Where Is The Wellesley Bus?

Over the past week, two people have commented to me about trying to use the 94 Wellesley bus and just giving up.  Among the complaints I have heard are:

  • The printed timetables are completely meaningless.
  • Gaps of over half an hour in the peak period occur.

This is quite different from the rosy view the TTC system had in the wake of November’s service improvements.  Looking at the Scheduled Service Summary I see that the headways are supposed to be:

  • AM Peak:  12′ between Ossington  and Wellesley Stations, 6′ east to Castle Frank
  • Midday:  10′
  • PM Peak:  16′ between Ossington and Wellesley Stations, 8′ east to Castle Frank
  • Early evening:  13′
  • Late evening every day:  15′
  • Saturday early morning:  17′
  • Saturday afternoon:  12′
  • Weekend early evening:  16’40”
  • Sunday daytime:  18′

What is ironic here is that the PM peak service west of Yonge is worse than it is during most other operating periods.  On top of this, if a bus is missing or short turned, a gap of over half an hour results.

I know it’s a lot to expect that there are hundreds (tens?) of Wellesley bus riders reading this blog, but if you have some service horror stories of this or other routes, please let me know.  We need to ensure that the TTC is actually operating its services properly, and not just the ones that had recent improvements.

30 thoughts on “Where Is The Wellesley Bus?

  1. I take the Wellesley bus a few times a week. The schedules seem like suggestions, and I’ve experienced the same long waits as the two other commenters who finally gave up.


  2. I find it frustrating that the west leg of the 94 Wellesley bus west of Spadina used to have the Harbord streetcar running on it until replaced by the Bloor-Danforth subway. It would have had better headway service compared with the current reality.
    At 16 minutes in the afternoon peak, it would be faster to walk up to Bloor and hop on the subway. But if the timetable shows a bus coming in a couple minutes, and no one shows, I would give up. Sounds like a U.S. city service on Wellesley and Harbord.


  3. It’s been almost three years since I lived on Wellesley.

    In the mid-80s, when I wanted to get to Castle Frank station, they short-turned eastbound buses south on Parliament; they’d reappear on Wellesley either via Rose or Ontario. There were also big gaps in service after 9 AM.

    In the late ’80s, as ridership peaked, I wanted to go east to Wellesley station. There were plenty of buses, plenty of riders, and enough gaps that buses were crush-filled. The crowds got off at Jarvis Collegiate, so the smarter patrons simply started walking east. If a bus hadn’t appeared by the time you got to Church, might as well walk right to the station.

    Service and ridership seem to have dropped off a lot since this time period. In the 2000s, I was willing to take a bus either westbound or eastbound, but it was still the smart thing to walk to Sherbourne and catch whichever of the northbound or southbound came first. (I was trying to get to Spadina and Queen, and there are a few ways of skinning that cat.) Long waits in the rain were the frequent result — which makes sense as I would walk or bicycle unless the weather was bad.

    No doubt someone will blame the bicycle lanes for the Wellesley bus’s problems, but it’s been a route that’s always had overcrowding and gaps. There are a lot of riders living in St. Jamestown.

    More frequent Sherbourne and Parliament buses would take off some of that load. Parliament in particular became a no-go transit route after the big cutbacks of the ’90s.


  4. I used to have a commute that required me to get to the Bloor line from Wellesley and Parliament. 95% of the time I found the peak service reliable, but the remaining 5% was stressful enough to make me give up and start walking to the Glen Road entrance to Sherbourne Station every day instead. the 94 Wellesley is competing with a 5-10 minute walk to the Bloor line that’s a lot more predictable than the bus service. The entire eastern branch, where the majority of the ridership is, is only 9 stops, including both subway stations!


  5. I have had difficulties in the past using the 26 Dupont route.

    I used to *try* to use it at 10pm at Shaw. The bus would never be on time, it would always be either 5 minutes early, or 5 minutes late (meaning if I showed up to the top 4 minutes early, I had to wait 10 minutes just to figure out if I actually missed the bus or not) I got so sick of it I tried to take the Ossington bus at Dupont, only to find out that this bus was regularly early, and took longer than scheduled to get to the subway (it was always at dupont 1-2 minutes early and arrived at bloor 1-2 minutes late) The time to walk to that bus stop, wait, and use the bus, actually was so long that I eventually gave up on buses altogether and walked to Christie station every day.

    I’ve also had bad experiences with some of the blue night routes, in particular buses that show up more than 5 minutes early for a connection and result in me waiting 35 minutes for the next one.

    I’ve learned that when trying to figure out where to go and how to get there using the TTC that I need to actually schedule it so that I miss one connection because the buses are so often so far off schedule, that on all those trips to distant parts of the city, I always, without fail, do miss at least one connection. When a bus is scheduled to be at an intersection 5 minutes before its connecting route’s bus gets there, that means there is a pretty darn good chance you’ll miss that bus.


  6. Late evening EVERY DAY is every 15 minutes yet Sunday daytime is every 18 minutes and weekday PM rush west of Yonge is every 16 minutes?

    OK, I know this bus can be fairly empty west of Yonge at most times but does this make ANY sense? Sunday evening is better service than Sunday daytime?

    Is Jambroni [sic] sleeping? I’m like 7 years his junior and I have more of a brain than him and his goons (a waste of overpaid city councillors). I’ll take half the top TTC person’s pay that deals with this stuff (or 80k, whichever is better) and do a much better job.

    Steve: Take the 80K. Only three people in the Planning Department appear on the 2007 Public Sector salary disclosures, and the person in charge of route planning made only slightly above the 100K cutoff for this list.

    As for “goons” on the Commission, your use of that term does no credit to your argument here (or in other threads). The Commissioners set overall policy (things like the 20-minute maximum headway), but don’t (with a few exceptions) get involved in operational details.

    The Wellesley bus schedule is one of those mysteries of TTC planning. There are three vehicles on the route all day Sunday, but they get slightly more time to make their trips during the daytime than in the evening. Hence the longer headway.

    Although I think that the TTC has a general problem with excessive running times on some routes, this sort of scheduling is not unusual for routes with only a few vehicles. It would take an extra bus to get down to a 12 minute headway on the same 48 minute round trip during the day, and the question then is whether the route actually needs that much service.

    In the planning that went into the huge changes in November, there were some oversights (some were mentioned here) and these are fixed in the January schedules.


  7. The 110 Islington South ghost bus is another problem in the morning peak. There is supposed to be an 8 o’clock bus. Sometimes it is there, sometimes it isn’t. When it isn’t it’s a huge problem because the bus is passing stops before it even gets over the New Toronto bridge!

    There are also situations in the evening (around 6-6:30) when the bus waits at Islington so long, a second bus arrives at Islington (which is never supposed to happen).


  8. I suspect that at least part of the problem stems from the ongoing shortage of operators.

    For instance, I rode along with a friend on the 168 Symington route last night – there are scheduled to be 3 buses out (36 minute round trips, 12 minute headways) after about 8pm.

    Well, one of the operators was sick, and there was no one available to take their work – and so the route was run with 2 buses and an 18 minute headway, but only because my friend realized this and ran his trip about 6 minutes early to even out the headways between trips.

    Apparently, this has not been an uncommon occurrence since the opening of Mount Dennis garage and the service improvements on the 23rd.

    Dan Garcia

    Steve: This begs the question of what Transit Control is doing when vehicles are missing. Do they bother to respace the service, or just leave the gaps wherever they may be?


  9. I’m one of the people who gave up and sent a comment to Steve. I should have walked up to the subway instead, but I think I sometimes suffer from a phenomenon of believing that if I leave, the bus will come. And the bus route goes within 15 metres of my destination! I had the same experience later that same evening waiting around at Ossington and College when neither the Ossington bus nor the College car (I would’ve taken either in my desperation) were turning up. Why didn’t I walk up to Ossington station? Well, I’d done the walking thing already that evening in bad weather, and a few days previously when the College car was a no-show. I was done in, defeated, and no longer on a timeline. The College car finally came but (you guessed it), short-turned at Broadview. I took a cab the rest of the way.


  10. Two routes that I have severe problems with are in the west end. 44 Kipling South, and 110 Islington South. The 44 used to run every thirty minutes after 8pm, and it was a crush load everytime. When I used to work for Purolator I had to fight to board the 44, and if you didn’t get on the bus, you were screwed. But of course that was on a good day because the bus never arrived as the timetable suggested.

    When I quit my job with Purolator, I ended up getting a job on Norseman street, literally the same bus stop as Purolator. I discovered later on, that the 110 was closer then the 44 and the 110 ran better. Again the timetable was nothing more then a piece of paper.

    It took me over an hour to go to work and over an hour to go home. Commuting at 10:30 in the evening and going home in the middle of the AM peak to Warden station was a pain, but at the time I was too cheap to shell out for a car. Driving sucks too, can’t read and drive XD.

    Of course this was six years ago, I don’t know how it is now, but I am willing to bet my deed on the house that this is still a horror show, that is unchecked. All of this boils down to one question: why isn’t there a special time period dedicated to shift changes, god even Durham Region Transit is thinking about this because of crushloads at 60 mins headways on the 915 Taunton bus during this period.

    Steve: The TTC makes very limited accommodation for shift changes (the Greenwood bus extension south to the Post Office is an example). It’s kind of a catch-22 because shift workers tend to drive due to problems with transit, and therefore there’s “no demand” and therefore no service.


  11. The Ossington bus is usually “old reliable”. The service is so frequent, that even if one is missing it doesn’t really matter – except – that the “late” bus gets so full it is leaving people behind. However, on occassion even Ossington has huge service gaps.

    The College and Dundas cars are so unreliable that I try and plan my trips around them. Since I am a transit fan, and consider the service so unacceptable that I avoid the routes, one can only guess about how many people who might travel on these routes have abandoned transit altogether.

    Even on the supposedly better served routes – such as King and Queen – it is not at all unusual to have people at the stop give up and hail a cab. Even I have to do that sometimes – and I really don’t want to pay when I have free (incrementally free) transportation with my MetroPass.


  12. 68 Warden nightmare:

    I was at Sheppard and Warden waiting for the Warden bus, 6:35pm.
    6:37(B), 6:52, 7:14(B), 7:36 is the schedule and (B) being the one going north of Steeles.

    No bus has passed recently as there is about 8 people. Maybe the 6:37 bus came a bit early, it happens, a couple of minutes early/late is just splitting hairs.

    Anyways, the next bus was a 68B Warden at 7:16pm. There was about 20 people with me on the stop waiting.

    To add salt to the wound, a did bus did come, NOT IN SERVICE.
    Also the 7:16pm bus was packed.

    This is not even close to the first time that this has happened.

    169 Huntingwood nightmare:

    This is a every 30 minutes (20 minutes during AM peak times). I am at Don Mills station, and so many times, the :15 buses go “missing”. so I have to wait well over the 30 minute max that certain transit commission has said they would keep.


  13. Hmmph…. I know that the 162 Lawrence-Donway and the 120 Calvington are running on time…. too bad the buses on both these routes are empty….


  14. 7 Bathurst. I swear that no other route scheduled as frequently as the 7 comes quite so rarely. For a bus that should come every 5-6 minutes practically whenever, I have not seen that many. I have given up waiting at St Clair West because the first bus to leave will not pick up passengers there, and thus the smart passengers know to walk out to Bathurst. PM Peak is the absolute worst, when buses tend to arrive at the station (and leave) in triplets, even though both construction projects have ended. I don’t know if anyone here remembers or misses the dear old 7A, because that was the worst of them all. I once vowed to wait at Wilson Station for the “30-minute” frequency to show itself, and it took over an hour for a 7A to appear.


  15. Steve,

    47 Lansdowne. I’ve never, ever seen anyone complain about them but I think if you looked at the numbers you’d find that day after day, they run relatively well during AM peak, and horribly bunched right at the end of PM peak through to about 7pm.

    This is purely anecdotal, but my new personal travel pattern is to take 47 Lansdowne north to Lansdowne station in the morning (continuing to Eglinton Station) but in the evening I take 501 Queen west from Queen station.

    Why? 47 Lansdowne seems to show up regularly for my morning ride, but about 6 to 6:30pm I estimate at least 50% of the time I spent 15 minutes or more waiting, and had a very unpleasant crush-load ride home. Frequency is 6-7 minutes.

    At least 501 Queen comes more or less regularly and most of them make it as far as Lansdowne.


  16. Hey, this is a post about the Wellesley bus! How did all these other routes creep in?

    From a routing perspective, I never understood the reasoning behind creating the 94 in 1966, and why all service on Harbord wasn’t just discontinued since the subway offered a direct-to-downtown service.

    But, when the Spadina streetcar came back, I always thought it would have been better to kill the 94, restore the tracks on Harbord and run it as a branch of the 510 over to Ossington Stn.


  17. I can relate to Miroslav Glavic, it seems like the 68 Warden Bus is inconsistent in weekdays early evenings. If they do come, they are usually bunching up together going southbound. Afterwards, the bus driver with the late schedule will begin racing down Warden Ave so that there will be no scheduling problem once he/she reaches Warden subway station.


  18. On the Wellesley bus, I don’t understand why it usually pulls away just as the southbound Ossington bus approaches the station.

    I am sure there are always some passengers who want to change from the Ossington bus to the Wellesley bus …

    (On the 7 Bathurst bus, funny that the rider who wants the Bathurst bus feels it never arrives. If I am waiting at St Clair West station for the 512 westbound bus, I always feel that 4 Bathurst buses go by [and 5 eastbound 512 streetcars] while I wait for that one westbound bus, and the 512 line stretches further and further across the platform …

    All in the eye of the beholder … and never an inspector to explain why we are waiting at all.)

    Bring a book, knitting and/or an ipod, and always leave early for your destination.
    big sigh …


  19. Lisa it is a fact of life that the routes you don’t want or need always arrive on time while the one you need is never there.

    I have been a user of Finch Station for the last 15 years and these days I always wait for the 60 and the 36/39/53 seem to be going regularly while the 60 never arrives. A week ago I needed to get the 60 or the 53 local to get to Steeles/Yonge intersection so in addition to the 60 not coming, there were also 4 53E/F buses in a row and no locals at all. All the while the 36/39 buses were working like clockwork. 🙂


  20. Stephen Cheung wrote, “I know that the 162 Lawrence-Donway and the 120 Calvington are running on time…. too bad the buses on both these routes are empty…”

    Shhhhhh! If the TTC gets wind of this, they will drop excuses like “congestion”, “TTC culture”, and “safety” for poor service and start using “passengers”! 😉


  21. In my experience, the Warden 68B is regularly quite late, yet southbound runs (signed 68) from Major Mac are not so bad – they must have plenty of lay over time to adjust.

    Having had to wait for one going northbound at 14th Avenue, which is also a Vivastation, there is a clock displayed right there so you know just how late it is (if you know the schedule, since its not posted). It would be nice if the stop announcement system on the Warden bus were accessible by YRT’s display system for the Vivastation – I wonder how feasible this would be?


  22. The 94 is now my bus, although I’m merely a block and a half from the subway. I don’t pay any attention to the schedule in rush hour, and take the bus if I see it.

    Between 10am and 3pm and after 7pm I consider the schedule mostly valid.

    Traffic can be brutal between Bay and Jarvis, and this has been somewhat exacerbated with the few blocks of bike lanes.


  23. Steve wrote: This begs the question of what Transit Control is doing when vehicles are missing. Do they bother to respace the service, or just leave the gaps wherever they may be?

    That’s a good question. From what I have seen and heard, CIS/Control is quite content to just leave those gaps where they are – and then cause problems with the trailing vehicle is forced to carry a larger load because the vehicle before it is missing.

    Luckily, some operators have enough initiative to either run a couple of minutes late or early, and try and reduce the gap. Then again, there are just as many who are just as happy to run early and “soak” the trailing vehicle and driver.

    Toronto, Ont.


  24. I have found the schedule to be mostly reliable outside of peak hours. During peak hours, I only the bus if I see it – the schedule is no longer relevant.

    I also noticed that the Ossington bus (northbound for me) leaves the station just as the Wellesley bus arrives. I don’t think anyone at the TTC has ever considered that people may want to connect from a bus to another bus.

    I just returned from a trip that took me to New York, Paris, London and Geneva. In all these cities, buses seem to be a key part of their transit strategy. As a result, extensive bus lanes have been created, signal priority is aggressive, frequencies are high and buses (except in NY) are modern, with extensive information provided inside the bus and at stops on waiting times, connections, etc. Articulated and/or double-decker buses are used extensively. In all of these cities, buses are used by a broad cross-section of the population, just like the subway in Toronto.

    As in other North American cities, buses here seem to be run as a social service and/or a feeder to the subway.

    It may be time to reinvent bus service in Toronto. A good start would be to get new buses that are comfortable, esthetically pleasing, and of course accessible. And perhaps articulated on busy routes?


  25. Dan Garcia Says:

    December 29th, 2008 at 1:13 pm
    “I suspect that at least part of the problem stems from the ongoing shortage of operators.”

    [longer quote snipped]

    Allow me to add my two cents worth (as a TTC Operator):

    I was told by an Union Rep. that Mount Dennis was 70 operators short when it opened (before the increased service took effect), and that ALL divisions were short operators in fact. Compound the overall shortage with additional operators being required to meet the new service and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see what happens.

    On top of this (if you can believe it) TTC (Mis)Management has required ALL operators to take their unused vacation days and float days before the end of the year (no carry over allowed)! For this current board period (Dec 21 – Jan 3) my division (Birchmount) has TWO spareboard operators. All other open work must be filled with volunteers or it is just left unfilled. I imagine that this is happening in every division.

    I can’t begin to count the number of buses left “on the fence” at various subway stations due to “no relief operator”. This is the TTC upper (mis)management at its best.

    Dan Garcia Says:

    December 31st, 2008 at 12:21 am
    “Steve wrote: This begs the question of what Transit Control is doing when vehicles are missing. Do they bother to respace the service, or just leave the gaps wherever they may be?”

    [longer quote snipped]

    I was told by one supervisor to “Run to Schedule” when I tried to advance my time to help the gap bus in front of me (running very late) fill one of these gaps, so I did and let the gap develop until they had to short turn a bus to fill the gap that developed going in the other direction. It is not always the operator’s fault but rather the “Run to Schedule” mentality of CIS that causes some of the problems.

    Sorry about the length of this post, but there are some facts that I (as an insider) can shed some light on.

    Steve: Many thanks!


  26. In that case, the RGS should have been postponed to January instead of running it to November. I suspected long ago that the TTC management’s request to not schedule any more overtime may have played a part in these problems they are having. Unfortunately, it seems that the quest to maintain headways on these new improvements came at the cost of existing routes.

    Hopefully this gets better by January, or we have a fiasco in our hands. If the TTC cannot manage this service “improvement” properly you can expect the critics to call for severe service slashing as a result.


  27. I go to Humber College, and usually I take the Wilson bus because the 36 Finch West makes me want to punch a hole in the nearest wall. Two examples: first, living on the 104 Faywood route just off Overbrook I take the 104 to a connecting major route at either Finch, Sheppard, or Wilson that could take me to Yonge Street and the Yonge Subway. If I am going downtown I just go to Wilson because together the 96 and 165 operate frequently enough. But when I have to go on Finch it is always horrible. The buses are always jammed (even the 309 bus at 3 AM was packed), and during the daytime you will get 5, 6, even 7 or more 36 buses in a row going either direction, then nothing for a good long while. And half of the eastbound 36 buses short-turn at Bathurst, leaving a huge crowd of people already waiting for the bus, and a huge crowd of people leaving the short-turn bus. Recently I have also seen quite a few 36 short-turns unloading at Dufferin, and looping back to Finch via Overbrook and Wilmington.

    Second, I had to take Finch across one time during rush hour from Humber College. The 191 came quickly enough, and dropped me at Finch and Highway 27 to pick up the 36 going east. I must have waited a good 45 minutes to an hour, possibly even longer, before an eastbound Finch West bus came by. During that time at least EIGHT westbound 36 buses roared by, and they all came back east at the same time. As well, about 6 Brampton buses and many more 191 buses also stopped by throughout this time. I think a major problem on the 36 bus is that short-turn at Kipling. It is about time that the TTC re-arrange the 36 route to be something akin to the 39: having express buses on the Humberwood branch operating until 10:00 PM weekdays and 6:00 PM Saturdays. Have the express buses make all stops west of Weston Road or Milvan Drive. Supplement the express service with the 36D branch running at all times, the 36C as an extra local bus during both AM and PM rush hours, and the 36A operating as an extra express branch during rush hours. That in my opinion is the way to fix the Finch West bus, because as you can see this route — one of the busiest on the system — is a total joke.


  28. Simon Sharkey-Gotlieb: Recently I have also seen quite a few 36 short-turns unloading at Dufferin, and looping back to Finch via Overbrook and Wilmington.

    They are looping that way because the quarter-loop on the northeast corner of Dufferin and Finch is blocked with all of the construction equipment and is inaccessible.

    I used to live on Finch between Dufferin and Bathurst and used to hate that Dufferin short turn. I was perfectly fine with the other common short turn – Bathurst.


  29. Wellesley is one of those streets that really does experience severe congestion. A particularly bad spot is between Queen’s Park and Yonge during the afternoon rush.

    I think that the “walking transfer” at Museum is a good idea.

    There are some issues:

    1. The abrupt narrowing of the sidewalk to accomodate the left turn lane west of Yonge resulted in a sidewalk that is far too narrow to accomodate pedestrian traffic at this bottleneck. It would be better to eliminate the left turn lane and have a proper sidewalk.

    2. The bike lanes lack adequate continuity through some major intersections. A good example of the right way to do things is on the north side of Wellesley east of Queen’s Park. The bike lane is clearly marked right to the intersection, and the proper place for right-turning cars to pass through the bike lane is clearly marked. This is important to reduce the possibility of a dangerous “right hook” crash.

    A bad example of the wrong way to do things is at the intersection of Wellesley and Bay. It is confusing since there are no clear marking or instructions to keep cars away from bicycles.

    3. Bike lanes adjacent to parked cars do not have a clearly marked “door zone” to warn cyclists to keep a safe distance from the parked cars. Worse yet, the lane width adjacent to parked cars is the same as when the lane is next to the curb. I have seen many people in the door zone. I predict that this serious hazard will lead to a “dooring” crash with someone being seriously injured. A crash that is entirely preventable by having adequate lane width and a clearly marked door zone.


  30. “I don’t think anyone at the TTC has ever considered that people may want to connect from a bus to another bus.” Too true! If I walk to Ossington Station, I have a small chance of there being a Harbord/Wellesley bus; if I take the bus there, it’s practically guaranteed it will just be leaving as we pull in.

    Steve – you often ask what use rates would be like if service was reliable, and that certainly applies here, too. During off-peak hours especially, the Harbord/Wellesley route can be a great “short-cut” to downtown if you happen to catch it, but it takes a great deal of luck. Operators seem to race through the loop at break-neck speed, and seem to willfully ignore people running for a stop, or to change buses at the platform. Where they spend the time between runs (and what they do there) is a mystery I probably don’t want to know the answer to.


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