The Ten Minute Network

Recently, the TTC implemented a maximum 30 minute headway across the network and full service from roughly 6:00 am to 1:00 am everywhere.  Plans for 2009 include a reduction of this maximum to 20 minutes, a topic I reviewed in a previous post.  Whether we will actually see this next year is still a topic for budget debates, and the recently announced fare freeze could put that scheme on hold.

Another option that has surfaced is the concept of a core grid of routes where service would never be worse than every 10 minutes.  To get a sense of what this might look like, I culled through the current schedules to produce a list of routes that have headways wider than 10 minutes.  This is not a definitive list, and I know there can be both additions and deletions.  Indeed, proposals like this are guaranteed to produce all sorts of political fights as each Councillor tries to get “their” routes on the “A list” for service quality.  The criteria for picking the routes were:

  • Routes on the major concession roads, or a reasonable approximation, were chosen.  This is the roughly 2km square grid of main streets in Toronto.
  • For areas with more complex geometry such as southern Scarborough, I have selected routes to provide geographic coverage.
  • Only services within the 416 are included.
  • All streetcar lines are included, although an argument can be made that one or two of them could be trimmed from the list.

Where the cells in the table are empty, the service is already at a 10 minute headway or better, and some routes have completely blank rows.  What is quite noticeable here compared with the chart of 20 minute routes is that there are more time periods where service improvements would be needed on more routes.  Moreover, many of these are major routes where the number of additional vehicles would be substantial.

In a period of tighter finances, this raises the question of which approach to service improvement should get priority:

  • Improve service even more on lesser used routes and periods from 30 to 20 minute maximum headways.
  • Improve service on core routes to 10 minute headways.
  • Improve service on routes that could benefit from reduced crowding.

All of these must be balanced against the debate over fare levels.  Regular readers will know that my preference has always been to concentrate on service because that’s what people really need.  The greatest prices in the world won’t do any good if the shop window is empty.

20 thoughts on “The Ten Minute Network

  1. Ah, Keele is Route 41, not 51. I had trouble locating on of my routes and was going to ask why you overlooked it!

    Excellent concept, though. The Keele route can be frustrating that for such an important, grid route, late evening service at 24 minutes is not only infrequent, it is not even clockface. Even 20 minute service on all routes would address this problem.

    On a slightly different note, I see it is taking the TTC a while to update the system maps, even on the website. I was wondering when all those dots and dashes would disappear, and the route changes (like the 167A and 169A and 96G) would be reflected. At least I am finding that the transfer point schedules are now mostly updated and individual route maps all fixed on the site.


  2. I wonder if there are some routes you can take off the list by coming to an arrangement with neighbouring transit agencies — particularly Mississauga. On this list and others, you’re looking at increasing service on the Burnhamthorpe, Bloor West and Dundas Street buses west of Kipling, when service is already quite frequent on Mississauga Transit. It seems a shame that we have to spend money putting TTC buses out there, instead of having inbound buses on Burnhamthorpe picking up Torontonians en route to the subway.

    Yes, fare management would be complicated under present conditions, but perhaps the requirement that passengers on Burnhamthorpe, Bloor West and Dundas pick up a transfer to continue their trip on the subway would be balanced by the fact that they’d have access to buses running along their roads a lot more frequently, and then the buses we’re currently using for these roads could be channelled elsewhere in the city.

    Steve: I agree about looking to MT for route sharing. The purpose of this exercise was simply to get a sense of how many routes and times of day would be involved so that we could transform a “wouldn’t it be nice” idea into something more concrete. My list is not intended to be etched in marble.


  3. We also need to be aware of a definitional issue here. Your list of routes as candidates for 10 minute service depends on the “route”, as given by a single name and number, being a good representation of the service needed on the ground.

    The bone I have to pick with the TTC is regarding the Islington South (#110, 110A, 110B). Here the portion north of Horner Ave is served by three legs. South of Horner service drops off to every 22 min. weekday off-peak, and Saturday. On Sunday mid-day it’s every 20 minutes because the #110A and 110B have stopped running.

    The passenger loads are quite different on the three legs, with the basic #110 often running from Bloor with only a few riders getting off before crossing the railway viaduct and delivering 85% of its load to New Toronto.

    So, the analysis needs to take into account multi-leg routes where the “demand geography” is very different for the different legs.

    Fred in New Toronto

    Steve: I agree, but as I said in the post, the routes were chosen to give an example of the scope of such a project, not a definitive list. Islington South is particularly bad because of its branch structure that leaves wide headways on most of the route.


  4. A supplementary comment on Nick Boragina’s excellent map and his comment on south etobicoke. You can see from the map the discontinuity in the overall network of Ten Minute Routes for north-south travel (i.e. subway access) from the Lakeshore north.


  5. It is my feeling that all rail routes (HRT, LRT, streetcar) should have 10 minute headways or better. I am worried that when we get our new LFLRVs that are larger than our current ALRVs, that the headways will get stretched. We need to make sure that any rail route have 10 minutes or better.

    The headways on our HRT subways are around 5 minutes, which is better than headways on some U.S. subways or metros. I was on the New York subway and waited almost 10 minutes for a train. Turns out that is their normal headway, but I started “worrying” why the “delay”. But it was no “delay”, it was the schedule.

    I hope that with the Next Vehicle Information System that there will be less “worry” on my part.


  6. At one time the Islington 110A and 110B branches were a separate route-the Horner 38. It had the same routing as today: i.e. south on Islington, then along Judson to Horner and then south on either Brown’s Line or 30th St to end up at the Long Branch loop.

    Going back even further in time the Horner route and the Evans route replaced the 80A branch of the Queensway route and gave Alderwood residents a direct route to the subway intead of having to transfer to a north-south route from the 80A.

    Steve: Yes, a split back to the old routes may be in order here.


  7. Hmmm,

    I don’t know that I want to have a straight choice between the 20-min and the CORE-10 min. options.

    Of course, in an ideal world, like any transit advocate, I want them both.

    But, understanding that there are finite resources to go around; notwithstanding the ‘brand-ability’ of the Core-10 OR the absolute 20min. services, there is little question they will relatively over service some routes at the expense of real demand elsewhere in the system.

    I would prefer some cherry picking.

    But as opposed to listing off the routes, I will offer some suggested criteria.

    1) On all of your ‘Core-Routes’ I would apply the every-10 service requirement during primary service hours; which to me are Weekday, AM Peak, Midday, PM Peak, and Early Evening; and Weekend Afternoons.
    This provides that reliable, brandable service, when most people will actually take advantage of it. I’m less concerned about 10 minute service at 11:20pm on a Sunday, as long as service is there.

    2) On all ‘Core-Routes’, the every 20 service should apply during all subway operating hours.

    3) For other routes, I think I would, rather than simply apply every 20 minute service everywhere; focus on where demand currently exceeds supply (or comes close), and where service is still below the level of 1988, particularly during primary service hours.

    In addition I think the TTC is particularly poor with Sunday service levels, which have not been increased in the afternoons to reflect that as many or more people shop on Sundays than Saturdays now. I think Saturday and Sunday afternoon service harmonization would a very brand-able and useful service improvement.

    This would still leave low-use industrial routes, or peripheral services free to run 30min. service rather tie up vehicles better allocated to busy routes; yet offer better, more predictable service levels city-wide.


  8. This does give one much food for thought and I suspect that those in favour of one or other of the three options you suggest

    a. Improve service even more on lesser used routes and periods from 30 to 20 minute maximum headways.
    b. Improve service on core routes to 10 minute headways.
    c. Improve service on routes that could benefit from reduced crowding.

    will depend to a large extent on which routes one uses!

    Like you, I worry that the Mayor’s decision to freeze fares (for a year?) will not be followed by a decision by Council to increase the City subsidy to make up for the lost revenue. There are doubtless some places the TTC could be more efficient but I bet the easiest thing to do will be to either reduce service or fail to increase it to meet demand.


  9. Walter Lis Says:

    “It is my feeling that all rail routes (HRT, LRT, streetcar) should have 10 minute headways or better. I am worried that when we get our new LFLRVs that are larger than our current ALRVs, that the headways will get stretched. We need to make sure that any rail route have 10 minutes or better.”

    I feel that this would be a great waste of money on equipment and resources. While the equipment might be available from the rush hour service and would not result in a large incremental cost there is a point were the increased wear and tear plus energy expenditures would mitigate against the service. There is nothing wrong with a 15 or 20 minute service if it always arrives on the advertised. Running a 10 minute service to Stouffville would not result in a lot of new riders but would greatly increase operating costs. Money is not a limitless commodity. If you wanted to save money by shortening the trains then you would have to pay people to cut cars off and add cars on and this would probably be more expensive than just running the cars all the time.

    The Lakeshore line runs 5 train sets I believe to provide hourly service between Aldershot and Oshawa with a total of almost 1 hour of layover to meet the established station time on the original network of inbound from Oakville on the half hour and from Pickering on the hour. It would be possible to run half hour service from Hamilton to Oshawa with another 4 train sets by eliminating the 58 minute layover in the schedule per round trip. This would be a good place to spend the money and not 10 minutes to everywhere.

    The GO line to Brampton, Mt. Pleasant, can run hourly service with two trains as the one way trip time is 50 minutes. The Barrie line and the Stouffville line can run hourly service if they are interlined. The one way trip time is 2hours 12 minutes so 5 trains could provide the service. The one way trip time to Milton is 54 minutes so two train sets could also cover it nicely. Richmond Hill is about 42 minutes so two trains could cover it and it could be interlined with Milton to provide a larger lay over/recovery timer.

    I believe that this would be a lot more sensible than a 10 minute headway everywhere. Don’t forget that the Richmond Hill, Bradford and Stouffville lines are single tracked and a 10 minutes headway would require a virtual double track for the entire length.

    Steve: There is a big difference between a wide headway on a GO line where the trip length is a substantial portion of the total. Waiting 20 minutes at Queen and anywhere for a streetcar to take you someplace you could walk to faster is quite another matter as anyone who uses the 501 can tell you.


  10. Oh, god… In Cleveland, the base frequency for the subway is 15 MINUTES! And they have streetcars too, with a base of 30 minutes apiece, 15 combined on the downtown segment. It simply begs the question (especially as a BRT is being built to connect two stations on the subway line itself) why build a subway if only to run a train every 15 minutes?


  11. My goodness the 80 Queensway service needs to be more frequent. That service is a joke at the moment. Of course nobody is actually going to sit and wait for it. I would say the only people that take it are the people who absolutely need it at the momoent. Obviously people would take it if service was actually frequent since it passes thought Sherway. As for me I try to avoid it as much as possible and I take the 123. Maybe the TTC should to trial runs for about a 2-3 months on this route and run frequent service one it and see how many riders take it then. I don’t even understand why the TTC doesn’t do trial runs. Then they would know for sure which routes are popular and which aren’t.


  12. Steve: There is a big difference between a wide headway on a GO line where the trip length is a substantial portion of the total. Waiting 20 minutes at Queen and anywhere for a streetcar to take you someplace you could walk to faster is quite another matter as anyone who uses the 501 can tell you.

    My comment was meant to counter Walter Lis’ argument for a 10 minute headway every where. especially on the GO lines. I have no problems with it where there is or could be a demand, but not every where.


  13. Steve,

    I have a bone to pick with the service of the 25D and 90 (YRT). I know the 90 goes up further than the 25D but with the 90 having 30 minute headways, would it not make common sense to have the 25D running at approximately 15 minute headways during rush hour?

    I know the headway for the 25 (all branches) is 3’10” in the morning and 3’36” in the afternoon rush but can’t they run both rushes at every 4th bus instead of every 5th?

    Also, I don’t know what demand is on the 90 YRT for the portion north of 16th Avenue on weekends but I think YRT should bring back the 25D operation on the weekends and work with the headways afterwards since the 90 terminates at Steeles on Sundays.

    I’d assume that a 22’30” headway south of 16th and a 45′ headway north of 16th may be justified, otherwise YRT can ask the TTC to create a 25C (Pape Station – Elgin Mills) branch to operate weekends only thus allowing passengers one single-bus double-fare ride, thereby replacing the 90 and operating at the current 30′ headway the 90 has.

    I think the only reason that YRT asked the TTC to stop running the 25D on weekends after a couple of years of operations in 2002-2003 or so was because of the creation/extension of the 90 YRT.

    If you ask me, I’d have YRT & TTC do this:

    1) Eliminate the 90. The portion on Elgin Mills can be replaced by a route that runs from the Community Centre to Woodbine and down to the new Hazelton Lanes development at Woodbine/MM with a 30 minute headway.

    2) Run the 25D all-day every day, using the 8th bus (in an 8-bus cycle) during weekday peak (thus 25’20” morning peak & 28’48” afternoon peak), and using approximately a 40′ headway on non-peak times on weekdays, and 6am-10pm on weekends.

    3) Create a new branch (i.e. 25C, 25F, etc.) for Pape Stn-Elgin Mills using the 4th bus (in an 8-bus cycle) during weekday peak (thus 25’20” morning peak & 28’48” afternoon peak), and using approximately a 40′ headway on non-peak times on weekdays, and 6am-10pm on weekends.

    YRT would still fund the portion north of Steeles but it would simplify both the Elgin Mills (90 portion) and Leslie (90 portion) routes by separating them and letting the TTC run the Leslie portion. After all, operating costs would be reduced because of a longer trip on the 25 (north of Steeles) branches on the weekends as cost is spread over a larger basis.

    Do you think my proposal would work?

    It is similar to what the TTC is currently doing with the 107 but this would be different in a sense that the 25+ runs all the way from Pape Stn rather than Sheppard (Downsview). The TTC would still then roughly use the same number of buses on weekends if not just add 1 or 2 buses which I know they have and would operate since YRT pays the portion of costs incurred north of Steeles.

    Not to gloat but I have a B.Comm (finance) with a minor (urban geography) and I know the area up to 16th like the back of my hand so I know what I’m talking about when I make this proposal.

    Steve: The fundamental issue is that the TTC and YRT need to sort out ways to operate routes that benefit passengers first. For one thing, I have to wonder why the TTC runs a route all the way from Bloor/Danforth to north of Steeles, especially when it makes an indoor connection with the subway enroute. This seems to be an arrangement of convenience or habit, not something that has been properly thought out.


  14. Re. The Transit Strike in Ottawa. Actually, Steve, the main bone of contention is scheduling.

    According to our mayor, OC Transpo drivers are the ONLY drivers in Canada who can “pick and choose” scheduling for any given period. First, that’s a distortion, second, I’m sure that’s a lie. I was sure that TTC drivers with seniority have first pick on the scheduling boards, just like Ottawa.

    Steve: Yes, TTC operators select their crews for roughly six-week periods based on seniority. Occasionally, such as at the opening of a new garage, there is a master signup where operators pick their work locations, again by seniority.

    But the city thinks it can save money by scheduling the drivers themselves, in one-week periods(!). The Ottawa periods are somewhat longer than Toronto’s (September-December, Christmas, January to April, April to June/July, June/July to September). Whether or not it’s Ottawa or Toronto, weekly bookings would cause chaos. If the city of Ottawa gets its way, it could set a dangerous precedent for other systems, and could pave the way for total split shifts and even contracting out. Any thoughts?

    Steve: Yes, this sounds like a union-busting sort of move. It doesn’t actually make sense to schedule manpower down to that level because there is a lot of overhead in changing things every week. By preventing operators with seniority from chosing their work, the system encourages turnover as there is one less reason for operators to stay on the job and build up the seniority that would bring them better shifts and routes.


  15. Steve, if you remember, the 268 Warden North was deemed a pure failure so they went back to the 68B (Warden Stn-Major Mack) routing.

    This is the same reason they did not change the 25D to start at Don Mills Station. There are many passengers who travel north of Steeles to the Beaver Creek business area that actually live within minutes of the Don Mills bus. I remember taking it up past Steeles on a mid-day and there was a fair chunk of people on it, then when coming back down during the afternoon rush, the bus was packed by the time it hit John (not crushload though).

    If these people had to get off a bus at Don Mills Station to get on another one that essentially takes them up the same direction (but past Steeles) it would be an inconvenience so the TTC wonderfully integrated it into their normal schedule.

    I think it has been properly thought out.

    Going up to Finch last year on a regular basis I saw the 90 was almost always empty coming to or leaving the Don Mills Station area, whereas the 25D would still have a good chunk of passengers on it travelling north of Steeles.

    It is more a matter of convenience and also proper planning… why would someone take 2 buses (and 2 fares) to get to their destination when one bus (2 fares) does it equally well?

    And yes, there will always be passengers going solely from Don Mills Station to north of Steeles and vice versa, but those blend in well over a long routing (as do costs).

    What I wanted to know in your opinion is would my proposal of shifting the “Don Mills/Leslie north of Steeles” portion solely to the TTC on behalf of YRT would work better than the current arrangement (25D TTC + 90 YRT).

    Steve: I am not familiar enough with the routes in question to offer an opinion one way or another, but my basic question, as always, would be “where are the riders trying to go”. Route design (regardless of who actually operates the bus) should be based on this, within the overall design goal of maintaining a simple network. That is more easily done on frequent routes where transfers are not as big an issue, and the service levels in the 905 work against the TTC sort of route philosophy.


  16. Steve, very interesting discussion. I’d like to point out respect in which your methodology may be a bit coarse-grained, however. The decision to focus on concession roads and streetcar lines makes sense as a first approximation — car lines for the more dense core where they exist, concession road buses elsewhere. Still, there are cases in which significant areas of the core don’t receive car service. In particular, the West End, which we can define as roughly Bathurst to Keele, has a high population density but the only north-south car line permeation is the 504 leg up Roncesvalles. The area between Bathurst and Dufferin is particularly sparse in north-south coverage, being served only by the 63 Ossington bus, despite its urban level population density. So that’s a case where I think a finer sieve might be appropriate.

    Steve: It was only meant as a first cut to get a sense of how many routes in a “core” network would be affected by a 10 minute policy headway. There are some obvious gaps, particularly in southern Etobicoke as others have pointed out. I wasn’t trying to make a definitive list, only set the stage for further discussion and comparison with other possible changes.

    I put all of the streetcar lines in because they already have better than 10 minute service much of the time, but this could also be a criterion for adding other routes like Ossington. If a route has frequent service much of the time, it should have it all of the time. Thanks for mentioning the 63 and giving me a way to express a service/demand based rather than geography based criterion.


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