For The Greater Good (Update 4)

Update 4 on February 9, 2011 at 9:30 am:

I have now received the official text of the amendments passed by the Commission to the staff recommendations:

i)    That staff review all of the routes and services prior to the implementation date to ensure that no routes were improperly assessed under this criteria.
ii)     That service re-allocations, including minor reductions and improvements, be reported to the Commission on a quarterly, or semi-annual basis, based on the service thresholds established by the Commission.
iii)    That TTC management staff be requested to report back to the Commission on the accuracy of ridership on transit routes that are affected and may qualify to have the service reinstated where the ridership trend may be justified.

Update 3 on February 5, 2011 at 10:30 am:

A section has been added at the end discussing the proportion of Ridership Growth Strategy service improvements that have not been affected by these service cuts.

It is fashionable in the current regime to knock anything done by the Miller/Giambrone administration at the TTC, of which RGS was a major initiative.  Saying that the vast majority of the proposed cuts are (or were) to services that were implemented under RGS gives the impression that RGS was a failure.  In fact, half of RGS additions to hours of service, and all of the headway improvements remain in place.  One might say that there is a mandate for the Ridership Growth Strategy.

One cannot expect a largely new Commission to be aware of these facts, but it is disappointing that TTC staff never pointed them out either in reports or in responses to questions at Commission meetings.

Update 2 on February 3, 2011 at 5:00 pm: A section has been added at the end of the article reviewing some of the planned cutbacks from the viewpoint of alternative ways to deliver service as well as the compound effect of several cuts on routes serving the same area.

Updated February 3, 2011 at 3:00 pm: A section has been added after the main article detailing the positions taken by each member of the Commission.

February 2, 2011, will be remembered as the longest TTC board meeting to date (and I have been attending since late 1972) starting at 1:00 pm and ending after 10:00 pm, but its infamy rests with the abuse suffered by the public at the hands of the Commission.

Beginning at about 4:00 pm (after a long series of public deputations and a vote on the proposed Ashbridge Maintenance and Storage Facility, about which more in a later post), the Commission began to hear deputations on the proposed service cuts.  The speakers list had 140 names when we began.  A few were added along the way, and by the end of the deps at 8:49 pm, many had given up waiting for their turn.  I will write in more detail about the type of issues raised, but the treatment the public received, especially by the Chair, Councillor Karen Stintz, deserves special mention.

Many people spoke to the hardships that cuts to their bus routes would bring, while many others spoke to the general issue that transit service should exist as a basic part of the city.  Some services won’t do well, but citizens deserved access to their homes and workplaces.

Some of the deputants took time off work to attend the meeting and speak out for transit service and most were not, like me, “professional” attendees at the TTC.  They waited a long time to speak, and those who stayed to the bitter end, waited even longer to find out if they had been heard.

Stintz agreed that, yes, service “reallocations” were the last choice in the tools available to a transit system in meeting growing demands on the system overall, but argued that what staff had recommended was “the greater good for riders”.  Those words will haunt her.  They should be posted on every service change notice at every affected bus stop.

For the greater good, you no longer will have service.

By the time she addressed her little homily to the multitude, thanking them profusely for their passion about transit, it was clear from other Commissioners’ comments that reversing any of the proposals was a lost cause.  We could have saved a great deal of time if, back at the start of the meeting, Stintz had announced that a straw poll of the Commission showed that all of the cuts would be approved, and the deputants should just leave now.

The real insult came in Stintz’ characterization of riders’ pleas as being from self-interest, from saving their own routes at the expense of riders on busier routes elsewhere.  That completely misrepresented the majority of the presentations.  Some spoke of special needs for residents in neighbourhoods.  Some spoke of safety walking late at night.  Some showed that TTC riding counts were clearly off because actual usage was higher than TTC stats claimed.

I will return to the arguments in more detail in an update to this article, but a common thread was that there was more to a transit route than the riding counts, counts that many did not believe anyhow.  Given the previous flagrant errors in the TTC’s analysis, it wasn’t a stretch to suggest that the counts were wrong too.

Stintz wished that all the riders who will benefit, eventually, from improved service could have attended to show their support.  Of course those riders at least have a bus, crowded though it may be.

A mark of a civilized city is that it looks out for everyone, not just those with power, or money, or those whose demands on the municipal infrastructure can be cheaply served.  We built the city as it is, hard-to-serve subdivisions and all, and we are stuck with the legacy of that built form.  As a city, we owe decent service to our residents all the way from the thousands on rush hour subway trains to the dozens on late night buses.

Karen Stintz prefers to set neighbour against neighbour with the strong, the numerous, getting not just all of the pie, but the crumbs too.

That’s not my Toronto.

Updated February 3, 2011 at 3:00 pm:

Updated February 3, 2011 at 3:00 pm:

Although Chair Stintz takes the bulk of my wrath above, comments by other Commissioners are worth reporting.

Commissioner Kelly attempted to rescue the 162 Lawrence-Donway route because of its isolation, and the 116 Morningside Express service to UofT Scarborough campus. His proposals lost on votes of 2 to 6. I doubt that he expected these to succeed.

Commissioner Crisanti observed that the issue had been deferred from the January meeting to allow for feedback that came via the four public consultations. How he could ignore hours of deputations as “feedback” is hard to explain. He proposed a motion that staff review all routes and services to ensure that none were missed under the new criteria. The way this reads implies that he is looking for additional savings, but there was a lot of quick talking by various Commissioners that the real intent was to double-check the figures. The motion passed without any clarifying text, and I suspect that what it says is what it means but this was corrected in the official version posted in the update at the beginning of the article.

Commissioner Augimeri spoke to the issue of safety and long walks late at night. Her specific concerns were the 120 Calvington and 101 Downsview Park services. She noted that staff may do the math based on formulas, but the Commission needs to deal with the public good. To that end, she moved that the requirement for at least ten riders per hour on routes that are more than 600m from an alternative service be dropped so that remote areas would be guaranteed transit access. This motion lost 2 to 6.

Commissioner Milczyn supported the staff proposal, although it was clear that he did not understand how the revised evaluation actually worked. There is a mistaken impression (one that I myself had) that staff looked at a route over a period (say evenings 7 to 10) to determine if it achieved the ridership criterion in any hour. In fact, the change in procedure was to drop the requirement that routes do well weekday midday before they are considered for service at other times. This was a holdover of the pre-Ridership Growth Strategy Service Standards.

The change allows for non-standard demands such as the Downsview Park bus where the traditional sequence of peak, then midday, then evening, then weekend services would be implemented as demand builds. In some cases, there will be weekend or evening demand peculiar to a route, and this needs to be served.

Milczyn noted that when the Commission became engaged in the process, the originally proposed cuts and standards were reviewed on a finer level. He claimed that the cuts were not a “war on transit”, but a reasonable reallocation of resources where they are most needed with many outer suburban routes getting additional service.

He went on to say that 80% of the services to be dropped were added through the Ridership Growth Strategy’s full service initiative. This was a leap of faith, and there had been two years to see whether it achieved its goal. What he missed is that many of the RGS service adds remain in place, and saying 80% of the May 2011 cuts came from RGS does not mean that RGS itself was a bad idea.

It is worth noting that Milczyn has been an advocate and defender of the Humber Bay premium express bus which has not exactly been packing in riders.  It will be intriguing to see how this route fares against the new standards for service productivity.

Commissioner Palacio moved that staff report quarterly or semi-annually on service changes and on underperforming routes, and that they report on the accuracy of ridership counts that may justify reinstatement of some cancelled services. He observed that the current proposal is the outcome of transparent public participation, ignoring the fact that none of the comments made in hours of deputations had any effect. Toronto is “broke”, and a fare increase to maintain underperforming routes would hurt the most vulnerable of riders. He missed the irony that some of those vulnerable riders will have no service at all. His motion passed 7-1.

Commissioner Parker echoed Cmmr Milczyn’s remarks and endorsed the staff position.

Commissioner Minnan-Wong stated that the RGS service adds in 2008 had cost the TTC $20-million. Resources are scarce, and deputants spoke against cuts to their own routes. In a bizarre twist, he claimed that advocacy for service on poor routes hurts the cause of transit, sending us backward, because there would be less service where it is needed.

This statement ignored the many deputants who spoke to the general issue of service to areas and times of low demand, and of the importance of having transit everywhere. Minnan-Wong did not even support the current recommendations preferring instead to adopt the original January 2011 list of cuts even though the analysis behind them contains outright errors in application of the TTC’s purported standard.

Commissioner Di Giorgio was not present.

I have already reported on Chair Stintz’ remarks.

As I write this, I await official copies of the text of the motions adopted at this meeting.  When they are available, I will update this article.

Updated February 3, 2011 at 5:00 pm:

Following up on the route-specific comments from various deputations, let’s have a look at the alternatives that might have been available, but were not looked at, by the TTC.

Back when routes didn’t run at all hours, it was common practice to look for ways to save vehicles while preserving service, but this has not been done for the current round.

Also, there are cases where multiple services are cut with overlapping territories, but no allowance is made for the combined effect in the TTC’s analysis.

32D Eglinton West to Emmett and 73B Royal York to La Rose

Councillors Nunziata and Lindsay-Luby spoke to these routes, respectively.  Each is a loop north of Eglinton.

Service on Emmett is provided on a 24 minute headway with 2 buses at all times when the service is threatened (after 10 pm Mon-Sat, after 7 pm Sun-Hol).  Service on La Rose is provided on a 30 minute headway with 1 bus (after 7 pm all days).  Neither of these services is integrated with the routes of which they are nominally branches because the headways do not mesh with the through routes.

I can’t help wondering whether a route could be constructed that served both loops off of Eglinton, either from Eglinton West Station to La Rose via Emmett, or from Royal York to Emmett via La Rose.  This should save one bus from the combined operation.

33 Forest Hill, 14 Glencairn and 5 Avenue Road

Service will be removed from both of these routes at various times leaving no transit in the block bounded by St. Clair, Yonge, Eglinton and Bathurst as follows:

Weekday early evenings:  Service on 14 and 5, but not on 33.
Weekend early evenings:  Service only on 14.
All days late evenings:  No service

It is physically impossible for all points within a block 2km on the side to be within 600m of the perimeter where transit is available.

103 Mt. Pleasant North, 124 Sunnybrook and 162 Lawrence-Donway

Service on both 103 and 124 will end at 10 pm Sundays and Holidays, and 162 is cut back to weekday daytime only.  This leaves no transit service in the block bounded by Eglinton, Bayview, the west Don River (Glen Echo) and Yonge Street late Sunday night.  It is physically impossible that all potential riders are within 600m of transit in a block roughly 2km by 3km.

162 Lawrence-Donway

This route serves the isolated Glenorchy and Bridal Path areas connecting them to the Yonge Subway at Lawrence Station and to the shopping area at Lawrence and Don Mills.  It will be cut back to weekday only service during daytimes.  The maximum walking distance to alternative service from this area is 1.7km.

There is no alternative for service here.

One point worth noting is that this area includes a school serving special needs children.  Originally, service was to be cut except during peak periods, but the midday service used by this school has been restored.  However, it wil not be accessible by TTC for any evening or weekend activities.

5 Avenue Road, 6 Bay, 26 Dupont and 127 Davenport

These routes serve the block bounded by Bloor, Bathurst, St. Clair and Yonge, and none of them will operate after 10 pm on Sundays.  The Dupont bus will end at 10 pm all days, and the Avenue Road bus will end at 7 pm on weekends.  Walking trips to “nearby” services must deal with hills, the main CPR line and some ravines.

101 Downsview Park

Winter (September to May) service on this route was to be cut because it is a “park”, but weekend service has been retained under the new scheme.  This leaves weeknight users of facilities in the park with a long, poorly lit walk to transit through an old industrial area.  Sheppard West buses could detour into the park at least on weekday evenings when there is demand, and although this would give through riders a slightly longer trip, it would maintain service to the park.

72A Pape via Commissioners

Winter service through the eastern portlands, the Distillery District and the St. Lawrence neighbourhood will end at 7 pm on Sundays.  This is a situation where the more populated area west of the Don River is penalized for having a service through an industrial area as part of its route.  Would its stats look better as a bus that only served the residential communities?  The TTC will soon have to deal with new developments north and east of the Distillery District, and they really need to contemplate better bus service here, especially if the Cherry Street LRT is delayed by funding problems.

This is not an exhaustive review of the service changes, but it begs the question of how thoroughly the TTC tried to find alternatives to simply eliminating routes, and the dedication, if any, of Commissioners to the complexity of working through the problems these proposed “reallocations” bring.

Updated February 5, 2011 at 10:30 am:

The service cuts have been presented as a rollback of Ridership Growth Strategy improvements, and the new transit Commissioners are all too happy to suggest that a major initiative of the Miller years was a failure.  In fact, half of RGS service additions and all of the headway improvements remain in place contributing to the overall health of the network.

Sundays after 10pm take the brunt of the cuts.  RGS added service to 58 routes, but only 16 of these (28%) retain service.  Late evenings in general fare poorly with only 17 of 44 routes (39%) retaining service weekdays, and 17 of 51 routes (33%) on Saturdays.

Early evenings do better with 13 of 21 (62%) retaining service on weekdays, 20 of 36 (56%) on Saturdays, and 20 of 44 (45%) on Sundays.

Weekday middays saw new service on 11 routes, and 9 of these remain in operation (82%).  On Saturday afternoons, 15 of 25 (60%) were not cut, and on Sunday afternoons, 21 of 36 (58%) survived.

(Apologies if I missed the odd route.  Keeping track of this, even on a spreadsheet, is tedious work and, unlike TTC staff, I am not paid to do it.)

Overall, half (210 out of 423) of the new services added by RGS remain in operation meeting the TTC’s new criteria for acceptable performance.  That’s not a wild success, but hardly an abject failure.

55 thoughts on “For The Greater Good (Update 4)

  1. There are 6000 graduate students at the Glendon Campus?

    Let’s see. that’s 200 stuffed buses per day, 100 going to school and 100 going home, right?

    Was there a deputant pleading the case of 6000 plumbers?


  2. From reading the comments, I do agree that the meeting was just a horse and pony show. But it doesn’t surprise me at all that the commission would agree to all of the recommendations from management. There are so many problems with the TTC right now, from making it an essential service, to the cancellation of Transit City and building a subway (to match the mayor’s timeline of a finished subway within 4 years) to a mandate from the mayor to find cost savings, it would be hard for the commission to sort out all of these issues within a span of 2 months. Finding out the financial ramifications of all of these would put anyone in a bind, and so the most politically expedient way to solve it was to follow management’s advice.

    If anything, this goes to show just how important budget balancing exercises, like those pointed out by Jarrett from are important in engaging the public and elected officials in solving transit funding woes. This way, it won’t be a horse and pony show next year when the hard cuts are coming to the TTC.

    Steve: Let citizens design their own transit system! Are you mad? Whatever will the “professionals” do with their time?

    Following management’s advice blindly is dangerous because that advice is not necessarily unbiased nor well-reasoned. We know that there were problems with the first set of proposals, and changes were made in response to public feedback. The Commission entertained hours of deputations from people hoping for a similar reception, but were frozen out “for the greater good”. If Karen Stintz had tried that at one of the “consultation” sessions, she would have a less than warm reception.


  3. Don Hamilton says:
    The solution should be obvious even to a graduate student. Move.

    Classy. Maybe we should start saying that to the people who insist on living in the farthest reaches of Scarborough and Etobicoke and driving downtown, crosstown, etc. to get to their work, instead of pandering to their needs and biases. Or do they get a pass from this line of thinking because they aren’t graduate students?


  4. “And, having the inconvenience of the 199 compared to the 39 (I’m trying to understand what the problem is with that … take a 39 to a 199 stop, get off, catch an express – that is the beauty of the Metropass) doesn’t quite match with a massive block of the city receiving no service.”

    When you take a look at the 199 service in the context of the justifications the TTC used for service cuts to 48 other bus routes chopped at the budget meeting, problems pop up quickly. The TTC claims that the 48 routes they identified for service cuts are not “productive” because they have low ridership. When you take a look at the 199 service when it reaches McCowan and Finch, on average about 10 people get off the bus at this stop and wait for the 39 so they can travel further east. Meanwhile, 2 people are left on the 199 as it turns south at the McCowan and Finch intersection to head to Scarborough Town Centre.

    Ogthedim, I do agree that commuters with a Metropass (or those without can get transfers) can get off the 199 bus and wait for the 39. However, here are some problems I have identified with the new service.

    The problem is sevenfold.

    1) The ridership on the 199 between Scarborough Town Centre and the McCowan and Finch intersection doesn’t warrant a separate bus route especially since the McCowan bus runs frequently (e.g., every 5 to 6 minutes). People who want to go to STC can get off the 39 Finch bus and transfer to the McCowan bus.

    2) More people are traveling east to Neilson than are traveling south to STC. The 199 bus service does not reflect where people are actually traveling.

    3) When these service changes were first implemented the 39 would run every 17 minutes on paper but more like every 45 minutes in reality. This means commuters heading east of McCowan who get off the 199 are faced with long wait times for a 39 bus. Thankfully, the 39 service is a bit more frequent now so wait times range between 5 to 15 minutes.

    4) Service changes on Finch Ave. East has lead to overcrowding on the 39. The 39 bus (heading westbound to Finch station) is typically full when the bus reaches Markham Rd. or Middlefield. This type of overcrowding typically did not occur at this point in the route before the service changes.

    5) Service changes on Finch Ave. East has also increased the commuting time for commuters east of McCowan.

    6) When the 199 is heading from STC to Finch station it needs to make a left turn at McCowan and Finch which delays the service at the traffic light between 2 to 4 minutes as it waits to turn (depending on how much traffic is making a left turn).

    7) The TTC has changed the stops without notifying commuters. Many commuters wait for the 199 bus at a certain stop only to be told by a 39 bus driver that the bus does not stop there and that they must cross the street to wait for the 199 and vice-versa. The entire service change has caused much confusion among many transit riders.

    As for the subway to York University, that particular extension will not be useful for everyone living in Toronto. It does not make sense for those living along Steeles Ave. East in Scarborough for example to travel to Finch station and take the subway around the entire Yonge-University-Spadina loop to get to York U.

    Instead of service cuts that pit one neighbourhood against another in regards to who deserves scarce transit dollars, City Hall and the TTC should build a transit network across the entire city that serves as many residents as possible. We already have a plan in place, Transit City. It’s already funded by the Provincial Government. All that’s needed at the Municipal level is political will from our elected representatives to build it.


  5. Steve, don’t you think you’re being just a little bit harsh on Karen Stintz? She’s obviously doing the best she can to reduce overcrowding on a fixed budget.

    As I said in an earlier post, it’s very easy for us or critics like you to sit back and say “transit service must not be cut”. It’s quite another task to do that when funding is limited and the voter mandate is to not increase fares or taxes. When you were working, did you rebel against your superiors? Is that what you expect Karen Stintz to do? … to tell Ford where to go? If the Commission voted for a fare increase to reduce overcrowding and not cut any service, how many deputations would they receive in protest under that scenario? Would you be there complaining?

    Steve: I have two criticisms of Stintz, and they are as much political as they are technical.

    First off, she took us all through the exercise of “listening” to deputations for six hours with the clear understanding that further fine tuning, along the lines of what had been achieved by the previous consultations, was possible. At the end, not only did she not acknowledge the validity of what people said, she denigrated it with her “greater good” speech.

    Second, she has already become a captive of staff — never mind that there were outright errors in their analysis, and that they had one-day riding counts taken over the past year or two (by their own admission) as the basis for the cutbacks. When a member of Council is told, in effect, that the busy trips he and his staff witnessed on a bus in his ward were an abberation, this is both stupid and insulting. TTC members have a long history, including in the Miller/Giambrone era, of taking staff claims at face value, and this has hurt them politically. The same will happen to Stintz.

    As for “rebelling against my superiors”, I was well-known for taking a strong stand for what I believed, based on professional experience and judgement, to be correct. However, I was willing to discuss matters, and as a public servant, to come to an accommodation between what was practical and what was politically desired. One cannot always agree with a policy, but it is one’s job to do the best one can in implementing it. TTC staff failed in that regard, and the Commission let them get away with it because “cuts” were more important than “common sense”.

    I don’t agree with these cuts either (as I am a firm believer in 24 hour service and that transit service should always be available, just as my car is always available), but these service reductions are not catastrophic.

    As far as knowing which battles need to be picked, I would have let this one go. You’re got going to make any friends on the new Commission with articles like this, and if you want to be an effective advocate, you cannot constantly slag the TTC on every minor issue and then expect them to listen to you on the matters that count. Try the soft sell — the hard sell obviously doesn’t work with them.

    Steve: This is not a minor issue. My central concern is that they are making up a response to a budget problem on the back of a very tattered envelope, and we are not having a public discussion about what standards should be applied to service. Next year, we will be back looking at the same problem but on a larger scale. This is a matter of policy, and the Commission is ducking the issue by painting this not as a “cut” but a “reallocation”. The person whose bus doesn’t run any more will take cold comfort from knowing that if they tried another route half-way across the city, or at another time of day, they would find their “reallocated” ride.

    I frankly do not worry about making friends on the Commission. My reputation for decades has been that I speak my mind whether it suits those in power or not. The moment I start to pull punches, to sugar-coat the arguments, I might as well be a PR flak churning out the party line.

    Because my blog started after Miller was in power, you have seen my writing during a comparatively sympathetic administration. I’ve been told before to make nice, and wound up feeling like a small child who was patted on the head and sent away with a sweetie. That’s how organizations treat people who don’t make a strong stand.

    As for slagging the TTC on “every minor issue”, there are so many major ones I don’t have time for the small change. Oddly enough, a lot of this comes down to poor management (and I will leave your interpretation of “poor” to your imagination) more interested in preserving the status quo, their reputations and their pet projects than in making better transit in difficult times. If the Commissioners and the Ford regime, elected to “clean up City Hal”, cannot see how they are being misled, then nothing will have changed from Lastman to Miller to Ford. I will return to examples of this in coming articles.


  6. Did I read that passenger numbers analyzed to make these cuts are based on one day of counting (and some time ago at that)? If so, I suppose that means there happens to be no one at the TTC who has taken a basic statistics course involved in this. One day samples rely on the very tenuous assumption that every route has a very low variation in ridership from one day to the next (ie, that the sample the TTC used is not that far off from the route’s true mean ridership and that this is true for all routes sampled.) In the real world of course any number of factors from weather to sports can treble or halve ridership for next Thursday.

    Worse, when you’re dealing with small numbers of passengers and small numbers of vehicles you expect a high variability. In other words, flipping a coin five times and getting five heads (100%) is unusual but not unbelievable (it happens just over 3 out of 100 times you try it.) Flipping a coin 100 times and getting 100 heads (100%) means you’re cheating or the coin is weighted – the larger sample size let’s you draw that conclusion because that happens once in a hundred thousand billion billion billion times you try it.

    Ask any statistician to look at these numbers and she will likely tell you that even if we assume that these routes conform to a regular distribution with low variability, it’s extremely likely that at least a couple of these cuts are on the block based only on pure chance (ie, natural, random variation – akin to flipping a coin a few times and not getting about half heads and half tails). I’m not a statistics expert so maybe I’m missing some step they took to wash the data, or maybe the TTC has vast experience estimating ridership with confidence. But if that’s not the case I move to go ahead with the cuts and “reallocate” the money to a special remedial stats course for all city staff and politicians.

    Steve: When asked to explain how the counts were done, TTC management explained that they are careful to avoid unusual days (Mondays and Fridays) and seasons (summer and winter). Nobody was quick enough to ask the obvious question of what else the 28 passenger checkers do as they obviously only work three days a week, for half of the year.


  7. Steve said … “Nobody was quick enough to ask the obvious question of what else the 28 passenger checkers do as they obviously only work three days a week, for half of the year.”

    LOL — that’s why we need somebody as sharp as you on the Commission. Something to consider if they change the makeup later on to allow non-politicians … and don’t give me that “I’m more effective from the outside” bunk. This was before you started attending meetings in ’72, but I heard there used to be some real passionate yelling matches at the Commission meetings in the 60s. I think that’s what we need now.


  8. One thing that I believe should be tried is regularizing all headways so that clock face intervals are maintained. Standard headways should be hourly, half-hourly, every 15 minutes, every 7.5 minutes and then frequent service. I could go with hourly, every 20 minutes, every 10 minutes, every 5 minutes and frequent service. Either set but not a mixture gives consistent transfer times and a memory schedule. Every 24 or 26 minutes does not and also may lead to lower ridership. This type of scheduling might have led to some of the routes not performing well. I definitely agree with the comments about the handling of the meeting and with the idea that staff does not have all of the answers.


  9. Steve: When asked to explain how the counts were done, TTC management explained that they are careful to avoid unusual days (Mondays and Fridays) and seasons (summer and winter). Nobody was quick enough to ask the obvious question of what else the 28 passenger checkers do as they obviously only work three days a week, for half of the year.

    To be fair, I assume they actually work Tuesday-Thursday, Saturday, Sunday so they would still be out there five days a week.

    But as far as doing route counts, I can’t see how it will result in something even remotely accurate or up-to-date. I know you generally get fewer people working on Mondays and Fridays and in the summertime, but that means you need to separate that data out, not that you don’t need to collect it.

    What other assumptions did they make? With 28 staff, they might just have two people (in separate buses) on each of 7 lines riding in circles all day, who then assume that there are no headway variations for any other buses affecting the number of riders, and that their bus never misses a bunch of transferring passengers.

    You’d need to do each route a lot more often than once or twice a year to average out those errors.


  10. I’m not affected by any of the bus route cuts to come. But I will say this: we need to flood out MPs and MPPs with calls for more help at the federal and provincial levels to fund the transit services we need. Because sufficient help is not presently forthcoming, TTC is forced to make some very unpopular decisions.

    Anyone living downwind of all the pollution caused by Toronto gridlock will benefit by having more transit service here. Therefore, we’re justified in asking for more of their tax dollars.


  11. I really wish people would stop saying that these service additions are just from the RGS. The truth is that the RGS only gave us back the service we enjoyed in the 1990’s, for the most part.

    So when these cuts go into affect, the 9 Bellamy for example will stop operating earlier than it did in the 1980’s.

    I think this is very troubling from a transit access point of view. I in fact just did a talk at a planning conference about transit access.

    And it is interesting to note that Toronto and Ottawa are both chipping away at transit access. To save money, Ottawa’s mayor wants to cut routes, because Ottawa having 99% of residents within a 500 meter walk of a bus stop, means that they have higher transit access than almost every other city in North America. And that somehow is seen as bad to the mayor. I really hope we don’t get to the American model of transit planning, where whole swaths of cities have no access to transit.


  12. Steve,

    You claimed that subways cost a lot to operate, therefore losing a lot of money every year. As an example, you said the Sheppard Subway loses about $8 million/year net, while only carrying about 30,000-40,000 riders/day (approximately, can’t remember the exact numbers).

    A look at these reports shows that some streetcar routes lose even more money than the Sheppard Subway. For example, the 504 King car has a daily revenue of $37,600 but a cost of $81,400. I concluded the net daily loss was $81,400-$37,600 = $43,800 /day (in 2005).

    $43,800/day means about a net loss of $13 million/year, more than the Sheppard Subway, while carrying only 48,400 passengers/day. The same trend shows for other streetcar routes too.

    How can you justify the claim that subways will lose much more every year than Light Rail?


    Steve: You are comparing apples and oranges. The figure for the Sheppard subway was (some years ago now) the difference between the cost of the subway operation and the bus system it replaced. In other words, it was the marginal added cost of opening the subway. This is the net added cost after revenue from new passengers is taken into account.

    In the case of the streetcar lines (and all of the other services in the linked report), the revenue figure is suspect because it depends on how the TTC divides up the fares in a free transfer and pass system among the routes. There are many ways to do this, but all of them, without exception, will introduce bias — some ways make things look better for “city” routes, some better for “suburban” routes, but there is no perfect formula. This has been discussed elsewhere on this site at some length.

    When you talk about a “loss” for the King car, that is its gross operating cost minus its allocated revenue. This figure is not available for the Sheppard subway as the entire subway network is considered as one “route” for revenue allocation purposes, and the TTC does not attribute a profit or loss to the individual components. If you wanted to work backward, you would need the cost of all of the bus routes that were replaced by the subway, plus the marginal cost of the subway operation (initially $8m/year but lower now that riding has gone up), less the revenue from new riders.

    In the context of an LRT line on Sheppard, one faces a similar problem to the subway, albeit on a smaller scale. The quality of service would definitely be improved with an LRT line compared to the bus routes, and there would be capacity for future growth beyond what the buses can handle. Just like the subway, the LRT line would have higher costs than the buses in the short term because of new infrastructure to be maintained and a higher level of service, but in time would reach a point where the cost per rider was lower, and the possibility of serving the demand with buses falls off of the table.

    As for the King car, it like all routes “loses” money, although a more reasonable measure is the cost per rider, not the supposed “profit” which depends on how one chooses to allocate fares.

    In 1989, the last year for which the TTC published “profit and loss” figures for the SRT and Subway, the subway lost $.01 per passenger, and the SRT lost $0.14. The average for the streetcar system was $0.20, and for the bus system $0.17. This was based on a scheme where all riders contributed $0.47 to the routes on which they rode (about half an average fare).

    It is self evident that someone who rode a bus, then the RT, then the subway would “contribute” 1.5 fares to the system, more than they actually paid. Conversely, someone who only rode the King car would contribute half a fare, and would be underrepresented in the revenue. This is an example of the bias inherent in any attempt to distribute flat revenue over trips of wildly varying lengths and complexities.

    It’s also worth noting that in the TTC’s method of allocating costs and revenues, the subway started out roughly breaking even in the early 80s, then dropped to a loss of 8 cents/rider by the mid 80s, then rose again to roughly break even a few years later. Changes in methodology along the way make comparisons difficult, and show the effect of assumptions in formulas that are never examined by decision-making bodies.


  13. I work at York’s Glendon campus (where there are, I assure you, NOT 6000 graduate students, or indeed, 6000 students of any kind!) The proposed Sunday evening cuts don’t affect me, but the huge overcrowding problems during rush hour do. All this “greater good” language has got me wondering: is it for the greater good that pretty much every trip I take to work is on a bus packed so tight that the operator can’t actually see around the people at the front door? That is, assuming I can actually get on the bus at all, of course, which I frequently can’t. I have to admit I’m not terribly sympathetic to people losing their transit in low-volume areas when there isn’t enough transit in my high-volume corridor. Doubly so when I contemplate the notion that the people in these low-volume areas probably can get a seat and have a nice read, which I can never do. And all at the same price I pay.

    Much of the time I just give up and walk from Lawrence Station, which is frequently faster than the bus, although it certainly shouldn’t be. And much of the rest of the year I cycle because it takes about 5-10 minutes less for me to cycle from College & Beverley than it does to take the TTC, it’s free and it’s healthy. I did start cycling out of mixed motives, but one of the biggest was the dispiriting nature of the Lawrence bus (and the endless subway delays.)

    I do find it a bit puzzling that many people seem to be more interested in gearing TTC service to “potential” customers than improving the service to the customers that they do have and are in the process of losing. Anyway, not trying to be snarky, just wondering if the greater good hasn’t trumped the merely good in this case.


  14. The 2005 report linked to by Stangry is locked and so cannot be thrown into a spreadsheet for sorting or interesting calculations.

    Looking at a few routes, the revenue per rider varies in the $.60-.75 range somewhat whimsically, although the Queen car apparently gets over ninety cents per rider (as do the Kingston Road cars).

    I wonder about how the cost per day is calculated. Operating a streetcar line appears to be much more expensive than a bus line. For example, the Finch East bus costs $61,300 to run 8,000 miles/day, 470 hours/day with 52/41 buses AM peak/PM peak, while the King(1) car costs $81,000 to run 4,200 miles/day, 480 hours/day with 47/33 streetcars. Of course Finch has higher average speeds so the miles/day will be higher, but there must be capital/depreciation costs for tracks blended into King’s cost.

    The document does not explain how revenue per day, nor cost per day, is calculated. This does not inspire confidence in the usefulness of the numbers.
    (1) Grouping the Lake Shore car with the King car is strange. Lake Shore is more like a Queen tripper, and would be a Long Branch tripper if that line still existed. (I think you can only have a “tripper” in relation to a regular route. A tripper can’t exist by itself.)

    Steve: I have been transcribing the annual (at least until recently) stats on route performance into a spreadsheet since the TTC started publishing them in 1976. Here are the 2004 figures as published in the 2005 report.

    All of this has to be taken with many grains of salt. You will notice that the revenue per passenger varies considerably, and this is supposed to reflect the proportion of one-seat trips taken on the route. Such trips allocate a full fare to a route in this scheme, while transferring riders only allocate half a fare. This still tends to overallocate revenue for long trips with more than two links.

    The costs are made up from a formula based mainly on vehicle hours and vehicle miles. Streetcars have to carry the cost of their infrastructure and their generally more expensive to maintain vehicles. The recovery rate for both modes is at about 50%, and comparing this to the much higher system average shows that the revenue allocation scheme gives a lot of money to the subway system.

    The column headed “density” is the number of boardings per vehicle mile, and “recovery” is the portion of allocated costs met by the calculated revenue.

    It is worth noting that for some major streetcar routes like Queen, the ridership numbers were not updated for several years and the ridership recovery of the mid 2000s did not show up in the “economic performance” numbers because streetcar routes were not credited for the riding they actually carried.


  15. Gerard asks about the packed buses on Lawrence East.

    Unfortunately that corridor wasn’t planned to have any service increases anyway. The only web-posted map of proposed service increases based on the “reallocations” is here on Steve’s site.

    Lawrence East isn’t unique. I know that in the AM peak (say around 8:15 AM) it’s to be expected that an eastbound Queen streetcar at will leave people at the stop between Roncesvalles and Bathurst.

    While it sucks to be left at the stop during peak period, you have to wonder how reallocating a late-evening bus will help, as it’s probably already out in rush hour somewhere. Taking a bus off Evans at 10PM on a Sunday won’t result in extra peak Queen cars (there are insufficient ALRVs to begin with).

    While the TTC (and Councillor Stinz) are making this an “either-or” proposition, I don’t see that we should have *either* people left on the curb in rush hour by overpacked vehicles, or service disappearing at “low ridership” times in various fairly large swaths of the city. Asking which one I’d prefer is like asking which kind of unpleasant disease I’d prefer. “Neither” is my answer.


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