TTC Riding Counts — Are There More Passengers? (Updated)

The 2008 Service Plan report is out although only the cover document is posted online as I write this.  The detailed report is not yet up with the other Service Reports.

Updated April 20, 2008:  The report is now available online.

Once I get a chance to digest the updated route statistics, I will post them here.  However, it is worth noting that, as usual, several streetcar routes have riding counts that are years out of date.  We know that more recent data must exist because some service improvements are starting to work their way into the system, but it’s always troubling when the overall system reports don’t have current data.

Routes With Updated Riding Figures

  • 502/503 Downtowner & Kingston Road – 7,800 (up from 6,100 first reported in 2002)
  • 504/508 King & Lake Shore – 53,100 (up from 47,900 in 2005)
  • 501 Queen – 43,500 (up from 41,200 first reported in 2002)
  • 510/509 Spadina & Harbourfront – 48,000 (up from 43,400 first reported in 2003)

Routes With Unchanged Riding Figures

  • 511 Bathurst – 13,600 (unchanged since 2005)
  • 506 Carlton – 41,200 (unchanged since 2001)
  • 505 Dundas – 35,200 (unchanged since 2005)
  • 512 St. Clair – 31,000 (unchanged since 2002)

It’s good to see riding going up, but the infrequency of updated counts means that the so-called financial performance (a piece of creative accounting of the highest order) of major routes is misreported to their detriment. 

16 thoughts on “TTC Riding Counts — Are There More Passengers? (Updated)

  1. I would question the TTC methodologies for counting riders. I was looking at some statistics a week or so ago (APTA). There seem to be significant swings that don’t seem realistic given that the employment levels have been fairly stable. I’d be inclined to use some kind of smoothing factor over to get a better idea of overall ridership trend.

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  2. Steve

    This is something you have highlighted in the past and I hope you continue to do so. The phrase “measure twice, cut once” has never formed part of TTC thinking, it seems.

    I think one reason TTC have a terror of smartcards is that route measurement will become a whole lot easier… which might lead to some uncomfortable questioning from Councillors told for years their area didn’t warrant more service.

    Steve: And, sadly, no passenger counts, smart or otherwise, can tell you how many riders never got on because the service was too infrequent or unreliable.

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  3. Maybe this is because performing manual counts is too labour-intensive (and not very accurate). The TTC needs to install some automated counting equipment in buses and streetcars. This could include pressure mats, infrared rays across doorways, new fareboxes and/or smart cards. An engineering class at U of T did this as one of their projects. This will provide higher quality and more up-to-date data.

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  4. The above comments reminds me of a driver I once knew who told me that he was once driving on 7 BATHURST when the talented TTC people counters decided to do a count—on Yom Kippur!!!! He said the tally counter was surprised and was not aware that 7 BATHURST was so lightly used. The driver, amazed, ask him, “Don’t you know what today is?” The tally counter said, “no.”

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  5. The TTC is fifth rate in many ways and if they can’t even do reilable, and frequent passenger counts…..wait a minute I just answered my own question. Reilablity and frequency seems to be unimportant in their minds.

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  6. Mark Dowling wrote, “I think one reason TTC have a terror of smartcards is that route measurement will become a whole lot easier”

    And more accurate. On routes outside of the 416 that the TTC is contracted to provide, as a convenience to passengers, they can deposit a TTC ticket or token to pay the non-TTC fare (not a bad deal in York Region, since TTC tickets are less expensive for adults and children). Several years ago, I asked someone I knew at TTC operations how they determined how much of the fare they were to hand over to YRT. I was told that when a YRT ticket is used, that’s easy, but for the rest using either cash, TTC tickets/tokens, a YRT pass, or a GTA pass, they just used “rough counts” made by the drivers.

    Perhaps if forced into a more accurate count under something like Presto, the TTC would not be so concerned with maintaining the unbalanced cross-border fare collection system currently in place. Then again, some might say we need a balanced system before a smart card can be brought in, so we have a classic chicken-or-egg scenario.

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  7. I’ve been told the TTC is moving, at last, into automated passenger counting. YRT has installed a set of vehicles with equipment, and cycles this set through various routes in the system. VIVA has APC on all vehicles, I understand.

    I’ll try to report on this soon.

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  8. The one thing I noted is that the Finch East route has finally vaulted past the Dufferin route and is now the busiest bus route in the city. Methinks this could be part of building an argument to finally purchase articulated buses – for which Finch East is a prime candidate to receive them.

    Steve: The TTC is planning to buy artics subject to there being an acceptable design available. The last batch fell apart too quickly and savings in lower manpower/passenger were outweighed by higher maintenance cost and short life.

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  9. As a professional accountant (I have a CMA designation) I can certainly relate to the statement:

    “so-called financial performance (a piece of creative accounting of the highest order)”

    I also have a mathematics background, so the intersection between creative accounting and lying with statistics is an area I know something about.

    The costs of running any service are moderately easy to figure out, but even here all kind of games can be played in the area of allocating overheads.

    But when it comes to revenues, since unlimited transfers are allowed in the TTC system, the only meaningful financial performance figure is the marginal impact on revenue of running any particular service. In other words, how many passengers would not be here if the service did not exist. That is something that the TTC’s current system is simply not set up to determine.

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  10. Looking at some of the literature online (and trying not to order any for snail mail delivery!), mat-based and infrared technology for passenger counts have been around for a while – back to 2002 or so.

    We do need better metrics for the TTC performance – overall and in part. It is a valid management control exercise to attempt to allocate costs and revenue to different elements of the overall product mix. There are always limitations to this. Many organizations use a variety of management control tools to judge whether the operations are working the way they are supposed to – and where it is more important to increase or decrease resources.

    With a transit system, ridership data – in terms of the where, when etc is foundational for most everything else – so it’s troubling that our system has fallen behind in the application of technology.

    The TTC should look at getting vendor guarantees for the life cycles performance of vehicles. Why not pay the suppliers based on having vehicles ready for service each day?

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  11. Calvin: YRT pays for all services north of Steeles. Obviously the fare revenue does not cover the entire cost of running the route, so TTC sends YRT a bill of how much it costs to run the route, minus any revenue earned over the section (YRT tickets were prepaid to YRT, so the TTC charges YRT for that revenue. TTC media and cash are deducted.)

    Nick: I’ve heard the TTC is in talks with New Flyer to get an order of artics ready for 2010. If those talks go sour, Orion is touring a Mercedes artic around lately, due to hit the TTC in a few months for testing. It’s quite possible this may become the next production bus by Orion, where they obtain the rights to produce that vehicle in North America.

    As for my own comments, I know YRT drivers punch something into their keyboards on the fareboxes whenever somebody boards the bus with a Monthly pass or transfer, and the farebox automatically records tickets and cash. This can be a really good way for recording the ridership, and it could possibly be combined with the GPS systems to produce a semi-accurate picture of where ridership originates.

    Steve: YRT may be sleepy enough that drivers can keep track of passengers, but major TTC routes have large volumes on and off at many stops that are way more than drivers could ever handle. The TTC has tried counters of various sorts and always ran into problems with crowding in the stairwells. Presto only works if everyone has to tap in on every vehicle, something that’s highly counterproductive for passengers.

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  12. I notice Joe Pantalone tried to get the #63 Ossington bus extended to the CNE grounds — must all routes lead to the Ex? (Once he realizes the DRL can be morphed into an Exhibition Place feeder line, watch out.) The recommended routing through Liberty Village seems infinitely better.

    Appendix A, which details service improvements (including a huge list of routes in September 2005), doesn’t actually include most of the “historic” service increase in February of this year. Oops.

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  13. Just wondering… Wouldn’t you get your answer about if there’s more passengers by checking out these URLs?

    Subway Ridership, 2007-2008, PDF document, 41 KB – http://www.toronto.ca/ttc/pdf/subway_ridership07_08.pdf

    Subway Ridership, 2006-2007, PDF document, 41 KB – http://www.toronto.ca/ttc/pdf/subway_ridership06_07.pdf

    Subway Ridership, 2005-2006 , PDF document, 40 KB – http://www.toronto.ca/ttc/pdf/subway_ridership05_06.pdf

    Steve: My tracking of TTC stats comes from over 20 years of annual route-by-route reports. The most recent years are on the TTC’s website.

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  14. Andrew C wrote, “YRT pays for all services north of Steeles.” [snip] “…so TTC sends YRT a bill of how much it costs to run the route, minus any revenue earned over the section…”

    I understand this, but my point is that the “minus the revenue earned over the section” part is just a guess except when actual YRT tickets are used. How many of those TTC tickets and tokens and how much of the cash in the farebox of a TTC bus that does contract work for YRT was earned for doing YRT contract work.

    Given the TTC’s inaccurate ridership counts when done by actual counters, how accurate are the counts being done by drivers?

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  15. On WED May 7th there was a massive delay at Yonge and Bloor subway station. TTC announced a medical emergency and said it would be fixed ‘IN A FEW MINUTES’.

    Thousands of people were stranded in subway cars and the TTC kept admitting people within the subway station. Anouncements were repeated every few minutes the delay would be cleared up ‘ IN A FEW MINUTES’.

    People were crammed like sardines both in the subway cars and in the station. Half an hour later I left this nonsense behind, squeezing out of the subway car and then the station and started walking. TTC simply doesn’t give a hoot about it’s riders. Just keep putting your money in the box.

    Steve: One big problem with the announcements is that they are recorded once and then automatically repeat. Updating them does not seem to be a priority especially if Transit Control is juggling several emergencies at once.

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  16. Exactly Steve!! Passenger welfare is NOT a priority at the TTC when it should be. Smaller cities like London and Vaughan feature electronic readouts at bus stops to inform their passengers when the next bus will arrive. Not at our TTC even though ALL TTC vehicles are tracked by GPS.

    Steve: Strictly speaking they are not tracked (yet) by GPS. That conversion is in progress. The GPS info used for the stop announcements is not used for most routes to report the vehicle location to the monitoring system, and therefore there is no reliable data for a “next bus” stop display.

    Of course, “next bus” displays are cold comfort when there is no “next bus”.

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