Transit 102: What is “Good Service”? (Updated)

Updated March 23 at 11:20 pm:  After this article was published, one commenter noted that the cleanliness and attractiveness of the system is another vital aspect of “good service”.  In my article, I had concentrated literally on “service”, not on the physical condition of vehicles and stations.  However, I do agree that a run-down, dirty system does not inspire confidence, and the TTC is looking decidedly shabby.

Tess Kalinowski has an article in the Star on the issue of station condition on the south end of Yonge Street where the BIA is doing a running audit to track progress on fixes.  The TTC has its own internal monitoring, and loves to trumpet improvements as a good news story, but the truth is that there is backlog of repairs that gets longer by the day.  This topic is worth a post in its own right, but I wanted to add the link to the Star’s article here as it fits right in with the comment.

In all the talk about who should run the TTC, or whether transit should even be provided by the public sector, one important question is rarely answered. What sort of transit service do we as a city want? What is “good” service?

“Good” is a relative term depending on your viewpoint. If your job is wrestling with municipal or provincial budgets, your outlook will be to restrain growth in costs and to limit expectations of service quality. This runs head on into schemes to redirect growth in travel from autos to transit. More passengers almost always mean more subsidies over and above any inflationary growth.

If you are a transit rider (or thinking of becoming one), you don’t want service that is barely acceptable. You want service that retains your loyalty and that you would recommend to others. Riding should grow because transit attracts customers, not as the “least worst” of options.

There are three essentials in transit service: reliability, frequency and connectivity.

Service must show up when you expect it. This must happen not just at your local stop, but wherever you travel on the network. Ideally, service should be frequent enough that you don’t worry about the schedule, and waits should not be a major part of your trip.

Frequent service should arrive frequently, not in bunches of vehicles separated by long gaps, and vehicles should go where they are expected to go. Whether the vehicle is on time matters less than whether service is regularly spaced.

Where low population or job density dictates less frequent service, reliability is essential. This is particularly true on branching routes which need to be on time so that customers can plan to use specific trips.

Connectivity has two elements — provision of diversity in travel options and, again, reliability. One seat rides are impossible for every trip, and transfer connections are a fact of life in large transit systems. These connections must work, not be left to chance. Trip planners and real-time information displays won’t make up for the frustration when someone just misses a connection.

On smaller systems, buses can meet regularly (say half-hourly) at one or more nodes, and almost all transfers occur at these nodes. This simplifies network design, but circuitous trips do not attract riders. This design is not practical for a large busy system like the TTC, and a challenge for smaller systems (or portions of large ones) is how to make the transition from a nodal network to something more like the TTC’s grid.

The TTC’s own planning standards recognize that the presence of a transfer connection is a major deterrent to riding, and penalizes transfers where they might be created through a route reorganization. The tradeoff lies in providing the most direct route for the most people while not so gerrymandering a network that it is useless to anyone who isn’t following the “typical” peak trip.

How comfortable should a trip be? How should a system trade off passenger demand with vehicle size? On a network like the TTC, routes vary in their travel patterns. Some are highly directional and vehicles will run with very light loads in the counter peak. Some have good bi-directional demand, or may replenish their loads at major demand points including transfers with other routes. Looking at a single point on well-used routes rarely gives a good picture of how many riders the route actually carries, or how riders travel on that route.

All of this brings me to the question of service standards. The cost of providing transit service is strongly linked to whatever standards a system might have, but the relationship must be understood both in the context of local conditions and the role of a transit system in a city.

As the TTC went through the funding cutbacks of the 1990s and the slow recovery of the 2000s, many “standards” existed only on paper. Transit agencies (indeed any organization being measured for “performance”) may lower their standards to meet actual operations and budgets rather than striving to attain hard-won improvements in goals for their system. Transit that is only “good enough” quickly declines to transit that cannot retain and attract riders.

The TTC’s Service Standards fall broadly into three categories.

Loading Standards

Service designs are based on the average load at a peak point over the peak hour.  This value is not the same as the engineering design capacity of a vehicle.

  • If a vehicle is loaded at crush capacity, it has no remaining circulation space to accommodate movement of passengers at stops, and stop service times become quite long.  Everyone knows what happens when buses, streetcars or subway trains with no room at all arrive at a stop.  They stay there for a very long time.
  • There will always be variations in demand over a peak hour due to slight changes in vehicle spacing, arrival times of connecting vehicles and other time sensitive events.  Designing service to be “full” 100% of the time means, in practice, that some vehicles will be overloaded.
  • The inability or unwillingess of the TTC to manage vehicle spacing, combined with effects of short turns, leads to bunching where the average load may appear low, but most of the passengers are on one vehicle and experience far more crowded service than averages would suggest.

In practice, TTC service standards call for all passengers, on average, to have seats during off-peak periods, and for vehicles to be moderately crowded, again on average, at peak.  These standards are:

  • Buses:  Offpeak 35-39, Peak 47-51 (lowered from 52-57 as part of the Ridership Growth Strategy in late 2008)
  • CLRVs (short streetcars):  Offpeak 46, Peak 74
  • ALRVs (long streetcars):  Offpeak 61, Peak 108
  • SRT (4-car train):  Offpeak 130, Peak 220
  • 6-car Subway:  Offpeak 500, Peak 1,000

When subway line capacities are quoted, the typical train capacity cited is 1,200 passengers or more, and this yields a theoretical 36,000+ line capacity based on 30 trains/hour.  However, service cannot reliably operate at that level of crowding as anyone who rides packed rush hour trains will attest.

Most of the time, a transit vehicle is not travelling at a route’s peak point or direction, and it will not be full. Routes with diverse origins and destinations may do better overall, but transit vehicles cannot, by definition, be full all of the time. Any attempt to design service to such a goal is counterproductive. The real question is to get good use out of the vehicles that are on the street.

All door loading improves passenger distribution inside vehicles (compare subway trains to buses and streetcars), and enables a higher standard capacity because internal circulation for stop service is simpler. When the TTC moves to all-door, low-floor loading and self-service fare collection with the new streetcars, this will improve vehicle utilization and allow a higher average load to be carried relative to the theoretical capacity.

Improving route speeds with reserved lanes and priority signalling can shorten trip times and contribute to a feeling by riders that “we are getting somewhere”.  However, the capacity of a line is a function of the number of vehicles per hour past a point, not the speed those vehicles are travelling. A 10-minute headway means only six buses an hour even if they travel like rockets.

For some transit planners, the main benefit of “transit priority” is reducing the round trip times and hence the number of vehicles on a route, rather than on allowing for more frequent, and hence more attractive service. This was a flaw in the original plans for the 512 St. Clair line and this outlook undermined the project’s credibility.

Service Frequency

The TTC’s current standards call for all surface routes to run during normal operating hours (nominally 0600 to 0100 the following morning, except Sundays when service starts at 0900).  The maximum headway permitted is 30 minutes.

On the subway, the maximum headway permitted is 5 minutes. Relative to surface routes this provides a much higher quality of service and, coupled with generally faster travel times, contributes to the “I only want a subway” outlook that many riders have. If the TTC were as generous with surface operations, these might become more popular, or at least more credible as alternatives.

A scheme to move to a 20-minute maximum headway was proposed a few years ago, but the cost of doing this system-wide is prohibitive, and the TTC feels that the money would be better spent on targeted improvements.

The TTC plans to introduce a “Transit City Bus Network” in the fall of 2010 which will identify a core set of routes for maximum headways of 10 minutes during normal service hours. I understand that the originally proposed network will be revamped before this actually comes into operation, and we should see a new map for the proposal later this spring.

Any discussion of service standards must consider both frequency and loading standards.  In some neighbourhoods, the headway needed to produce a seated load would be so wide that nobody would wait for the bus to arrive.  Indeed, short routes can be quite productive without achieving seated loads because they don’t carry people very far and the cost per trip is low. Doubling the headway won’t produce twice as many passengers per bus because many riders won’t wait that long.

As things stand, the TTC applies its headway standards over the entire system and this brings 30-minute service to areas where one might question its worth.  With the introduction of the 10-minute core network, the idea of different standards for different parts of the network will be in place.  This could equally allow for a relaxation of standards in those areas such as industrial subdivisions with little or no demand outside certain peak travel times. However, such a change must be implemented with care to avoid starving the system in residential areas at the margins.


The TTC considers the access distance to transit service as part of its evaluation for new routes or revisions. Potential new passengers should lie no more than 300m beyond existing transit services (or 200m if there is a “higher-than-average” proportion of seniors).

This has important implications for route speed and for new rapid transit proposals. If stations are 1000m apart, it is obvious that some potential riders cannot lie within circles of 300m radius, let alone the extra distance required because the street grid does not allow straight-line access between home and the station. A surface bus may be provided, but on a very wide headway up to the policy maximum of 30 minutes, and this can lead to a very substantial degradation in service for those who fall outside of the immediate area of stations.

A missing part of the service standards is a recognition that 30 minutes is simply too long to wait for a bus that is providing an “alternative” to a rapid transit line.

Another big gap in the standards is any recognition that wide headways pose a problem for those riders who may be on the margin between using “conventional” and Wheel-Trans services. The TTC speaks of the importance of allowing riders to use the conventional system as much as possible, of the high cost of providing Wheel Trans and of the challenges for handling non-critical Wheel Trans trips. However, these concerns are not reflected in the service standards. 

Trip Components

When the TTC looks at a potential service change, they assess each component of a rider’s trip with different weights to reflect the perceived (and often real) differences in travel and convenience.  These weights are:

  • 1.0: In vehicle time
  • 1.5: Waiting time
  • 2.0: Walking time
  • 10.0: Each transfer

If we can cut the average waiting time for a vehicle by 5 minutes, this is equivalent to shortening the ride by 7.5 minutes. A walk that is shorter by 5 minutes is equivalent to 10 minutes of saved travel time. Putting it another way, a longer walk or wait for transit may be tolerable if the service is faster, but it must also be reliable to ensure that the waiting time factor does not kick in. Similarly, a transfer to an infrequent surface route poses a greater obstacle than between two frequent services.


In the debates about the future of our transit system, a key question is the quality of service we expect. “Quality” has many components as I discussed here, and it is important that these are well-understood. If there is a demand for broad cutbacks in transit subsidies, where should they be made? If we plan to improve transit, what sort of changes should we make to system-wide standards? If there are proposals for outsourcing or privatization, what standards should we demand?

I have deliberately stayed away from questions of wage rates, working conditions and system management in this article to concentrate on service quality. Once we know what quality we want, then the question turns to how we can obtain it at a cost (fares, subsidies or both) that we as a city and as riders are prepared to pay.

In the next article, I will turn to the question of fares and fare collection.

For more details about the TTC’s service planning protocols, please refer to Service Improvements for 2008 on pages 7-10.

19 thoughts on “Transit 102: What is “Good Service”? (Updated)

  1. Where does passenger comfort during the ride factor into the quality equation? Finding a seat is only part of it — if the seat isn’t comfortable or jammed up against the seat in front such that a person of average height can’t sit comfortably without their legs being packed against the seat in front of them, then it’s not a comfortable ride.

    Steve: I agree, and the effect of vehicle design on service attractiveness is often lost. It’s no surprise that people think GO buses are so much nicer to ride. One advantage of streetcars, from my point of view, is that almost all of the seats face forward. This gives a much more comfortable ride. The layout of the new streetcars is still a mystery. On the subway, repeated attempts to eliminate transverse seats (seats facing forward or backward rather than across the car) were beaten back, but not completely defeated for the TR car order. This is part of the ongoing battle between comfort and “efficiency”.


  2. Lets go to reliability right now.

    Many complaints have been recently thrown down on the Queen and King lines … but focus needs to sit on the College… Carlton … or as i call it …

    Useless line.

    I’m not sure what this line’s issue is … but the west-end of the city seems to suffer hugely from a lack of this car being able to show up.

    I sat in High Park loop today for 29 minutes at noon … before a car came … and then it turned down Ossington.

    How is this line’s quality of reliability on the opposite end of the city? Is it more focused east of Bay? Between this, and its ridiculous evening times and bunching issues … I don’t know why they don’t try a split operation like they did with Queen, or just turn it into two damn routes.


  3. Route speed is important. While, as you say, six buses per hour are six buses per hour, if they move quickly not only will the riders get to where they’re going, fewer vehicles are needed to maintain the six/hour (or, alternatively, we can have more frequent service while not increasing the vehicles assigned to the route).

    The Shorncliffe 123/C bus between Kipling and Long Branch has a service speed of between 20.5 and 24.8 km/h depending on the time and day; Islington South 110B, on similar (and at the Long Branch end the same) roads, has a service speed between 16.0 and 21.1 km/h. Given the choice, I’ll take a Shorncliffe bus every time, even though it makes a loop (“useless” to me, because I normally don’t want to go there) through Sherway Gardens.

    High-rate operation on the subway = fewer trainsets and a quicker ride.

    Finch East 39 is a “good” route. Yes, it has bunching problems, but there are plenty of buses and the express buses move right along. The 39G variant has service speeds of 27.X km/h. I actually like riding the Finch East bus. I never rode this route until this past fall; now I ride it almost every weekday. I guess I see the best side of it, because I go between two points with the best express service: Finch station and Seneca College.

    By comparison the Neville-Long Branch Queen car is scheduled for a running speed of between 14.4 and 18.3 km/h. Even the overnight 301 is only set to 19.5 km/h. This is unreasonably slow, and operators have various ways of coping; many of those are not kind to riders (going as slow as they possibly can, or just ignoring the schedule, getting to the terminal 8 minutes early, and taking a super-extended layover).

    Note that the Neville-Humber cars are anywhere between 0.5 and 2.0 km/h slower than the Long Branch cars, depending on the time and day. Where the schedule speed differences are low (M-F midday, Sunday early evening, Saturday early evening) operation on Lake Shore is assumed to be as fast — or rather, as *slow* — as operation along Queen St.

    Amazingly, St. Clair’s service speed is between 12.8 and 16.7 km/h, which is slower than the Queen car! And I should count myself lucky that I don’t have to catch a Dundas car Saturday morning, when it only manages 11.8km/h, the slowest streetcar operation I can find.


  4. You say there are three components: reliability, frequency and connectivity.

    I completely agree that these are key but would add that riders (clients?) also look for – for want of a better word – ‘comfort’. That does not mean you always get a seat but does mean that stations and vehicles are clean, signage is clear, escalators and elevators work and staff are pleasant and helpful.

    Steve: I was specifically addressing service, as in what runs on the street on along the tracks. However, I do agree that things like clean vehicles one can actually see out of, escalators and elevators that actually work and good information sources — whether provided by staff or by signs — are also key to the overall experience.


  5. Great post, Steve, thank you. I was particularly struck by this part:

    For some transit planners, the main benefit of “transit priority” is reducing the round trip times and hence the number of vehicles on a route, rather than on allowing for more frequent, and hence more attractive service. This was a flaw in the original plans for the 512 St. Clair line and this outlook undermined the project’s credibility.

    My parents (who live in Cabbagetown, rarely take the TTC, and have friends in the area served by the 512) were deeply unimpressed by the rationale for the whole line, which they told me was “a whole minute faster on the round trip — so what’s the point?” And you know, I couldn’t really think of a good answer to that at the time.


  6. Before I went to the Clean Air Coalition meeting last night I watched the service on Queen and Dundas. The low floor cars with all door loading and POP fare system cannot come soon enough. I watched cars on Queen and Dundas take 2 lights to load the passengers. Even with all door loading on Queen there were still enough passengers who had to put in a ticket and get a transfer that the car took 2 lights. This makes for poor service and justifiably ticks off motorists who miss 2 lights while this dumb street car sits with its doors open for 2 lights. None of the motorists seemed up set at missing the one light while passengers boarded but they did start to honk their horns during the second light. It is no wonder that some don’t stop for a car that has its doors open.

    As I have said before the TTC has to re-learn the “Law of Diminishing Returns.” The cost of the extra supervision required to go from 90% fare collection to 95% might be less than the extra fares generated the cost to go from 95% to 100% is much greater than the extra fares generated. The speed up in service would more than make up for the slight lost revenue and most of the passengers would be a lot happier. It would remove a possible confrontation between operators and passengers The TTC has also got to learn to be a little more flexible in their enforcement. Before GO had ticket vending machines my daughter worked in Weston and lived with us in Brampton. One afternoon she wanted to go downtown but when she arrived at the Weston GO station she could not buy a ticket to Union so she cancelled one of the rides on her Brampton Weston Ticket. From the cancellation time it was obvious that she cancelled it in Weston. She was caught in a spot check but the GO ticket inspector said that if she was going to do this on a semi regular basis it would be cheaper for her to buy a 10 trip ticket but since she did the best she could under the circumstances he wouldn’t give her a ticket. She actually paid slightly more than the Weston to Union cost.

    It is important that the personnel have a little flexibility. I have often seen TTC operators when people put in $5.00 because they don’t have correct change make the customer sit beside them until another passenger gets one with change and then have that passenger give the first enough money to make correct change. Nothing requires them to do this but it makes everyone feel better; the person who gets their extra money back is happy and the person whose change made it possible feels good because this operator did his best to make things fare.

    Haw many stations in the rush hour have 3 or 4 collectors plus crash gate personnel? The Spadina line usually has a rear door pass transfer checker at King, Queen, Dundas and College in the rush hour to speed loading. How much money would be saved by going to a barrier free fares system and putting half of those people into checking for valid fares? TTC fare collection is not stuck in the last century; it is stuck in the one before that. Let’s move from the nineteenth to the twenty first century and completely skip the twentieth. How much time could be saved at each stop by the adoption of a modern fare system?


  7. A good service is an efficient service. The TTC needs credibility to delivery people in a fast way throughout the city. This is how it will attract riders. The 39 express bus is not as fast as it can be. Stopping twice at Don Mills (east side and west side) is not fast.

    I really hope that the TTC can start offering some super express routes. For example, a non stop service from say airport to say North York Center. Or from North York Center to Scarborough Center non stop. Why should someone traveling half way across the city be placed in a bus or a metro that stops at every station?

    Having the existing paper media fares is also hindering efficiencies. Passengers do not want to see people arguing with the driver about a fare. Let’s use a smart card and the computer will calculate everything. This will also lower fare evasion and provide the TTC with much more useful travel data.

    Steve: You may be amused to know that two local stops were added to the Scarborough Town Centre Rocket (Don Mills to STC) to placate local Councillors who wanted their residents to have a one-seat ride to STC. What is interesting about this route is that it carries a lot of traffic between stops on Sheppard, not just between the end points. Passengers waiting for the Sheppard East bus know enough to grab a Rocket if one shows up and it will serve their stop.


  8. Hi Steve,

    Slight nitpick, but I assume in this paragraph you mean:

    The TTC considers the access distance to transit service as part of its evaluation for new routes or revisions. Potential new passengers should lie “NO” more than 300m beyond existing transit services (or 200m if there is a “higher-than-average” proportion of seniors).

    Steve: Thanks for that. I have corrected the text.

    Also, I’d argue that part of service reliability is giving an idea of when the next bus/train is coming. The TTC has made baby steps on this with the displays in the subway stations, although sometimes it can take 3 minutes to countdown 1 minute. The streetcar display at Spadina is good, although the bunching it highlights is probably not the desired outcome.

    Steve: In the subway, a countdown can be halted if the “next train” is holding somewhere. For example, if a train holds for time westbound at Chester, the countdown at stations west of there will stay on the same value (“2 minutes” at Broadview) until it moves off. Similarly, if the next train is sitting at Coxwell awaiting a longer than normal crew change, the next train times west of there, calculated based on train position, will not change.

    On the surface, I understand that some of the TTC Operations management are not too happy about how visible the poor quality of their service will be once the NextBus displays show all routes. For the few days many routes were visible, things looked quite appalling. I, among others, want the TTC to make their historical data available as part of the “open TTC” facility so that I don’t have to make special requests every time I want to analyze a route.


  9. Reg said: “How is this line’s quality of reliability on the opposite end of the city?”

    Speaking as someone who uses the 506 frequently out of Main station, it can be bad enough that I have wondered why the TTC hasn’t created a “506A” bus/streetcar to ensure a minimum level of reliable service between, at least, Main station and Coxwell loop.


  10. I feel like a broken record, but what about basic communication with passengers?

    Yesterday evening it was raining. There was some kind of accident at Queen and Broadview, and the streetcars went haywire at Dundas and Broadview. First a northbound 504 turned west at Dundas. Then a 504 came north and said the car was going east at Gerrard. Then a 501 came also going east at Gerrard. None of the drivers had any idea when a streetcar would go to Broadview subway; how could they, as I don’t think they have access to the info either.

    I had just missed a 505 going north, as the lights didn’t allow me to catch it and the driver could not wait.

    No way to call and complain as the TTC does not maintain a 24 hour live phone line. No inspectors to ask. No electronic information at the stop as common in Europe. No way to get problems in your area sent by SMS to your phone. I wouldn’t have thought to check the TTC website before I left my computer, but I really don’t think it would include this type of problem or how long it would take to be resolved.

    (And by the way why does a 512 streetcar only going to Lansdowne have a sign that says Keele? The streetcars have sign options for Lansdowne.)

    I am ready to start riding my bike again for the season.

    Steve: The TTC really screws up when cars go off route due to a major incident anywhere on the system. Their ability to deliver up-to-date information on service will improve, a bit, when they finally get information displays installed and activated in transit shelters. However, based on experience with their online info, this will be compromised by a failure to assign enough staff to keep these displays current and technical limitations for following cars when they go off route. You may have noticed that the route displays on NextBus show the official route cars are taking, not the many diversions that are possible.


  11. Many people–OK, actually, me!–point to systems in Europe as the be-all and end-all of “good service” that should be emulated here. But I wonder how true that really is? And, as you have pointed out in the past, there are factors involved in systems such as Madrid and it’s frantic subway building that could not be reasonably copied in Canada. Nervertheless, maybe gazing at other navels (…hmmm…) is not the best solution for solving local problems.


  12. While the TTC is supposed to 30 minute service on all routes, they are recommending elimination of service to Dufferin bus through the Exhibition, except for weekends.

    I submitted this written deputation for today’s TTC meeting. We’ll see how seriously they take the 30 minute service promise.

    This is a written deputation in response to the report titled “29

    This report recommends elimination of the 29D to Exhibition loop except
    during the day on weekend and holidays.

    However the TTC’s policy from the ridership growth strategy is that all
    routes receive service every 30 minutes at all times, except overnight.

    This policy seems to extend to route branches. For example, before the
    ridership growth strategy the 71B Runnymede to Industry St only ran
    during the day on weekdays, but it has now been extended to all day,

    Surely this the policy would also apply to this cause. If not, the
    policy on where the minimum 30 minute service should apply should be
    clarified, as currently it is somewhat vague.


  13. Thank you for laying out the complex nature of the service needs of the TTC. Too often we get suggestions based on “Well fix this.” and then “Well, fix that.” without an understanding that the TTC system is a very very complex beast.

    Every rider I know has a somewhat linerar hierarchy of TTC needs.

    The common top need is “Get me on and going”.

    After that, things get fuzzy with some people wanting comfort (and that can be defined so many ways as to make it impossible to meet everybody’s ideal), some wanting speed to where they are going, some wanting a nice view, and some wanting access to media/technology.

    Unfortunately, all of these needs intertwine in a complex system that does not lead itself to much of the way TTC management, or TTC commentators for that matter, approach fixes. Attempts to approach the service needs using a linear fix A and then fix B approach are doomed to failure because everything is massively interconnected.

    Sometimes I think TTC management more needs a change in management theory then in management. And I know I do well when I consider the potential complexity a seemingly simple thing like adding a daytime cleaner to each station would mean. It may mean complexity is added, or it may not. But, the potential for any such variable to change how the whole system runs needs to be thought through.


  14. All of the service improvements cost money … some more than others … I think it would be interesting for the TTC to put together a website that would show what changes are possible – from the simple to the ridiculous and approximate costs … that way the public can decide (via elections) what they want …

    For example…

    How much would it cost to:

    – Eliminate and enforce no stopping on king/queen
    – Add 10 more cars to king/queen
    – No fares required on busy routes
    – Bury King/Queen or put in right-of-way
    – Everybody gets a seat during peak travel
    – Hourly cleaning of stations
    – Fixing all cosmetic issues (stains on tiles, etc)
    – 20 minute service on all routes
    – 10 minute service on all routes
    – Move to all routes being managed by headway
    – Complete fare system overhaul
    – 24 hours service on subways
    – Everyone is within X km of a subway
    – Everyone is within X km of a streetcar
    – Everyone is within X km of a bus

    There are costs to all the above … and some political decisions/law changes that would have to occur for some as well … they should be outlined on the TTC’s website … a lot of the things the TTC says they can’t do, they could do … if the politicians would help them do it … or if the public decided it was worth it … when you listen to Giambrone and Brad on their show it often seems like they are defending the status quo … what they should be saying is … this is the status quo … if you think we need to change it, then these are the things that would need to happen for that to change … go and lobby the mayor, the premier for XYZ to change and we’ll implement it.

    Steve: That was the philosophy behind the original Ridership Growth Stratagy. Don’t tell us what you can’t do, tell us what could be done and what it would cost. Leave the policy decision to the politicians and the voters.


  15. I would agree that reliability, frequency and connectivity are the essentials that they need to focus on.

    I ride mostly buses, so my viewpoint on “good service” will be from a bus rider angle.

    IMO any route that has a headway of 30 min is frankly…undesirable. Yes, I understand that it would be too expensive to make every route more frequent all day, but the least they could do is make rush hour seem know…a “rush”. One bus every 16-22 min during rush hour is pathetic. What happens if a bus breaks down or short turns? Unfortunately the customer ends up standing around in the rain/heat/cold, feeling like a loser as hundreds of cars zoom by.

    I am not sure how reliability will ever be achieved for buses. The fact is every driver is different. I have some drivers that like to show up 5+ minutes too early. I have other drivers that consistently show up 5+ minutes late. Then there are drivers who decide to slow down, speed up or break at random parts of a route which can throw your transfer point timing off kilter. As a rider I find the more buses you have to take, the harder it is to stay on schedule. It only takes one bad ride to ruin the trip.

    Steve, I find your comment about the 190 Rocket interesting. I take that bus, and have always wondered if the Allanford stop was inserted to appease a particular group. To me, it makes little sense to have an express bus stop in between 2 major intersections that are only a short walk apart. The Allanford stop seems to cater mostly to the elderly people who live near Agincourt mall.

    Steve: Yes, it was inserted at Councillor Kelly’s request for specifically that purpose.


  16. My parents (who live in Cabbagetown, rarely take the TTC, and have friends in the area served by the 512) were deeply unimpressed by the rationale for the whole line, which they told me was “a whole minute faster on the round trip — so what’s the point?” And you know, I couldn’t really think of a good answer to that at the time.

    Your parents’ friends must never have taken the old 512, because the new Right-of-Way is a huge improvement over the old line. Yes, the _scheduled_ round trip time is officially is only several minutes faster, but the service is much, much more reliable. The old 512 line bunched up badly, and the waits at the Gunns Loop were interminable in the winter.


  17. Hi Steve,

    I know that a major component of Transit City Bus Plan involves the installation of Transit Signalling Priority. I don’t think turning the system on for Spadina was mentioned in the plan, which I think it should.


  18. When it comes to service, it boils down to a few things:

    Vehicles that are clean, on time, at a reasonable number of passengers, and for a reasonable fare.

    What we get from the TTC are:

    Vehicles that are dirty, how is it possible that a bus that was built in 2009, can look like it was last cleaned in 1976, is beyond me, but I have been on some…..

    A route that is supposed to have a bus every 4 minutes, gets 5 buses in a row every 20 minutes or so (this is a chronic problem on the 36 Finch West), this often means the first 2 buses have people hanging out the windows, and the last 2 are empty, of course the ones that are full, stop at every stop, to pick up more passengers, the empty ones just sit behind the full ones, so they stay empty.

    A fare system that is convoluted, expensive and even the drivers don’t know how long a transfer is supposed to be good for.


    Vehicles should only be in service so many hours, when they are returned to the garage, they should be cleaned and inspected, any seats or windows that can’t be cleaned, should be replaced. Vehicles should have refuse containers at all doors, these should be checked and emptied at least once per trip.

    There should be a supervisor at any station where surface vehicles terminate their trip, the supervisor will then hold and release vehicles to get them back on schedule, busy routes on frequent service, get spaced based on time between vehicles rather then exact schedule by run number. People don’t care if the next bus is run #16 or not, if there is supposed to be a bus every 4 minutes, space them every 4 minutes. This will help with crowding as well, as the passengers get better spaced between vehicles.

    The fare system, how about this, your fare is good for a fixed time, say 2.5 hours, if you can complete a round trip in under 2.5 hours, it should be okay to do that.

    Use a fare card, I saw this idea somewhere, frequent flier discounts…. If you make more then 3 trips, all additional trips that day are free, in other words your card becomes a day pass. If you take more then 12 trips in a week, it becomes a weekly pass and all additional trips that week are free. More then 40 trips in a month, and all additional trips that month are free. Your card should be refillable at any TTC station using a kiosk similar to the new metropass ones, except you stick your card in to add money. Since the amount on the card is in dollars rather then trips, a fare increase simply means that it takes more value off the card per trip.

    When you start a trip, it begins a timer, that timer runs out in a fixed amount of time, say 2.5 hours, that means if you get on a bus for a 10 minute ride, pop into a store and then get back on the same bus to return home, it would be considered a single trip.

    Best is to use a proximity chip, where your card passing within say 30cm of the reader is sufficient, it would allow for people to simply file through, rather then needing to stop and insert the card or swipe it. Signs would be posted that indicate that passing within 30cm of the reader will deduct a fare.

    This would also mean not needing collectors, put in a manned information desk, the (former) collector can then help with directions, using the machines, reporting issues, etc. They would not handle cash and the desk would state on it, that they do not have any cash.

    Refilling your card could be done by cash, debit or credit card, minimum is $10, you go up to the machine, put your card up to the reader, and insert your debit or credit card or cash bill and it updates your card. By the same token, you can go to the website, type in your card number and get a list of activity on your card – basically the number of trips in a given period, along with any frequent flier discounts given, would not state where the trip was or when. You could also print a tax receipt.


  19. re Wogster’s remarks about a fare card and, for now, ignoring all the issues with implementing such a fare card:

    Your card should have a number associated with it that is known to you so you can set it up with your bank as TTC account number. Then you could make payments of any amount, just like paying any other bill. That way, you wouldn’t have to go to a machine to refill the card. You could even set up regular payments.


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