Only A Few Seconds More

Defenders of the coming service cuts minimize the effect by saying that riders will only have to wait a bit longer, a few minutes at most, for their ride to show up at a stop.  The attitude is that the change is trivial and, by implication, grumbling customers don’t know when they have a good thing.

In fact, when headways are short, a few seconds change can make a big difference.  The most striking example we can see every day is on the subway where only a slight extension of headways quickly translates to crowded platforms and trains, and long dwell times at busy stations.  The same effect on a smaller scale happens on bus and streetcar routes all over the city.

The change in peak period bus loading standards adds about 10% to the space between vehicles because the TTC now requires fewer of them to carry the same demand.  If a route runs every 5’00” today (300 seconds), it will run every 5’30” (330 seconds) in January, all other factors being unchanged.  This doesn’t sound like much until we convert the numbers to buses/hour.  The line would go from 12 buses per hour to 11, and one bus worth of riders would have to be absorbed into the remaining service.

However, the changes actually made on some routes are bigger than 10% because the TTC is compounding the new loading standard with a claw-back of “surplus” capacity.  For example, on 54 Lawrence East, the peak headways go from 3’00” to 3’30” in the morning, and from 3’20” to 4’00” in the afternoon.  Translated to buses/hour, that’s a change from 20 to 17 in the morning, and from 18 to 15 in the afternoon.  The new services are 86% and 83% of the old ones, respectively.  That’s more than a 10% cut.

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More Riders, Less Service (Update 2)

Updated November 27, 2011 at 7:00 am:  The section describing the variations from budget for 2011 has been updated.

Updated November 25, 2011 at 1:05 pm:  I have written an article for Torontoist on the pending service cuts.

Updated November 22, 2011 at 11:10 am:  TTC staff propose that the 145 Humber Bay Express bus be discontinued after February 10, 2012.  This route has never met the financial or performance criteria used to evaluate other services.  After two years of a charmed life as a local Councillor’s pet project, the route is finally being held to the same standards as the rest of the transit system.  When we are cutting services across Toronto, spending $150k/year to provide 70 people (140 trips) with their own bus service cannot be justified.

The original post follows below:

TTC ridership numbers for September 2011 are up 5.1% over 2010, a level 2.4% above the budget projection.  Under normal circumstances, this would be cause for celebration, but not in Rob Ford’s Toronto.  Here we cut service even when riding goes up, all in the name of wrestling with a fictitiously inflated City deficit.

The Chief General Manager’s Report tells us that riding will come in just a hair under half a billion at 497m for the year 2011, fully 10m more than the budget estimate.  Those riders generate more revenue for the TTC, but don’t expect to see this in service improvements.

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