When Better Service Isn’t – Part IV: Central Toronto

This article continue the series reviewing routes where the TTC alleges that service has improved during 2019. Please refer to the first two parts for introductory information.

In Part IV, I will turn to bus routes in the “old” City of Toronto, the central portion of the network. As for the streetcar routes, they are a special case because of the effects of the changeover to the new Flexity fleet in recent years. Those will be the subject of Part V.

For reference, here is the map showing routes with supposedly better service.

As on routes throughout what were once “the suburbs” of Toronto, “improvement” is a euphemism where stretching vehicles over longer running times and headways for “resiliency” provides, in theory “better” service, but in fact a reduction in route capacity and longer scheduled waits.

5 Avenue Road

Although the TTC claims that this route is improved, the scheduled headways are, in fact, the same at the end of 2019 as a year earlier. What has changed is that a considerable amount of recovery time at terminals has been changed to driving time on the weekday schedules. This can be counterproductive if recovery time is too short to give operators a reasonable break at the end of their trips.

Weekend schedules are unchanged.

6 Bay

Two changes have affected weekday schedules on Bay. First, the peak period short turn at Davenport has been eliminated so that all buses run through to Dupont. The headways are now wider than they were when some buses short-turned. During midday and late evening periods, resiliency changes have widened the headways.

Weekend schedules are unchanged.

22 Coxwell

Resiliency changes have brought less frequent service to all weekday operating periods except late evenings. Weekend schedules are unchanged.

26 Dupont

Resiliency changes made peak service slightly less frequent on this route. No other periods were modified.

31 Greenwood

Resiliency changes have brought less frequent service to all operating periods on weekday schedules. There is no change on weekends.

61 Avenue Road North

Resiliency changes have brought less frequent service to all operating periods on weekday schedules except for the PM peak when there has been a very small improvement. There is no change on weekends.

63 Ossington

Resiliency changes have brought less frequent service to to peak and midday periods on weekday schedules. There is no change on weekends.

64 Main

Peak service on Main is slightly less frequent at the end of 2019 (but only by 20 seconds), and service has been improved in the early evening from every 20 to every 12 minutes.

65 Parliament

This route saw resiliency changes during 2019 bringing less frequent service during all weekday periods. This is masked in the December 2019 schedules because of extra service provided for the Christmas Market at the Distillery district. However, the January 2020 schedules (the third set below) show the service without the additional buses. There is no change to weekend service except for the extra Christmas Market buses in November-December 2019.

72 Pape

Two changes affected weekday peak and midday service on this route. Resiliency changes have lengthened running times on the two branches, and during peak periods there is roughly twice as much service on the 72C Commissioners branch than on the 72B Union Station branch. Previously, these were scheduled with the same level of service. The result is that peak service on the common portion of the route is now more frequent, while service to Union is reduced. Midday weekday service is less frequent due to resiliency adjustments. No other time periods are affected.

75 Sherbourne / 82 Rosedale

The Sherbourne and Rosedale routes are interlined on weekend evenings, and so they are shown here together.

Service on 75 Sherbourne is less frequent during all weekday periods due to resiliency adjustments. There is no change on weekends.

Service on 82 Rosedale is unchanged during all periods, but some driving time has been changed to recovery time in recognition that the circuit through Rosedale does not take as long as had been provided.

77 Swansea

Service on 77 Swansea is improved during most operating periods because this route is interlined with 71 Runnymede due to construction at Runnymede Station, and service on the Runnymede bus is more frequent than what Swansea would normally receive. This is an improvement for operational convenience only, and service will no doubt drop back to its former level when the station loop reopens.

83 Jones

Service on the Jones bus is less frequent during most periods on all days due to resiliency changes.

90 Vaughan

Service on Vaughan is less frequent during all weekday periods due to resiliency adjustments.

92 Woodbine South

Resiliency adjustment brought slightly better AM peak, weekday midday and late evening service, while there was a small reduction in PM peak service. Sunday service was improved in the early evening.

94 Wellesley

At the end of 2018, Wellesley Station Loop was closed for construction, and the 94B branch was extended to Queen’s Park as 94C. When service returned to normal, resiliency adjustments produced less frequent service during all weekday operating periods. Weekend service was unchanged except on Saturday early morning when it became less frequent.

121 Fort York / Esplanade

This route operates between the eastern entrance of Exhibition Place and the Distillery District with summer extensions west to Ontario Place and south to Cherry Beech. The service summaries here are for the winter configuration.

The route’s reliability can be badly compromised by congestion around Sky Dome and other points west of Yonge Street, and this can produce quite erratic service on the eastern half.

Resiliency changes have produced less frequent service, in some cases by a wide margin, during all weekday operating periods. An early evening improvement with one extra bus to handle demand to the Christmas Market at the Distillery District was removed in January 2020 so that a service that had been every 20 minutes, then improved to 15 minutes, now runs half-hourly. It is little wonder that the route has poor ridership thanks to unreliable and infrequent service. Weekend services are unchanged and are considerably better than weekday services during many periods.

To show this on a map of “improved” services is among the worst misrepresentations of what has happened during 2019.

127 Davenport

Resiliency adjustments have resulted in slightly improved AM peak service on Davenport, but less frequent service during weekday midday, PM peak and early evenings. There is no change to weekend service.

Junction Area Reorganization

Services in the Junction were considerably reorganized during 2019.

The 71A branch of the Runnymede bus (See Part II for details of its service) was replaced by the north end of the new 189 Stockyards bus.

The Kipling Station service of 30 Lambton was replaced by an extension of 40 Junction. Route 30 was renamed High Park and now operates only to Runnymede Loop.

The 189 Stockyards bus originates at High Park Station due to loop capacity issues at Keele Station, but operates east to Keele, the north to St. Clair and west to Scarlett Road

Service on 30 High Park is more frequent than on the former 30 Lambton route during off-peak weekday periods and on weekends.

Service on the common portion of the two Junction services east of Jane is better during peak periods in the new design. In other periods there is a mixture of service improvements and reductions. However, achievement of the combined headway depends on the blending of two branches, and this has never been the TTC’s strong suit

Service between Jane and Kipling Station is improved with the 40B Junction service compared to 30 Lambton in some periods, and is less frequent in others.

The 189 Stockyards bus is a new service intended to cover the portion of St. Clair formerly served by the 71 Runnymede bus and to give an additional service west to Scarlett Road connecting south to the subway. However, the route is infrequent and competes with other services for traffic.

12 thoughts on “When Better Service Isn’t – Part IV: Central Toronto

  1. The 74 Mt. Pleasant had much better service when streetcars ran on it. Today, the buses have terrible service. Used to have 24-hour streetcars, today nothing on the Blue Night Network. Riders do not like the buses (single-occupant automobile drivers of course “love it”).

    Steve: The St. Clair (later Mt. Pleasant) streetcar was my “home” route for decades, and the service definitely declined after conversion to trolley buses and then diesels. There is something of a “service desert” in North Toronto which could be put down to demographics, but which also shows, I believe, the effect of a downward spiral of service levels and ridership, coupled with less reliable service on wider headways.

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  2. Re 121. Steve says: To show this on a map of “improved” services is among the worst misrepresentations of what has happened during 2019.

    Indeed, this an amazingly unreliable route and one which fails to properly serve a major destination/starting point – Union Station. Yes, it passes in front of the station (slowly!) but the east side stops are east of Bay and the west side ones are west of Simcoe. The traffic jams that certainly snarl the bus are not the fault of the TTC but the City really needs to look at parking, turns, light-timing etc on Front Street and on The Esplanade @ Lower Jarvis (where vehicles leaving the large Green P garage on Market Street create a major obstacle.

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  3. 92 Woodbine South is evidence that “service resiliency” changes alone aren’t enough to improve service, if they’re not backed up with adequate supervision/management and operators that are able and/or willing to fix service that goes awry. Yet another instance last week of both buses running nose to tail in the midday period.

    It’s also an example where reduced headway is not necessarily fully advantageous. A 20-minute headway in the late evening is memorable and predictable if you’re on the subway and wondering if you will make your bus, or if you’re wondering if you have time to hop into Valu-Mart while you wait. An 18-minute headway might as well be random, especially now that schedules aren’t being posted. (At least it’s not something like 29 or 47 minutes like you might see in York Region.)

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  4. 121 Front-Esplanade — does this route get much ridership in the PM peak? Almost all of the route is within a ~3- or 4-minute walk of the 504, 509 or 510 — routes that run vastly more often and don’t get caught in snarled traffic snaking its way out of downtown. I can’t imagine that there are many trips where it would be worth waiting for the 121 (and IN the 121) rather than walking a couple blocks north or south.

    At a staggeringly slow 5.8 km/h average speed during the PM peak, the 121 barely beats out walking, even if you don’t consider waiting time.

    The service drop on the 121 looks to me like the TTC is pretty much giving up hope during the PM peak and is only running as many buses as it needs to keep the scheduled headway from going longer than 30 minutes.

    Steve: Yes, ridership is poor, but the big issue is that the route is unreliable and the stops are very inconveniently located near Union Station. There are also some NextBus peculiarities that could be related to GPS problems in the downtown area where vehicles will disappear from predictions giving the impression that there is no service, or that it is not worth waiting for.

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  5. Maybe I missed it but did you cover the 89 Weston Bus? Overcrowded every day between 7-10 pm.

    Steve: It was supposed to be in Part II as part of the North York/York review, but I missed it. This has been corrected.

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  6. From my observations the main cause of disappearing 121 buses is that NextBus removes buses from predictions when they don’t move for more then five minutes or so. The “service resiliency” changes have made this problem worse. TransSee attempts to continue to provide predictions for the disappeared buses. 121 is a good route to test the limits of TransSee’s prediction calculations.

    In a previous post I suggested the 121 be rerouted via King between Church and Spadina during evening peak.

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  7. Ah, the 121… in theory, in a well-run city, this could be a useful route. From Cityplace, getting to Queens Quay requires crossing Lake Shore Blvd which is never going to be particularly pleasant; 121’s route further north downtown is convenient for some destinations; it’s more direct for getting to financial district than the 509/510 going down to lake and back up; the 511 doesn’t go directly where most people around Fort York would go; and 121 connecting further east to St. Lawrence can be useful too.

    But in Toronto, which lets a dense residential neighbourhood get clogged by out-of-town commuter private vehicles and runs a transit system that gives up on operating buses on time, the 121 doesn’t stand much of a chance.

    This will really have to be split again. An Esplanade service has a chance to survive. On the west side, I would suggest somehow linking up with East Liberty Street, which is perennially poorly connected, except Strachan Avenue has the same problem of being clogged up by cars in PM peak…

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  8. Junction Area Reorg is a mess. Months after instituted there is still poor time keeping between the two branches of route 40 Junction. Often seen mid-day in the Junction minutes apart in both directions.

    40B branch has no times online for west turnback point at Jane/St.Clair. Furthermore, the electronic schedule inside the shelter on Runnymede southbound still months later has NO time for 40 route. This is transfer point from 71 Runnymede, 79A and 79B Scarlett Rd and 189 Stockyards.

    189 Stockyards route is a useless route. It duplicates 89 189 41 and 941 routes for much of its route on Keele St. A better choice would be to ADD service along St.Clair West to meet 512 streetcars. Run the route east to Townsley Loop and connect with a total of 15 routes/branches! A no-brainer!

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  9. Cannot run to Townley Loop, Buses cannot make the right turn from Southbound Old Weston Rd to Westbound St Clair. This is why Keele buses come south on Weston Rd instead of Old Weston Rd.

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  10. The Keele local buses used Old Weston Road for several years after the opening of the St. Clair ROW, while the express branch used Weston Road from its early days. So I don’t think there’s any reason buses couldn’t run southbound Old Weston to westbound St. Clair. As I recall, the traffic backups were too much, so all branches were rerouted southbound via Weston Rd.

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  11. The buses stopped when the ROW was built. The express buses used to run straight up Weston to Rogers and then to Keele. Now they run northbound via Old Weston Rd.

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