TTC Express Bus Services: December 2019 Update

In a recent review of the TTC’s 2020 Service Plan, I was not very kind about the photo of an Express Bus on the cover page considering that many of the “Express” services were little more than rebranding of what already existed. These were not the net addition to the network contemplated by the TTC’s Board when it asked management to create this network. Simply renumbering routes and giving them a common brand is not much of an “accomplishment” worth such prominence.

This article updates a previous review to determine just how much of the Express Network really is net new service. The table linked below compares services as they existed in April 2018 with those scheduled for the November-December 2019 period, and includes the intervening changes to show how service has evolved.

20182019_ExpressNetworkService_201912

The following routes are identical in service levels to what existed in April 2018 before the 900-series routes came into being.

  • 903 Kennedy to STC (SRT bus supplement)
  • 927 Highway 27
  • 944 Kipling South
  • 945 Kipling
  • 986 Scarborough

This list is shorter than it was in the fall of 2018 because, at that time, many running times and headways had not been changed under the rubric of “service reliability”. These changes aim to match scheduled trip time with actual operating conditions, but in many cases this is done by stretching the scheduled interval between buses, not by adding more buses on the same headway.

The TTC claims that this simply gives riders the scheduled service they would have seen anyhow, but this is tough to credit given (a) the variation in TTC headways generally and (b) the fact that almost-worst case congestion conditions do not affect all trips equally, but all trips are scheduled to longer running times and headways. (TTC designs its reliability improvements to the 95th percentile of observed travel times.)

The following routes have less frequent service in December 2019 compared to service offered in April 2018. For details please refer to the PDF linked above. Some changes are as small as 15 seconds, others are over 2 minutes.

  • 924 Victoria Park
  • 925 Don Mills
  • 935 Jane
  • 941 Keele
  • 953 Steeles East
  • 954 Lawrence East
  • 960 Steeles West
  • 985A Sheppard East to STC
  • 996 Wilson

The following route has improved service in December 2019 compared to April 2018.

  • 913 Progress

The following routes have changes for the better and for the worse depending on the period.

  • 900 Airport Express
  • 905 Eglinton East (Note: Service was cut on this route for the summer of 2019, but the fall schedules did not bring a return to the previous level of service.)
  • 939 Finch East
  • 984 Sheppard West (Yonge to Sheppard West Station)
  • 995 York Mills (Less frequent peak service. Midday service added April 2019.)

Seven new routes were created for the Express Network. In all cases, the total of local and express buses was greater than the number of local buses before the change, although local headways were widened.

The following are new routes created for the Express Network have retained their initial service levels.

  • 902 Markham Road: Created September 2018.
  • 929 Dufferin: Created October 2018.
  • 952 Lawrence West: Created October 2018.

The following are new routes whose service has been cut since they were introduced.

  • 937 Islington: Created September 2018. Headways widened for reliability in May 2019.
  • 984A Sheppard West to Weston: Created September 2018. Headways widened for construction and reliability in September 2019.
  • 985B Sheppard East to Meadowvale: Created September 2018. Headways widened for reliability in January 2019 and September 2019.
  • 989 Weston: Created October 2018. Headways widened for reliability in September 2019.

The pattern here is clear in that the majority of the express routes have received widened headways to improve service reliability, according to the TTC.

The TTC publishes neither crowding nor reliability statistics along its routes. Therefore we do not know whether these services can potentially attract riders, or are on the cusp of needing more service, but do not receive it thanks to budget constraints. The 925 Don Mills is already scheduled over the capacity service standard for the AM peak and weekday midday periods.

No improvements to the Express Network appear in the 2020 Service Plan.

The 2021 Plan proposes some improvements, subject to budget considerations, including:

  • Express service on Warden and on Kennedy
  • Extended hours on Steeles East
  • Reroute the 905 Eglinton East via Morningside to replace the 116A service