Updated June 16, 2013 at 10:15pm: An epilogue comparing system statistics for 1989 has been added.
The TTC publishes statistics on its surface routes showing the most recent all-day riding count, the resources (vehicles, vehicle hours and vehicle mileage) consumed by a day’s operation, and the estimated cost of one day’s service.
For many years, this information was included in the annual “Service Plan”, but the last one of those was published for 2008. The TTC’s Transit Planning page includes the 2008 plan, as well as the 2011 and 2012 figures as free-standing tables.
(In earlier years, the tables included a “revenue” for each route based on the ridership, although the method of calculating this varied over the years. This was eventually dropped because there is no way to allocate fare revenue in a system like the TTC’s without producing distortions in the resulting “profitability” of routes. Fares, especially passes which make up the bulk of adult system use, are collected on a flat basis for an entire trip or for a period of time, not for distance travelled nor number of vehicles used in a trip.)
This information becomes more interesting when viewed over time to see the evolution of ridership, service and allocated costs.
The Raw Data
The 2004-05 stats appeared in the 2005 Service Plan (the full version of this report is not online). The values in the columns “Passengers” through “Cost” are taken directly from the report. Calculated values show the passengers and mileage per vehicle hour, and the cost per AM peak vehicle, per hour, per kilometre and per passenger.
Note that “Passengers” are “boardings” — one rider making a trip that uses three surface routes counts as three “passengers” in this table.
Information for rapid transit lines and for premium express bus routes is not included.
The total boardings for the surface system in 2004-05 was about 1.4-million per day.
The 2012 stats are taken from the Transit Planning web page. The format is identical to the 2004-05 table above. By 2012, the daily boardings were up to almost 1.6m.
A comparison of the two sets of stats was created to show how each route and component had changed over eight years. The numbers in this table are the delta values between the first two tables together with the percentage change in each value. Some 2012 routes did not exist in 2004, and these are net new. A few routes were reported on a consolidated basis in one year, and on a separate basis in another.
Because this table is wider, it is split into two sections. The first four pages show the changed values and the percentage changes between 2004 and 2012. The second four pages show the percentage changes in the calculated values such as boardings per hour and vehicle speed.
A Few Grains of Salt
Some of this information must be read with care. The riding counts are one-day values, and viewed over a long sequence, some route’s values bounce around quite a bit. This would generally be due to differences in the days on which counts were taken — which season, what day of the week, special events, etc — that can affect a single day’s observation. When the TTC rolls out vehicles with automatic passenger counters, we should see more frequent counts and better year-to-year comparisons.
A few routes, notably the streetcars, don’t have full riding counts taken every year. The worst case is 501 Queen which was reported with 41,200 daily riders in 2002, a number that was unchanged until 2007 when it was reported as 43,500 a number unchanged in the 2012 stats. In fact, only three streetcar routes had new counts in the 2012 report compared to 2011, and 69 bus routes also showed no change.
The assigned costs are supposed to be based on a formula with three variables: am peak vehicles, vehicle kilometres and vehicle hours. However, these costs are not always well-behaved in the sense that comparable values on two routes can produce different assigned costs. This suggests that the calculation has some other basis or uses a different underlying set of data to produce the dollar values.
2004 and 2012 are directly comparable from the viewpoint of service design. 2004 predates the introduction of the Ridership Growth Strategy (RGS) and its more generous loading standards. 2012 follows the reversion to pre-RGS standards in response to the budget cutbacks of the Ford/Stintz era at Council and at the TTC.
Between 2004 and 2012, boardings on the bus network rose by 12% compared to 8% on the streetcar network (with a caveat about the currency of streetcar figures). Overall system riding during the same period went from 418.1-million to 514.0m, an increase of 23%. That shows a substantial difference between weekday route-based boarding counts and the annual system total riding numbers. Some of this could be explained through stronger demand on the subway and on weekends, or the number of boardings per rider could be falling (an increase, say, in shorter one-seat trips). This evolution in counts needs to be understood for future service planning.
Bus service measured in hours or in kilometres rose by 21-22% while streetcar service rose by 16%. This implies that service grew more than demand even with the rollback of RGS, but could also reflect outdated riding counts relative to service levels. The boardings per vehicle hour are about 7.5% lower in 2012 than in 2004 for both modes.
On the bus network, the change from high-floor to low-floor vehicles reduced vehicle capacity. More service was needed to carry the same number of passengers.
On the streetcar network, the change from ALRV to CLRV operation on 511 Bathurst is reflected in the very large increases in vehicle hours, kilometres and assigned cost.
Ridership changes on a route-by-route basis vary considerably. Some routes lost riders, but most gained, in some cases by a substantial margin. Large swings must be read in the context of the “one day count” problem and with knowledge of each route’s evolution.
Although the streetcar system provided 16% more service in 2012, its allocated cost rose by 49%. On the bus network, a rise of 21-22% in service produced a cost increase of 77%, a slightly higher proportionate rise than with the streetcars. The cost per vehicle hour in 2012 is up 45% for buses, but only 28% for streetcars indicating that not just capacity factors are at work, but also the inherent cost of bus operation.
In 2012, the cost per boarding for the two modes was almost identical: $2.23 for buses and $2.19 for streetcars. This does not establish the superiority of one mode over another, but reflects the higher capacity of the streetcars and the higher number of boardings per hour (92 vs 67) on the streetcar routes. That number is also influenced by the average length of a trip segment.
On very short routes, a long trip is impossible and there will be high turnover of passengers. Strong bi-directional demand can reinforce this by keeping a vehicle busy for both halves of a round trip. Only three bus routes have boardings/hour over 100 in 2012: 22 Coxwell, 64 Main and 81 Thorncliffe Park. On the streetcar system, the highest number is no surprise: the 510/509 Spadina/Harbourfront route.
One point of note in the ongoing discussions of “congestion” is the fact that the average speed of the streetcars is almost unchanged: 14.1 km/h in 2004 versus 14.0 in 2012. Although some schedule adjustments may have occurred over the years, they are comparatively small across all of the streetcar routes. Similarly, the average speed of the bus system is almost unchanged: 19.9 km/h in 2004 versus 19.7 in 2012.
There are individual exceptions to this observation on specific routes. For example, the speed on 512 St. Clair is up 14.5% from 2004 to 2012 reflecting the change to a reserved right-of-way, while the 501 Queen car is down by 5.6%. 511 Bathurst takes the worst hit, an 11.7% fall. Two core routes, King and Dundas, are almost unchanged on an all-day basis. An obvious question here is the adequacy of schedules to the claimed higher levels of traffic congestion.
Note that “speed” can also be affected by addition or removal of layover time from the schedules. The “hours” value reflects the entire time a vehicle is in service whether it is supposed to be moving or not. Some schedule changes simply shift allocated time between driving and “recovery”, and this makes no difference in the calculated speed. Conversely, if driving+recovery time is extended, then the speed falls. This could be done by adding vehicles and/or by extending headways.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Both TTC Chair Karen Stintz and CEO Andy Byford have stated that the TTC cannot absorb another year of flatlined subsidies. However, the City Manager’s targets for all agencies and departments in 2014 is just that — a zero percent increase in furtherance of Mayor Ford’s financial targets and hoped-for tax cuts.
The TTC faces important policy questions, and the debate should be backed up with reliable, up-to-date information on current and future demand.
Later this month, the TTC Board’s agenda should include details of the new streetcar rollout plan. How will this affect service capacity? Will a latent, unmet demand for service be reflected in riding counts? How much will headways be widened for the new cars offsetting the benefit of greater capacity with longer waits between vehicles? Will the TTC return to leading demand with capacity rather than grudgingly operating more service only when it has no choice?
Updated June 16, 2013 at 10:15pm:
Epilogue: Looking Back to 1989
Although the TTC has not published comparable data for the subway and SRT for many years, I was tempted to go back and look at the numbers. The last year for which data are available is 1989.
Boardings Veh Miles Veh Km Op Cost 1989 (000) (000) (000) (000) Subway 971 138 223 $466 SRT 39 6 10 $ 24 Bus 1417 213 343 $904 Streetcar 305 27 44 $204 2012 Bus 1302 384 $2902 Streetcar 284 43 $ 620
The only subway network change has been the addition of the Sheppard line, although this had associated effects on the bus network.
Elsewhere on the surface network, the Harbourfront/Spadina routes were operated with buses, and so their boardings and mileage are included in the bus totals. 77 Spadina carried 32,838 riders per day in the 1989 report.
In 1989, costs were allocated only by vehicle mileage, and this produced distortions in route costs. If the hours per vehicle or vehicle usage pattern (e.g. peak-to-base service ratio) were not close to the system average, then allocated costs on a per mile basis over or understated the hourly and vehicle components of the cost. Here, however, only the system totals are shown.
Bus and streetcar boardings in 2012 were down relative to 1989 showing that at least by these counts, surface boardings have still not recovered to the level before the 1990s recession and service cuts that followed.
On a mileage basis service is up about 12% on the bus network and down marginally for streetcars since 1989. However, the Harbourfront/Spadina route was still a bus, and so all of the new service on the 509/510 has come at the expense of cutbacks to other routes.
501 Queen operated 9,830 vehicle kilometres/day in 1989 and, at that time, had not been amalgamated with 507 Long Branch which operated a further 2,198. The consolidated 501 Queen in 2012 operated only 8,200 vkm/day. Daily boardings on the 501 were just under 60k in 1989.