes.  Moreover, an hour in which a vehicle has surplus capacity cannot be easily moved to one where there is excess demand without destroying service at lightly loaded times of day and locations.  All the same, the chart does show the gap between the amount of service operated and the amount required to catch up with demand.

Note that this chart shows only service additions over the years, not total service.  In round numbers, the TTC runs about 120,000 hours of service on surface routes per week beside which the increase of less than 5,000 hours is rather small.

These should put Council on notice.  We can play games for months trying to appear “fiscally responsible” in the hope that Queen’s Park and Ottawa will take pity and give us more money.  There are two problems with that approach:

  • We usually get only a one-year bailout rather than major, meaningful, ongoing support for transit.
  • Because we lowball our budget needs for service expansion, we already understate the amount we need.

No doubt, somewhere buried in the TTC budget, there is money to be found.  That’s a worthwhile exercise, but it diverts attention from the real need to think on a larger scale, to embrace the idea that we are going to make transit much more attractive to potential customers. 

Not ten years from now with a new subway.  Not five years from now with new streetcars.  Not next year when there may be a handful of spare vehicles left to implement RGS.  Right now, today, with this budget.