Express and Premium Fare Buses

The supplementary agenda for this week’s TTC meeting includes a report on Express Buses.  Unfortunately, this report has been badly misreported in today’s Star to the extent that the article and the report are diametrically opposed to each other.

The Star, drawing on information from Adam Giambrone, claims that a new network of express buses with premium fares has been proposed.  In fact, here are the changes recommended by the report:

  • In the interest of encouraging riding on the routes parallel to the Yonge Subway (141 Mt. Pleasant, 142 Avenue Road, 144 Don Valley), these routes will become regular fare routes effective September 8, 2009.  The report is silent on whether this change in status would also trigger an RGS-based implementation of full service to match “subway operating hours”.  I don’t think that the TTC has digested the full impact of the RGS changes or how they would specify exemptions.
  • A downtown express from Bayview/Lawrence will be evaluated following the trial period of regular fare operation on the three routes listed above.
  • New local-express service will be implemented on 41 Keele and 60 Steeles West, but not until November 2009.
  • The express services on 35E Jane and 96E Wilson will be improved to see whether this boosts riding, but again not until November 2009.  The effects will be reviewed in 2010 with a view to keeping, improving or eliminating this service.
  • No other express services are warranted at this time on existing routes because the travel time savings and travel patterns are such that new express services would cause at least as much harm by degradation of local service as they would benefit riders who might use them.
  • A network of express routes paralleling the eventual Transit City network is not warranted because they would operate in mixed traffic, and their additional operating cost could not be justified.

I will not repeat all of the detailed information from the report here.  The common thread you will see in the recommendations is that everything happens late next year so that the impact on the 2009 budget is minimal.  By that time, we should also know about:

  • The RGS proposal to move to 20-minute minimum headways
  • Additional express services, if any
  • Fine tuning, if any, of the RGS hours of service to deal with exceptional situations

A parallel issue, mentioned in the TTC report, is crowding on the subway and plans for future capacity increases.  I will be posting a separate article about fleet planning and options to divert ridership onto other corridors later this week.

15 thoughts on “Express and Premium Fare Buses

  1. How do you think the exclusion of 143 (becoming in effect the only premium service in the entire network, right?) will go down with Commissioner Bussin?

    Steve: That will be intriguing. The premise is that it doesn’t draw load off of the subway, and therefore should be a premium fare route.

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  2. I was always intrigued with the TTC’s attempt to reduce crowding (if that indeed WAS the attempt), by discontinuing 27 DOWNTOWN service and extending 97 YONGE service. At first, this extension ran between the rush hours as well as during, then cut back to rush only, and whittled down to once in a while. I wondered how they ever expected a bus to make it all the way from Front to Steeles on time! I also wonder if they thought of similar on Bloor-Danforth, and why they even continue to provide this rush-hour service.

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  3. Steve, do you by any chance have any details on what exactly the proposed changes to service on route 60 are? Will they introduce local service and supplement with a more rapid express service? Or is the plan to keep the 60F the same (express on Yonge, local on Steeles) and make 60E more express (stops only on major interesections until Keele and then local)?

    Steve: I only have what is in the report online, and that does not include detailed descriptions of what they plan to implement. It’s a year away, and would likely change between now and then anyhow.

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  4. An extremely important point about the 141, 142, and 144 that I don’t think has been mentioned yet:
    All of these routes intersect with at least one Transit City line (Eglinton-Crosstown), and both the 141 and 142 intersect Eglinton at locations that will almost certainly feature underground LRT stations in the future. Now if you look at the current service on Avenue Road as an example, the 61 presently serves the areas north of Eglinton while the 5 serves those south, and both routes presently feed into Eglinton Station (about 1/2 km east of Avenue Rd.), with the extremely infrequent and expensive 142 providing the only transfer-free service to downtown. If we assume that the opening of the Eglinton LRT would see a removal of the aforementioned bus services into Eglinton Station in favour of a direct transfer at a new station at Eglinton & Avenue, then creating a ridership base for those services now is a very good idea. I think the same would go for the Mt Pleasant service.

    Steve: One item to consider is the question of where the people in the catchment area of the Avenue Road and Mt. Pleasant buses actually want to go. This is probably different during the peak period than offpeak. A through north-south service looks good on a map, but historical travel patterns don’t necessarily match the grid. This is particularly true on Mt. Pleasant where the only reason for running a bus south of St. Clair is to get to downtown while the Yonge St. Clair district is probably a stronger destination off peak.

    There is no perfect answer here because some riders will always want to make an “L” shaped trip over to Yonge from Avenue Road or Mt. Pleasant, while others will want to go straight through.

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  5. If 141, 142, 144 are to become regular-fare expresses, 143 should be regular fare as well. Moreover, Lakeshore West peak hour, regular-fare express should be considered once more.

    The cost recovery of those routes might not be stellar, but they will both attract new riders and make life easier for the existing TTC customers. No conceptual difference from the way the RGS treated late-evening residential routes.

    Regarding 60 Steeles West, it should be possible to run the Martin Grove branch express from the subway to Keele at all times, except late evenings. The York U 60C / 60F branch can deal with the local traffic between Yonge and Keele, if it gets a few more buses off-peak, and is no longer reduced during summer.

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  6. This report on express service is very stressful, as it shows just how much the TTC is not interested in providing bus service that actually is competitive with car travel and attracts people to transit.

    TTC does things well, but one thing it does not do well is express service.

    I really had hope that this report was going to usher in a new era for bus travel in Toronto. However it is the same old with the TTC turning down express services, even though every other major city in North America provides express services to a much higher degree then the TTC does. And they all do it in mixed traffic at that.

    The TTC is really missing the mark with this one. One only needs to look to Montreal where express buses to the West Island have become such a hit, that the STM can’t keep up with the ridership growth on the route.

    To bad TTC is not ready to see success like that in Toronto’s outer. Guess we will just continue to drive, since the bus will continue to take two hours to get us anywhere.

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  7. Steve, you raise a good question about whether more people want to make the “L-shaped” or straight-through trip on corridors such as Avenue. I am much more familiar with Avenue than I am with Mt Pleasant, but I think the fact that Avenue at least will intersect with LRT both at Eglinton and St Clair provides good connection options for people who want to go to, say, Yonge and Eglinton or Yonge and St Clair, while providing a transfer-free trip parallel to Yonge (which I agree is one of a few better ways of relieving the Yonge line in peak hours than major, unnecessary renovations). Until Eglinton Crosstown is built I think it is wisest to retain the current split route and add service to the straight-through route during peak times, but once the line is complete I think that only a straight-through route would be required (admittedly to the detriment of a few, but I think having one stop to travel on the LRT “subway” would be an acceptable trade-off to help provide a more rational route. Worth some study, though.

    (In the long run I’d personally like to see loading on Yonge spread out better between GO rail and parallel bus services enough to build a couple of infill stations on the north end, like at Glencairn/Yonge – I’ve found that the most useful metros are not the “fastest” but the ones with the best spread of stations throughout the city)

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  8. It’s too bad the Star messed up the story, but since their source was Adam Giambrone, I wonder if he was confused about the report. I’d be tickled pink if the 142 goes to regular fare – I work a block away from where it loops downtown, and sometimes, I’d think I’d rather take that then the subway if I’m not in a rush home (I have, actually, to try it out). It’d also mean that I’d be able to pick up bagels from my favourite place on Avenue on my way home easier. I wonder though if the 142 (and others) would then have to pick riders up where they stop north of Eglinton.

    The 39E works great, I’d like to see the TTC try some more express routes (without too much expense to the local milk runs) in the suburbs and see if it works, especially outside of peak periods. The 39E works, partly as buses come so often, it’s a way of managing bunching and loads a bit better.

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  9. I’m extremely disappointed to read this, as I had other routes in mind when I first heard about it. Two routes jump out to me as needing express buses.

    First, in Scarborough. A route connecting the Scarborough Town Center to Downtown. This is really something GO should be doing IMHO. While there are other options (IE the Subway) there are those willing to pay more to get from STC to Downtown without ever getting up from their seat – an added bonus is that this will likely be slightly quicker too.

    Second, on Yonge street. I for one can attest that I’d be willing to buy an express sticker for my pass if it meant that I could ride a bus, and not the subway, during peak hours. Running local from Finch to Sheppard, then stopping only at Eglinton, and running local south of Bloor, this would be a very convenient alternative for those who do not feel like standing and pressing up against total strangers every day of the week. My guess is that this route would, given a short amount of time (IE a few months, until people get used to it being there) obtain ridership numbers so high and they’d not only need to add extra buses, but also extra stops.

    Now. On to Keele having an express bus. All I can say is “it’s about time”. That route is one of the most consistently crowded routs I’ve ever seen at rush. While other routes might get more crowded (32 Eg west comes to mind) they tend to have headways close enough that if you wait for a half dozen buses to pass you by, at least one of them will have empty seats thanks to bunching. On Keele, you can forget about that possibility. Even when they do bunch (and they do not, given the wide headways) they tend to both be full to the brim. I dont know if the TTC has any “weighting” numbers on this, but I for one would be willing to go between 30 minutes and an hour out of my way just to get a seat.

    Lastly, Keele also needs blue night service.

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  10. There is really no valid reason to delay some of these improvements another full year. Express service on Keele, Dufferin etc, could easily be introduced now at no cost, simply convert some of the existing runs to Express. Other routes especially Jane could likewise support double the Express runs while at the same time reducing the regular runs. The volume is already there. KISS

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  11. Premium fares routes could be phased out starting sooner by reducing the premium to say, 1 Loonie. This would be a test marketing method to determine demand while retaining some extra revenue at the same time as encouraging more ridership by lowering the premium. It might well prove that elimination of the entire premium is not necessary.

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  12. Re: Nick J. Boraqina

    Keele express will be quite useful.

    Not so sure about STC to downtown. But at least it has a chance to compete with the RT / subway combo, as the bus can use 401 / DVP.

    Yonge express bus would be a lot slower than subway. The street has just too many traffic lights.

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  13. Hmm. Keele is an interesting case. I find that Keele is the epitome of a neighbourhood-oriented core route with a lot of turnover, particularly at Wilson, Lawrence, Eglinton, Rogers and St. Clair. At Sheppard and Wilson, lots of people transfer east to the Spadina Line. I agree it needs more buses at all times (late evenings, with buses every 24 minutes apart on a core route is unforgivable), and crowding is a problem. Buses constantly bunch northbound at Wilson, BTW, and 41S is a common sight by 6PM.

    That said, I’m not sure express buses is the solution on this route, especially as it is not that direct to the subway and has more turnover than the east-west routes (I live just off the 41, BTW). While I am not sure that a Keele Night bus is warranted, York University needs night buses – I would suggest adding a bus or two to the 329 Dufferin and run it via Wilson and Keele to York U.

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  14. >Ray Kennedy,

    I agree with KISS Ray… same with 7 Bathurst, it’s 12 km from St. Clair to Steeles, 14 from Bloor to Steeles, and yet no Express now, not even under evaluation??? Every bus LOCAL over 12-14 km on a heavily travelled route??? when 2-3-4-5 buses often bunch up at major intersections queuing to get through a red light?

    19 Dufferin by comparison is only 8 km. Bloor to Wilson Station.

    So something isn’t consistent, logical in TTC’s (only add incremental buses, not redistribute some of existing Local-only to Express buses) Local/Express decision-making methodology.

    There are plenty of buses on existing routes that could run Express to Concession only stops on long-haul routes, siphon off the crush loads that slow the local buses and get ppl to where they want to go cheaper, faster and more conveniently… Ride the Rocket… The Better Way!!!

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  15. Re: Keele at night. Keele is the only major street with medium density residential areas without a night bus service. Sheppard West (Especially closer to Jane and Weston) also generates a fair bit of ridership.

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