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.