TTC 2013 Capital Budget Part II: Bus Fleet Plans

This article looks at the fleet plans for the conventional bus fleet and for Wheel Trans over the 10-year period 2013-2022.

The lead time to procure new buses is considerably shorter than for rail vehicles (18-24 months vs several years), and this provides more flexibility in responding to changes in circumstances and/or policy regarding bus services.  What is striking in both of these plans is the slow rate of growth for the conventional bus fleet and the total absence of planned growth for Wheel Trans.

Bus Fleet

Bus Fleet Plan 2012.10

The fleet plan is stated in terms of 40′ bus equivalents because, starting in 2013, there will be a mixture of artics and standard sized vehicles in the fleet.  This allows the 40′ “fleet” size to stand in for the available service capacity.  For this purpose, artics are treated as having 1/3 more capacity than a standard bus.  Once they are in service, and with possible changes in fare collection leading to all door loading, we will see what the actual replacement ratio might be.

The peak service requirement for 2012 is 1,522 vehicles.  Provision for growth is modest at roughly 1.5% annually for 2013 and 2014, but zero in 2015.  This plan was drawn up when the opening date for the Spadina extension was still in 2015, and so the timing of the bus fleet savings is still shown in that year.  Much larger effects show up beginning in 2019 with the presumed opening of new LRT lines.

If the replacement of bus routes is further delayed, , the expected reduction in the bus fleet will not occur as planned.  This could be caused by

  • another schedule extension by Queen’s Park,
  • deletion of rail lines from the plans, or
  • technology changes that stretch out implementation.

In the short term, 2013-15, the fleet is somewhat larger than what is required to operate the planned service.  This provides some headroom for growth beyond the planned level should the TTC and Council fund it.

Garage space is constrained as a direct result of the delays in LRT line construction.  TTC garages can now hold 1,630 vehicles and earlier plans had expected that between the Spadina extension and the new LRT lines coming into service, there was no need for another garage.  “Tapscott” garage was taken out of the capital plans a few years ago.

The deficit in capacity grows as the “contingency” (the buses in the fleet surplus to daily requirements) falls, and this peaks at the equivalent of 123 40′ buses in 2018.  The TTC is looking at schemes to store and operate buses in non-garage locations to get over the high point in bus usage before the LRT lines open as assumed late this decade.  A combination of ridership growth and indefinite delay in rail transit construction could push the TTC into needing another garage.

There is no provision in the plan for a return to the Ridership Growth Strategy’s more generous Service Standards for peak vehicle occupancy.  That change is the reason there are “surplus” buses today.  Any decision to improve service by reducing the crowding standard would drive an increase in fleet requirements in future years by roughly 100 buses with associated capital costs and pressure on garage space until the early 2020s.

Such are the far-reaching effects of political decisions on service planning.  Even if Toronto wanted to improve service, the capital cost and lead time for another garage and vehicles, not to mention the buildup in operating and maintenance staff, could weigh against such a policy.

Wheel Trans Fleet

Wheel Trans Fleet Plan 2012.10

From 2013 onward, the peak fleet requirement holds unchanged for the next decade.  Notes to the plan indicate that increases in the number of trips served would be accommodated through a combination of:

  • improved dispatching
  • widening of the pickup window for trips
  • migration of clients to the conventional network

The pickup window is an issue for Wheel Trans users because, if it widens, this increases the period during which they must wait and be available to leave for their trip.

Migration to the conventional network depends on the accessibility of that network.  The streetcar network will gradually become more accessible over the coming six years as the new low floor cars replace the CLRV/ALRV fleet.  However, this will only address travellers who are mobile enough to get to the conventional network but are now blocked from using it by the current high-floor streetcar design.

Looking at the fleet plan, I cannot help thinking that the TTC has no intention, or at least no real plan, to boost system capacity and handle more trips on Wheel Trans buses beyond whatever can be achieved with fleet productivity and shedding ridership to the conventional system.  Moreover, there is an unfunded budget line of $1-billion for changes to the TTC’s built environment to reach compliance with provincial disability/accessibility legislation.  The degree to which any of these changes would allow trips to shift off of Wheel Trans (as opposed to easing trips it does not now serve) is unclear.

The TTC and Toronto Council, which funds all of Wheel Trans, need to see a detailed study of the options for future accessible transit service and build funding into the capital and operating budgets rather than simply flat-lining the system indefinitely.

21 thoughts on “TTC 2013 Capital Budget Part II: Bus Fleet Plans

  1. I don’t know the demographics of Wheel Trans users that well, but I’d have thought the aging baby boomer population would tend to significantly push up Wheel Trans demand. Yes, streetcar accessibility helps, as do slow increases in accessible subway stations, but it really seems like a huge assumption to think they can hold the line on overall Wheel Trans usage.


  2. I know this will sound like a minor quibble, but one concern that I’ve had with low-floor articulated buses is the narrow space around the ‘bendy’ part (the articulation joint), which makes it tough for people to get to the back of the bus.

    Combine this with the natural disinterest in moving to the elevated section at the back of the Low Floor buses (especially the Orion VII buses which have tightly packed seats and a strange ‘stairway’ setup) and you have a lot of people packed into the front sections of an Artic bus, which can make the bus appear to be more crowded than it really is.

    MiWay has, for some reason, placed two pairs of aisle-facing seats in the joint area and has been doing this since the 1997 low-floor buses arrived. The newer 2010 buses have managed to increase the aisle-space, but I don’t know if this has made a difference, since these buses are used on the MiExpress services and I don’t see as much crowding on those buses.

    Brampton Transit’s new articulated ZUM bus has “lean-on seats” (that they refer to as “theatre-style” in the articulated joint area … nothing more than a padded rail at thigh level, that people can lean on if necessary. See the BT Zum page on Facebook.

    I don’t know what the Nova Artic bus interiors look like, but I certainly hope that the TTC will make sure that there are no seats in the joint area.

    Cheers, Moaz


  3. Wheel-Trans: My sense is that the TTC will rely more on contracted accessible taxis, rather than TTC owned and operated minibuses, though low-floor streetcars and more station elevators will help with demand for the door-to-door service somewhat.

    When I was in a wheelchair for a short period, most of my rides were provided by van taxis, the only exception was when I was taking the regular bus or subway to Bathurst Station and being picked up the rest of the way to Toronto Western Hospital, which despite having a busy orthopedics department, has no accessible TTC service! Those trips were almost always TTC operated.


  4. Let’s not forget that even with high floor buses, people were reluctant to move to the back.

    Since prefab bus garages do not exist, the only way to increase bus capacity is by buying larger vehicles. If the TTC replaced all buses with articulated versions, capacity can be boasted by 50%. This is the best way to boast capacity in the short term. Buses can be made in days where garages takes years to build.

    Steve: But the larger buses take more room. Garages do not magically expand to hold the extra 20′ per bus. Some capacity may actually be lost due to buildings configured for 40′ vehicles (repair bays, etc).

    In addition to congestion holding up buses, the TTC has too many stops. Reducing the number of stops and the run time decreases. With a lower run times, a bus can make a few more runs during the day. Also, when Presto comes online, loading will be sped up and eliminate transfer disputes. We should look for ways to speed up the bus service as making more runs with the same fleet as an interim solution.


  5. The TTC is looking at schemes to store and operate buses in non-garage locations to get over the high point in bus usage before the LRT lines open as assumed late this decade.

    Out of curiosity, does that include reactivating Danforth carhouse/garage?

    Steve: No word on actual locations.


  6. The costs that the TTC/city would have to bear for continuing to operate heavy bus service that’s expected to be replaced by the LRT lines are pretty heavy. In the mean time, a lot of plans and decisions have been made based on the opening dates for the LRT lines towards the end of this decade. Is there any recourse available if some or all of the promised LRT lines don’t happen?

    Steve: I don’t know. It’s one outstanding question I have about the new agreement with Metrolinx.


  7. I thought that the TTC were planning (and hoping) that Wheel Trans use would decrease as more and more regular TTC vehicles and stations are made accessible. I have a friend who uses Wheel Trans only because he can’t get into a streetcar.

    Steve: They may hope that, but completely flat-lining the growth of the WT fleet is rather optimistic. Also the report explicitly mentions wider pickup windows (ie user has to wait longer for bus to show up) as a way of giving flexibility in scheduling.


  8. One of my grave concerns is that there appears to be zero contingency plan to deal with a sudden surge in demand due to reasonably foreseeable events. Suppose, for example, that tonight there is a revolution in Saudi Arabia. Car driving becomes a luxury item for the rich, and the TTC’s plan is… nothing.

    World oil supply has essentially no spare production capacity. This means that any significant interruption of existing production will send prices through the roof. Here is a list of the world’s largest oil exporters from Wikipedia:

    Saudi Arabia
    United Arab Emirates

    With the exception of Norway, none of these countries is a stable democracy. The TTC is betting that none of these countries – not one single one of them – will have political instability that interrupts oil exports.

    Is there anyone out there who thinks that this is a good bet to make?


  9. I am rarely in favour of “privatisation” but in the case of Wheel Trans I make an exception. Steve, you referred to increasing the pickup windows to solve the budget problem. That is the essence of why Wheel Trans is a truly lousy service. Those of us who are able bodied demand and get 5 or 10 minute service in most of the City. However, a Wheel Trans user must set half an hour aside to get to and then again to get home from any event. This is not an acceptable level of service.

    Toronto has a Taxi fleet where most cabbies spend most of their time either cruising or waiting at Posts. I think that we should take advantage of all that waiting time and use it to provide truly accessible mobility to those of us who are differently abled. Toronto should immediately require that all new Taxis be minivans or equivalent and upon entry into service Toronto should pay for the necessary modifications – wheelchair ramps, raised roofs, locking stations etc. – required to provide truly accessible service. Then, all but a small minority of Wheel Trans customers should be referred to our existing Taxi fleet – where most of the time they would get ten minute or better service. The cost to Wheel Trans users would be a bus ticket, but the Taxi Driver would be paid a negotiated subsidy approximating, if not exactly equivalent to the fare on the meter. This would be a win win for everyone. Taxi Drivers would be busier (and better paid) and the differently abled Citizens would get a true mobility option equivalent to everyone else.

    I remind everyone who wants to criticise that the subsidy on every Wheel Trans ride today – for lousy service – is $40. That can buy a lot of Taxi.

    Another criticism that I anticipate is that Taxi Drivers may not respond to Wheel Trans requests in rush hour. That can be dealt with in two ways – by making the subsidy fair and competitive with regular fairs and also through the dispatch system whereby a cabby would not know in advance that the potential rider was a Wheel Trans customer.


  10. Michael Greason said:

    Toronto should immediately require that all new Taxis be minivans or equivalent and upon entry into service Toronto should pay for the necessary modifications – wheelchair ramps, raised roofs, locking stations etc. – required to provide truly accessible service.

    Or Toronto can look at design contracts with taxi manufacturers, many of whom are going the ‘minivan/MPV’ route.

    New York’s new taxi is the Nissan NV van but I believe there were questions about the accessibility. London’s LTI ‘Black Cabs’ are also accessible and well-designed, and since London will also be using the NV van in the future, there are lots of London Taxis for sale.

    Anyone want to imagine what a “Black Cab” (which really come in lots of colours) would look like with a Toronto “two-tone” paint job?

    Cheers, Moaz


  11. Hopefully the arrangement of accessible searing on the new LRV’s are placed in favorable positions (ie: don’t cause long delays in passenger boarding, or cause an interference in passenger flows in the LRV). Some municipalities (I’m mainly referring to the HSR) have terrible seating arrangements and boarding procedures for the people that use the accessible features. It causes fairly long delays and it’s definitely something that the TTC can’t afford to have more of on the streetcar network.


  12. Manganese Bronze/LTI , the manufacturer of the London Taxi, is in receivership, and industry experts are expecting it to be wound up, especially after they laid off half their staff yesterday.


  13. Maybe get couple of buses for the He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’s football team on standby. At other times, they can be used for fires and other more important incidents than football games ending early.


  14. Hi Steve:

    I have 2 questions for you.

    1. A few years back, the TTC had plans to open a garage somewhere on McNicoll and your report of a Tapscott Garage. Is this the same garage?

    Steve: Yes.

    2. Since the bendy-buses (articulated buses) are making a comeback, the city is concerned on $$, the TTC has many bus routes with low ridership. Would it be economical to purchase much smaller buses rather then riding a near empty 40′ bus?

    Steve: The biggest part of the cost is the operator. There are actually not that many routes, in terms of number of vehicles used, that have low enough ridership to justify a fleet of smaller buses. Operationally they would probably be concentrated at one, or at most two, garages and this could also add to dead-head mileage both for vehicles and crew changes. For a small bus to be useful, the route has to have low ridership all day, not just in the off-peak.


  15. @Kevin Love: North American oil production is increasing rapidly as new technology and previously uneconomical reserves come on-line, so the danger of a ’70’s style oil crisis is decreasing. This is based on what one of my sons, who works in the oil patch, tells me. Furthermore, the political climate for expanding oil production is quite secure, no matter who wins in the US elections, while at the same time more efficient use of petroleum products gains support despite Big Oil.

    @Michael Greason and others: Take a look at It’s high time all new taxicabs were accessible, as all new public transit vehicle have to be.


  16. What is striking in this fleet plan is that there is no provision for significantly better peak period bus service starting in 2016, when the SRT is supposed to close for an extended period of time to accommodate LRT conversion. Simple mistake, or do the TTC planners are betting on Glenn’s Danforth subway extension or (gasp!) Metrolinx’s ICTS hopes for the Eglinton-SRT corridor?

    Steve: It’s hard to say what the TTC thinks the combined effect of the Spadina opening and the SRT closing will be. All the same, it’s odd that the SRT doesn’t produce a visible bump in fleet demand. Neither Glenn’s subway nor an ICTS line will open before 2018 best case, probably later.


  17. From what you said to Nick Steve, reviving Danforth Garage to a modernized garage could improve the fleet ever since Old Eglinton and Danforth’s operations were moved to Comstock 10 years ago. If Danforth was to be resurrected Steve, I would rely on New Eglinton running some of the central routes as is back in 2001. Not even bringing back trolley buses could be a waste of a pain ever since the alternative fuel technology failed (CNG, HEV) and Mount Dennis even has some former Lansdowne trolley routes that TTC can’t rebuilt “the new” Lansdowne because the garage is too close to Mount Dennis.

    Like I said if the newly-revived Danforth were to co-exist with Birchmount and New Eglinton, that could split their fleet into small groups a little bit just like the old days and I would see Midland operate either put of Malvern or Danforth. Hope that works well my good friend.


  18. I think it is also worth noting that there is a mistake in the bus fleet plan, as the TTC has only 184 Orion Vs, since 7090 has been retired.

    Steve: This sort of mistake is not unknown. It took ages for various versions of the fleet summary to recognize that there were only 195, not 196, CLRVs.


  19. @Jelo G. Cantos: The funny thing is, I never considered that it would be a full reactivation at Danforth if they were to go with it but rather merely use it for off peak bus storage and light maintenance/cleaning. This is due to it being nothing more than glorified storage for the last decade, with property maintenance to reflects this, and the fact that it would only be a temporary situation.


  20. Steve said: For a small bus to be useful, the route has to have low ridership all day, not just in the off-peak.

    MiWay now operates a small fleet of 30′ El Dorado Low Floor buses on some of the ‘neighbourhood’ and ‘circulator’ routes, as well as a few ‘mainline’ routes during off-peak hours. I don’t know how much they are saving with those buses, but it is definitely an improvement over the previous options for low-capacity buses: Orion IIB buses (the ones that TTC use(d?) for the Community Bus service) and the Orion VI.

    Obviously an organization like the TTC would probably have a challenge in finding routes that are low enough in demand where a smaller bus like the El Dorado would bring about savings. I cannot think of many routes like that. Most have enough demand (at least during the peak hours) to justify a 40′ bus.

    Cheers, Moaz


  21. One point I’d like to make about garage capacity – one thing to remember is that there will always be buses on the road 24/7 – While peak demand for buses comes during the rush hours, one has to remember that the minimum number of buses required for service (overnight) plus the total number of garage spaces equals the number of buses the TTC can own at one point. If the current TTC garages can hold 1630 buses, then the TTC can own 1630 buses, plus the minimum number that will be operating at any one point.

    As for Kevin’s comments about oil supply – you forgot to mention that Canada also has a supply of oil. Let’s remember that North America does have its own oil supply.

    Steve: To the garage space I would add the number of buses in the main shops at Hillcrest for repairs and overhauls at any time.


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