TTC Crowding Standards and Service (Updated)

Updated Nov. 19, 2016 at 10:10 am: The TTC has updated their comment on the status of the service improvements implemented in 2015-16.

Identifying the specific routes which would be affected would be done in 2017 following a review of the initiatives implemented in 2015-2016. [Email from Stuart Green]

The Star’s Ben Spurr had an article on November 18, 2016 about the degree to which the TTC fails to meet its own service standards for vehicle crowding.

The many debates about budget and service routinely ignore the question of whether the TTC actually meets the Board-mandated standards, and instead we are treated to complaints from the budget hawks about poorly performing services.

In my review of the proposed 2017 operating budget, I noted that the traditional targets of such complaints do not offer much latitude for savings, while much more money is on the table from potential reductions of service quality and reversal of the recent Tory service improvements such as the 10 minute network.

For reference, here are the current standards taken from the TTC’s website:


The TTC has provided the detailed list it sent to Ben Spurr, and here it is.

The list comes with various caveats from the TTC, notably that many of the routes that are “over” the standard are only slightly past the line by say a few passengers over the target.

In a nutshell, 43 of the TTC’s bus and streetcar routes exceed crowding standards at one or more periods during the week and on weekends. In most cases, though, the average number of passengers per vehicle is only slightly in excess of our crowding standards…one or two people in some cases.

The standards, as the chart in the PDF illustrates, vary between periods and vehicle type. Also, in off-peak periods, the standard is the number of seats on a vehicle. So if just one or two people are left standing, that would exceed the standard but is not overcrowded, per se. [Email from Stuart Green in TTC Communications]

As regular readers know, I have written extensively about service reliability on the TTC. This affects the actual quality and capacity of service in many ways:

  • Vehicles that are bunched often have extra space on the second (third, etc) vehicle because everyone boards the “gap” vehicle. A strong inventive for this behaviour is that dropping back to a following, less crowded vehicle may leave the rider turfed off when it short turns. Despite TTC claims that total short turn counts are down, this remains a problem and rider behaviour reflects their experience.
  • The number of vehicles per hour operated is not always the scheduled value. Therefore the actual capacity of the route could be less than advertised.
  • On routes with articulated streetcars or buses, regular single-section vehicles can often be found in place of artics. The result is a loss of capacity and greater than scheduled crowding.

Past observations by TTC planners have rather quaintly observed that the cheapest “new” capacity one can provide is to operate reliable service so that loads are evenly distributed. I leave it to readers to contemplate the degree to which the TTC achieves this, especially when it has a six-minute wide window within which vehicles are “on time”. For frequent routes, vehicles in pairs can be on time even though they provide gappy service. This is a very long-standing problem, compounded by the fact that the TTC does not even regularly meet its rather generous “targets” for headway reliability.

I asked the TTC how the average loads are calculated as reported in their tables. Specifically, is the average calculated based on the observed number of vehicles, or on the scheduled service, and is the percentage of load based on the scheduled vehicle type rather than what actually operates. The TTC replied that the capacity used to calculated the percentages is based on scheduled values and vehicle types, not on the service available to riders on the street.

This is an important distinction for routes with erratic service and frequent replacement of large vehicles by smaller ones, notably 501 Queen. It is quite possible that the actual average loads considerably exceed available capacity even though they may fall within theoretical values based on the schedules. What may look like a seated load on paper could well have a considerable number of standees because headways are wider and/or vehicles are smaller than planned.

One might reasonably ask for additional information that must be available from the underlying TTC data:

  • What is the actual capacity of the service operated against which the crowding values are calculated?
  • How variable is the headway (maximum and minimum values, percentage of vehicles close together, etc.)?

With respect to monitoring service for schedule changes, the TTC says:

The specific decisions on when and where to adjust service to these standards are made by TTC staff. In a typical year we make more than a hundred service changes. We regularly conduct reviews of ridership to assess needs across all routes. If there is a route that needs some additional service, we will try to balance that against a route that may have capacity to spare.

In a large, busy system such as the TTC’s there are always some routes at any point in time that have crowding that exceeds the crowding standards. And while we would obviously prefer our customers are not on crowded vehicles, we have to balance the availability of resources like vehicles and operators with delivering service to the entire city.

Through regular service reviews and with arrival of the new vehicles, there is an opportunity to increase capacity on some of the busier routes like the 504. In particular the TTC’s new high capacity low-floor streetcars will assist in reducing overcrowding on our streetcar routes.

There’s a bit more to things than this reply lets on. Every year there is a “Service Budget” (the one for 2017 was probably set a few months ago), and Service Planning works within this to allocate service to the available resources. However, a critical component is the number of available operators and this runs into the dreaded budgetary problem of “head count avoidance”. In off peak periods, routes may cry out for more service, but vehicles will sit in the yards if there is nobody to operate them.

Yes, the TTC’s new cars will help to reduce crowding when and if they actually arrive, and when they start operating on really busy routes like King. On 510 Spadina, the introduction of low-floor cars was accompanied by a cut in the number of vehicles in service, although the net change remained an increase in capacity. This has long been an issue in plans for fleets of larger vehicles because in some cases, notably the conversion of bus routes from regular to articulated vehicles, the “new” service has roughly the same capacity as the old by the simple expedient of running two artics where there previously had been three regular sized buses. Years ago, the same fate hit the 501 Queen car, and service quality (not to mention ridership) has never recovered.

The TTC’s first goal for many on Council is to reduce costs, not to increase service, and claims that there will be more capacity must be tempered with the observation that such an improvement may not be “affordable”. Just look at what happened with 514 Cherry which was supposed to be a net addition to service on King Street, but which the Commission refused to fund. The result was that service was reallocated between the 504 and 514 routes with only a modest improvement in the portion of the route where they overlap. (The question of how irregularly the 514s actually appear is another matter.)

Going into a year where the Service Budget is planned to rise only by 0.4%, there is not much headroom for more capacity, and anything added on one route will inevitably be taken from another. This may be “efficient”, but it runs headlong into policy objectives such as the core network of 10 minute services, all-day service on all routes and the existing crowding standards. As the budget report showed, there is not much available to trim from the lightly loaded routes when resources are needed on busy routes elsewhere, and the more likely situation will be to pack in more riders.

The problem is even worse if the TTC contemplates relaxing the standards so that average loads on vehicles will rise. We already know from experience that many routes are crowded, and the last thing they will need is less service and even worse travel conditions.

I asked whether the cost estimates for savings on these proposals included detailed lists of possible service changes. The TTC replied:

The table shows broad categories that generally would reflect the reversal of service initiatives implemented in 2015. The specific service changes within each category have not been identified.

This was further qualified in a separate email after this article was published:

Identifying the specific routes which would be affected would be done in 2017 following a review of the initiatives implemented in 2015-2016.

What a marvelous way to short-change debate – don’t tell people what the actual effects might be. This is precisely the sort of campaign one would expect from an anti-transit Council or Mayor who would say “this won’t hurt too much”, or so a Councillor could claim they never knew the details of what was planned before it happens. Will someone on the TTC Board please make an official request for the details before this goes to Council?

On a more general note, the primary function of the TTC is to provide transit service. The Board sets policy and sits back expecting that service actually operates within those parameters. However, there is always a Catch-22, the caveat in any policy “subject to budget availability”. This allows the Board to pass a policy promising the sun, moon and stars to transit riders, but it’s ok if staff only delivers a few minor planets in a far-off galaxy because they couldn’t afford to deliver more. Meanwhile, Council blithely approve billions in spending on capital projects.

This is not to say that those capital projects are unneeded (that pitched battle has been debated elsewhere), but it is a double standard to treat capital funding as something we must do as an integral part of city growth and prosperity while at the same time starving day-to-day service because keeping taxes down is the paramount goal.

Every month, we see a CEO’s report from Andy Byford full of beautiful pictures and graphs, but with very little commentary on the basic question: are we providing the service that Toronto needs, and if not, what do we have to do to achieve this?

It’s all very well to have customer surveys and indices of station cleanliness, but what about the actual service on the street? Is the plateau in ridership related to the system’s inability to carry more riders or to attract business?

TTC staff are supposed to be producing a new Ridership Growth Strategy for the TTC Board in January. It’s a shame this wasn’t produced as an integral part of the budget. How bad is the service today? Where can it improve? How much more would be possible and at what cost? Those are questions no penny-pinching Mayor wants asked let alone answered.

In a few days, the TTC Board will consider its 2017 budget, and we will see just how much appetite there is for forcing Council to cough up the money needed to run the transit system, to pay for all those photo ops a few years ago when John Tory claimed he would reduce the damage wrought by Rob Ford.



18 thoughts on “TTC Crowding Standards and Service (Updated)

  1. I think in the past you created actual service vs scheduled service charts from the data…could this then be used to compare what they are saying the service load vs actual load on the busiest 10 routes is…it would be interesting to compare…likewise it would be interesting to check the routes that are getting service cuts…

    Steve: I did this for King recently and plan to update that chart with more recent data. I don’t have the full set of routes from the TTC, only those I track regularly, and so I cannot generate the sort of info needed across many routes.

    Another route is Spadina where the cars could not manage the actual schedule and are operating on wider headways. There is a new sched which is supposed to fix this, but I need before/after data for comparison.


  2. Steve: John Tory claimed he would reduce the damage wrought by Rob Ford.

    Can you please provide a reference for that? I follow municipal politics extensively and I don’t recall Tory having accused Ford of having caused any damage.

    Steve: I was at the press conference at a schoolyard in Josh Colle’s ward when Tory announced a bunch of improvements to TTC service. He said quite clearly that during the campaign, he didn’t think there was a need to improve service, but after taking office he realized the damage done by “the previous administration”. Here’s the quote from his speech which is still online:

    It was not until the transition period after the election that I was fully able to comprehend the scope and extent of the transit cutbacks imposed by the previous administration. Deliberate decisions were made under my predecessor to reduce service and increase crowding.

    So when the people of Toronto sensed service was much worse, they were right.

    But not only was service impacted. These cutbacks disproportionally hit those who needed transit service the most, particularly those living the suburbs.

    You may delete the following if you don’t want any criticism of any powerful people like Tory on your site:

    Steve: I am perfectly happy with criticism provided that it is fair, not obscene, and doesn’t trot out personal grudges based on where someone lives.

    John Tory is too busy travelling the world on taxpayers’ dime. It’s not even two years yet since he was sworn in and already he has travelled all over North America (Canada + USA), Europe, Israel, Asia-Pacific ALL on taxpayers’ dime. He went to London to study the Crossrail project which was apparently the inspiration behind his not so smart SmartTrack. Tory claims to travel on taxpayer dollars to study this and that and to build trade relationships, etc. As far as the former is concerned, would it not be better to send engineers and scientists to study whatever infrastructure, etc needs to be studied? As far as building trade relationships, etc is concerned too many mayors (like John Tory) and councillors and premiers (Kathleen Wynne, Dalton McGuinty just to name a few) and MPPs travel all over the world on taxpayers’ dime and is it not the federal government’s job to build the said trade relationships and so why is that municipal and provincial politicians waste taxpayers’ money travelling all over the world? You can go ahead and remove Wynne, McGuinty, etc names if you don’t want to name any names but don’t delete the whole comment as I raise an important point. I think that Olivia Chow, Doug Ford, almost anybody else would have been better than John Tory who is only interested in travelling all over the world on taxpayers’ dime.

    Steve: That’s a lot of dimes! What is so ridiculous about Crossrail vs SmartTrack is that the former is a huge tunneling project, while the latter was sold to voters on the basis that no tunnels were needed. The real analogy is to the Overground system which repurposed rail corridors, and that’s actually the sort of thing Tory’s people talked about during the campaign. However, just as LRT is far less impressive tan a subway, a visit to a big tunnel in London gets more press coverage than looking at a bunch of surface rail lines.

    Also Crossrail that John Tory went to study is nothing like SmartTrack unlike what John Tory claimed in London while travelling on taxpayers’ dime. I sincerely hope that people would vote for change in both the municipal and provincial elections in 2018. It’s not only important to change the mayor but also the councillors who keep wasting our money and giving themselves raises.


  3. Thanks for providing the data for reference (and thanks also to the TTC for providing it).

    A couple of additional points, one showing how the numbers may not be as bad and one showing how they may be worse.

    I am guessing that the ridership stats refer to the busiest point on the route. For some of the routes that are “just over the line”, especially in the off-peak when the standard is lower, it is valid to question whether it is worthwhile to add another vehicle if the loading issue only exists over a small portion of the route.

    Conversely, for some of the more severely overloaded routes, the problem may be worse if the overcrowding results in delays while operators plead with passengers to allow a few more on, or while exiting passengers try and squeeze their way to the door. If these delays mean that vehicles can’t make their scheduled travel time, it means that the headway (and capacity) will be less than advertised, and percentage over capacity will be that much greater.

    A further interpretive question. The ridership data are presented as averages. How are they averaged? Is this the average riders per vehicle during the busiest hour, or over the entire period (as much as 6 to 7 hours during the off-peak)? If the latter, this is another indication that the calculations may understate conditions experienced by riders even without going to the granular level of individual vehicles.

    Steve: The averages are supposed to be for the peak hour within the period. Having said that, there are several factors at play:

    • Peak loads during “off peak” periods do not rise and fall quite as sharply as they do during the rush hours and so they are less likely to be the sort of thing to be “endured” for a brief period. They are also less amenable to supplementing with extras or trippers both because of the longer-lasting demand, and because they do not always occur in the same place and time where a scheduled tripper can help (as it does, for example, for school trips).
    • There are constraints on how finely grain service adds can be implemented. For example, there might be a need during one hour for more vehicles, but serving that hour incurs at least an hour of garage time unless there is a way to redeploy the extra vehicle to handle another peak at a nearby time and location. This type of thing is better handled with “service relief” vehicles than are on standby for a variety of issues including emergencies rather than attempting to schedule vehicles.
    • Some routes have multiple peak points, times and directions because they serve more than one neighbourhood and demand pattern. King is a particularly good example, but it is not alone. If service is designed and monitored around a single “official” peak point (say King and Yonge), this will completely miss patterns elsewhere on the route.
    • The average riders per vehicle is not the same as the average crowding experienced by riders. There are more riders on crowded vehicles, and so out of say 100 riders on two buses, more than 50 would complain about crowding. Very loosely speaking, the irregularity of the service drives up perceived crowding as the square of the degree of irregularity. If you assume a constant arrival pattern of passengers at stops, the load on a bus will go up depending on the headway. But in the process more people will experience crowding, and so the effect multiplies itself. On double the headway, the bus is twice as crowded, but all of the riders experience that effect, not just the extra riders due to the wider headway. There is also the “knee in the curve” problem where up to certain point, more riders do not “feel” crowded, but beyond that, everyone suffers. That’s an oversimplification because for low demand, a spotty service does not create crowding, only frustration, but I think the idea here is clear.
    • My concern with “just over the line” is what this says about the attractiveness of service and its ability to absorb additional demand. Again, if the average is just over the line, the actual levels due to erratic headways will be well over and, in some cases, well under. The TTC does little to address this problem, but in the process claims that it provides service within standards.
    • Granular reporting is important in the sense that it should be represented by maxima, minima and SD values. We don’t need to know the load on every vehicle, but we do need to understand how variable these values are.


  4. While John Tory (AKA Rob Ford V2.0) does take the TTC to City Hall, he arrives around 7 A.M., before it gets really crowded on the TTC.

    John lives near Bay & Bloor, so has a choice of routes to take to City Hall. Noticed that the 6 BAY bus is not on crowded list, so may dismiss the crowded report based on his own experience.


  5. In Ben Spurr’s Star piece he lists the “Top 10” most over-crowded routes. The 504 is the worst, in am rush hour. Strangely, to me anyway, the other 9 were all overcrowded at mid-day or in the evenings. I can understand that in rush hours the TTC is clearly constrained by the number of vehicles and/or operators they have so that’s a ‘shortage of resources’ problem. However, over-crowding at non-peak times can be fixed by simply adding another bus or streetcar and paying another operator – THAT’S a fiscal allocation one and can, in theory, be fixed quite fast.

    Steve: There has been a problem going back at least to the Ford era where the TTC uses the “lack of resources” argument synonymously with “lack of vehicles”, although they are obviously not the same thing. Indeed, the marginal cost of some off peak service adds can be quite low if this replaces what would otherwise be dead mileage/hours for garage trips and/or minimum run value payments for trippers. Running more off peak service is a more “efficient” use of vehicles and operators, but you will never hear that argument at City Hall.


  6. Is there a reason that when measuring crowding the TTC uses the metric of average riders per vehicle in peak hour? That seems to me to not really represent what “crowding” is, and instead speaks to overall service levels. They may not have the data granularity to calculate it, but a measure of, say, percentage of vehicles in peak hour operating at/above standard would better represent the actual conditions on the street, how often riders have to try and wedge themselves in to an already packed car.


  7. Thanks for publishing the detailed list, Steve. That allowed us to review the situation in more detail. Summary is here.

    The conclusion we found is this: the claim that most of the 99 routes & operation periods on the list are only “slightly in excess of our crowding standards” is utter bunk.

    At the budget meeting, Ben Spurr tweeted: “TTC deputy CEO Chris Upfold says if routes are consistently over, they will add more service.”

    This now feels like a word game to fan the smokescreen:

    – No longer is the standard the standard, but rather “slightly in excess” is not really in excess;
    – Routes need not only surpass crowding standards, but they need to surpass them “consistently” before service is bumped.

    I am tempted to try and corner Stuart and Chris to find out what their specifications actually mean. On the flip side, I think that I would be playing into the deception by even acting as if these statements are actually reflective of policy. Am I likely to be correct that this is all driven by a general “fear of Websterian dismissals” among TTC staffers? Or am I missing something?

    Steve: Part of this is an excess of caution lest they be accused of adding service where it really wasn’t needed. However, the question of how often they get counts and therefore verify trends needs to be pursued. They have enough vehicles (at least buses) with automatic passenger counters on them that they should be able to rotate through the routes and get current data on a routine basis. As more buses (and streetcars) get APCs, the frequency and granularity of loading data should improve substantially.


  8. Steve, how do automatic passenger counters (APC’s) on buses and streetcars work?

    Steve: With infrared beams across entrances and exits, but it’s a bit trickier than that to avoid getting confused by crowding. Don’t know the details.


  9. Steve, you are most likely preparing a new thread on today’s news about Mayor Tory’s announcement of tolls on the Gardiner and DVP. I am posting here, as no where else to go, but pls feel do move this comment where it belongs best. Pls delete this intro, the rest of the post is here:

    Upon hearing of today’s announcements from Mayor John Tory regarding that tolls will be put in place on the Gardiner and DVP, probably at $2 per trip, to generate $300 million revenue annually, I was not jumping for joy. Actually, I remained seated, but extremely pleased. Naysayers be damned.

    This culminates a week of op-eds and articles in the Toronto Star and elsewhere saying that taxes need to go up, but not particularly on homeowners.

    As Tory said, it is fair that 905-ers contribute to Toronto infrastructure which they are using. I agree completely. I am a 905-er.

    On a side note, hotel and airBnb stays will be taxed, but sale of Toronto Hydro is now off limits, not gonna happen. I totally agree, again.

    I am so happy to see some common sense from a key political leader. I noted, too, when Tory mentioned transit projects, he mentioned the Relief Line first.

    Now the bad news. Did I hear correctly, the toll will start in 2025?


  10. Scroll down to item 10a and read “Fair Pass: Transit Fare Equity Program for Low-Income Torontonians”

    I think one of the easiest/best ways to help fill the donut hole JAMs (those who earn too much to receive subsidies, but “Just About Managing”), is to make the MetroPass “pay-as-you-go”. Basically, it is just fare capping at 48-49 rides. It means people aren’t going to lose out either way (buying a Metropass when they actually would be better buying tokens or vice versa).

    Looking at the details there are many worrying parts. The cost of the discount doesn’t jibe. With 36K people receiving a 10-month discount in 2018 for $4.1M ($4.8M after Presto Cards and Admin costs), that’s a discount less than $20 per month. The LICO+15% doesn’t match up to StatCan numbers (IRCC has a 1-person family unit at $24,328, 2-person at $30,286, and 4-person at $45,206 that’s without the 15% add-on).

    “Overall, the cost-benefit analysis found that transit discounts for low-income residents up to 35% could be safely considered an investment with high financial and economic returns.”

    So a 21% MP discount means $130.16/mo. in 2018 (assuming the fare freeze holds) or $2.01/fare with the 33% discount meaning the trip multiplier becomes a ridiculous 64.8 trips! That’s 3.5 non-work trips per week (3.09 round-trips, so need 3.5 for MP to be cheaper). Rather than doing all this jumping why not just supplement the OW/ODSP by $14.81 a month? This is a complex system that’s not giving much relief to those in need.

    For the same price overall, you could eliminate all other concessions except for those under the LICO+15% level, provide free LICO child rides and $1 LICO adult rides.

    Steve: I get the impression that someone “got to” the study, and pushed through a “discount” that is the same as what seniors and students get today. Then everyone who isn’t below LICO was, pardon the expression, thrown under the bus on the grounds that their subsidies are less productive. Meanwhile, one of the most valuable discounts, time based transfers, isn’t in the list. Of course that would benefit everyone, not just the very poor, but the authors seem to have an agenda.

    As we have discussed here many times, there are social and economic benefits to having good transit service at a reasonable price, and it’s not just about supporting “the poor”. The moment that becomes the primary function of transit, it will lose its political legitimacy. Something like GO Transit would never have been built under those circumstances.

    Master Kidderminster said:

    Scarborough deserved Light Rail in 1979 but all we got was heavily polluting diesel buses as we have some of the poorest neighbourhoods in the country and our population has since grown exponentially that Light Rail won’t be able to provide enough capacity and we deserve a subway now owing to our very high density and population.

    Scarborough population in 2011 was 625,698 with an area of 187.7 km² that’s a density of 60% of the overall Toronto average. I’ve never seen a subway estimate of ridership in Scarborough that LRT wouldn’t be able to handle. The SSE is expected to have around 80% of the current ridership of the SRT.

    Harrison said:

    John Tory’s proposed toll charges on the DVP&Gardiner must be some kind of publicity ploy.

    I’m thinking either bait-and-switch (you don’t like tolls, OK everyone needs to pay 0.5% more property tax) or just bad advice. If you’re going to do tolls, doing just highways is more expensive and more likely to distort traffic patterns.

    Steve: Tolls at $2/trip are projected to bring in about $200m/year. The equivalent bump on property taxes would be close to 7%, not 0.5%.


  11. Any “pay as you go” Metropass creates a strong incentive to minimize fares paid, either by reducing the number of trips or being creative with transfers/POP. I’m not sure how this helps low-income people, since now they have to think about “is this trip necessary?” If we do want to help low-income people, giving them the ability to travel the city as required, without worrying about the marginal cost, is a much better approach, by removing the worry about transportation costs from their set of worries.

    It’s also extremely likely that the TTC will get less money from me if Presto implements a GO-like pay-as-you-go, capped monthly “pass”. Right now, I buy an MVP Metropass and use it a fair amount. I don’t track if I’m well below or above the payoff level, I just find it convenient not to have to worry about it. If I’m paying fares until I hit a monthly cap, I can certainly reduce my number of rides to well under the cap. Ergo, less money for the TTC, and ridership goes down.


  12. Steve: Tolls at $2/trip are projected to bring in about $200m/year. The equivalent bump on property taxes would be close to 7%, not 0.5%.

    That $200M number is about as secure as the original SmartTrack plan. It’s 180K AADT for the DVP/Gardiner East plus 220K AADT for Gardiner west times $2 times 250 work-days (52 weeks – 10 stat holidays) = $200M. However, my bait-and-switch reference is that instead of paying $500 a year in tolls people feel positive about “just” paying $50 more in taxes. With a 2016 property tax base of $3,954M it’d be a 5.1% increase.

    Steve: Thanks for the splash of cold water on the calculation. I should know better than to trust the Mayor’s speeches.


  13. Ed said: Any “pay as you go” Metropass creates a strong incentive to minimize fares paid, either by reducing the number of trips or being creative with transfers/POP. I’m not sure how this helps low-income people, since now they have to think about “is this trip necessary?”

    One of the major concerns is that it’s expensive to be poor. If you don’t have the financial flexibility to pay $120 upfront every month, then you are automatically forced into paying individual fares and thinking “is this trip necessary?”

    The 2017 Metropass is $146.25 and adult token is $3.00 for a multiplier of [almost 49]. The MDP MP price is $134.00 and VIP $128.75. The Federal Tax Credit is $21.94 a month (or $20.10 MDP or $19.31 VIP). This gives you a weekly trip multiplier of 12.2, 11.2, or 10.7 (ignoring the tax rebate). However, if you look at Steve’s recap of Metropass usage, typical usage is 16.3 trips per week. Assuming that you are commuting to work on the TTC is a base of 10 trips and you reach 12 fares with one non-work related round trip. The only way that the TTC is making less money is if they are making the one discretionary trip one-way (11 per week). If not, usage can go down by 26% while revenue remains intact.

    Ed said: Right now, I buy an MVP Metropass and use it a fair amount. I don’t track if I’m well below or above the payoff level, I just find it convenient not to have to worry about it.

    So you would sacrifice the convenience of not tracking your usage to save money under a cap system, but don’t track your usage now to save the same amount of money? If you’re willing to alter your travel patterns to save money in the future, why aren’t you don’t the same now to save the same money now.


  14. Perhaps looking at the Metropass/Presto picture from an economist’s, not an accountant’s, point of view will shed some insight.

    For any given service level and infrastructure, the goal of the TTC ought to be to maximize pass revenue. That means that the TTC has to sell passes at a price where price times quantity sold is maximized. The multiplier or break even number of rides becomes irrelevant to the TTC, though riders will take it into consideration when purchasing a pass. This approach maximizes the utility for both transit users and the TTC.

    Regarding seniors and students, a similar approach for buyers qualified.

    I wonder, is the TTC looking at it this way?

    Steve: No. They only consider how much they are “losing” compared to the full fares that might be collected.


  15. Mapleson asks: So you would sacrifice the convenience of not tracking your usage to save money under a cap system, but don’t track your usage now to save the same amount of money?

    No, I would sacrifice some rides that I currently take simply because I have a pass and there’s a bus or streetcar conveniently coming. I’m pretty sure that under a cap system, not taking those extra rides would keep me under the cap. But, honestly, I haven’t counted. A bit of a walk is good exercise, after all.

    If you’re willing to alter your travel patterns to save money in the future, why aren’t you don’t the same now to save the same money now.

    Because I can buy a Metropass with cash and don’t have to worry about Presto glitches double-charging on a legit single ride, or letting Metrolinx into my bank account to automatically recharge.

    Metropasses also allows for transfers and other transit usage that would be dubious, and perhaps charge me another fare, if the TTC persists in its current transfer rules and doesn’t go to a two-hour transfer. With a Metropass, I can get on any non-premium route within the City of Toronto and not worry about a transfer dispute or extra charges. I am skeptical that Presto will be set up so simply.

    I might just switch to paying cash for every ride once Presto has taken over.

    Steve: What is so sad in all this is that the combination of technical cock ups with Presto, the TTC’s failure to simplify its transfer system to the two hour rule, and Metrolinx’ fetish for fare by distance that doesn’t have a prayer of being implemented by any government that values its political skin, we have turned what should have been a big success story for transit and for “integration” into something people will resent. That resentment will, unfairly, be associated with “transit” as just one more reason for buying a car, illogical though this may be.


  16. Steve:

    What is so sad in all this is that the combination of technical cock ups with Presto, the TTC’s failure to simplify its transfer system to the two hour rule …

    Do we really know for sure what rules are being imposed for Presto transfers now?

    At one point last week, I felt a bit ill, so I decided to stay home and rest and go to work around lunchtime. I used my Presto card to tap onto a Wellesley bus, and rode to Spadina, where I got off to have lunch. After lunch I still felt too ill to work, so I tapped onto a Spadina streetcar to ride that and the subway back home.

    When I checked my Presto transaction list later, I learned that the Spadina-car tap was charged a fare of $0.00. Apparently it was treated as a transfer, even though about an hour and a half had elapsed since I’d tapped onto the Wellesley bus.

    That doesn’t test whether only valid transfer locations are allowed, but it does look as if Presto allows more time for transfers than the old rules strictly admit.

    Steve: From various reports by users, Presto’s behaviour seems to be inconsistent. Definitely there has not been an official shift to a two-hour transfer, but who knows how the software is actually set up.


  17. Hope this is right place for my comment.

    Was just on the 510 (5:13pm; rush hour) and the wait for a streetcar was about 10mins. Did the TTC not re-adjust the frequency on this route from the last time they tried readjusting for the Flexities? The number of people waiting at each stop is quite saddening when the TTC did so much better pre-Flexities.

    Steve: Looking at Nextbus, the service is badly bunched right now. As I write this, there are three cars southbound at Harbord, two at Queen and two in Spadina Station. The result is that gaps between the bunches are much larger than the scheduled headway. This is an ongoing problem with this route, but the reduction in total cars in service from CLRVs to Flexitys accentuates it. The scheduled capacity is still higher than it was before, but when it comes in bunches, the average rider does not see any benefit.

    Out of curiosity and perhaps someone may know. Will the operators ever stop opening all the doors and just let passenger do so themselves?

    Steve: I have been on cars where the operator left it to the passengers, but as long as the weather is good, I suspect they will continue to open all doors.

    And is there a policy in place about streetcars not allowed to pass each other at intersections? -sort of peeved at the moment at the operator who took their sweet time crawling down from Spadine Stn to Dundas.

    Steve: Yes there is a policy about no passing at intersections which is, sadly, a TTC reaction to their inability to have reliable automatic track switch operation. Some operators observe the policy, others don’t. Even after the TTC finally replaces the old switch electronics (a process that won’t finish for several years), I expect that the policy will have become set in stone because nobody will remember why it was put in place.


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