Correction August 15, 2018: Off peak service for the Westway branch of 52 Lawrence has been corrected.
In Part I of this article, I reviewed the evolution of bus and streetcar fleet capacity measured by scheduled service over the period from 2006 to 2018. The central point was that there has been little improvement in the overall peak period capacity operated on the bus network for much of the past decade. On the streetcar network, two recent changes – the addition of buses to supplement streetcars and the replacement of old cars by new, larger ones – have provided some peak period capacity growth. However, in both cases, this growth is small seen over the long run. Off-peak service has improved more because the system is not fleet-constrained outside of the rush hours, but there is still a budgetary limitation which affects how much staff are available to operate these vehicles.
In this article, I will review several major suburban bus routes to compare service in January 2009 when the benefits of the Miller-era Ridership Growth Strategy had kicked in with service operated in January 2018. Given the results seen in Part I, it was no surprise that when I compiled this information, many routes have less capacity today than they did a decade ago and improvements where they do exist are not major. That is not a recipe for system growth. How did this happen?
First off, when Rob Ford became Mayor, he rolled back the RGS Service Standards and service just stopped improving. Several off-peak improvements were undone, but these affected periods outside of the range reviewed in Part I (mainly evenings and weekends). Ironically, the streetcar system suffered less because, thanks to the vehicle shortage (even a decade ago), the loading standards for streetcars in the peak period had not changed. There were few RGS improvements to unwind. When John Tory reinstated some of the RGS standards, this allowed growth to resume, but almost entirely in the off-peak period because neither the bus nor the streetcar fleets had spare vehicles.
Another more subtle problem lies in TTC scheduling. As congestion built up on routes, the reaction was to stretch existing headways (the space between vehicles) rather than adding more buses to a route. This responded to the vehicle crunch, but it gradually trimmed service levels across the system. Even though the same number of buses were in service, with fewer passing a point per hour the capacity of service riders saw declined. The TTC made excuses for this practice as simply running buses to the conditions, but the long term effect was to cut service to keep operational demands within the available fleet size.
The balance of this post summarizes the data for each route. The full set of tables is linked below as a PDF.
A few notes about these tables:
- Services are grouped by corridor because, in some cases, more than one route operates along a street. For example, Lawrence Avenue West has been served by 52 Lawrence, 59 Maple Leaf and 58 Malton (now folded into the 52).
- Service capacity is shown as buses/hour. The only adjustment for vehicle size is that articulated buses count as 1.5 so that 6 artics per hour is the same, from a capacity point of view, as 9 regular-sized buses. Where a headway is followed by the letter “A” in the tables, this means that artics are operated.
- In some cases, routes have a branch where every “nth” vehicle takes a longer trip. For example, some of the services running through to York Region have every 3rd, 4th or 5th bus going beyond the “standard” destination. These do not provide net additional service where the branches rejoin in the same way as a branching route where half of the buses go one way and half the other. In other words, if a 5 minute service runs to Steeles and every 4th bus runs beyond on a 20 minute headway, the headway to Steeles is still only 5 minutes, or 12 buses per hour. These cases are noted with an asterisk “*” in the tables.
- Some routes were affected by the opening of the Vaughan extension. In these cases, data are shown for November 2017, the last set of schedules before the routes changed, so that the evolution of service right up to that point is clear.
The information for these comparisons is from the TTC Scheduled Service Summaries:
Lawrence West (Corrected)
During the AM peak period, service has improved between Lawrence West Station and Yonge (because the Pearson Airport service was extended to Yonge), and on the Dixon Road branch of the route. Other portions of the route have less service in 2018.
During the Midday period, there are more buses/hour in 2018 on all sections of the route except The Westway from Royal York to Martin Grove.
AM peak service has improved most notably between Wilson Station and Yonge Street, and only slightly on the rest of the route.
Midday service is less frequent over the entire route, a change that is partly offset by the express service to Humber College for those who can use it.
Local service during the AM peak and Midday has improved, and this is supplemented by the express operation on the eastern part of the route from Yonge to Sheppard West Station (formerly Downsview).
During the AM peak, service improved slightly on the outer end of the route, notably west of Kipling, from 2009 to 2017, but on the eastern end of the route there was no change. Midday service saw increases over the entire route. When the TYSSE opened, service between Finch West and Finch Stations was cut by about 50%, but increased slightly on the rest of the route. Some of this cut will be restored in the fall of 2018 because demand was higher than the TTC anticipated.
On Steeles West, there is less local service capacity over the entire route during both the AM peak and Midday comparing 2009 to 2017/18, but this is offset by peak period express service that did not exist in 2009.
Service capacity over the entire route is lower in 2018 than in 2009 during the AM peak and Midday periods.
Service capacity over the route has not changed much from 2009 to 2018 with some AM peak period adjustments between express and local service, and a slight decline in Midday service.
Service capacity has generally declined over the route for both the AM peak and Midday periods.
This is a complex corridor with many overlapping services. During the AM peak there is some decline in service west of McCowan, and an improvement east of there. Midday service has declined slightly west of McCowan and steeply east of there.
Service has improved in the AM peak primarily with the extension of the Pharmacy short turn to Markham Road.
Service on all branches in the AM peak and Midday is less frequent in 2018 than it was in 2009.
Service in the AM peak is unchanged from 2009 to 2018, but has been reduced during the Midday period.
Service has improved slightly from 2009 to 2018, although there has also been a rebalancing of buses so that there are more express and fewer local trips.
Service has improved during the AM peak and Midday with a rebalancing of local and express services comparing 2009 to 2018.
Service capacity has declined from 2009 to 2018 in the AM peak, and only slightly improved during the Midday.
Service capacity is slightly reduced from 2009 to 2018.
Service capacity in the AM peak is slightly lower in 2018 compared to 2009, while in the Midday service has improved.
Service capacity in the AM peak has improved slightly from 2009 to 2018 with a shift of some trips from local to express service. Off peak service is unchanged.
Service capacity in both the AM peak and Midday is reduced in 2018 compared to 2009.
Service capacity in the AM peak is unchanged from 2009 to 2018. In the Midday, the service to Steeles has been improved, but the Progress branch to STC is unchanged.
The 86 Scarborough and 116 Morningside buses share mileage on Kingston Road, and so for the purpose of this comparison I show them together. There are ups and downs in service capacity depending on which part of the routes one looks at. The major change lies in the express service to UTSC which has been improved.