TTC Route Relettering

The TTC plans to reletter many of its routes to adopt a somewhat standardized practice for the number/letter combinations:

  • Routes that have no branches will not use a letter.  For example, 64 Main will stay as 64 Main in both directions.
  • Routes that have branches will use letters for all services operating away from a common point.  For example, most buses outbound from Kennedy Station will use a letter because their routes have multiple destinations.
  • The “A” branch is typically, but not necessarily, the primary branch.
  • The “E” designation is reserved for express operations on routes that also have local service.
  • The “S” designation is used for any short turn for which a sign is provided.  It is by far the most commonly used letter.

What is frustrating about this change, like so many other pieces of TTC public information, is that the implementation and customer information campaigns are not co-ordinated. New signs have started to pop up even though they are not supposed to take effect until June 22, 2014.

In some cases, the reassignment of the “A” designation as the primary route will not be done in one step because “A” is already in use for another branch.  In these cases, there will be an interim configuration without an “A” branch, to be followed sometime in 2015 with a second set of changes.

In the table linked below, the current and final designations are shown.  Where there is no interim value, the “final” arrangement takes effect immediately on June 22.  Where an interim value is shown, this will be the setup on June 22, with the final shuffle to follow next year.

The rationale, such as it is, for this change is set out in the memo announcing the June service changes:

Changes will be made to the branch designations on 62 bus routes, to make branch and destination information more clear and consistent for customers. With these changes, routes that have only one branch will have a branch number with no alphabetic suffix. Routes that have more than one branch will have alphabetic suffixes for all branches. This will reduce confusion for customers in relation to unlettered and lettered branches.

As much as is practicable, consecutive letters will be used for branches. Branch letters that change will not be immediately reused, to avoid confusion and duplication. In a small number of cases the branch changes will be made in two stages, with branch letters changed now on some branches, and then reused later in 2015.

In addition to these changes, several minor or limited-service branches that do not now have formal branch designations will get new branch designations.

Branch designation changes for streetcar routes will be introduced as the new cars enter service.


55 thoughts on “TTC Route Relettering

  1. Oh lovely.. so now the 17A Birchmount (to 14th) will be the 17B (Steeles via Wintermute). This should be fun!

    Steve: You are not reading the table correctly. The 14th Avenue service stays as 17A. The Wintermute service stays as 17B. The Steeles service changes from 17 to 17C.


  2. I’m trying to figure out what was so confusing here … I’m guessing the bigger problem was with routes like the 61A which had no corresponding 61?

    Steve: 61/61A is an anomaly in this whole scheme. Once upon a time, “61” was the service to Roe Loop, and there was a separate service “1 Armour Heights” that handled the section north of Roe (the end of the Nortown trolley coach overhead) and Wilson. With the conversion to diesel, the two routes were amalgamated as “61A”. Now that this is the only variant of the route (now called “Avenue Road North”), the new schema dispenses with the route letter.

    To me the route number without branches denotes the “main” corridor while the branches (designated by the letter) would tell me the bus would branch off the corridor at some point. I could then decide if that branching point was before or after my stop and take the bus accordingly.

    And now … I can do the same thing … but I might be discouraged from getting on the first bus that comes because it appears that only branches are available.

    I can understand relettering some routes to avoid confusion but I don’t see the need to re letter 62 routes. Oh and why isn’t 35 Jane in the list? Has it already been re lettered?

    Steve: There is no plain “35” route, and so no need to reletter.

    Here in Mississauga there are 6 routes running along Hurontario St … the MiExpress103 from Port Credit GO to Brampton Gateway, the MiLocal19 from Port Credit GO to the 407 Gateway, and the 19A, 192, and 19C which (since the last service change) start at the Queensway and travel up before branching out in the north end of Mississauga.

    That seems pretty logical … the only thing I could suggest is that the 103 be called the 119.

    On Dundas there are 4 routes, the MiExpress101 and 101A and the MiLocal 1 and 1C. There was once a 1B but it disappeared some years ago. However, on all route schedules and corridor maps the 1C is designated by the letter ‘b’ … that is confusing.

    The MiExpress101 actually runs along the same route as the MiLocal 1C, while the 101A runs along the same route as the 1 (though the 1 doesn’t serve the University of Toronto at Mississauga campus) … that is also confusing.

    But Toronto’s system made a lot of sense as was … with the few exceptions where branches were the only routes.

    Beyond those necessary fixes, I don’t see the benefit of this exercise at all.

    Cheers, Moaz


  3. I really question some of the suffixes. The 191A branch has only 6 trips during the school year, and it retains that designation while the regular 191 will be reorganized to 191B and 191C. How is this less confusing?

    Steve: Although there is supposed to be some order to this, a lot of the choices seem arbitrary.

    I am waiting to hear some official bafflegab about this in the announcement, something about how it will better inform the customers when in fact it will confuse people who can recognize the existing letter/number combinations but don’t necessarily understand the destination names. I also expect that we will see a lengthy period where the fleet will operate with both sets of signs at the same time.

    The whole exercise strikes me as a waste of time, but will in be spun as the great service innovation of 2014? Anything to avoid actually talking about the quality of the service, whatever it might be called?


  4. This makes sense, especially finally getting around to removing the “A” from the 61A now that every bus goes from Eglinton Station to Bombay Avenue.

    Noticeably absent from the table are the most complicated branched routes – namely the 165 Weston Road North and the 96 Wilson. I wonder if the TTC has greater plans for route reorganisation for that corridor (the 165 itself are several former branches of the 96, done to simplify things for passengers there.)


  5. Steve says

    “I also expect that we will see a lengthy period where the fleet will operate with both sets of signs at the same time.”

    The 34 and 34C to Kennedy Station are both regularly used today and will probably do so for a long time.

    Somehow the 36 Finch West missed the list. This just recently relettered 36B into 36. They still have 36D and 36F.

    The 52 Lawrence West is still a mess since they now have services on both The Westway and Dixon Rd. Nevertheless, they still fail to display it on the signs. Passengers have to ask the operator all the time about where the bus is going. Instead of fixing this (as it doesn’t appear in your chart), they extend this mess to 62 more routes. TTC have massively relettered routes before, but I hope this isn’t their major accomplishment of 2014.


  6. This is a good idea, albeit poorly executed. Saying/explaining/remembering “Take the 123A” is a lot easier than “Take the 123 – but that means not the 123B or 123C”

    I’m especially glad to see it will happen for streetcars too – I can never remember which destinations take you pass potential short-turn points.

    (Bad ‘branch’ numbering in Durham… the route 110 is a two-loop. One direction is signed “110”, the other “110A”….)


  7. What exactly was implied by branches for streetcars? There’s really only scheduled short turns unless you count 506 to Dundas West Station late at night before they switch over to the 306 designation or off-route in-service trips to/from the carhouse. Something must be in the works that we’re not being told about yet. (Transit Toronto noted a far-off proposal to divert every second rush-hour 506 car to Dundas West Station but also that it won’t happen until the station is completely reconfigured, if ever.) It seems really awkward to be applying letters to all the scheduled short turns. If the vehicle isn’t taking a completely different set of tracks representing a totally different physical branch then a simple destination as it is now is far simpler to read and interpret. It just becomes redundant and cluttered to add a letter to every destination, much as “504 Dundas West Station via King” is fully redundant already and made the rollsigns much harder to read at a distance. I get the 501 Long Branch vs Humber thing but that is an extreme example.

    On that note however, is 512L Earlscourt still officially designated behind the scenes or has it finally been incorporated purely as a scheduled short turn? There sure are an awful lot of cars turning back at Lansdowne Loop regularly.

    Hmmmm… it occurred to me that this lettering scheme could be intended to drive destination-based next-vehicle predictions, something that has been painfully absent from the OneStop screens and NextBus or its myriad variants. Cleaning up the branch designations and adding them where they aren’t used yet would certainly be the first order of business if so. Perhaps someone from the TTC can clarify?

    Steve: Unless we are going to get a lot more than “S” for the myriad of short turns, I don’t think you will see much beyond:

    501: Services to Humber and to Long Branch.
    510: Services to King, Queens Quay and Union Station.
    512: Services to Lansdowne and Keele.

    I will inquire about this.


  8. In the online schedules a few specific additional designations already appear on some of the streetcar routes:

    – 501 “Broadview & Queen”
    – 502 “Greenwood/Connaught”
    – 503 “Greenwood/Connaught”
    – 505 “Roncesvalles & Queen”
    – 508 “Parliament & King” (AM only), “Church & King” (PM only), “Roncesvalles & Queen”

    I had forgotten that the 508 did actually have a variable route although not simultaneously at any particular time of day so adding a letter here would not be necessary. The only destination that actually represents a complete deviation from the normal routing is 505 “Roncesvalles & Queen”. In that particular case the operators have been instructed to load at the 504 platform and regular riders know to take advantage of it. It certainly helps to have this available at times when the 504 is having a bad day – The 504 service on Roncesvalles is truly a case of ‘feast-or-famine’.

    Steve: Speaking of the 508, there are also inbound trips that come only to Humber Loop in the latter part of the PM peak.

    As for service on Roncesvalles, the TTC has rejected proposals to run a “507 Long Branch” route up to Dundas West claiming it would interfere with the often-absent 504 service.


  9. Is this change triggered by, or at least supported by, some sort of study showing that customers are confused by the existing route designators, or is it just some middle-manager’s attempt to look important by relettering deck chairs?

    One might ask the same question of the grand renumbering of subway lines.

    It’s not that I strongly oppose either of these changes. I’m just not convinced that either produces a net decrease of passenger confusion, nor that either accomplishes much worth accomplishing.

    Steve: It’s very strange that there has been no previous discussion of this, it is just “happening”.


  10. The TTC does like these ‘make work’ projects but IF they are going to add letters to streetcar routes I hope they will identify planned short-turns so that the NextBus info is actually useful. Now, for example, you can wait at King Station and see several 504 cars coming eastbound only to find that all are actually signed as short-turning at Church. Of course, they then need to REALLY cut back on the unplanned short-turns – these should be rare and the reason for them possibly analysed later by a senior manager to see why it was necessary. When I moved to Toronto in 2001 it seems that short-turns were really quite rare, now they seem far too frequent. (One metric for the CEO’s report might be ‘number of short-turns.”)

    Steve: The route reliability stats published quarterly last year have vanished from the TTC’s 2014 output. I have asked about this, but so far all is silence.

    The TTC talked a good line on “customer service” when it suited them to focus on the superficial, on the premise that if they make it look better, riders will love them more. That suited the superficial not-yet-mayoral-candidate Chair Karen Stintz just fine. The hard part, actually providing better service, is still beyond their grasp, and, I am starting to believe, even their will to tackle the problem or acknowledge its scope.


  11. What about the streetcar route numbers? Would there be a 501A for the Humber Loop, as an example? Or would they be waiting until all the LFLRVs come on board with their electronic signage? Would they start with a 510B for the Queens Quay loop with the LFLRVs? Or would the signage spin like a slot machine, because they don’t know where it will be going?

    Steve: I am waiting for them to run out of letters for all the variations.


  12. One thing the TTC desperately needs is to program in all of its common short-turn destinations. As a regular user of the Bathurst bus, for example, I already know that when a 7S shows up it is going at least as far north as Wilson, or as far south as Briar Hill. The majority of riders don’t, however, and the bus gets even further delayed when every passenger has to ask the driver if they will get to their stop. It also bears noting that Toronto is the only city I have ever been to where “short-turns” are even a common operating practice. Is this just my own perception?

    Steve: From time to time, I see batches of new destinations added to various routes in the monthly service memo, but this seems to be in response to demand from the individual divisions, not a system-wide initiative.


  13. I don’t know who decided to do this but they clearly had too much time on their hands and it’s clearly a case of mistaken priorities!

    As a person who really does care about running a good bus service first and foremost, I haven’t seen much in my 31 years in transit that has upset me as much as this stunt.

    For example, look at 24 – Victoria Park

    People going to Steeles are used to looking for the 24 or 24D (north of Steeles).
    People going to Don Mills Station, Consumers Road and Yorkland wait for the 24A.

    They will now be looking for the 24B, because next year the Steeles 24 branch will receive the 24A designation and the Consumers Road – Don Mills Station will receive the 24B!
    I think some people used to just looking at the route number are going to be late for work waiting for the route number they’re used to seeing.

    People are accustomed to using the route numbers as they exist.

    The route number without a letter usually means the route that does not branch off the primary road the route operates along (Islington 110, for example), or the long end of the route.

    There are exceptions, like 54 – Lawrence East, (54A is the long end) but it doesn’t matter. People are used to the existing numbers. So, a person may still be looking for the 24A and waiting for a long time until they figure out that it’s now the 24B.

    For someone with limited English, they might wait a long time until they get up the courage to ask an Operator, who’ll be just as confused.

    To give you an idea of what’s involved…

    All subway station signage, routing guides, division welcome packages, route maps, and route numbers posted on bus stops will have to be changed. The operators, supervisors, instructors, collectors and information staff are going to have to learn the new route numbers and letters. Notices have to posted on all bus stops (remember there’s 62 routes).

    And it all has to be done in a month! Good Luck!

    Customers on all these routes are going to have to learn them. There is inevitably going to be delays while operators try to sort out confused patrons which could lead to frustration for our customers and our operators (who book off too much as it is). It’s a good thing I teach a module called “Dealing with Irate Customers”. I might need for myself when I’m on the system in uniform (which is 21 out of 25 days).

    The introduction of streetcar route numbers and now subway route numbers (without the traditional names) are nothing compared to this.

    Someone who can make the right amount of noise to the right people has to hear about this … and make enough noise to get it stopped before June 22. Obviously, it can’t be me.

    Oh yes, and the number of runs are being reduced on Dufferin in June with full articulated bus implementation!

    Steve: Yes, I will be posting a summary of the June 22 service changes in due course, but wanted to push the route lettering info out as a separate article. If Dufferin goes the way of Bathurst, the service will be even worse than it is today.


  14. Ok, so the TTC is trying to clear up some confusion. With the recent change to the 59 Maple Leaf route, most operators are still using the 59C destination sign, even through there is currently only one route (59A) operating. If the drivers are confused as to what destination sign to use, imagine how the public is going to feel.

    TTC’s planning department motto should be “Let us see how many more things we can confuse people with”.


  15. Interesting. The only routes that also left out are 21 Brimley, 35 Jane, 53 Steeles East, 60 Steeles West, 84 Sheppard West, 85 Sheppard East, vice versa. It makes sense if they tried renumbering 21 to the 21C.


  16. I am not surprised at this. The TTC has for years (nay, decades) had a poor communications strategy. When one travels the TTC, it is difficult to determine the hierarchy of importance of information, and rarely, if ever communicates this information to the public. This seems like the work of someone who has no grasp of transit planning and just doing it because Andy Byford wanted it done. If I were designing route relettering , I would recommend it be done this way, and have a big media campaign about it:

    1) 1-199: Local bus services
    2) 200-299: Rocket services (preferably matching the local route e.g. 199 becomes 239, reflecting it is a rocket service for the 39).
    3) 300-399: Blue Night
    4) 400-499: Commuter/Peak/Premium express routes
    4) 500-599: Streetcar/LRT.

    This also helps people differentiate what kind of route it is while retaining current route numbering.

    As for letter branching, I would prefer it having a hierarchical distribution as well, with A being the branch that operates most frequently (e.g. 7 days a week); BCD for branches that operates less often, and EF for express routes. Just randomly giving out letter designations to keep legacy route lettering is confusing for bus riders and drivers. Have a system and stick to it! People will adjust to a system that makes sense.


  17. Displaying destination for common short turn points would be a BIG plus and would reduce confusion and delay since operators never volunteer the information.


  18. Steve wrote:

    Routes that have branches will use letters for all services operating away from a common point.

    This implies that when running towards a common point, all vehicles will have the number WITHOUT a letter designation. Is that correct?

    Steve: Yes.

    Personally, I prefer this as it is less confusing to people waiting for a bus to not have to worry about where the bus will end up. Any bus on the same trunk route heading to the same destination should have the same designation.

    Unlike the TTC, YRT generally uses the same route number destination regardless of which direction the bus is travelling in and I wish they would change this.


  19. Apologies if this has already been covered, but I assume that all inbound buses going to the common base destination will be unlettered? That is to say, all outbound 36 FINCH WEST buses will be assigned letters according to their branches, but all buses returning to Finch Station will have destination signs that read “36 – FINCH WEST – to Finch Station”. Am I right?

    Steve: That is correct. Some routes have “branches” in both directions, but less commonly inbound. All vehicles heading to a common destination should have the same unlettered route number.


  20. Steve, Steve, Steve — it’s the first of JUNE. Not of APRIL. April Fool’s Day was two months ago. You’ll have to take this post down and bring it back in April 2015.

    I can’t possibly believe that the TTC has had an outpouring of complaints that it is confusing to know whether the 24 goes to Steeles or not. And definitely not the level of confusion that would result from relettering all the branches. And definitely not the level of confusion from saying the “A” branch is the primary route, when there are so many examples on that list where it most definitely is not the primary route. (91A to Parkview Hills??)

    This is the type of thing where, if it really was solving a major problem, you could see it as short-term pain for long-term gain. But this really looks like something to solve a non-existent problem — or, maybe, an internal problem (like they just purchased some trip planning software that doesn’t let them mix lettered and unlettered branches?).

    I wonder if Brad and Andy are going to do a YouTube video about this and extoll its virtues on “reducing confusion for the customers”. I wonder if they actually believe it.

    Steve: I am becoming disheartened that the TTC is becoming more and more focussed on the trivial things and is completely losing sight of the big picture.


  21. Steve wrote:

    “That is correct. Some routes have “branches” in both directions, but less commonly inbound. All vehicles heading to a common destination should have the same unlettered route number.”

    Yeah, and that will only make things more difficult. As in “Why do I need to take the 888 in the morning, but the 888A when both trips are on the exact same route?”

    As it is this is only going to make things more difficult in general. Right now the 123 runs from Long Branch Loop to Kipling Loop via the East Mall. Now it’s going to be the 123B and the current 123B is going to become the 123D. While both go via the East Mall, the 123B (soon to be 123D) only operates between Kipling Station and Sherway Gardens.

    And, the obvious question is: why does this even need to be done in the first place?


  22. Since they’re relettering so many branches they might as well also make the Blue Night Network routes consistent with the day routes, i.e.:

    301 Queen (501 Queen)
    302 Bloor-Danforth (2 Bloor-Danforth)
    306 Carlton (506 Carlton)
    307 Bathurst (7 Bathurst)
    312 St Clair (512 St Clair)
    316 Danforth Rd-McCowan (16 McCowan)
    322 Coxwell (22 Coxwell)
    324 Victoria Park (24 Victoria Park)
    329 Dufferin (29 Dufferin)
    325 Don Mills (25 Don Mills)
    332 Eglinton West (32 Eglinton West)
    334 Eglinton East (34 Eglinton East)
    335 Jane (35 Jane)
    336 Finch West (36 Finch West)
    337 Islington (37 Islington)
    339 Finch East (39 Finch East)
    352 Lawrence West (52 Lawrence West)
    353 Steeles East (53 Steeles East)
    354 Lawrence East (54 Lawrence East)
    363 Ossington (63 Ossington)
    385 Sheppard East (85 Sheppard East)
    395 York Mills (95 York Mills)
    396 Wilson (96 Wilson)
    397 Yonge (97 Yonge)


  23. Now lets extend this to rail vehicles models and automobile models. Maybe General Motors could rename the “Cadillac Escalade” the “GM Model T”.



  24. I see Steven has caught this as well: 36 FINCH WEST isn’t on the list. It would be ironic if this route, which recently redesignated its 36B branch to 36 goes back to a letter. Is that planned?

    The recently rejigged 52 LAWRENCE WEST isn’t on this list either.

    Steve: I’m just publishing what’s in the memo the TTC sends me.


  25. Jelo G. Cantos wrote:

    Interesting. The only routes that also left out are 21 Brimley, 35 Jane, 53 Steeles East, 60 Steeles West, 84 Sheppard West, 85 Sheppard East, vice versa. It makes sense if they tried renumbering 21 to the 21C.

    The 84 is on the list, but the 85 is curiously left out (along with the 165, which has a non-suffixed branch to Steeles and the 96, which is often signed as plain “96 Wilson” when eastbound to York Mills Station). The 85 is very confusing as it really operates as two separate routes with zero overlap. There’s the non-suffixed 85, which runs between Sheppard-Yonge and Don Mills (covering the subway’s route) while the other route branches (85A, 85B, 85D, and, curiously, the 85) run east from Don Mills to Meadowvale Road, the Toronto Zoo and/or Rouge Hill GO. The TTC’s description doesn’t really help.


  26. TorontoStreetcars said:

    Yeah, and that will only make things more difficult. As in “Why do I need to take the 888 in the morning, but the 888A when both trips are on the exact same route?”

    I don’t really see this as being a problem, as this is basically the way that the 32 Eglinton West has worked for the last few years.

    32A – Eglinton Stn -> Renforth & Skymark
    32C – Eglinton Stn -> Jane & Lawrence (via Trethewey)
    32_ – Eglinton Stn -> Renforth (replaces 32A after 21:30 and all day Sat, Sun & Holidays)
    32D – Eglinton West Stn -> Emmet & Jane
    (32B – formerly went beyond Toronto boundaries – cancelled a couple of years ago)

    32_ – Renforth & Skymark -> Eglinton Stn (32A return)
    32_ – Jane & Lawrence -> Eglinton Stn (32C return)
    32_ – Renforth -> Eglinton Stn (32_ return)
    32D – Emmet & Jane -> Eglinton West Stn (32D return)

    (I used the underscore to indicate the blank in order to line things up better)

    As you can see all the services that return to Yonge and Eglinton use only the bare 32 for the eastbound trip; only the 32D, which doesn’t go east of Allen Road, uses the letter. I actually find this helpful, as it makes it easier to identify the bus I want if I am going beyond Eglinton West Stn; I can tell the wider 32D from the 32 before I can make out the actual numbers.

    Changing the outbound 32 to 32B will also be helpful. At Eglinton West Stn, the eastbound 32 bay is just before the westbound 32A/32 bay, and if several buses arrive at the same time it can be confusing for many users, those who only look at the numbers, and those who aren’t regular users and don’t know the line. From now on the statement “just take the 32 – no letter” will be correct at all times not just weekdays before 21:00.

    While I am not totally seized of the need to make these changes, I don’t see this objection being a problem.

    On another note:

    One oddity I noticed is the 84 Shepherd route. Even though the current description states “84 (Sheppard-Yonge Stn-Weston Rd) is the main branch, and operates at all times, seven days a week”, the chart shows that this branch is to become the 84B, while the current 84A becomes 84C. This leaves the route with no “primary branch”, no 84A.

    Is this an error in creating the chart, the TTC’s intention, or just a screw-up by the TTC?

    Steve: Screw-up may be too strong a word, but the memo listing all of the changes shows no “A” variant for Sheppard West.


  27. Here are some of my comments to missing routes on the list.

    I suspect that the 36 is missing from the list as it has been recently reorganized. The 36 to Humberwood is an intern designation since 36A, 36B and 36C were in used recently. Later, they would reletter the 36 to 36A, 36D to 36B and 36F to 36C.

    For the 52 Lawrence West, there is no 52 any more. All they can do is the 52G relettered to 52C. The 52C designation is used for the Lawrence West Stn-Culford branch until the end of March. Further changing the 52G to 52C would cause even more confusion as I been saying it’s already confusing right now.

    The 21 Brimley is a confusing route. It’s common destination are both the south and north end. 21 and 21A to Kennedy. 21 and 21B to Steeles. 21A and 21B to STC. They might as well restore the old 128 Brimley North route name if they were to reletter 21 to 21C as it doesn’t help.

    The 53 doesn’t have any non-letter branches. It’s perfectly fits this relettering. The 60 doesn’t have any non-letter branch either. They could have relettered the 60D into 60A. Who knows why. The 84 Sheppard West relettering removes the 84A. It’s a weird move.

    The 85 Sheppard East is special. The 85 has too many branches such as 85,85A,85B,85C,85D,85G and 85J. Refer to the service summary for what branch is what. In order to simplify all the destinations, they chose:

    85 EB: Meadowvale, 85 WB: Sheppard-Yonge Stn
    85A EB: Rough Hill GO Stn, 85A WB: Don Mills Stn
    85B EB: Toronto Zoo


  28. Of course, they also have (recently?) started the idea of giving a (supposedly) temporary route variation a prefix of “1”. The old 72 Pape that used to run from Pape to Union/King now goes no further west than Commissioners while the (temporary? and uncoordinated) 172 runs from Commissioners to Union/King. As noted before, this idea has confused customers, meant the re-marking of stops and reprogramming of the NextBus displays. In addition, there are still some buses that appear west of Commissioners marked 72 (usually older buses that may not have a 172 on their sign boards?) While I agree that there are probably better ways to number surface routes, I suggest that this should not be a high priority. Perhaps we should start a campaign for “Headways, Headways, Headways”?


  29. I honestly don’t think the concept here is the worst idea. When I first moved to Toronto the number-letter system baffled me. Trying to give it some consistency/logic is an admirable goal, even if it probably shouldn’t be anywhere near the top of the TTC’s priority list (the same thing could be accomplished by better maps/schedules/trip-planning tools). It seems though that there are… issues… with the implementation, even above and beyond the typical lack on consultation or rationale.

    Steven says:

    I really question some of the suffixes. The 191A branch has only 6 trips during the school year, and it retains that designation while the regular 191 will be reorganized to 191B and 191C. How is this less confusing?

    You can add the 116 Morningside to the list of cases where what is most certainly the main branch has not become the “A”. The main branch of the 116 is Morningside to Finch, not only is it the longest and busiest it is also the “straight line” route, 116 to Conlins Road is undoubtedly the branch. So now you’ve gotten a ridiculous situation where the B is a short-turn at Kingston Rd (replacing the end of the old Eglinton East route), the A turns off to the middle of nowhere halfway along the route, and the C goes all the way to the end. And that’s before you even get in to the issue of the E which runs both express and over a largely different route (and only one way). There are examples on the TTC’s list where routes were shuffled so an existing A became a B and the main branch became the A, that’s absolutely what they should have done here.

    On the flip-side, I think this makes a ton of sense for routes like Coxwell. Instead of having the Queen short-turn un-lettered, making it the B and having the A run all the way to Vic Park makes intuitive sense.


    That is correct. Some routes have “branches” in both directions, but less commonly inbound. All vehicles heading to a common destination should have the same unlettered route number.

    But what about express branches (E & F labels generally)? They will still be lettered inbound, as they obviously have different stops and some take different routes, even though they have a common end point. Since you’re going to need some letters anyways I don’t see what benefit there is to strip the labels from “inbound” buses. Taking that concept to its logical end point would result in stripping “clockwise/counter-clockwise routes” (like 17 Birchmount South) of all its letters since they have “common end points”. I guess what I’m saying here is that the TTC should have published the procedure by which they numbered/lettered the routes, and stuck to it with consistency unless there was a really good local reason not to.

    Steve: And, no doubt, like the “rules” about which streetcar stops will be eliminated, there would be demonstrable cases where they break their own rules.


  30. Tom West says,

    This is a good idea, albeit poorly executed. Saying/explaining/remembering “Take the 123A” is a lot easier than “Take the 123 – but that means not the 123B or 123C”

    That example wouldn’t have made sense anyway. For someone trying to get south of Evans, it would have been “Take the 123 or 123C, but not the 123A.” Now it will be “Take the 123B or 123C, but not the 123A.” I am not sure how that is better.

    Steve comments

    All vehicles heading to a common destination should have the same unlettered route number.

    Fails for my local buses. 110A and 110B both leave Long Branch loop for Islington station, but one heads east along Lake Shore and the other heads north along Brown’s Line. Riders might want to know which way the bus will go. Likewise, the (now) 123B and 123C head for Kipling station from Long Branch loop, but only the 123C serves the big-box cluster around The Queensway and North Queen. Again, riders might want to know which way the bus will go.

    Steve: I should have been clearer: obviously where the route taken from A to B differs, or the stopping pattern is not the same, then of course there should be letters. But when every bus is going via the same route, stopping at the same places and ending up at the same destination, an unlettered route is all that’s needed.

    A couple of popular phrases in corporate mission statements are:

    * Consistent customer experience
    * Surprise and delight our customers

    For some reason, the TTC finds that the “consistent customer experience” of erratic service and overcrowding difficult acknowledge, let alone to overcome. But for the nonexistent problem of route numbering, yes they have a plan! But, however many the complaints they get about confusing route branches, reshuffling the letters will make a small dent if any in the problem — as my example of the Shorncliffe bus illustrates, it just reshuffles the deck chairs of letter suffixes.

    As for “surprise and delight our customers”, this change is sure to do the former, and very unlikely to accomplish the latter.


  31. Brent wrote:

    I can’t possibly believe that the TTC has had an outpouring of complaints that it is confusing to know whether the 24 goes to Steeles or not.

    Not all changes are the result of public input. Though I am still hanging onto the idea that this may simply be a trivial make-work task they have come up with, it strikes me that doing this may facilitate the public’s ability to get online and mobile schedule information.

    Steve: I hate to say this, but many people just look at that big route number/letter combination, not at all of the text (which may flip by in multiple exposure). When someone finds themself on the wrong bus, or worse, when directional info printed on promotional material or on a website uses the wrong letter, people won’t get where they want to go. I see absolutely no reason for this change on such magnitude (maybe some routes could do with a reorganization, but not every route they think of touching), and it was not, repeat, not part of their customer charter commitments to becoming “more informative”.

    In my post above, I mentioned that YRT has the nasty habit (in most, but not all cases) of using the different branch number on their buses for both directions. Some believe this is the better way to do it, as Toronto Streetcars mused:

    “Why do I need to take the 888 in the morning, but the 888A when both trips are on the exact same route?”

    The fact of the matter is, people are only concerned with which route to take as it pertains to the question of where it is going (or if it stops near where they are going). YRT’s Bayview route has two versions (91 and 91A) that operate full time (there are also two other rush-hour only versions). The 91A travels another 1-2 km further north on Bayview while the 91 makes a significant loop into the neighbourhood west of Bayview. They both use the same platform at Finch and anyone needing to catch one to go to one of the separated parts needs to know they are on the correct bus. Heading south, it doesn’t matter which version one is on as the both go to Finch Station. Rush hours are different, as one of the others only goes south to Richmond Hill Centre, while the other is express for part of the route. Even during rush hours, the 91 and 91A both go to Finch Station and serve the same stops over their common section.

    Users wanting to obtain schedule information online can only obtain it for one OR the other at at time. Getting the interlaced schedule for the southbound operation requires looking each up separately and manually combining the information. If one happens to know the stop they are using, it is possible to get interlaced arrival information, BUT in planning a trip, one must do this for their start and end stop separately – also a two step and manual combine process.

    Having the branch letters outbound and letter-less inbound route number could make schedule look-up and trip planning easier to implement.


  32. Maybe the TTC could add a number display on the new subway trains along with a suffix to indicate direction. 1B for Finch bound, for Wilson bound, and for the St. Clair West/Glencairn short turn train. Unfortunately, there are no destination displays on the side of the trains … yet.

    Steve: There are several shortcomings about signage on those trains, but they show a mentality that ignores the customer. Small type, no side (or internal) signs indicating where the train is going. Information signs with miniscule print.


  33. I’m honestly surprised they haven’t just gone and lettered the streetcar routes.

    There are enough letters for every route and every possible short turn we’re used to!

    Steve: All good things, like streetcars, come to those who wait.


  34. In response to those who mentioned that they would like to see common short turn destinations be shown on signs, these signs are already in place, it is just that most drivers don’t use them as they are likely not familiar with the codes to display them so they resort to the common code that just says short turn and no destination. As far as I know, almost every route has at least one short turn sign programmed that says its destination, the longer routes have a number of them. The best place to see these short turn signs being used however is along Eglinton Ave East during peak periods when service is constantly getting short turned before reaching Eglinton Station. Route 34, 54 and 100 all have short turn displays that say to Mt Pleasent, Bayview as well as Brentcliffe in addition to a number of other locations along their routes that are not shared between them. For example, 54 also has short turn signs for Don Mills, Warden, Lawrence East RT Station, McCowan, Markham Rd, Morningside, Beechgrove and Rouge Hill GO Station.


  35. As W. K. Lis says why aren’t they doing it for subways, especially when they are going to be short turning trains in regular service. As Steve said the signs are too small on the front and non existent on the sides of trains and on the inside. Does not the AODA act require both visual and audible signs so both hearing and visual impaired can know where the train is going? Perhaps they could get the floor to vibrate in Morse Code so that old retired radio operators and telegraphers would know where they are going.


  36. Steve, I don’t see anything like this on the TTC website. Is your summary table the only info out on the web? I’ll link to that one if there’s nothing from the TTC yet. Thanks!

    Steve: My table was built from info in the monthly memo announcing service changes. There is nothing on the TTC website.


  37. Seven designations for the 29 Dufferin? So waiting at Dufferin station I should, as is usually the case, be able to chose from an A, B, C or D designated bus, which will all arrive at the same time.


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