At the 501 Queen Forum last week, I and others talked about the declining service and ridership in the Queen Street corridor. This post reviews the published statistics from 1976 to 2005, the latest information available so far.
These data are taken from the annual Service Plan and related documents. The most recent counts are on the TTC’s website.
Updated December 11: A consolidated count has been added for the Queen services (501, 502 and 503) to show the ridership and mileage in the three routes serving this corridor.
Like so much TTC data, there are several caveats to reading these charts:
- Originally, the data were reported for the year before the date it was published. More recently, the time period spans years with the most recent data being for 2005-2006. These are shown as “2005” in the charts.
- All values for riding and mileage are rounded to hundreds.
- For 2005-2006, mileage is reported in kilometres. Many values change slightly from the previous year when stated as miles indicating that the TTC converted its data on the unrounded values, and then rounded the results.
- Riding counts are taken once per year, at best, and reflect the conditions on the date of the count.
Various historical notes:
- From 1991 onward, data for 503 Kingston Road Tripper was consolidated with 502 Downtowner.
- From 1991-1996, data for 509 Harbourfront includes only the original route on Queen’s Quay. The 510 Spadina car began operation in 1997.
- From 1994 onward, the 507 Long Branch service was amalgamated with 501 Queen.
With the exception of Harbourfront/Spadina, riding has been falling on all routes over the long term. However, counts are taken infrequently with the value for 501 Queen unchanged since 2001. The TTC claims that it has been adjusting its service to match current demand, but if so, one wonders why measurements of that demand have not shown up in the published counts.
A riding drop on 501 Queen in 1991 corresponds with the replacement of CLRVs by ALRVs (also visible in the drop in service mileage).
The line for 501 Queen merges with that of 506 Carlton because the riding for both lines has been reported as 41,200 since 2002.
Whether you prefer Imperial or Metric units, the story is the same — the amount of service, measured as vehicle mileage, has dropped on almost all routes.
501 Queen shows a big drop in 1991 with the change from CLRV to ALRV operation, and a subsequent rise in 1995 following amalgamation with the 507 Long Branch car.
Service cuts in 1991 are visible on 506 Carlton, 505 Dundas, 512 St. Clair and 507 Long Branch. Despite the consolidation of data for 502 and 503 services to Kingston Road, there was no change in the reported mileage indicating a substantial service cut.
This value shows the ratio of riding to service level.
No surprise here — the 510 Spadina car has the highest ratio of riding to service. This reflects the strong bidirectional demand on the line and the short trip lengths for most passengers.
On 501 Queen, the density value went up in 1991 with the introduction of ALRVs, but this fell again in later years. Note that the same riding count was reported for this route for 1991 through 1994 and the impact of the service change cannot be determined at the annual level. Similarly, the same count was used for 1995 to 1997.
The real “chicken and egg” question here, of course, comes from the consistency of many of these values over two decades. Does ridership decline because there is less service (thereby preserving the ratio), or is service cut in response to falling ridership?
Transit networks can fall into a hopeless decline because these two factors are closely linked. Bad service drives away riding thereby “justifying” even worse service. When widened headways compound with ineffective line management, actual service quality drops more than the raw mileage figures show.
Yes, there have been economic and demographic changes over the years in Toronto that affected transit ridership. However, the TTC’s cutbacks have cemented the loss of riding and undermined the system’s attractiveness and capacity in response to growing travel demand.