Many discussions, both on this blog and in some of the Environmental Assessment meetings regarding new transit services, raise the question of a bus route’s capacity. In the previous post, I looked at the question of vehicle capacity and the number of buses we could fit on a typical street or right-of-way.
Robert Wightman raised the question of services on some particularly well-used streets in days long ago when “frequent service” really meant something, specifically Eglinton Avenue East from Yonge Street. I dug out the schedule summary from January 1968 and compared it with today’s offering. (Regular readers will know what’s coming here.) The service today is much worse than in 1968, but at least some of this can be explained by shifts in riding patterns.
34 Eglinton East: Back in 1968, there were 26 buses per hour on this route compared to 15 today.
54 Lawrence East: In 1968, there were 15 buses per hour compared with 10.7 today.
Several factors affected these routes over the years including the Bloor-Danforth subway (which only ran to Woodbine in 1968) and the Scarborough RT. These provide a much more convenient trip downtown than riding all the way to Yonge Street.
56 Leaside: This route once served a thriving industrial area in the Eglinton/Brentcliffe area and operated 24 buses per hour. This is now a large mall and parking lot with some nearby residential development. The route operates 2.6 buses per hour today.
Another factor affecting this route is that in 1968 it ran down Pape to Pape Station. Heavy service in this corridor is now provided by the 25 Don Mills and 100 Thornliffe Park services, and the 56 Leaside goes to Donlands Station.
51 Leslie: In 1968, this route operated 3 buses per hour, and by 2007 we are all the way up to 4.
61 Nortown / 105 Mt. Pleasant East: In 1968, Nortown was a trolley bus route operating from Doncliffe Loop on Mt. Pleasant to Roe Loop on Avenue Road. This now operates as two separate routes with the 105 covering the east branch. In 1968 there were 20 buses per hour, and now there are only 4.
This route suffered partly from competition of the Yonge Subway once Lawrence Station opened, partly from gentrification and increased car ownership in North Toronto, and partly from the TTC’s death of a thousand cuts that made the service not worth waiting for when people could walk to an alternate route sooner than the bus would show up.
11 Bayview: The Bayview bus used to go to Eglinton Station rather than to Davisville, and there were 10 buses per hour.
100 Flemingdon Park: This route did not exist in 1968, but in 2007 4 buses per hour run over to Eglinton Station from Don Mills.
Adding this all up, we get the following service levels:
On Eglinton from Yonge to Mt. Pleasant:
1968: 98 buses/hour 2007: 40 buses/hour
On Eglinton from Mt. Pleasant to Bayview:
1968: 78 2007: 36
On Eglinton from Bayview to Laird/Brentcliffe:
1968: 44 2007: 34
At this point, we are down to service levels comparable to today. Note that the extremely frequent service only operated for one km from Yonge to Mt. Pleasant, and to a lesser extent to Bayview, a further 1 km east. From Bayview east the 1968 service is only slightly better than today’s service (40 buses/hour) on Finch East.
Although in 1968 all services ran local, not long thereafter, express operations were implemented on the most frequent routes to deal with congestion problems. The only express stop between Bayview and Yonge was at Mt. Pleasant. Express buses would, of course, pass by the six local stops and vehicles serving them. The street was full of buses as anyone like me or Robert Wightman, who grew up in that neighbourhood, can tell you.
The section of intense service was quite short and there was only one express stop where every bus would try, sometimes four deep, to pull up to the stop. Current TTC practice require all buses to pull up to the stop for safety reasons, and the type of operation we saw on Eglinton 40 years ago would not be allowed today unless there were a very long, dedicated stopping area at the express stop.
Eglinton East in 1968 was able to operate extremely frequent bus service only because the buses had two lanes in which to operate and much of the service didn’t have to stop. Buses could pass each other if necessary (a discussion of why they don’t do this today leads us into the peculiarities of TTC line management). With only one express stop, Eglinton from Bayview to Yonge was in effect a line-haul operation, the classic Bus Rapid Transit implementation — an express link terminating in a multi-bay transit mall.
This is a very different situation from what we will find on the Waterfront or Transit City lines.
The areas to be served are or will be developed with housing that will yield many would-be riders at every stop. Express service will be out of the question. Moreover, if buses are confined to a two-lane right-of-way on very frequent headways (such as those required to serve the waterfront plans), they will not have much freedom to go around each other at stops because so much traffic will be coming the other way.
If we are going to discuss bus options on major transit corridors, let us be honest about the infrastructure needed to handle them. Adjusting this discussion for the capacity of articulated buses raises the line somewhat, but doesn’t eliminate the basic problem that extremely frequent “bus rapid transit” cannot provide local service.