The TTC will make many changes to its services on Thanksgiving weekend, Sunday, October 13, 2019.
- The formal introduction of new Flexity streetcars on the 506 Carlton route on a scheduled basis.
- Implementation of the route changes flowing from the Junction Area Study.
- Construction at Runnymede Station for the Easier Access Program trigger some route changes and interlining.
- Many “service reliability improvements” intended to make scheduled trips better match actual operating conditions.
Of particular concern in this round of changes is that a policy adopted by the TTC Board in June 2019 allows schedule changes intended to improve reliability to take precedence over loading standards. Several routes where service is nominally “improved” will also have crowding beyond the Board approved standards. This is caused by a shortfall in the budget which does not provide enough resources, the TTC claims, to operate service at a level that meets the standards. There are no numeric values given and so the degree of overcrowding is not known. The affected routes and time periods are shown in the chart below.
On a related note, a few routes which are now part of the Ten Minute Network will slip beyond that target headway.
The intent is to correct these situations either through the 2020 budget or by reallocation of service from other routes.
(The two charts above are included in the PDF containing all of the schedule changes at the end of this article.)
In response to my query about these practices, Mark Mis, Manager of Service Planning replied:
SM: … it was my understanding that the table of crowded routes was going to be published regularly, but nothing has appeared after the first iteration … [earlier this year].
MM: The TTC will be reporting on crowded periods of operation in the CEO Report later in the fall when we have a complete board period of service reliability data. We think it is important to report on both crowding and reliability at the same time.
SM: … does this footnote mean that the affected services are being scheduled at over the Service Standards for loading?
MM: The footnote is an internal note in the Board Period memo for record keeping purposes. It indicates a period of operation that is scheduled over the crowding standard because of a change in running time as opposed to demand. This strategy to address service reliability was approved by the Board on June 12, 2019 in the Improvements to Surface Transit Schedules report. This is important to note when you take the response to Q1 into account.
The June 2019 report included the following observations:
An effective transit schedule is comprised of two key components:accurate estimates of demand and cycle time—the time for an operator/vehicle to complete a round-trip. If the cycle time is insufficient, a transit schedule can not be delivered as planned resulting in customers experiencing unreliable service and higher levels of crowding than intended.
Customers value consistent and dependable schedules because it improves their trip planning, reduces wait times and reduces trip durations. This was demonstrated by the King Street pilot. A key outcome of it was more consistent and less variable service which resulted in tremendous increases in ridership. [p. 3]
The TTC is leveraging new technology and applying a new approach to preparing reliable schedules which includes setting cycle time at the 95th percentile of observed travel time along a route in a given period of operation. This is meant to ensure that operators have sufficient time to deliver service as planned and advertised during most of the operating period. [p. 5]
The TTC 2019 Operating Budget includes some funding to improve service reliability and capacity. It is not possible to bring all schedules that actually operate outside of the tolerances of service standards in line with them within existing funding. The new schedules will reflect actual operating conditions and will result in more reliable service for customers. [p. 7]
On several routes that already have new schedules, a common observation is that vehicles cluster at terminals because they generally arrive early and/or have long scheduled layovers. Despite this, the vehicles do not manage to depart on a regular headway (time between vehicles) nor do they achieve the “on time performance” goal. The TTC is quite generous with a six-minute window in which a departure is considered “on time”. Service becomes progressively more bunched as cars and buses proceed along their route, and there is no measurement of service reliability other than at terminals.
This begs the question of rejigging the schedules in the first place when service can be so irregular. In almost all cases, the “improved” schedules offer less frequent service because existing vehicle spacings are stretched to give longer trip times. Longer trips may reduce short turns, but this is only one of several possible measures of service quality. See Zero Short Turns Does Not Equal Better Service.
Streetcar System Changes
The 506 Carlton route is now officially a low-floor streetcar service with Flexitys scheduled at all hours. Bus and CLRV trippers will supplement peak services. Further details are in a previous article.
The 505 Dundas route remains a bus operation, but the schedules will change to remove extra running time added for water main construction in the central part of the route. This may relieve the worst of the bunching of Dundas buses now seen at terminals. Riders on the 505 will see improved service, or at least the bunches of buses will come slightly more often than they do today.
Conversion of 505 Dundas to Flexity streetcar operation is planned for the winter/spring after conversion of the overhead on that route for pantograph operation.
Routes 510 Spadina and 509 Harbourfront will get new schedules with blended services during most off-peak periods at Union Station. Scheduled headways will be the same on each route with the intent that cars will alternate on a regular, reliable basis. The downside to this scheme is that service on 510 Spadina will run less frequently, and layover times, which already cause queuing problems at the terminals are increased. 509 Harbourfront will see less frequent service as a regular seasonal change.
Overnight service on 306 Carlton will change to every 20 minutes, and on 310 Spadina to every 15 minutes to push a few more cars out of the crowded carhouses. It is unclear how long this practice will actually last once the CLRV fleet is retired because capacity will be lost at Russell Carhouse for construction starting in 2020.
Bus Network Changes
Construction of the new mouth of the Don River in the Portlands has progressed to the point that on October 30, 2019, Commissioners Street will be closed between Cherry and Saulter for excavation of the new river. A new Commissioners Street road bridge will cross the river, but at this point there is no money in the Portlands project for a streetcar bridge although provision exists in the plans. This would allow the eventual connection of an extended Cherry Street service east to Leslie Barns via Commissioners.
The route changes from the Junction Area Study will go into effect concurrently with route modifications to accommodate elevator construction at Runnymede Station.
The new route structure, in brief:
- Route 30 High Park will operate from High Park Station to Runnymede Loop taking over the route number formerly assigned to Lambton.
- Route 40 Junction – Dundas West will operate from Dundas West Station to Kipling Station with a short turn service to Jane Street.
- Route 71 Runnymede will keep only its branch to Industry Street in Mount Dennis.
- Route 189 Stockyards will provide service from the subway at High Park and Keele Stations to St. Clair and Scarlett Road.
Due to construction, no buses will be able to loop at Runnymede Station triggering the following changes:
- Routes 71 Runnymede and 77 Swansea will be interlined.
- Route 79 Scarlett Road will loop via Annette, High Park and Bloor Street as shown below.
Seasonal service will end on:
- Weekend evening service to the Zoo on 85 Sheppard East and 86 Scarborough
- 121 Fort York – Esplanade to Ontario Place and Cherry Beach
- 175 Bluffers Park
The details of all changes are in the file linked below.
I didn’t realize route 98 Willowdale-Senlac east of the subway was that unreliable after years of just every other bus going there in peak periods. I do remember doing it years ago and arrive west of the subway was always busier. I guess the routes gotten that busy east of the subway all of the sudden. Or is it a construction related project?
Also, like Lawrence, Sheppard West station has failed to start construction yet. Just an observation.
I have a few questions regarding this change:
So is the TTC planning to restore ten minute service to routes that are temporarily removed from the ten minute network?
Steve: Eventually, subject to budget.
What divisions 30 High Park, 40 Dundas West, and 189 Stockyards will operate out of?
Steve: All routes will run from Queensway.
The table says that the 503 diversion off Wellington will end in December; it will not. Between January and April 2020 Enbridge will be working on Wellington from Church to Yonge and then the City are supposed to return to install the new streetscape. At the moment Wellington east of Yonge has no overhead and no rail in several locations. Streetcars will certainly not return before fall 2020 and even buses will probably divert as now.
Steve: Yes. The TTC’s official list is wrong, and I should update mine with a footnote.
Also, you forgot to add that 34A Eglinton East on a weekday midday runs on a 12 minute headway the “TTC Routes Temporarily Removed from the Ten Minute Network” table. So is ridership on the Eglinton routes declining?
Steve: Ooops. Missed that one. The TTC didn’t flag it in their Service Memo because the combined headway west of Don Mills is still under 10 minutes. I will have to review the route segments that are supposed to be in the Ten Minute Network to see where else partial routes are now over the 10 minute threshold.
I’m not terribly familiar with travel patterns on the harbourfront, but would it be at all possible if the 510 was cut back to Queens Quay and Spadina, and the cars that ran from there to Union were reassigned to the 509, which would take long layovers at Exhibition loop? Would this help at all to alleviate the congestion in the Union station tunnels?
If only there was a way to hold cars at stops like the Ferry Docks and Harbourfront Centre, instead of queuing them in the tunnel outside the station.
Steve: There is a problem in cutting back the 510 because many peak period riders go through from Spadina to Union. Adding an enforced change at Spadina and Queens Quay would just worsen the situation.
So 506 will be almost completely Flexity’s….even on weekends?
Steve: That’s the idea. 511 Bathurst will be the last route to go at the end of December.
A normal situation for Toronto. Little or no funding for needed transit infrastructure, but plenty of funds for the Gardiner rebuild or roads in general.
508 is continuing? I didn’t think there were enough Flexities yet to put 22 on 506 and 5 on 508.
There’s been 9 out on 506 and 5 on 508 a few times recently.
Steve: There are no schedule changes for the Queen or King corridors this month.
Will all the CLRVs on 506 be replaced at once?
Steve: No. Gradually as new cars become available.
It goes without saying that if you have as a goal “setting cycle time at the 95th percentile of observed travel time along a route in a given period of operation” without also having a goal of “vehicles leaving more frequently than their 95th percentile of scheduled travel time – when that is possible, and the 100th percentile when not possible” that you will have a negative feedback loop that eventually means all vehicles will be at the terminal and never leave (effectively infinite travel time) …
Steve: Another way to look at this is that the schedules are built to almost worst case situations, and we don’t know what the spread of travel times is below that 95th percentile. If, for example, the 95th percentile is 60 minutes, but the 80th percentile is 55 minutes, then 4/5 of the service will get five minutes it does not require.
I plan to examine the distribution of trip times from vehicle tracking data in an article soon, although there are challenges because of the limitations in data for bus routes from the new VISION system at terminals. I am baffled at how the TTC is measuring that 95th percentile considering how many incomplete trips VISION shows thanks to buses never appearing to report arriving at terminals, possibly because they switch to “out of service” status. For a look at how data streams from various systems behave, see Comparing Vehicle Tracking Data from CIS, Vision and NextBus/TransSee.
One thing that I have noticed again and again is that we have ultra long Flexities running nearly empty late nights. Is that an efficient use of our limited resources? These should be replaced with either smaller vehicles or wider headways late nights.
Steve: The primary resource consumed by this service is the cost of the operator driving the car. The vehicle is already in the fleet and maintained on a regular basis. Substituting a smaller vehicle, likely a bus as that is the only alternative, would save little. You might ask the same question of many bus routes off hours, and we could get into a declining spiral of less frequent service on smaller vehicles. Cutting headways drives away riders which is both counterproductive and against the policy position that main routes have service all of the time.
It is worth noting that the TTC’s service standard is based on the premise of how many riders are carried per vehicle hour, and the target line is well below a full load. The premise is that this is balanced out by better loads and vehicle utilization during other service periods.
I am looking out my window at Bloor Street and the Don Valley Parkway which are not particularly busy right now. Maybe we should close them.
I hope the TTC won’t remove the Lawrence, Finch, and Steeles route from the ten minute network.
A more comfortable, less bumpy, ride to the Royal:
The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, at Exhibition Place. is just around the corner and this year. It runs from November 1-10, 2019. many people planning to go to the fair and people will be choosing to take the TTC to get to and from there, and a substantial number of those take the “511 Bathurst” route. What’s different this year than the past two years is that the “511 Bathurst” route is operating with streetcars, not shuttle buses, which ensures a more comfortable – less bumpy – ride to and from the Royal.
The 506 was all CLRV on Sunday with about 1000 Flexity’s sitting in the yards. I’m not surprised. We’ll see what the holiday Monday and weekday Tuesday have in store shortly.
As an update to my last post, today the Flexity’s were out on the 506.
By early afternoon there were 16 Flexity cars in service out of 22 total Flexity’s scheduled which is down from the 28 CLRV’s under the old schedule.
It’s still a mystery why it was all CLRV service on the Sunday and on Thanksgiving Monday if the schedule called for a change to all Flexity operation on the 13th.
Steve: Stuart Green posted on Twitter that there was a problem with running out the service, although I think this may have more to do with “someone forgot to plan for it” than anything else. Next weekend is supposed to be different.
Things on Carlton were improved this weekend but certainly far from perfect. Less than half of the scheduled runs were Flexity cars on both Saturday and Sunday, roughly 10/22 on Saturday and 10/21 on Sunday. By late evening, the numbers shifted to 5/15 and 4/14 on both days.
Much like on the weekdays the TTC seems to prefer assigning CLRV’s to the runs out there for most of the day. Maybe the CLRV’s aren’t so unreliable after all and maybe the Flexity’s aren’t as good as they say?
I know another commenter said the capacity isn’t needed on weekends but as I made my rounds Saturday afternoon, it didn’t take long to see situations with 90% full CLRV’s trying to meet surge crowds from the various shopping strips along the route and the painfully long dwell times when people had to carry their shopping carts on to the high floor cars.
Why is this so hard for the TTC?
Hello. Long time lurker formerly active poster returning here. Only posting because of a question of a friend of mine who is affected by the service revisions along the Stockyards.
Why is the 189 Stockyards terminating at High Park station instead of Keele station when it runs via Keele? At present, southbound buses appear to be stopping at Keele and Bloor, forcing residents to cross Keele and walk a distance to Keele station itself.
Steve: Because there is no room for the 189 Stockyard bus to have its own bay in Keele Station. Space already taken by 89, 41, 941 and 80. I agree: this is a lousy arrangement.
Recently – October 12-14 (which was Thanksgiving long weekend) – the “511 Bathurst” route operated with shuttle buses instead of streetcars. What was the reason for this brief temporary replacement? Was it track work, as in replacing the old concrete embedding around the tracks?
Steve: Yes. There was track work at the south end of the route.
In the longer term, Bathurst will swing back and forth from streetcar to bus depending on which routes do or don’t have full streetcar service due to construction projects. The TTC will not have enough streetcars to fully run the streetcar system in 2020. Bathurst will have streetcars when they are available and when they are needed for heavy demand such as the CNE.