On Sunday, October 7, the TTC will improve service on many routes. This is a continuation of the upgrades across the system made possible by Council’s allowing the TTC to spend unexpectedly high fare revenue on more service.
This round of improvements begs an intriguing question. These are improvements not driven by some Miller era ideology about improving transit service in the hope that more people will ride, but by the fact that ridership growth has pushed demand on many routes beyond the reduced service standards enacted by the Ford/Stintz administration.
A fundamental issue about cities with robust transit demand is that eventually you have to run more service. We may make nips and tucks around the edges, but those pesky passengers just keep showing up at stops.
Will Council recognize this fact in the 2013 budget and allow the transit subsidy to grow, or will they cave in to the Ford ideology that no increase is the only acceptable policy?
Looking at the projected changes in average loads for many routes, it won’t take much more riding to bring them above the threshold for another service improvement. This is not a one-time effect, and the TTC needs to produce a plan showing how it will deal with the growing demand on all of its network.
With the October schedules, the services on Queen will be back on their normal route except for the 502 Downtowner which will be extended from McCaul to Bathurst until mid-November pending completion of water main and track construction on McCaul. The Spadina streetcar returns between Bloor and King in November, and to Queen’s Quay just before Christmas.
It is extremely encouraging to see such strong ridership growth despite the service setbacks. I can think of at least a few cities that would be envious of Toronto’s strong transit demand, and cannot think of any better proof for people who are reluctant to invest in better transit in the GTA.
Here is a real opportunity for Toronto to transform from a car centric city to a sustainable transit oriented metropolis a we are fortunate enough to have several alternative sources of electricity that can power our transit system.
If only our leaders at the City Hall, Queen’s Park and Ottawa could see it this way.
Steve, taking a closer look at some of these numbers, some of them don’t make any sense to me, unless there is additional data that is not shown to make these calculations.
For example, the Jones bus, why is service being added here when the route is well below the loading standard? And how does cutting the headway in half lead to only a ~10% decrease in average load? Is TTC is expecting something to drive a major ridership increase here?
Another example is the Highland Creek bus. I understand the need for very accurate service planning, but really, increasing running time by 7 seconds? And then that leads to a 10% increase in load?
There must be something I am missing.
Steve: I noticed several obvious errors in the calculated changes in loads, not to mention in the standard applied (there is some inconsistency in the application of the under 10 minute standard), but published the numbers as given by the TTC. With the number of changes, I am not surprised that there are some typos (this has happened before).
Re Jones: What is actually happening here is that the buses cannot make the 30 minute round trip time, and the schedule is being changed to give them 32. This puts the route over the 30 minute policy maximum headway, and so a second bus is added. This is a generic problem on routes with wide headways and a small number of vehicles — one cannot add a small fraction of a bus.
Re Highland Creek: The headway may only go up to 7 seconds, but the round trip time has been increased by about 3 minutes. I cannot understand why such a small headway change (about 2%) generates such a large change in the projected average load, but that’s what the TTC claims will happen.
There is still the very real possibility if service cuts if Ford and company have their way: Mike Del Grande is making the rounds to all of the ABC’s to deliver the message that the City Manager has delivered to all City Departments: zero percent increase. ALL cost increases (ie wage increases MUST be absorbed by the existing budget with NO increase from the the overall City budget).
Given that Del Grande has ready met with the Toronto Police Services Board to deliver this message; I fully expect him to deliver the same message to the next TTC Commission meeting.
Given that the Arbitrator awarded the Unionized employees a 2% increase each if the the three years of their contract; and the Commission has recommended that the non-unionized staff receive the same increase; where will this be recovered from? There is only one answer: service cutbacks! It is to hoped that the anti-Ford faction of the City Council reject Ford and companies budget recommendations and instead, set a realistic budget for the City!
Steve: It is time for the “new” Commission to have some backbone and tell the Budget Chief to take a hike. If all they can manage is good news about clean washrooms and multi-billion dollar schemes for new rapid transit networks, then the old crew might as well have stayed in charge. It is time for Karen Stintz and her new allies to stand up to the Mayor and present Council with a budget that reflects what the system actually needs.
By the way, my understanding is that Del Grande doesn’t want to be Budget Chief after the mid-term shuffle, so who knows which of Ford’s remaining allies wants to take on the job.
I think it’s important to remember that the ‘revolution’ in city council started earlier this year with the budget. The Ford administration had a budget planned with a package of cuts, and a group of councillors headed by Josh Colle came with a motion to reverse $19M of those cuts. Ford couldn’t get enough votes to overturn that coalition.
In January 2013 Ford is going to be starting from a weaker position. Some of the councillors who voted with Ford in the 2012 vote have since voted against him in other votes, such as Jaye Robinson, John Parker and of course Karen Stintz.
For the rest of the term the budget is going to be much harder for Ford, and the budget chief, to control, and enforcing cuts – either directly or indirectly – is going to be difficult.
Steve: Let’s just say that I will not be sure of a new era in city and TTC budgets until I actually see it.
So Steve, I do realized with Brimley A/B split, it’s a smart way to overlap resources on the existing Kennedy Stn.-Steeles branch midday. I’m pretty sure the 21A will take the place on Brimley Rd even when Nugget Express isn’t operating in midday hours.
Among the changes since Markham Rd is heading back to Malvern, can you clarify if any routes are transferred that board period? It’ll save some resources.
Steve: 509 Harbourfront will operate from Birchmount and Eglinton, not Malvern. No other change is listed in the details for the October Board Period.
A lot of these changes are to reduce crowding at midday and on the weekends. Is this a trend, more usage at that time, or simply because that was where the cuts were done?
Cause if we are starting to see “infill” of TTC use during offpeak hours, that raises significant issues for a system largely based on serving 6-9 and 3-7ish.
Steve: Yes, riding is growing more during the off-peak than the peak, and this suggests that the system is evolving away from being purely a commuter service. Off-peak service is also much cheaper to add because the vehicles already exist, and better use can be made of the operators when vehicles stay in service through the day.
The big jump is at the political and managerial level to get away from thinking that the TTC exists primarily to serve commuters. This problem is much more entrenched at GO although some people there know they have to change.
Not quite – there is a second valid answer: Increase fares (by enough to maintain service levels). Ideal? No, but still an option that should be on the table, as it is a far superior option than service cuts. The Mayor and the rest of Council have no mechanism available to block a fare hike of any amount – it is solely Commission domain.
Can anyone forecast what that fare hike would be just to maintain current service levels? 10 cents, 15 cents or….gasp….25 cents It would also be interesting to see what it would have to be if we moved back to the old load standards.
Steve: Fare revenue accounts for about $1b of the TTC’s income. A 25-cent increase is just under 10% on the current adult token fare of $2.60, and assuming no elasticity, the added revenue would generate say $100m. Also allowing for 3% ridership growth, that’s another $30m or so, but it’s a tricky number because some of those additional rides don’t generate a full fare as marginal revenue.
The cost of operating the TTC goes up by at least 3% annually without allowing for service improvements. This is driven partly by labour costs and partly by supplies such as diesel fuel. At 3% on a base of about $1.4b, that’s $42m just for inflation. If operating costs go up another, say, 3% to cover increased service, this gets us up to $84m. On the balance, a 25-cent fare increase would hold us for 2013. However, we would be back to the same debate again in 2014, 2015 etc. Compound 10% increases in fares to offset a freeze in subsidies will eventually take their toll.
This is always a no win situation of sorts. I am willing, as a transit user, to pay the additional cost to maintain service quality but it does hit low income individuals hard. The problem is we never have a real debate about subsidizing those individuals directly (as I believe Hamilton does). I think the whole, “transit should be cheap to attract riders” argument is such crap. But I hear it trotted out all the time in this city, usually from infrequent users. Most transit users care more about convenient and reliable headways, as well as oxygen on their bus/streetcar, than the extra dime.
Steve: The special subsidy in Hamilton is for the very poor. There is a large group of transit riders who are not exactly wealthy, but who would not qualify for the sort of special subsidy Hamilton provides.
I think Wheel Trans budgeting also skews transit debate in the public’s mind. Most people don’t know how much of the overall subsidy goes to Wheel-Trans. I would like to see those dollars on the City’s books and the City contract the TTC as a service provider only. I am all for the service, but I think it is a social service provided by the City and should be accounted as such. Perhaps even make Wheel-Trans a subsidiary like Gray Coach used to be.
Steve: The Wheel-Trans budget is reported separately, but the subsidy debate tends to merge the regular and Wheel-Trans services as one “TTC” expense. Having been burned once by the budgetary trickery of Karen Stintz, Council needs to be exceedingly careful how it doles out money to the TTC and the services for which it is earmarked.
By the way, in case anyone thinks I am being unduly hard on Chair Stintz, we must remember that for more than a year she was trying to be “one of the boys” in the Ford team, and the TTC took some nasty hits in the process. She has yet to show that she is ready to undo some of the damage by restoring service quality and engaging in a strategic decision of what the TTC should look like. A wish-filled rapid transit map doesn’t cut it by a long shot.
The additional funding she stick-handled through Council in June came from new fare revenue, and is only paying to let transit service keep up with demand, not to improve it.
OgtheDim – I wonder how much of that midday increase is just people tired of commuting while it’s busy (or unable to get on busses because it’s busy) and just shifting their hours…eventually it will be rush-hour from 6am-9pm…
@ George Bell – I think it’s just volume of people traveling in a work/study world of multiple part time jobs and multiple job sites.
Steve – being on the west coast we’re not quite up on everything that goes on at city hall in Toronto; how likely is it that Rob Ford is actually in danger of losing his job over this conflict of interest charge? And, in the “be careful what you wish for” department, who is more likely to replace him if he is kicked out?
Steve: I suspect Ford will survive this challenge. Frankly, if he is to be removed from office, I would prefer it be by the voters so that there is no lingering question about the legitimacy of a successor or his true popularity.
I saw an earlier comment that 102 Markham Rd was heading back to Malvern, I thought Birchmount was just gaining 21 for the school year and not losing any lines they currently have. Can someone clarify this?
It might be Malvern losing the Harbourfront shuttle to New Eglinton in that period while Birchmount continues to run that route thus its Birchmount/New Eglinton. According to the September Summary, 509 needed 19 buses while 102 needs 20 vehicles in the AM Peak. I’m sure Malvern will throw over 20 of the 51 spares they used.
You are right — we are in a critical moment of the GTA transport development. Transformation into electrified transport hub is not far away from achieving, and it is highly recommendable because of the ever changing gas prices. I think it has even already started, with Car2Go company coming into our city.
I´m currently travelling in Europe and I can do some comparisons. Toronto is ahead in many ways, but it still lacks in the price of the transport. We have to think about money as a biggest incentive for the people, so every change should be towards better quality and affordability of the new means of transport.
Why can’t the TTC interline some of the shorter, less busy routes? For example, a 83 bus arriving at Donlands station can depart as a 56 or 56B bus, and vice versa. This should smooth out the headways on both routes without having to add more buses than necessary.
Steve: They do this sort of thing from time to time already, and the 56 is often interlined with 5 Avenue Road. Monady-Friday midday (the time period in question), the 56 Leaside runs on a 20 minute headway and a 60 minute round trip, including 4 minutes’ recovery time. Interlining the routes would produce a roughly 90 minute trip (60 for Leaside plus 30 for Jones) and 4 buses giving a headway of 22.5 minutes on the combined route. Possible, and I’m sure the TTC may catch this as a possibility in some future schedule. This may involve a garage shuffle as Leaside currently operates from Wilson and Jones from Birchmount.
The 83 Jones route has been struggling for years to meet the 30min round trip during midday. Finally there is an improvement. I also think now is a good time for TTC to extend the 83 Jones bus to Tommy Thompson Park. TTC use to run buses down there all the time 20 years ago. At least seasonal service. Now that they added a bus to 83 Jones, they can extend it and still make the 30min or less frequency schedule.
Perish the thought that quarter-hourly service might attract more customers than the rarely there half-hourly service!
Steve: You need re-education at the Ford/Stintz school of service management. You should be happy to get a 30 minute headway.
Has Service Planning given any thought about implementing clock-face headways on all routes that run less frequently than, say, 10 minutes? I have seen this sort of thing being widespread in Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic. For example in Prague, I have never seen a tram or bus route that runs, say, every 11′ or every 16’30”. All routes with headways worse than 10 minutes run every 12, 15, 20 or 30 minutes. If this were done here, it would certainly increase the attractiveness of public transit, because departure times would be consistent, so therefore easier to memorize for passengers.
Now I realize this may not be practical on every route in our city, but it could certainly be done in many cases. For example, on the Jones bus, instead of adding 2 minutes to the schedule and end up with wildly fluctuating trip times, why not artificially lengthen the round trip time to every 40 minutes and provide a headway of every 20 minutes with 2 buses? Assuming a 20 minute headway would not result in overcrowding beyond what is accepted by the existing loading standards – and this certainly wouldn’t happen with the Jones bus during midday – you would still end up with a better headway than what is provided now, and as a bonus, regular riders would not even need to consult a schedule to figure out when to catch the bus– they just need to memorize a few numbers to plan their trip accordingly.
Steve: There was an attempt to go to clock-face headways years ago. What inevitably happened is that a nice 20 minute headway got stretched to handle additional running time needs. A 30 minute headway wouldn’t handle the demand and would be too much of a service cut, but 22 would hardly be noticed (in theory except for the loss of clock-face behaviour). No attempt at this type of scheduling has been done for at least two decades.
As for schedules, you make a huge assumption that vehicles would be on time. The TTC’s own standards allow for +/- 3 minutes either way from the schedule, and my analyses of actual operating data show that the headways very by even more than this at the outer (e.g. infrequent) ends of lines.
If the TTC would just manage its service more closely to the advertised frequency, reliability will count for at least as much as a clockface headway. For example, a 10 minute scheduled headway that actually operates on anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes with bunching provides really rotten service unless you happen to show up just when the unscheduled “frequent” service caused by bunching goes by.
Figuring out when (or if) the bus is going to show up can be done with mobile devices fairly easily, and that adds more certainty (or despair) than a posted schedule that isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.
How do division shuffles of routes and vehicles get decided? I know Queensway loses and gains 7970-7979 from Arrow from time to time.
Steve: Vehicle moves are done as needed to balance requirements and, when there are changes in the overall fleet (new buses and retirements) to consolidate vehicle types for maintenance purposes. Right now all of the garages are full. As for routes, that’s a question of balancing scheduled requirements against garage capacity taking into account dead-head mileage (a route in Scarborough won’t be operated from Queensway).
Toronto also has more passengers using the TTC during the non-rush hour than most other transit agencies. In addition, instead of seeing buses being full going downtown and empty buses in the return direction, we see passengers going in both directions. Both situations help in reducing the cost of running the TTC.
It may be, that a Scarborough route may not be operated from a Queensway Garage, but the TTC does not seem to mind excessive dead heading. The Ossington Bus runs from the Wilson Garage, not too far from the northern terminus at Eglinton West. However, the last SB bus reaching Liberty Village at approximately 18:30 is taken out of service at its farthest distance from the garage and dead headed all the way home.
Absent the overcrowding, the Ossington bus is not all that bad a service with tolerable frequency and, by TTC standards, minimal bunching. (Bunching does occur, but not as it does on Dufferin or the King Car.) It does not make sense to me to spend 95% of the fuel and 80-90% of the operators time on a last run that is only 50% in service. Either increase the overcrowding by a bit and cancel that run entirely or spend a wee bit more on drivers time and fuel and run the bus in service on its homeward journey as far as Eglinton West Station.
The present service seems unnecessarily wasteful. And how about this use of jargon – we could add that homeward leg, increase service and call it an “efficiency”.
Regarding the increased time needed for a vehicle to travel its designated route, is anyone keeping track of this type of inflation across the system? Is there enough ready data to project how much longer TTC riders will need to make the same trip in say, two or five years from now?
On the topic of fare hikes, what was the nature of the plan to automatically raise tokens by ten cents yearly? Was that a trial balloon? Announcement by the former TTC faction, or an actual vote?
Steve: Re travel times: I’m not sure whether Service Planning is tracking this together with the cause. For example, some “transit priority” signals have been detuned or otherwise stopped favouring transit, and this adds to running times. Considering that the TTC paid for this capability to be provided, either they are being screwed by the City or they are not staying on top of what’s working and what’s not. Other locations of travel time growth are construction related, but these are identified in the service change notices and backed out when the condition no longer exists (e.g. Spadina subway construction). There are also cases where “recovery time” is converted to driving time. In practice this only changes the length of a scheduled layover, but does not give the operator more time to make the trip and take a bio-break at the terminal. Some “recovery” allowances have nothing to do with actual recovery, but are used to balance out running times on route branches. Queen is particularly bad for this.
Re fare hikes: The idea of a 10-cent annual hike was passed in principle last year, but we won’t know what’s actually happening until the TTC produces an operating budget, and the Commission and Council have their way with it.
With all the talk about traffic along St Clair between Old Weston Road and Keele, why would planning add another route. The 41E used to travel north along WESTON ROAD to Rogers, now it travels along St Clair and OLD WESTON RD to Rogers. I have timed that stretch numerous times and it takes anywhere from 1-10 minutes to go one block. And TTC planning says this would make the route more reliable by adding more buses to an already congested roadway along St Clair.
Steve: I believe that they were concerned about congestion on Rogers Road, although the mess on St. Clair is no better.
Michael Greason – The Ossington bus is run out of Mt Dennis. It has been since it opened in November of ’08
Darren – The reasoning for the re-routing of 41E I believe was to avoid the traffic on Weston Rd, which is pretty bad from my observations during PM peak.
This has to stop. How can this be made to stop? This is ridiculous!