TTC Crowding Quarterly Report Details

The March 2019 TTC CEO’s Report included a small table summarizing crowding statistics on the transit system.

The TTC Service Standards, adopted in May 2017, set out the target loads for each type of vehicle and period of operation.

TTC does not regular produce route-by-route loading or crowding stats, and the Quarterly Crowding Report is an attempt to address the Board’s desire for more information.

The TTC has now provided the details behind the summary report. These reveal where and when the problems exist as well as situations that could be addressed by service redesign.

One important aspect that shows up is that for routes with express and local branches, the crowding situation is uneven between them. Overcrowding might exist on only one branch indicating an inbalance in service levels, or it might be on both branches showing that more service is required overall.

Where a service is only slightly above the standard, the situation is usually “wait and see” whether demand continues to build. For example, a peak bus service with regular-sized vehicles has a standard of about 50 passengers on average over the peak hour. A change of 1 person represents a 2% change in loading.

A major problem for riders, however, is that service is rarely evenly spaced, and some buses will have many more than the standard load. The “average” rider sees a crowded bus even though a half-empty one might only be minutes behind. Telling them that “on average” their bus is not full is cold comfort. Unreliable service is as big a TTC problem as getting the resources to operate the system because it affects the credibility of the transit option all over the city.

Overcrowding on the 501 Queen car is a concern given plans to replace the existing service with all low-floor equipment on June 23. The actual increase in scheduled capacity will be small because although larger cars will serve all trips, they will come much less often (9.2 cars/hour on the new schedule vs 14.1 cars/hour on the existing one). Many 501 Queen trips are already served by the larger low-floor cars, and the new schedule actually represents a decrease in capacity when this is taken into account.

Crowding on the SRT cannot be addressed until 2020 when the fleet rebuild will be complete and the full 7-train fleet is available for service.

In the off peak, many routes are running well over the target seated load standard. The TTC often cites a shortage of vehicles when talking about constraints on better service, but these are all off peak operations when spare vehicles are available. The lack of improvement is more a political issue – staffing and budget – than an operational one. The current city funding crisis will only further limit the TTC’s ability to improve services even when they have vehicles available to do so.

In the chart  below, the periods of operation are abbreviated:

  • MOR: Morning
  • MD: Midday (the interval between weekday peak periods)
  • AFT: Afternoon
  • EE: Early Evening
  • LE: Late Evening (start time varies by route, generally after 9 pm)

On the streetcar system, there are proportionately more route/period combinations that are over capacity than on the bus network. This is a direct result of the long-term shortage of vehicles and the lack of service improvements for many years. Worth noting in this table is that low floor operation is coming to 506 Carlton in the fourth quarter of 2019, and to 505 Dundas in the first quarter of 2020 thanks to the completion of Flexity deliveries. The status of the 502/503 Kingston Road services is still uncertain. 511 Bathurst returns to streetcar operation on June 23, and the 501L Long Branch service will switch to Flexitys in the fall.

Although the table below shows that off peak crowding on the SRT is “to be address by June 2019”, in fact the schedules for June 23 contain no change for Line 3 Scarborough.

The problem with summaries is that crucial details can be left out, and the actual situation riders face can vanish within averages that combine what is good in the system with what is not. Riders ride real routes at specific times, and good performance on other routes and other times don’t do them much good when they cannot get on a vehicle. From a political point of view, it is useful to know where the problems are because the more parsimonious members of Council and the TTC Board often regard transit service as excessive and wasteful.

In an era when there will be many discussion about “efficiency” and varying opinions on what quality of transit service riders deserve, let alone what governments will fund, understanding current demand levels is a crucial part of any debate. Transit routes provide service. Even in areas and at times when specific services are less-used, the vehicles are still part of a wider network. Roads do not disappear overnight when fewer people use them, and transit must strive to serve all of the city, not just the parts that will bring “high productivity”.

Full chart set: QuarterlyCrowdingReport_2019Q1_Details

24 thoughts on “TTC Crowding Quarterly Report Details

  1. So I have a very hypothetical question:

    Would running the SRT as 8-10 two-car trains instead of 4-5 four-car trains have a significant impact on capacity, or at least impact customer satisfaction?

    I think, just like on the 501 Queen, it’s a question of “Would riders prefer smaller vehicles at shorter intervals or larger capacity ones with larger headways?”

    And I understand this is very hypothetical due to the costs of paying extra operators, the need for very quick turnaround times at terminals and other issues.

    Steve: There are a few issues here. As you say, this would require twice as many operators, but leaving that aside, going down to a 2’30” headway from the current 5’00” would really be a stretch at a single-track terminal like Kennedy. When the sixth train becomes available in 2020, in theory headways should go down to about 4’00”, and that would mean 2’00” for two-car trains.

    Also I suspect another issue would be that the TTC likes to have some redundancy in its trainsets. This is available with two pairs of cars in a train, but not with a single pair running alone.

    However, a big difference between the SRT and the 501 Queen is that erratic headways are less of a problem on the SRT because of automated dispatching. On Queen, with the tendency to bunch right from the terminals, what looks like a small change in headways on paper can be much larger viewed as the space between packs of cars.

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  2. It has been my suspicion that in theory, there is enough capacity available on most bus routes compared to the ridership, especially during peaks. The problem is that the buses aren’t in the right places at the right times, mostly due to bunching but also because the non-peak direction is counted as available capacity. If this is the case, then simply adding service to a route may not solve the problem.

    I completely agree that more detailed data about where the crowding occurs on each route during each period is necessary to understand where the biggest problems are, and to find an appropriate solution. Breaking routes down into direction would help a bit, as it would avoid the problem of suggesting capacity is available in the off-peak direction when most passengers can’t make use of that capacity.

    (I’m guessing the TTC has this information available but isn’t sharing it.)

    Steve: The TTC does not count counterpeak capacity as part of the total, but, yes, having capacity where and when it is needed is important. Also at issue is service reliability and loads on a bus by bus basis, not an hourly average. The TTC has individual vehicle numbers (how else could they know total riding), but does not report on the variation in bus loads. On routes where there are chronic problems with passengers unable to board, the fundamental issue could simply be that there isn’t enough service, while on others, uneven headways and loading can lead to the first bus in a group always being crowded. A route can have multiple peak points and/or strong counterpeak loads due to demand patterns, but might be managed around only one of them. This is very much a route-by-route issue.

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  3. Sam asked: So I have a very hypothetical question:

    Would running the SRT as 8-10 two-car trains instead of 4-5 four-car trains have a significant impact on capacity, or at least impact customer satisfaction?

    Mayor Tory answered that question by replacing the 5 minute headways of the SRT with 15 minute headways of SmartTrack and a $1.50 extra charge.

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  4. Re: Crowding in the off-peak hours. Would a lot of this occur just before and after the AM and PM rush hours? if so, wouldn’t it mean that we need to increase those periods – i.e. the extra service starts earlier and lasts a bit longer?

    Steve: You are not supposed to notice that the shoulders of the peak hour are not exactly empty.

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  5. Some routes such as the 504 King are so crowded that even with running these new high capacity streetcars at very low headways, one has to wait for several streetcars before one gets to board only to stand and no breathing space let alone seats and this does not even include the latent demand. The demand on the 504 is in the category of light metro and it should be upgraded into light metro or full subway.

    Steve: If you have been reading my articles reviewing the operation of the King Street Pilot, you would know that the capacity of service provided, although crowded, is nowhere near the level needed for a light metro or subway. Yes, even more service is needed, but not in a tunnel.

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  6. I heard ALRVs are scheduled as extras on the 511 for the next board period. Is this true? And are CLRVs or low floors or a combination of both being used to operate the route?

    Steve: I too have heard this, but have not been able to confirm it. Considering how few ALRVs actually appear to be working, I find this a bit hard to believe. As for the scheduled service, it is supposed to be 100% Flexity.

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  7. Sometime the supposedly erratic service is exactly what is scheduled. I was having dinner a couple of years on Eglinton opposite the Eglinton GO station when I noticed that the A and B branch of this route would come at a 1 minute then 10 minute intervals regular as clockwork. When I checked the schedule this was exactly as scheduled. I don’t know if the one branch was heavier at the outer end and this was an attempt to balance the load or if the schedulers were incompetent.

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  8. Do they account for the artics being dispatched on 134C for their service capacity reports? Well since they added run #10 and #11 I think a few board periods ago, it’s mostly the A and B that get artics Mon-Fri (mind you they don’t need the artics there going to Malvern empty) and maybe one or two artic runs on the C/913. I think they should just switch that portion of the route and the 913 to full artic and remove a 40″ run. So in morning rush hour during the school year have 10 runs instead of 11 in total of 134/913 and for afternoon rush 9 runs instead of 10. Wouldn’t that help them find the “efficiencies”? One less operator and larger vehicles. I wonder if the artic rebuild program would affect that route since it’s been using artics for most runs (in most of 2018 all runs A/B/C/913 were artics).

    Steve: An ongoing problem with these reports is that they include percentages but not absolute values so that one could work backwards to see what the assumed capacity for the route is. This info used to be part of the monthly service change memos, but was dropped.

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  9. I’m puzzling over the footnote on Table 4:

    “The off-peak crowding standard for bus is a seated load up to a minimum of 35.”

    Steve: It’s an error, I’m sure, but what it is supposed to mean is a mystery.

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  10. 511 will be 100% Flexity in the next board period? Did I mis-read that reply? So both 501 (except Long Branch) and 511 will be 100% Flexity in June? I’d have to think there’d be some CLRVs too.

    Steve: You misread that. 511 will be Flexity to the degree that the available fleet allows.

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  11. Steve said that the ridership on 504 King is high but not at level of a subway or light metro. Well, that’s because there is no more room left to put more people on it. If you increase the capacity to that of a subway or light metro, then it will be utilised. It is also important to note that a subway or light metro under King will not only derive it’s ridership from 504 King but also from 501 Queen. A subway under Queen makes more sense since it can swallow up the riderships of 501 Queen, 504 King, and 505 Dundas.

    Steve: There is more room if the TTC runs more cars. This is especially true for Queen and Dundas. Improving service on all routes makes it a lot closer to many riders and costs way less money that an underground service on King.

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  12. Steve: “Overcrowding on the 501 Queen car is a concern given plans to replace the existing service with all low-floor equipment on June 23. The actual increase in scheduled capacity will be small because although larger cars will serve all trips, they will come much less often (9.2 cars/hour on the new schedule vs 14.1 cars/hour on the existing one). Many 501 Queen trips are already served by the larger low-floor cars, and the new schedule actually represents a decrease in capacity when this is taken into account”.

    nfitz1: “511 will be 100% Flexity in the next board period? Did I mis-read that reply? So both 501 (except Long Branch) and 511 will be 100% Flexity in June? I’d have to think there’d be some CLRVs too”.

    I believe it should be, however temporarily, there may/will be the need to supplement some service on these routes with older streetcars or buses occassionally during the busiest times of the day, depending on the availiablity of Flexity low-floor streetcars. Watch for more details coming soon.

    Steve: I have been hearing rumours about this for a while now, but the TTC is utterly silent in replying with any details.

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  13. nfitz1: “511 will be 100% Flexity in the next board period? Did I mis-read that reply? So both 501 (except Long Branch) and 511 will be 100% Flexity in June? I’d have to think there’d be some CLRVs too”.

    Over the past few weeks i have seen Flexities on the “507” i.e 501 Humber to Long Branch during the daytime. Isn’t that overkill in terms of capacity required?

    Steve: It depends on what car gets assigned to which run.

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  14. I was at the Metrolinx open house last Saturday for the Eglinton MSF and they re using 160+ as the load for a LFLRV. (It said it would carry more than 3 standard buses.) I hope they aren’t doing the planned capacity on inflated numbers.

    One of the talking heads explained the difference between these cars and the TTC ones as:

    1. These will use pans while the TTC’s will use trolley poles.
    2. These cars have a cab at each end (no they don’t) while the TTC’s are only at one end.

    It would be nice if they at least knew what they were talking about.

    Steve: This is Metrolinx we’re talking about here.

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  15. Over the past few weeks i have seen Flexities on the “507” i.e 501 Humber to Long Branch during the daytime. Isn’t that overkill in terms of capacity required?

    So you’re talking about the 501L side, the one that goes along Lakeshore between Humber and Long Branch, I noticed that too when I rode on it a few weeks ago, I saw 2 of them I believe at the most, during daytime hours at least (whereas overnight there’s a bunch more of them when the split is not in effect and cars go full route, Neville Park to Long Branch), so i’m glad about that since it addresses some accessibility concerns. This could be sporadic folks for now.

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  16. Speaking of crowding, Eglinton LRT presented an opportunity to provide some relief to Yonge-Bloor station as well as the Bloor-Danforth line had the Eglinton line been completely grade separated. As a Scarborough resident, I am going to continue to take the Bloor-Danforth line and transfer at the Yonge-Bloor station because the surface portions of the Eglinton line will be as slow as the Spadina and St Clair streetcars. Had the Eglinton line been completely grade separated, I would have avoided taking the overcrowded Bloor-Danforth line and I would have avoided transferring at the overcrowded Yonge-Bloor station by taking the Eglinton line and transferring at Eglinton station instead. Eglinton LRT has been a missed opportunity for the sake of penny pinching.

    Steve: The purpose of the Eglinton line was not simply to provide an alternate route to downtown for Scarborough residents. If you want to get there faster, use GO Transit.

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  17. It’s absurd to suggest that the Eglinton line will be as slow as the Spadina and St. Clair streetcars. The speed is primarily a function of stop spacing and the number of traffic lights.

    There’s far less stops and lights – even on the at-grade section in Scarborough.

    Spadina and St. Clair are about 11 to 12 km/hr at peak. Meanwhile the 501 service from Humber to Sunnyside is at about double that speed, with no traffic lights and few stops.

    Also – look at the map. The Danforth subway will always be faster than taking Eglinton and Yonge – it has a huge diagonal section with only one stop in the middle! One side of a triangle is going to always be shorter than two. No one was ever going to choose the route with the longer travel time – it’s disingenuous to claim that one won’t be taking it because it’s a couple of minutes slower with some extra stops!

    Steve: I have been generating speed charts for 501 Queen as part of an article that will appear over the weekend. The average speed on The Queensway peaks at 45-50 km/hr between stops, while on the central part of the route the average speed hits 25-30 km/hr between stops, with lower values in congested areas and depending on the time of day.

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  18. Romeo said: Eglinton LRT has been a missed opportunity for the sake of penny pinching.

    I agree with Romeo. There were public sessions where Metrolinx was asked to justify why the Crosstown LRT was underground in Leaside, as it could have surfaced at Bayview, instead. It was pointed out that Eglinton between Victoria Park and Kennedy was far more developed than Leaside. It seems that 4 lanes would have been adequate for Leaside but even Metrolinx concedes Eglinton should have been 6 lanes, in Scarborough. Scarborough made more sense to be underground than Leaside.

    Steve: Eglinton Avenue is a narrow 5 lane road in Leaside, and would have been reduced to one lane in each direction with a surface right-of-way.

    Eglinton at Sutherland Drive looking west

    Eglinton and Warden looking west before start of construction

    I am tired of misrepresentations of the width of Eglinton east of Brentcliffe as being wide enough for surface right-of-way. The mistake, if any, in Scarborough was the failure to widen the road sufficiently, not the so-called failure to put the line underground where, by the way, at least half of the stops would have disappeared.

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  19. That sounds about right speeds on Queen when streetcars are moving. Of course 10-11 km/hr includes dwell time at stops and traffic lights!

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  20. Steve: The mistake in Scarborough was the failure to widen the road sufficiently

    The road could have been widened in Leaside as well but the wealthy residents of Leaside were concerned about the negative impact on property prices and the slowing down of traffic with streetcars running on surface. As Bill R correctly points out, Scarborough is more developed and dense than Leaside which is why Leaside should have been on surface, Scarborough should have been underground.

    Steve: No the road could not have been widened sufficiently. Looking at Leaside makes this a poor comparison. The whole route across the middle of the city includes much of Eglinton with buildings to the lot line and no option for widening. Also, the effect of a property take on houses in Leaside would be to bring the sidewalk to their doorstep. This is not the situation in Scarborough. You are comparing apples and oranges.

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  21. Whether Scarborough (whatever that means) is more developed (by what standard?) than Leaside (whatever that means) is irrelevant.*

    The relevant question is what is the development pattern and ROW width along Eglinton Ave.?

    Anyone who has travelled the city (and I currently do every workday) can see that Eglinton Ave. E is crowded with residential in Leaside, while it’s a broad avenue with strip malls or well-set-back apartment buildings (such as the stretch on the south side, east of Kennedy).

    You can go to Toronto’s detailed map, zoom in, and use the measuring tool. The map shows both property lines and building locations, so it’s dead easy to see both the width of the ROW, as well as where buildings are located on the properties.

    ROW width of Eglinton at Hanna Rd (heart of Leaside): 22.61m

    ROW width of Eglinton at Birchmount (where the building on the SE corner is right up to the property line): 38.85m

    For bonus points, the usual distance between facing buildings in the Leaside stretch is 36.27m (measured between 690 and 693 Eglinton Ave. E). That means that if you tried to widen the road to the width of the ROW at Birchmount, you’d have to chop about 1.3 m from the fronts of the set-back houses on each side. However, in this stretch there are also buildings, typically on street corners, which are built right up to the lot line. They would undoubtedly have to be demolished totally to widen the road.

    It is unfortunate that we can’t put screen shots into our comments. Samples from the interactive map would show the claims above to be, at best, “unclear on the facts”.

    * How on earth is Scarborough “more dense” than Leaside? Please show calculations. At best, it would involve selecting unlike areas (in size or land use) and getting some bogus “density” figure). For example, an apartment building’s footprint has a vastly higher population density than an industrial part (which makes up much of south Leaside, hmm). Too bad for the claims that, along Eglinton Ave. E, Leaside is more dense than anywhere in Scarborough, except maybe the older stretches of Kingston Rd. east of Victoria Park.

    Steve: The ability of the “Scarborough deserves” crowd to ignore reality does severe damage to their credibility.

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  22. Overcrowding on the 501 Queen car is a concern given plans to replace the existing service with all low-floor equipment on June 23. The actual increase in scheduled capacity will be small because although larger cars will serve all trips, they will come much less often (9.2 cars/hour on the new schedule vs 14.1 cars/hour on the existing one). Many 501 Queen trips are already served by the larger low-floor cars, and the new schedule actually represents a decrease in capacity when this is taken into account.

    From my understanding as of June 23, 2019, the 501 Queen streetcar (the main section b/w Neville Park and Humber) I believe, will be declared fully accessible as that section will be serviced mainly with fully accessible low-floor light rail vehicles (LFLRV)s, however, temporarily, there may/will be the need to supplement some peak service with old/legacy CLRV streetcars and/or buses until more LFLRVs arrive.

    As for the 511 Bathurst, I believe when streetcars return on June 23, 2019, I believe the initial plan is that it will be served by a mixture of CLRVs and LFLRVs (with more added as more arrive).

    https://www.ttc.ca/Coupler/Editorial/Special_Features/index.jsp

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