Where Have All The Riders Gone? (Update 2)

[Updated December 14:  A chart of the top 30 bus routes has been added in response to requests from readers.  Comments on this chart are at the end of the post.] 

[Updated December 12:  Charts of ridership and vehicle mileage for most of the system from 1976 to 2005 have been added.  Comments on these appear at the end of this post.] 

My title may seem an odd choice, but my evening spent foraging in TTC statistics was quite sobering.

Some have commented here that I spend an undue amount of time on the streetcar system, and so for a moment, I will turn to the buses.  The TTC likes to believe that its system is growing, and in some very limited places, yes, that is true.  However, the service cuts of the 1990s decimated service and ridership on the entire system, not just downtown.

The count of boardings (one person on one bus regardless of whether they pay a fare or transfer) hit a peak of about 1.42-million in 1989.  This went into  long decline and by 2005, the number was 1.17-million.

Service, measured in vehicle miles, took a hit, although not as deep, through the 1990s, and by 2005 was growing back to almost the same level.  However, this masks what was really happening.  Routes in the handful of growing areas were getting more service, but the TTC was not recapturing riders it had lost.  Major routes now carry only a fraction of what they handled in 1989. Continue reading