When Better Service Isn’t – Part II: The Three Yorks

Updated January 26, 2020: 89/989 Weston were omitted in error from this article and have been added at the end.

This article is the second part of a series on the misrepresentation of service “improvements” in the TTC’s 2020 budget. Please refer to Part I for the introduction to the series.

In this installment, I will review routes broadly speaking in North York, East York and York. Overlaps with other parts of the city are inevitable. For comments on the east-west routes crossing Victoria Park into Scarborough, please see Part I.

As a refresher, here is the TTC’s map showing all of the routes where there were alleged service improvements in 2019.

The issue here is that the vast majority of the “improved” routes actually have longer scheduled headways (the gap between vehicles) in the new schedules than in the old. This provides extra running and recovery time for the worst trips, but more generally simply means that scheduled frequency and capacity go down. The TTC has not reported crowding information to indicate what effect this has on riders. Some of the affected routes are relatively small and may not be at capacity in their “before” schedules, but this tactic is applied across the system including on major routes.

60/960 Steeles West

Resiliency changes on Steeles West have produced less frequent local and express service during all weekday periods. There is no change in weekend service.

125 Drewry

Resiliency changes on Drewry have produced less frequent local service during weekday AM peak and early evening periods. There is no change in weekend service.

36 Finch West

Service on Finch West was affected in several time periods by small changes in headways both up and down due to resiliency adjustments. Peak period service is slightly improved.

Note that the 939 Finch Express is included in Part I.

84/984 Sheppard West

Resiliency changes on Sheppard have produced wider headways on weekday peaks and midday, and slightly improved service in the evening. There is no change to weekend service.

Weekday midday and PM peak headways on the express service are wider at the end of 2019.

96/186/996 Wilson and 165 Weston Road North

The Wilson and Weston Road North services share a common route on Wilson Avenue between York Mills Station and Weston Road. From that point, various branches fan out to serve communities in northwest Toronto. The express service on Wilson was numbered 186 Wilson Rocket at the end of 2018. This was the last “old” express route to be rebranded, and it is 996 at the end of 2019.

Two limited service routes 118 Thistle Down and 119 Torbarrie used to be part of 96 Wilson, but they have been renamed separately, and neither of them appears as an “improved” route on the TTC’s map.

The Wilson local and express services were both affected by resiliency changes. Service is now less frequent during all weekday periods, as well as on weekend mornings and afternoons. There are minor improvements on the local service on Sunday early mornings and early evenings.

The situation on Weston Road North is similar with less frequent service during the same periods as noted for the Wilson routes.

34 Eglinton East

Service on both the Kennedy Station and Wynford Heights branches of this route is considerably less frequent due to the combined effect of having fewer buses and longer travel times, aka resiliency adjustments. To show this route as “improved” when some headways are now 50% or more greater than they were a year ago is quite a stretch. Yes Eglinton has construction problems, but cutting service is not necessarily the way to deal with them. Moreover, it is hard to credit the TTC’s claim for additional operating costs against Metrolinx when their response to congestion on Eglinton is to cut service.

The cuts primarily affect weekday service, but there are smaller service reductions during some weekend periods as well.

100 Flemingdon Park

Service on is less frequent in all weekday periods except late evenings due to resiliency adjustments. There is no change to weekend service.

88 South Leaside

Service on is less frequent in all weekday periods due to resiliency adjustments. There is no change to weekend service.

62 Mortimer / 87 Cosburn

The Mortimer and Cosburn routes both operate between Broadview and Main Stations serving parallel streets in East York.

Resiliency adjustments have made service slightly less frequent during peak periods on Mortimer, and less frequent during all weekday periods on Cosburn. Weekend services are not affected.

25/925 Don Mills

Service on is less frequent in all weekday periods on both the local and express branches due to resiliency adjustments. There is no change to weekend service.

Leslie

Service on is less frequent in all weekday periods due to resiliency adjustments. There is no change to weekend service.

56 Leaside

Service on is less frequent in all weekday periods due to resiliency adjustments. There is no change to weekend service.

11 Bayview

Service on is less frequent in all weekday periods except early evenings due to resiliency adjustments. There is no change to weekend service.

98 Willowdale-Senlac (Corrected)

At the end of 2018, peak service ran in two overlapping 30 minute services with a 15 minute service on the west branch and 30 on the east side of the route. This has been changed to provide a 16 minute AM peak and 17 minute PM peak service over the entire route. Service is improved during weekday offpeak periods.

There is no change to weekend service.

7 Bathurst

Weekday service on 7 Bathurst operated with articulated buses at the end of 2018, but by the end of 2019 this had changed to standard sized buses. However concurrent changes for resiliency resulted in substantially reduced capacity of the service. For example, in the AM peak there were 6.5 articulated buses per hour (9’15” headway) at the end of 2018, but by December 2019 there were 7.5 standard buses per hour (8’00” headway). Weekend service was not affected.

47 Lansdowne

Service on is less frequent in all weekday periods due to resiliency adjustments. There is no change to weekend service.

41/941 Keele

Resiliency adjustments on both the local and express branches of this route caused substantial reductions in most weekday operating periods. For example, in the AM peak, local service dropped from 5.2 articulated buses/hour to 4.1 (11’30” to 14’30” headways), and express serve went from 5 standard buses/hour to 4.1 (12’00” to 14’30” headways). This is a route with many complaints about service quality and, as I showed in a separate article, any improvement in “on time departure” from terminals is more than offset by the less frequent scheduled service. This is a sterling example of how simply giving buses more driving and recovery time does not automatically “improve” service.

71 Runnymede / 79 Scarlett Road

This route was revised as part of the TTC’s Junction Area Study. Formerly, half of the service operated to Gunn’s Loop on St. Clair while the other half ran north to Industry Road in Mount Dennis. This has been changed so that all Runnymede buses go to Industry Road. Service north of St. Clair is more frequent as a result, while to the south it is less frequent, although this is a segment where the 79 Scarlett Road bus overlaps.

However, weekday service on Scarlett Road is less frequent due to resiliency adjustments and so there is an overall reduction in service between Runnymede Station and St. Clair.

101 Downsview Park

Peak period service on the Downsview Park bus was improved from every 20 to every 10 minutes. No other periods were affected.

104 Faywood

Service on is less frequent in all weekday periods due to resiliency adjustments. There is no change to weekend service.

106 Sentinel

Service on is less frequent in all weekday periods due to resiliency adjustments. There is no change to weekend service.

108 Driftwood

Service on is less frequent in all weekday periods except late evenings due to resiliency adjustments. There is no change to weekend service.

115 Silver Hills / 122 Graydon Hall

The Silver Hills service runs less frequently in peak periods, but is unchanged at all other times. Although it is interlined with 122 Graydon Hall, this only occurs during off-peak periods, and so Graydon Hall is not affected.

Updated January 26, 2020: Weston Road services added.

89/989 Weston Road

Service on is less frequent in all weekday periods on local and express branches except late evenings due to resiliency adjustments. There is no change to weekend service.

 

2 thoughts on “When Better Service Isn’t – Part II: The Three Yorks

  1. Hi Steve, a lot is made of route management – but what does it look like in practice? What are the tools and tasks TTC employees would need to implement to ensure consistent headways? Some combination of GPS tracking, slow down/speed up orders, more effective dispatching at terminals? I imagine dedicated bus lanes would also help immensely with vehicle spacing.

    Steve: The TTC already has vehicle tracking by GPS together with onboard displays (for buses) that can show spacing to nearby vehicles and relative to schedules. The problem is with how this capability is used, or not. The first problem lies with the concept of “on time”. For frequent services, riders don’t care about schedules, only that vehicles appear regularly without long waits. For infrequent routes, being on time is vital because riders will base their trip to a stop on when the bus is supposed to be there.

    The TTC measures itself for “on time” performance only at terminals, but even this is an elastic concept because a departure that is anywhere between 1 minute early and 5 minutes late is considered to be on time. For frequent services, two or three vehicles can leave together in a pack and fit this definition. (On a four minute headway, if buses are scheduled to depart at 1:00, 1:04 and 1:08, they could leave at 1:05, 1:06 and 1:07.) Even if service at the terminal is properly spaced, it can quickly degenerate into pairs of vehicles on ever widening gaps as they move down the route as I have shown with many reviews of real-life tracking data. Without a process to space service along the line, most riders, who do not board at or near the terminal, see bunched service even when the TTC claims everything is just fine.

    This is further complicated by schedules that pad running times in order to deal with the worst cases of delay through congestion or inexperienced operation. If vehicles were held for scheduled times (or spacing) along the route. they would regularly congregate at time points, and riders would spend a lot of time waiting on board because buses were early. Instead, vehicles pile up at terminals and often have layovers much longer than the schedule provides because they always arrive early.

    Dedicated lanes can help to improve service reliability, although on an urban route their effect on travel times is not necessarily huge. On King Street, what we saw was that travel times did not decrease much over the area of the transit priority area, but the variability in times usually caused by congestion largely disappeared. Average times didn’t change as much as the reduction in the worst cases of delay and unpredictability. There are still problems at many other areas along the route, notably in Parkdale, but reserved lanes would be harder to implement politically and physically outside of the core.

    All of this is a balancing act, but it must start with a recognition that service must be actively managed, not simply left to run back and forth without intervention, or with schedules so generous that vehicles are wasted and buses are further apart than they need to be.

    Like

  2. A couple of corrections on this one.

    a) A few copy/paste errors on “Service on is less frequent in all weekday periods”.
    b) Willowdale-Senlac actually has shorter headways M-F (except for the west half during peak periods).

    Steve: Corrected. Thanks.

    Like

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