Fourth Quarter 2014 Update: Results for fourth quarter of 2014 have been consolidated into a new table below.
The headway reliability numbers for many routes continue to lie well below the TTC’s targets for bus and streetcar operations.
Routes which have improved by more than 10% since 3Q14 are:
51 Leslie, 60 Steeles West, 125 Drewry, 126 Christie, 172 Cherry Street, 198 UTSC Rocket, 301 Queen Night, 322 Coxwell Night, and 512 St. Clair
Routes which have declined by more than 10% since 3Q14 are:
35 Jane, 36 Finch West, 55 Warren Park, 66 Prince Edward, 87 Cosburn, 88 South Leaside, 97 Yonge, 109 Ranee, 111 East Mall, 122 Graydon Hall, 133 Neilson, 141 Downtown via Mt. Pleasant Express, 160 Bathurst North, 161 Rogers Road, 162 Lawrence-Donway, 195 Jane Rocket, 224 Victoria Park North, 502 Downtowner and 508 Lakeshore
A few items worth noting:
- Service quality has declined considerably on both of the Jane routes despite a recent reorganization into local and express services, and adjusted running times to match actual experience.
- Reliability of the Blue Night services continues to be poor at a time when (a) there is no “congestion” on most routes as an excuse for delays, and (b) reliability is of particular importance to riders.
- The 501 Queen car at 52% (nothing to crow about) is more reliable than the Downtown Beach Express Bus at 45%.
Looking at the data over a two-year period, a very long list of routes has seen a decline of more than 10% in headway reliability. Only a few routes, mostly night services, have improved by more than 10% since 1Q13:
- 10 Van Horne, 52 Lawrence West (which has been reorganized since 1Q13), 90 Vaughan, 102 Markham Road, 117 Allness, 171 Mount Dennis, 301 Queen Night, 303 Don Mills Night, 308 Finch East Night, 309 Finch West Night, 311 Islington Night, 322 Coxwell Night, 353 Steeles East Night and 385 Sheppard East Night
Third Quarter 2014 Update:
The statistics have not changed much from the second quarter. One issue with many routes operating on wide headways (night services and express routes) is that they have consistently low performance values. Such routes should, of course, be measured for on-time performance, not headway adherence, because missed vehicles have a far graver effect on would be riders than on a route that operates every 5 minutes. Express-to-downtown routes (the 140 series) should be measured for on time performance in their catchment areas. Their headway once they are on the express leg of their journey is of no consequence to riders.
Second Quarter 2014 Update:
There is little change in the route performance statistics for the second quarter despite our having emerged from a bitter winter. The change from Q1 to Q2 is less than 10% for most routes with some improving and others falling behind. Those that are beyond the 10% mark can, in some cases, be explained by route-specific issues such as construction, but not all of them.
Two new routes appear for the first time, 172 Cherry and 195 Jane Rocket. It is mildly amusing that the Cherry bus, which must fight its way through construction downtown, manages a 69% reliability score while the Jane express service manages only 58%.
In this quarter, the 58 Malton and 52 Lawrence routes were combined. Their former scores in the mid-50% range have astoundingly improved to 81% on the consolidated route. I will follow this up with the TTC to see what magic they have wrought here.
First Quarter 2014 Update:
The reported reliability stats continue to be dismal. Although it is tempting to say “ah, yes, but Toronto had an appallingly bad winter”, there is a basic problem here: the statistics reported by the TTC didn’t change very much and many routes actually improved relative to the end of 2013.
I will not rehash my critiques of this method of reporting service quality (see the original article below) beyond noting the the TTC’s targets show that irregular service will be the norm — 1 in 3 trips can exceed the target, but service remains acceptable. This means that in a typical day, a rider can expect to encounter at least one “off target” service in their travels.
Finally, a long-standing issue has been the inability to maintain reliable service on the Queen car due to its length and the mixture of Humber and Long Branch services. Although April 2014 is not included in these statistics, the CEO’s report for June 2014 notes an improvement in that month’s streetcar average:
The increase in performance was attributable to the turnback of the 501 Queen route at Humber Loop for the Gardiner bridge work. This shortened the route and promoted a more reliable eastbound service. [Page 10]
The original article from October 24, 2013, follows below.
The TTC has just published its headway reliability results for the third quarter of 2013. These numbers purport to show the percentage of service that operates within 3 minutes, give or take, of the scheduled headway on each route. The goal is that bus service does this 65% of the time and streetcar service 70% of the time.
On a daily basis, these numbers are rolled up to the system level, but this hides wide variations by route and time of day. Weekends are not reported on at all.
The system barely manages to achieve its goal on good days, and has little headroom to absorb events such as bad weather.
To simplify browsing the route-by-route data, I have consolidated the three quarterly reports into one table. The information is listed both by route, and ranked by the reliability index.
[The table originally linked here has been replaced with an updated version at the start of the article.]
There are many problems with these numbers:
- On routes with short headways, it is easy to be within 3 minutes of target. Indeed, it is difficult to get beyond that target, and even a parade of buses or streetcars may count as one “off target” and several (the parade itself) “on target”.
- There is no measure of bunching, nor is there any indication of whether all or only part of the scheduled service actually operated over most or all of a route.
- There is no definition of what part(s) and directions of the route are measured, or how this might skew reported values. Performance at locations beyond common short-turn points may not be reported, or may be masked by data from central parts of a route.
- There is no time-of-day reporting. From service analyses presented on this site, it is clear that across the system, service at evenings and weekends is much less well-managed (assuming it is managed at all).
- On routes with wide headways, on-time operation is more relevant to riders than headway because they must plan journeys based on the schedule. This is particularly important where connections between infrequent services are part of a trip.
The TTC acknowledges that the headway adherence measurements are inadequate, and they are working on “Journey Time Metrics” based on the scheme used in London, UK. This approach looks at typical trips and the time required including access, waiting, in vehicle and transfer times to better reflect service as seen by a rider. For example, a frequent service with well-regulated headways is useless if the buses are full. An advertised headway is meaningless if half of the service is randomly short-turned and wide gaps are a common experience. The effect of a big delay in someone’s trip is much more severe than a short one because this adds to the unpredictability of journey times.
How, exactly, this will be boiled down into representative journeys while still preserving a granular view into system operations will be interesting to see. I believe that a combination of metrics will be needed, and the managerial penchant for a single index to report the behaviour of a large and complex system is dangerous because of what it hides. (I say this also from personal, professional experience in another field.) Without the details, the organizational goal becomes one of “gaming” the system to ensure a lovely column of green tick marks on a scorecard that masks pervasive problems.
So, we have been debating service quality, bunching, etc for years and when it gets extremely bad, TTC may take temporary action resulting in temporary improvement to the route in question until the scrutiny is lifted and the route falls back to normal where normal is long delays and several vehicles showing up at the same time and even in low traffic conditions and even on right of way routes.
Why are we not willing to try a solution that has saved money and improved service in other jurisdictions in Ontario (YRT/VIVA, etc) as well as other provinces and around the world? I am not saying privatize all routes immediately but start with a route or two as a pilot project and see whether it improves service and reduces costs. If the pilot project succeeds big time (which I am extremely sure that it would and that is why the unions are so afraid of it), then we can move on to permanently privatize all surface routes (buses and streetcars).
37 Islington Service is one of the most unreliable routes in Toronto. It comes every 6 minutes for the afternoon commute, but I often have to wait 15+ minutes…. Unacceptable
The issue here would be a need to ensure that we are willing to do with an outside contractor, what we are not willing to do with employees. Actually, create, measure and enforce quality of service metrics that are meaningful.
The other issue would of course be that the funding would need to be adequate to make it feasible for someone to provide real service. In Toronto that would mean having more than just a bus every so many minutes as a measure, as there are peak and off peak issues, and loading standards that need to be kept in mind. I think that Toronto is now at a spot that it needs to get a handle on what constitute acceptable service metrics, before it can even approach this issue.
I would have to say that the 503 has to be one of the most unreliable services going.
I know it’s torn to shreds at all possible chances by critics, but rightly so…. but I don’t understand why…
It rarely shows up (although I am always blown away when 2 show up back to back), but sometimes it’ll be 40+ minutes before another decides to trundle along King or from Vic Park.
Why do they even bother with this service anymore? either make it all day, and blend it into a weekend service… or get rid of it… I can get better service walking from the beaches up to Gerrard… (mostly, because the 501 has a hard time making past KR)
But it’s not just 503, it’s every streetcar route without a right of way for the whole route. I think that the TTC needs to look at creating right of ways for all streetcar routes. This can be done by creating extra space by removing patios, street side vendors, etc and where there are no patios, vendors, etc to be removed, the TTC needs to look at tunnelling and/or elevating the tracks. Where none of this is an option, the TTC needs to look at using articulated buses. If we want to improve service, then we have to be bold enough to make drastic changes like these.
Steve: It’s not quite that simple, and your pet solution will not fix the basic problem that even with dedicated right-of-way, TTC service can be erratic. I will be publishing analyses of St. Clair, Spadina and Harbourfront soon.
Reading some of the comments above, I had thought that the new streetcars might make streetcars more acceptable in Toronto but that doesn’t seem to be the case with several months of new streetcar service now. Burying a line or two as suggested above will be expensive but so will be the DRL and a buried streetcar is a DRL right there and so I see no reason why not to bury a line either partially or completely. DRL is going to the from the Danforth subway crossing the Yonge and University subways and up to Bloor West subway but burying any of the streetcar routes from Broadview to Dundas West or from main Station to Dundas West will achieve the same purpose as a DRL and would actually be cheaper since we already have the streetcar rolling stock and their storage and maintenance facilities and talent instead of buying more subway trains and then building additional storage and maintenance facilities and technical and other staff for those additional subway facilities. DRL (streetcar based or subway based) may have to wait another 4 years though when we have a new mayor-elect as Tory will focus on cutting costs and taxes and building his beloved SmartTrack and there is no question of council overturning Tory as unlike Ford, Tory is well-connected and highly respected and a charmer too and so I am sure that he will be able to convince the left, right, and the centre at all levels of government to fulfill his agenda.
Steve: There have been only two new cars and only on one route. That’s hardly the basis for deciding whether streetcars are more acceptable now. Burying an existing line or two would not achieve the same purpose as the DRL for a few reasons. First off, Broadview is too far west as an intercept point on the Danforth line for inbound trips. Second, it is a poor location for a northern extension to Thorncliffe/Flemingdon and Don Mills.
Depending on whose projection you believe, the demand on the DRL could outstrip LRT capacity, and we would be into precisely the situation subway advocates talk about for other lines — if you’re going 100% underground there is no point in building to LRT standards.
Converting a streetcar line to underground operation, aside from being hugely disruptive, would fundamentally change the nature of its service with stops pushed much further apart. With stations costing $100m or more, we would not see them nearly as closely spaced as they are on the Bloor-Danforth corridor which was itself once a streetcar line.
For the record, years ago I advocated an LRT DRL, but have since changed to support subway technology in this corridor.
To me this depends on where the line goes after it crosses the Valley, and what kind of extensions are reasonably possible. It would also depend heavily on what a real network model would yield with frequent service in the available GO corridors. I personally am of the mind that there are 2 major corridors that may come available to bring traffic to Don Mills and Eglinton, the CP if they ever manage to negotiate an alternate route like CN, and the Gatineau Power Corridor.
Providing service in either would radically change the potential for bringing transit to the North East of the city, and both argue strongly for leaving the door open for a very high capacity link from the core to a location that can reasonably meet them, and where the core end does not rely on Union as a destination.
Truly frequent service in both Richmond Hill and Stouffville, would reduce the expected ridership of a Don Mills to core subway, the question would be by how much? Also what future options do we want to retain as a city? That we could have a large transfer station from GO in CP and LRT (both Crosstown and Don Mills LRT, and possibly LRT in Gatineau instead of GO in CP) at Don Mills just north of Eglinton, is something that should be considered in modelling and technology choices. It could potentially also offer a point of transfer from GO or LRT in Richmond Hill. The network needs to be modelled with these options on the table. The Core end of the line needs to be modelled with potential locations in terms of best balance and coverage between the available lines. How desirable a location would this be for office if these services did meet here, and there was a quick link to the core.
I have noticed some of the NVAS screens disappearing from downtown streetcar stops. Queen WB @ Jarvis and King EB @ John are two that jump to mind. There may be more but I have not been paying close attention to it.
Steve: Yes, I have seen that too. Don’t know what’s up, but will ask.
I was waiting downtown for a WB 501 Saturday morning (I’d like to say around 6:45am) and by that time there was already a 30 minute gap in westbound service followed by a convoy of three cars in 3 minutes. The scheduled service is 7.5 minutes.
It’s no wonder the TTC is in a rush to get rid of the NVAS screens.
Despite the annoying and absolutely uncoordinated split of the 72 bus route into 72/172 – made to increase reliability – the reliability of both ‘branches’ is still very poor!
Steve, you been right all along about how these data isn’t an accurate way to report reliability. If every bus on the same route is exactly 5 minutes late, the reliability based on schedule is zero but that would be perfect reliability for the rider since they will all be consistent. As we can see with the 35/195 Jane split and the 52/58 Lawrence West merge, more buses means better reliability and less makes the route worst. It’s time for the TTC come up with something better for performances and improving reliability.
Steve: The claim to have something new in the works for 2015, but I don’t know the details.
The CP corridor would not serve to take transfer traffic from the Bloor Danforth and would not serve as a convenient connection to much of anything. Where are you going to connect to the corridor, downtown up the valley or north of O’Connor after coming up the alignment near Pape, Greenwood or somewhere near by? There is no way of getting CP trains around Toronto except by getting trackage rights on the CN York and Halton subs which would require a major upgrade of it, if CN were willing. Ontario Hydro and its successor Hydro One have never been willing to share their corridors with rail transit rights of way and exactly where would you go on it?
Steve: Basically, Hydro does not want anything on their right of way that cannot be closed. A parking lot or a “temporary” BRT roadway (e.g. York U) could be closed if occupancy of the corridor were needed for maintenance. Things get really messy with transit rail lines because not only are they permanent, they have their own electrical systems.
Exactly where do you propose to run this line? Going to the Yonge Subway or Spadina on the North Toronto sub would overload YUS something fierce. If it were possible to follow either CP or the Gatineau Corridor out to Agincourt I would be in favour of it because it would above ground and a lot cheaper to build, but I doubt that either will ever happen.
I assume that you mean on GO’s Richmond Hill and Stouffville lines. The only problem is that truly frequent service is impossible until the restriction from Transport Canada rules and the physical size of Union Station are fixed.
Robert Wightman said:”The CP corridor would not serve to take transfer traffic from the Bloor Danforth and would not serve as a convenient connection to much of anything. Where are you going to connect to the corridor, downtown up the valley or north of O’Connor after coming up the alignment near Pape, Greenwood or somewhere near by? There is no way of getting CP trains around Toronto except by getting trackage rights on the CN York and Halton subs which would require a major upgrade of it, if CN were willing. Ontario Hydro and its successor Hydro One have never been willing to share their corridors with rail transit rights of way and exactly where would you go on it?”
The CP corridor does have possibilities to the north and east into poorly served areas. While I agree CP is unlikely to give it up, it passes through much of the city, in a way that would be interesting if we ever could gain access to it. Giving CP an alternative may involve the Ontario Government having to purchase an alternative route, and offering significant inducement to get CP to provide access to their existing route. However, the idea here, is that this is only 1 possible connection to a Don Mills subway. BRT in Gatineau, or better LRT if policy were ever to change with Hydro, as well as a Don Mills LRT are all potential sources of ridership to the core for a Don Mills & Eglinton to core link.
The entire point Robert is that without a substantial link (ie subway or extremely capacious LRT hence cheaper to be subway) CP, the Gatineau for BRT or LRT possibilities for the future of Scarborough, a Don Mills LRT to improve buses and provide alternatives further north are all for naught. The point of the post Robert was GO in CP requires subway from Don Mills & Eglinton to core, as you are correct it cannot go to the YUS (which was the point). LRT on Don Mills does as well, BRT (or LRT ) in the Gatineau would likely also present a dangerous load for an LRT designed for 18k peak max that was already being loaded from the Crosstown and BDL subway. The entire point is these options for the future require a subway if they are to be kept open.
The Richmond Hill GO at higher frequency would have an effect, on ridership, to the degree that Yonge overcrowding is reduced, and other routes are or not being created and or serviced. Frequent service in the Richmond Hill GO corridor, would reduce pressure on Yonge from the North, hence need for riders to have a Don Mills LRT, and to what degree they would demand it ride to a Don Mills subway. Take all York ridership, and the need to go through for Don Mills is reduced for riders who have choice. Whether the DRL needs to be subway depends on the route, as that will affect possible future linkage. To my mind it should be subway, and located, to maintain the maximum number of potential options. If we are going to spend the same money anyway, take the subway option, as it keeps doors open, lower capacity here only closes future choice.
Steve: I cannot get over the idea that we would tie our future plans to not one but two extremely unlikely changes in policy — one by CPR and one by Hydro. It’s all very well to draw lines on maps, but they have to be buildable.
My point in the post Steve is that either of these, would perforce require a subway, as would a Don Mills LRT. This is basically a further point against LRT going from here south. The LRT option would be close to max capacity without any of these (including Don Mills LRT). Since it is clear that the cost of subway and LRT are the same (or virtually so) going LRT closes the door on these further options. Also Steve I would note do not need both of the 2 but rather either, so odds of this happening increase (if the odds of either is say 30% in the next 20 years, than the odds of one them being possible is 50%), so why would you pick the option that closes the door, when the one that keeps it open costs the same. Also I suspect that a BRT in Gatineau would be something that could be had by a provincial government that saw it as required. LRT in my mind would make sense only if it could be built for substantially less. The best planning allows for future options as long as they do not add substantively to the cost.
I use the 37 Islington route frequently when I go to school … (from Eglinton to Islington Station).
I do believe 37 Islington is one of the most unreliable routes in the whole systems.
I saw all the routes which cover Etobicoke, and 37 Islington had second lowest percentages behind 110 Islington south (37 was 60% in the 4th quarter of 2014, and 110 route was 56%).
As I saw on the link you posted, the performance percentage of 37 Islington route dropped about 7-8 percents from beginning to the end of 2014.
I can see many routes in Etobicoke are performing well (most routes are in the range of 70-90), but it is not the case for Islington.
I know 37 Islington route suffered service cut because of the recent bus shortage, but the things are not improving on the route. Today, I had to wait 15 minutes for the bus in this cold weather around 12pm today. The service is supposed to run every 8-9 minutes, and it is inconsistent.
What should TTC do in order to have more reliable services on the route like 37 Islington and 110 Islington south
Steve it is things like the current performance of St Clair and Spadina vs the balance of the Streetcar network, which makes one think perhaps more dedicated rights of way would be a really interesting start to surface transit solutions. Finch east and west, that even large numbers of buses and heavy service cannot save the ratings, when the buses are sufficient overloaded and traffic is sufficiently involved. What is up with the Lakeshore line, that has to be an error with the data no? How is it possible to run a service with that poor an adherence, I would have thought that a purely random arrival would do better than that, this would nearly require work to get it that low no?
Steve do you have numbers for just the dispatch headway adherence. It is hard to believe that Keele, Dufferin North, Wilson, or Yonge buses can be that bad without a high degree of systemic negligence.
Steve: I only have data for certain routes and months that I requested because something “interesting” was happening. Headway “adherence” on Lakeshore is a joke because the cars are scheduled with wide spaces between them, and in practice operators run more or less on whatever times they feel like with the cars running de facto as “extras”. Being more than 3 minutes off schedule is quite simple under these circumstances.
Routes with short headways like Spadina have problems being more than 3 minutes off headway because there is so much service.
As for other routes, the problem is a combination of a lack of management coupled with a long-standing “culture” that the schedule is a guideline, not an instruction.
Steve out of curiosity have you gotten any sort of reply back on the magic wrought on Lawrence West. It certainly could be useful, if the formula has any other application. The increase from the 58-60 range to an 80% headway adherence is great. If this could be applied across a wide area, it would be great.
Steve: There was a major redesign of the schedule.
So essentially the TTC management acknowledged the run time no longer supported the old schedule? How often does the TTC review run times? Over the last few years this must have gotten considerably worse in a fair number of areas, especially considering the crowding that is present in the system how that would slow the bus, and the degree to which these together would encourage people to become drivers on already over crowded roads.
Steve: The TTC is now systematically reviewing route behaviour using its vehicle tracking data.
Yes but somehow routes with similar service levels but no right of way like King still manage to be 3 or more minutes off with a much greater regularity. Yes, King also suffers the issue of a much longer run. However, I cannot help but wonder if a ROW to allow BRT type operations would not help Finch East along a great deal, even if it could not get all the way to Yonge.
Steve: King’s headway is only short during peak periods. Spadina has short headways all day and weekend.
ATU has said that the main problem with service quality and reliability as well as safety is unrealistic bus scheduling.
Recognizing the benefits of improved scheduling it would be great if the management and ATU were working cooperatively on revamping schedules for some of these laggard routes. It would also be nice if ATU would provide some incentives or gentle pressure to operators to ensure they aren’t deliberately failing to meet current and redesigned schedules.
I am not surprised to see 85 Sheppard East has dropped all the way to a 56 on reliability. There is a noticeable decline in service on that route. I try to avoid 85 when I can and take the 199 Finch instead.
Yes while I may care about normal journey time when I am travelling for pleasure and have flex in my schedule, I need to know with a much higher degree of certainty the outer bounds of trip time when I am travelling for work, especially if I am required to be there at a set time, or for an appointment. I need to know that a journey may on average be 45 minutes, but 15% of the time will take 1:20 and 5% an 1:30 minutes. If it is a critical journey, I will be leaving myself an hour and a half, or not selecting transit. Caught a couple of times on this, I would be very upset, and would not consider transit to be a reliable mode if there is a reasonable degree of beyond the bound journeys. Journey time metrics will need to be time of day sensitive and provide a range with an upper bound that represents at least 95% of journeys below that. These journey time will then need to be reviewed frequently for surface transit.
The past couple of weekends I have been caught in large gaps in 501 and 504 service BEFORE sunrise. There is absolutely no traffic on the streets at this time yet vehicles manage to get bunched up into pairs somehow.
It’s not just the streetcars either. Dufferin, Yonge, Bathurst and the other bus routes have buses appearing in bunches of 2 or 3 with large gaps. It can’t be explained away by traffic because there is none!
Steve: Yes, some operators have a very flexible interpretation of schedules especially on weekend mornings (not to mention evenings).
Steve, any update on what’s going on with the disappearing NVAS LED screens that used to be in shelters? I am seeing more of them disappear.
Steve: I am seeing some disappear, but new ones are appearing, so it’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on. I will inquire.