34 thoughts on “Service Changes Effective March 29, 2010

  1. I suspect you’ve commented on this before, but the whole “Average Load” is pretty suspect. The “standard” average load on a CLRV is 74. How is this average calculated?

    The scientific approach would be to do some kind of integral calculus based on metres or stops as dx and number of passengers as dy, integrating over the entire route, but I suspect this is not what the TTC does.

    The Carlton car would have to make up its typical ridership of 5 to 10 west of Lansdowne with 100+ in the busy sections of the route. Hmm, wait, that’s exactly what seems to pull up at Bathurst and College!

    Steve: The huge problem with “average loads” is that it does not take into account bunching and gaps. If two cars arrive at a stop, and one is packed to the roof, the “average” load still looks good on the stats. These numbers are averaged over the peak hour. and bunched service will report a lower average load than what the “average passenger” (most of whom are on crowded cars) actually experiences. The average load is measured at the peak point. It is not a cumulative measure of loading along the route.


  2. There indeed seems to be a net reduction in the number of vehicles in service. Was any reason given? I understand that ridership is doing extremely well, so removing vehicles from service is counter-productive.

    As for streetcars, i can see the numbers available dropping…

    Steve: The TTC’s budget for 2010 calls for less service because of the riders the fare increase was supposed to drive away. They didn’t leave, but we’re getting a around of cuts to pinch pennies anyhow.


  3. Always great to see a column full of negative numbers :

    I also enjoy the idea that service cuts might cause reduced demand, and therefore we should keep service. IE we are cutting service because service was cut.

    I must however disagree with these “loading standards”. I am fortunate enough to travel opposite peak direction at all times, but even I am sick and tired of sitting on a fairly empty bus, looking across the street, and seeing a bus coming the other way crush loaded. Unless they take into account peak direction travel, these numbers are meaningless.

    Despite the cuts I see a few serious improvements. 30 minute headways to 15 for example, or 20 to 9. It seems that peak service gets most of the cuts while travel outside peak gets increased. This is not necessarily a bad thing.


  4. Steve, do you know if these changes are temporary or permanent? I am used to seeing “service reductions” on these routes during the summer, but not really in March. I would hate to think these same routes will get another service reduction loaded on top when June rolls around. What exactly are they doing with all the buses they are taking away?

    Steve: These are reductions based on riding counts taken last year. Who knows what the summer will bring. I understand that some service adds are coming in September, but that is not yet definite.


  5. Interesting how there is a reduction in PM service on the 85 Sheppard East route where TTC is going to be building an LRT.


  6. I really don’t understand the majority of these changes they are mostly service reductions. Wasn’t the TTC supposed to be improving bus service this year? A lot of the routes (i.e the 110 and 73) already had poor midday service headway and now they are just going to get worse.


  7. Steve, are you saying they do take peak direction into account when working out these loading standards? If so it’s about time that some of these TTC folks head out to some subway stations and see for themselves how full these buses are when they leave or arrive. Tell them to bring a second grader along, since these folks seem to have a problem with math.


  8. Steve, do you know if the TTC will release an updated Service Improvements report? The newest one that is posted on the TTC website is dated April 2008.

    Steve: They usually come out in the spring, and I would expect to see one on the April TTC agenda.


  9. Does the TTC have objective standards for increasing/decreasing service on a given route?

    Whenever I see cuts in a transit system, they always have an air of permamance about them. I would feel a lot better if the explanation was that ridership had decreased below a threshold, and the cuts would be reversed if it increased above a (slightly higher) threshold.

    Steve: The process is set out in the Service Improvements report starting at page 7 of the pdf. Depending on the time of day (peak/offpeak) and the type of vehicle used on a route (streetcar, bus, high floor bus) there are loading standards. These apply to the average load at the peak point over the peak hour in the peak direction.

    That said, the TTC does not do riding counts on every route every month (on some not even every year) because they don’t have enough staff for that level of tracking. The planning folks depend to some extent on reports from the field about routes that are overloaded or have surplus capacity. Also, budget crunches tend to bring more focus to tracking down routes where cuts can be made. Any adds to service are always “subject to budget”. For many years, there was a backlog of service requirements (based on loading standards) that could not be addressed due to a shortage of vehicles, operators and the funds to run the service.

    In the context of your question, service cuts tend to come in response to budgetary pressures and general economic effects, but restoration tends to lag demand because the new, lower budgetary level for TTC services sets a new base from which the system must climb again. Recent city policies allowed the TTC to rebuild from the cuts of the mid 90s, and I am hopeful that we will get over the current downtown with a comparatively unscathed system. Already, we know that ridership losses from the fare increase did not materialize and the real issue will be ensuring we don’t discourage passengers by failing to run enough service.


  10. The service reductions on most of the routes listed are not a big deal. A bus going from every 7 min and 30 seconds to every 7 min and 45 seconds is not that big a deal.

    To be honest, I can kind of understand some of the reductions. I am on the buses everyday, and while it is great to have so much service, there are a lot more empty buses running on the streets. Is it not better to reduce a bus by a minute or two and put that bus onto a route that needs more service?

    Again it is great the TTC wanted to boost service to attract more riders. But that service has been in a place for a while, and only so many people will start taking transit because the service is more frequent. If people were going to change their habits, it would have probably happened by now.

    If this was drastic reductions I could be concerned. But a minute or two here and there, really is not going to be the biggest issue.

    I would like to know what the TTC is going to do with the service increaes that are not attracting new riders, like the 115 Silver Hills evening service. I never see anyone on that bus outside of rush hours.

    Again the goal of having all routes run till 1:00AM is great. But there are routes running empty with not one person using the new service. Should these routes stay?

    Steve: This is a tricky argument. Silver Hills is an example of a route serving a loop into a residential community. Other similar routes exist some for residential, some for industrial areas. In the specific case of the 115, the service runs every half hour and is, in effect, a branch of the 95 York Mills bus. On those occasions when there is a gap on the 95, a 115 can get hammered. However, a more common situation given the frequency of York Mills buses is that people outbound from the subway board one of those even if their destination isn’t east of Leslie. During many periods of service, the half-hourly 115 is scheduled to leave York Mills Station at or very close to the departure time of a 95. Moreover, the 78 St. Andrew also runs on the half hour, and there can be a parade of buses leaving eastbound up the hill. The 78 doesn’t go very far before it veers off into its own neighbourhood.

    It would be interesting to know how many people ride the unique part of the 115 (the loop northwest of Leslie and York Mills) as opposed to being counted because the Silver Hills bus happened to be the next “York Mills” service to come along. The flip side of this is that poor riding on route branches can be masked by overall counts.

    Finally, there are cases where trimming a loop/branch off a route may not save as much as it appears because the main part of the route may still require the overall level of service to which the branch contributes. Given the relative frequency and scheduling of the York Mills, Silver Hills and St. Andrews services, I don’t think that’s the case here, but each route needs to be reviewed for its own characteristics.


  11. In addition to my comments above, these reductions are nothing new. The TTC always does little changes like this throughout the year.
    So it is not like this is a huge service reduction plan like you saw in the 1990’s.
    My bus, the 95 will be going from every 9 min to every 10 min. That to be is not a big deal, and actually every 10 is easier to remember than every 9. And from riding the bus everyday I can understand why. The bus is going almost fully empty at many points. And I have not been on a 95 bus in months where there were more than maybe two passengers east of Markham Road, outside peak hours.


  12. Steve: I assume the counts are done manually by some lowly TTC staffer going outside and actually counting warm bodies. Now that all buses and streetcars have cameras could they just sit in their offices and count people from watching the tapes – or use some sort of visual recognition software to do this. (OK, the latter seems beyond the TTC but …)

    Steve: The videos from the cameras are available only to the police and then only in the case of an incident taking place onboard. This is a privacy issue.


  13. I agree that a 1-2 min reduction is not noticeable ‘IF’ the route is already frequent. Unfortunately for me, I take an infrequent route (17A) that is now going to have a headway of 18 min 45sec. Should the bus break down or short turn before Steeles (which does happen periodically), I could end up waiting 35-40min for the next bus. As it currently stands, many 17A drivers routinely take 2-4 minute breaks up in Markham because of the fewer stops/passengers. I can only imagine how much more the breaks will increase now that the gap between buses is even wider.


  14. RE: Silver Hills and other such routes:

    My impression of providing service on every possible route with no worse than a 30 minute wait is that the numbers of passengers who use the service is not nearly as important as having the service available should the need arise to use it (and that would hopefully encourage people to use a “convienient” service)

    That being said, certain duplications of service do arise, and the need to eliminate, or streamline these services should be made. For example: why can’t service on Silver Hills and St. Andrews be merged, as was the original plan for this service some 30 years ago? Similarly, if the Lawrence-Donway service has more of it’s riders at the outer extremities (Lawrence-Donway itself, and Lawrence west of Bayview), why bother with the middle portion? If you want to service the Lawrence-Donway area, why not a branch of 54 LAWRENCE EAST going as far as, and looping on Donway?

    And again, why have such fractional service on Mt. Pleasant? (I know there was opposition of the merging of Mt. Pleasant service, but that’s because the solution proposed was worse than the current service by totally elminating service south of Merton. If a through service was operated between Doncliffe and St. Clair Stn. with the current service levels AT ALL TIMES, I doubt there would be opposition to the merging of service).

    Steve: For an infrequent service, the transfer onto that service is very important, and that’s why these routes run to the subway. By doing so, some duplication of service is created. There really is a problem with a 30-minute policy headway because it is too long to really be attractive in all but the most extreme circumstances. Ridership on both sections of Mt. Pleasant, for example, used to be stronger, but it was driven away by repeated service cuts. Someone can pick up an east west service on Eglinton, Davisville or St. Clair where the buses run much more often than the 103 or 74 routes.

    As for Silver Hills and St. Andrew, the problem remains of making a connection to the subway rather than expecting someone to do an on-street transfer. Another related route is 122 Graydon Hall which is interlined with Silver Hills when these routes are both on a 30 minute headway. A Silver Hills round trip only takes aout 40 minutes, and the interlining pools vehicles between the two routes saving half a bus from what would otherwise be needed on each one.


  15. I know people of all walks of life take the TTC. But could the decrease in Mt. Pleasant ridership maybe not have to do with the north part of Toronto becoming more affluent? I tend to notice a lot more inner city people driving instead of using the TTC, and I have to question if this is because they are now among the richest residents in the region.

    I agree that the St. Andrews and the Silver Hills bus should be merged into one bus during at least non rush hour periods. I was actually part of the team of residents who fought the combination of these routes years ago. But for non-rush hour service I would support a combination.

    I know there is still way of getting away from this, but York Mills Road, west of Don Mills recieves much too much bus service, considering it is all low density million dollars homes. Those people have a bus going by like every 1 minute, and don’t even ride.

    They really should re route some of those 95 buses, and have them run express to Victoria Park or something.

    Steve: Yes, Mt. Pleasant’s affluence did increase, but as someone who used to live in that neighbourhood, and who has relatives still there, I am very aware of how infrequently the north-south services run, and I don’t consider them as primary choices for trips. I suspect I’m not alone in this.


  16. Steve wrote,

    “The videos from the cameras are available only to the police and then only in the case of an incident taking place onboard. This is a privacy issue.”

    While that is true, machine-vision software can be used on the feed from a camera on the doors to count the people entering and exiting the vehicle. I can’t say for sure, but I recall reading something about this being used for the counts on VIVA (regular YRT gets counts from their fareboxes which count fares when paid and the driver enters pass and transfer counts as they board).

    Steve: All door loading requires careful counts of movements in two directions at every door. This gets progressively more difficult as the vehicles and the entryways become crowded. A driver cannot possibly keep up with this sort of information.


  17. More importantly, the service changes are actually highlighted on the route schedule! It seems the TTC is finally getting its act together to produce schedules and changes/advisories to the schedules. For example, all the bus routes along the Yonge line from Finch to Eglinton shows that the line is shutting down early.


  18. Michael says:
    March 10, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    “I know people of all walks of life take the TTC. But could the decrease in Mt. Pleasant ridership maybe not have to do with the north part of Toronto becoming more affluent? I tend to notice a lot more inner city people driving instead of using the TTC, and I have to question if this is because they are now among the richest residents in the region.”


    “Yes, Mt. Pleasant’s affluence did increase, but as someone who used to live in that neighbourhood, and who has relatives still there, I am very aware of how infrequently the north-south services run, and I don’t consider them as primary choices for trips. I suspect I’m not alone in this.”

    I used to live on Davisville, half way between Mt. Pleasant and Yonge Street. It used to be faster to take the street car from St. Clair up Mt. Pleasant than to catch the Davisville bus. (I moved from Davisville in January 1966; I still have not forgiven my parents.)


  19. The affluence of certain inner city neighborhoods (basically, a golden rectangle btw. Steeles and the lake and btw. Bathurst and Bayview) has long been a sore point for me with regards to the lack of public transit use and the belief that TTC means Take The Car, but it isn’t the entire reason for lower patronage. Service cutbacks do have a effect. Basically the slow strangulation of service on Mt. Pleasant began with the demise of streetcar service in 1976. I wonder if service levels would have been so severely reduced had streetcar service been maintained. Over to you Steve…

    Steve: The streetcar cutoff and the absence of through service during the reconstruction of the bridge at Merton certainly didn’t help, but the TTC has been slashing service on the 74 and the 103 (which was unaffected by the bridge) for years. It’s the classic downward spiral that drives away all but the mot dedicated riders.


  20. Mt. Pleasant operates most hours on a 15 minute service. That is not bad considering the density of neighbourhoods which surround the route.

    The Mt. Pleasant routes should really be combined into one route that operates south all the way into the CBD, and bypasses even going into the subway. Cancel the Mt. Pleasant dowtown express bus routes if the regular route is extended downtown.

    I bet ridership would skyrocket on the route if people could take the bus downtown and get there in like 10 minutes.

    Steve: I hate to tell you this, but takes a tad more than 10 minutes to get downtown from parts of Mt. Pleasant especially in the peak period. Also, if the route uses Richmond/Adelaide as its loop, it won’t drop people right at their destinations in many cases. A connection with the Bloor subway would involve a long walking transfer.

    By the way, the service on 74 Mt. Pleasant is every 15 minutes AM peak, every 18 PM peak, and every 30 at all other times. On the 103 Mt. Pleasant North it is 15 minutes weekdays until about 9 pm, Saturdays from about 9 am to 6 pm. At all other times it is every 30 minutes. To make this attractive as an alternative to anything, both segments would need frequent service so that the time saved from an “express” trip to downtown was not outweighed by the uncertainty of the wait time at a bus stop.


  21. What drives away ridership on the 103 specifically is spotty service. 30 minutes is just barely enough time to make a round trip in light traffic, and at peak times, buses can be known to show up whenever they get around to it, as opposed to any sort of regulated 15 minute headway. It wouldn’t do any good for that bus to spend even longer getting to the subway, and as it stands, it would be of very little use for the rider(s?) on Route 74 to go further north than Eglinton.


  22. I wonder what would happen if the TTC extended the 103 to york mills station? This would provide a great connection for students travelling from Northern Secondary to points along wilson and york mills, alleviating pressure on routes along Eglinton, and a much shorter, faster connection to the subway from North Toronto, as well as forcing the commission to add another bus to the route, letting off a little pressure on running times.


  23. Further to Jonathon’s thought of extending the 103 to York Mills Stn., IF it were to be done, it should replace 97A YONGE service on Yonge Blvd, thus providing a more reliable (hoepfully) service for people on Yonge Blvd.

    This, however, would be very awkward to do since turning on or off Yonge St. at Glen Echo is tricky these days at the best of times.

    Ironically, it was considered many moons ago to run the original Nortown trolleys to Glen Echo loop, instead of their own loop at Doncliffe. That idea lasted about as long as the idea of retaining streetcars on Yonge north of Eglinton.

    And, though I may be labelled a no-good soclialist for my next comment, I do wonder if increasing service around the Yonge Blvd/Teddington Park corridor, no matter what route configuration, will ever convince these denizens to forsake their SUVs. Really, the greater service improvements (always a vehicle in sight) must return to the central/downtown core, as well as an intensification of suburban service. That’s why I wait with baited breath to see what impact Transit City will have on overall transit usage.

    A comment was made earlier in this thread that there indeed was more patronage of the Nortown line by people in it’s cachement areas. Well, prior to the 1970’s at the very latest, there were far more people who didn’t own a car in these areas than did.

    Rampant consumerism: the direct line from solid public transit to shoddy Toyota braking systems.


  24. Nortown trolley coaches came and went through Eglinton station with great regularity during the later 1960s.

    Remember, though, that back then everyone had to get off the subway at Eglinton and transfer to something else. In this case the Nortown was as easy a transfer as any other, and a good alternate to the Yonge trolley coach.

    The Mt. Pleasant leg of the St. Clair car was pretty quiet in the evening, even back then. Operators would ask why the heck I was riding from the loop all the way down to St. Clair station instead of taking one of the spiffy new New Looks west to Yonge. I said “I like the ride!”

    Funny, with all the condos going up along Mt. Pleasant and Balliol, you’d think a better service might attract some trendy young AutoShare users.


  25. First off, get off Toyota’s back. The North American style dog and pony show is over. Now, I don’t think the objective is to convince the affluent North-Torontonians to take the bus full stop, all the time, but I know quite a few that shudder at the thought of driving downtown, and would actually rather take the subway. Toronto has a leg up over many other large cities in that people actually consider public transit as a viable travelling option, if not their first choice.


  26. I’m shocked that the 506 Carlton is seeing a service cut. The line has not seen decreased ridership during rush hours — it’s filled with students. I board the westbound streetcar at Ontario and it’s rare for me to be able to get on because the cars are past crush capacity. I either have to wait for multiple cars or I have to walk to Yonge.

    Steve: This would make sense as a summer service cut, but not in the spring.


  27. With routes like 115, with the bus being every 1/2 hour, and York Mills being every 10 minutes, it would make much more sense to operate the 115 between 2 of the 95 buses so if your not going far, you can take the 115 or 78 if it comes sooner effectively increasing the level of service on that portion of York Mills.


  28. Mike, your comments about the 506 Carlton service are spot on. No one riding this route would think less service is required.

    Even off-peak, especially evening service, there is insufficient capacity to serve the crowds traveling to & from Little Italy, Portugal & College St. clubs, pubs and eateries.

    If the TTC will not maintain service frequency at the present level, at least increase capacity by putting ALRVs on Carlton during the popular evening hours. Club demand increases even after the students have left.

    Of course, peak evening demand is west of Parliament.


  29. “Now that all buses and streetcars have cameras could they just sit in their offices and count people from watching the tapes – or use some sort of visual recognition software to do this. (OK, the latter seems beyond the TTC but …)”

    I’m told Seattle’s new Link trains have infrared detectors at the doors which count how many people cross the threshold in each direction (I believe the doors are not wide enough for two people to enter abreast most of the time), and record it with timestamps. This data is then downloaded to get reasonably-accurate on/off numbers (skewed by people getting on then off again, entering two abreast or hugging, etc., but still pretty good).

    Seems like a pretty cute use of fairly cheap technology to get really good data.

    Steve: Toronto tried out a similar scheme, but our doorways are at least 1.5 people if not 2 wide, and it’s not unusual to have people riding in the stepwells. The counters get a tad confused when the lines are busy.


  30. Of course Seattle also has “tap in tap out” farecards which provide an independent source of data (to correct for those people entering two abreast etc.)


  31. For my own clarification, if the TTC claimed to be monitoring ridership on a given corridor, such that they could produce seemingly detailed numbers based on time periods and travel direction, how much actual counting would have been done? Back when I tried to persuade service planning as to the efficacy of a Northern Secondary express bus, they showed me numbers quite different from those I had counted myself.

    Steve: There are times I deeply doubt the validity of TTC riding count data based on personal experience. One big problem is the tendency to do one-day counts that may, or may not, be representative of the route. Also, if service is badly bunched, the effect of the half-empty or empty second and third buses in a pack will dilute the average load. In theory, there should be enough capacity, but that’s not how it is operated.


  32. And speaking of service, Eglinton between the two stations needs even more of it. Used to be that I would wait at Bathurst in the AM to board the fifth or sixth vehicle, as the rest were well past crush load. Recent increases brought that wait down to two or three, which is still too much. The TTC should look at dedicated service to the school on Avenue Road, as that is where the congestion comes from.


  33. The public service suggestions meeting seems to have vanished this year.

    The last one was held January 29th 2009.

    These meetings were traditionally held in Jauary. I haven’t heard mention, nor have I found on the TTC site, something for 2010.


  34. I attended the last public service suggestion meeting last year, I was actually the first one that stood up to the mike and gave my idea’s for having a Steeles West Express bus (which after they told me one was already in the works, and now in operation), after from what I remember, that it was a steady progression of people complaining rather than having suggestions to improve service. I suspect that they felt it could be a waste of time, given the recent flack over customer service a meeting would be much more of a public bashing than anything constructive being said. It’s a pity as some people out there could have some useful input.


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