Among the TTC’s many promises under its Customer Charter is the provision of quarterly stats on the reliability of each of its surface routes. This information recently went online on the TTC’s website, although you have to dig to find it.
The path is from Customer Service on the top navbar, then to Customer Charter on the side bar, then to Quarterly reports, and finally scroll down. Or you can just click here.
This table covers the first three months of 2013, and lists the reliability of every surface route. “Reliability” is defined roughly as:
- If the distance between a vehicle “B” and the one preceding it “A” is within three minutes of the scheduled headway, then the vehicle is within the acceptable window of reliability.
- The measure is taken at various points along a route (we don’t know the locations or number for any route), and summed across an entire quarter’s operation. This will smooth out everything but very large scale, long-lasting disruptions, and will tend to give an index that tracks the overall behaviour of the route.
The system-wide target for streetcar routes is 70% punctuality (within the headway window), and for buses it is only 65%. Looking at individual routes, there are huge discrepancies.
No route gets over the 90% line, although several are in the mid to upper 80s.
- 8 Broadview
- 31 Greenwood
- 44 Kipling South
- 78 St. Andrew’s
- 510 Spadina
Of these routes, four are relatively short bus routes where congestion is not an issue, and with only a modicum of effort, operators should be able to stay on time. The Spadina car is a special case because it runs with a very short scheduled headway for much of the day, every day of the week. It is physically difficult for cars go get more than (H + 3) minutes apart, and impossible for (H – 3) because this would be a negative number. Service that meets the target is very easy to achieve even if the line appears chaotic at times simply because there are so many vehicles close together.
Life is rather more desperate on some major routes that don’t come close to achieving the system-wide targets.
Routes below 60%:
- 7 Bathurst
- 35 Jane
- 51 Leslie
- 56 Leaside
- 58 Malton
- 60 Steeles West
- 90 Vaughan
- 95 York Mills
- 96 Wilson
- 102 Markham Road
- 141 Mt. Pleasant Express
- 160 Bathurst North
- 161 Rogers Road
- 165 Weston Road North
- 171 Mount Dennis
- 196 York University Rocket
- 224 Victoria Park North
- 303 Don Mills Night Bus
- 306 Carlton Night Car
- 353 Steeles East Night Bus
- 385 Sheppard East Night Bus
- 501 Queen
- 505 Dundas
We will spare a special thought for riders on routes that don’t even make 50%:
- 97 Yonge
- 99 Arrow Road
- 105 Dufferin North
- 107 Keele North
- 117 Alness
- 142 Avenue Road Express
- 145 Humber Bay Express
- 301 Queen Night Car
- 502 Downtowner
- 503 Kingston Road
The two Kingston Road services are notoriously off schedule/headway, and it is not unusual to see pairs of cars on headways that should be over 10 minutes. Downtowner cars short-turn at locations guaranteed to avoid actually serving any riders while achieving some sort of on-time goal.
And a truly special mention for the basement selection of routes:
- 144 Don Valley Express (35.90%)
- 309 Finch West Night Bus (38.81%)
- 508 Lake Shore (25.08%)
(Lake Shore is probably a special case because it is not uncommon for cars to be missing on this route, or for them to enter service off-schedule.)
These stats are not broken down by time of day nor by day of the week. From analyses I have published (and many more that sit in my files), there is a common problem that evenings and weekends see service on routes, some of which may have tolerable “average” values like Dufferin (76.03%), completely fall apart. Nobody appears to be managing the line, the schedules may or may not provide adequate running time. Buses and streetcars run in packs and short turn with no discernable purpose related to providing regularly spaced service.
For years, the TTC has trotted out stock excuses for service quality and made claims that things aren’t all that bad. Well now we see their own numbers, and even with the limitations of their methodology, it is clear that the TTC’s claims were hogwash.
Unreliable service is a particular problem on routes with wide scheduled headways, especially the all-night services. A ±3 minute measure may not be entirely appropriate for a 30 minute headway, but we have no way of knowing whether the night buses and streetcars are only slightly off schedule, or completely unpredictable. At least with Nextbus, one can find where a vehicle actually might be regardless of its scheduled arrival, but this plays havoc with any attempt to make transfer connections.
In a masterful understatement, the TTC observes:
We continue to seek opportunities to improve performance on our routes.
The first step in recovery is to admit that you have a problem, and with the publication of these indices, the TTC has at least taken that first step. Whether they continue to blame external factors for every ill remains to be seen, but they have been addicted to that behaviour for decades.
For all the talk of a Customer Charter, the quality of service is a non-negotiable part of what transit is all about. When people complain about not being able to get around the city by TTC, reliability and capacity are two major issues. These are linked because, on some routes, capacity is lost to irregular service. On others there simply are not enough vehicles especially on streetcar lines where a car shortage has been a standard excuse for over a decade.
I cannot avoid a special mention of all those bus routes in the list of poor performers. For years, detractors of streetcars prated that only with buses could we have reliable service. Rider experiences on many routes, and now the statistics, prove this to be wrong with bus routes running as bad or worse service reliability than many streetcar lines. The “flexibility” of buses only allows for even more exotic ways to run erratic services.
In a week when the TTC rolls out its new Group Station Managers, they need to turn a blinding light on surface operations, the weakest part of their network.