This article is the longer, detailed version of my piece on NOW Toronto’s site looking at pending service cuts on the TTC. Note that some details on the changes has not yet been published by the TTC. I will update this article as more information becomes available.
With the steep decline in riding on the TTC’s system, service cuts are coming to many routes. The cuts are an attempt to preserve capacity for riders to travel safely with far fewer passengers per vehicle than in pre-covid service designs, while trimming TTC operating costs.
The predominant effect across the network is that peak periods are not as “peak” as they used to be, and off-peak periods see service reductions on many routes. The overall scale of the change is evident from the comparison of budgeted and scheduled vehicle hours per week.
The planned amount of service per week, measured in vehicle hours, will be reduced by 15.6% relative to the original service budget. Regular service hours go down 11.8% and the provision for construction goes down much more, 77.3%, reflecting the uncongested roads over which vehicles will travel.
By contrast, the normal summer service cuts amount to about two per cent of regular service, and this would be offset by a rise in construction-based hours (diversions, bus replacements, extra service for congestion). This is a much deeper cut than Toronto riders are used to.
Broken down by mode, the change in hours is greatest on the streetcar system at 20.7%, then the subway at 15.7%, then buses at 10.2%. There is no change in SRT service.
Another way to look at this, at least for peak periods, is the number of vehicles scheduled during the two peaks. Both the bus and streetcar fleets fielded for service will decline by about 20%.
These numbers are system-wide values, and the degree of change varies considerably from route to route and by time of day. Also, the revised schedules have, in general, been speeded up with shorter travel times in recognition of lighter traffic conditions. This means that the same number of vehicles or vehicle hours can provide better service than would be the case if the old scheduled travel times remained in place.
Over the past few years, there has been a consistent increase in scheduled travel and recovery times with the alleged goal of eliminating the need for short turns. Whether the TTC overshot the mark on this would have been a matter for debate had the operating environment not changed completely. A familiar sight on any routes has been the accumulation of vehicles at terminals because they are early and/or have generous scheduled recovery times.
All regular services remain in operation, but various special services have been suspended pending recovery of demand:
- All 140-series Premium Express and 900-series Express routes except for 900 Airport Express and 927 Highway 27 Express.
- All school trippers that supplement regular service with extra capacity timed for school traffic.
- The 176 Mimico GO shuttle and the 508 Lake Shore tripper.
- The 503 Kingston Road car has been replaced by the 22A Coxwell bus which will operate to Bingham Loop at all times.
- Summer extensions and extra service for the Zoo, Bluffers Park, Woodbine Beach and High Park.
Several routes are unchanged. This can occur for various reasons:
- The route has sufficient demand to warrant its current service level.
- The route is short and has infrequent service. The option of removing a bus is not practical.
In some cases, routes retain their local service unchanged, but all express service is cancelled. This will reduce the capacity of affected routes considerably.
In addition to the list below, on some routes there are periods where there are fewer buses, but this is offset by a reduction in travel time so that headways are unchanged or improve. These are flagged in the detailed table of changes later in the article.
Most of the changes affect only weekday service. There are some weekend changes, but most services remain as they were in April.
Peak service is generally flattened with service levels at or close to off-peak levels on many routes including both major subway lines. Line 2 Bloor-Danforth will see less frequent service in the weekday evenings than it used to have. There is no change on lines 3 SRT and 4 Sheppard.
An important feature of the schedules, especially for the bus network, is the provision of a large pool of “service relief” buses that can be deployed as needed on routes where the scheduled service proves to be inadequate.
Note that this pool runs right though the night. The Blue Night network is not affected by the cuts, but there have already been problems with overcrowding on some routes overnight including the early morning build up of service.
One disadvantage of unscheduled vehicles like these is that they do not show up on vehicle arrival predictions. This is a design problem in NextBus which affects all applications that depend on its data feed.
Off-peak changes on many bus routes involve removal of one bus from the schedule. This is a change normally made on many routes for summer levels of service.
The effect varies from route to route depending both on what proportion of service one bus represents, and on the change in scheduled travel and recovery time that can partly offset the loss of one vehicle. (Shorter round trip times allow buses to provide more frequent service.)
Although there are details of new service designs for most affected routes, a full description has not been issued in some cases.
- For some bus routes with branching services, only the total number of vehicles scheduled has been published by the TTC, not a breakdown of the service plan for each branch.
- For most streetcar routes, all that is known is the number of vehicles assigned to each route in the peak period. Schedule designs have not been published yet. The one exception is 501 Queen which will operate a single through service between Neville and Long Branch at all times. This is a considerable reduction in capacity for the route during peak periods between Neville and Humber.
The file linked below compares the announced service levels, where they are known, for all affected routes with service currently scheduled (note that actual current service may differ depending on operator availability and the use of service relief vehicles).
A few notes about this file:
- The format has been changed from the one I have employed in the past to save space, recognizing that most of the changes affect the weekday daytime service.
- Where a route is shown but information for some time periods is blank, then there is no planned change in service level for that period.
- Where a service is marked for change, but the details of the new service plan have not been published, this is shown by “???” in the table.
- The 900 Express routes are placed adjacent to the corresponding local services if these are also being modified so that the combined effect is easy to review.
- The tables shown above in this article are included at the end of the pdf below.
When the TTC publishes more details of its schedules, I will update this file.
Here is a small chunk of the table in this PDF as a quick walk-through of its format.
- TTC schedules are divided into six time periods (including Blue Night service which is not included here because it is not changed). Information for these periods is subdivided into a “daytime” and “evening” table in the PDF so that the pages fit on a letter-sized page for printing.
- Coloured highlights are used to flag cases where service changes (yellow) or is suspended (red). Some services are unchanged or improved (green).
- In the sample below, 23 Dawes has less frequent AM peak service because two of five buses are removed. During the midday, the travel time is shortened, but the number of buses stays the same resulting in an improved headway. In the PM peak, the number of buses goes down one, but the travel time compensates for this and the headway is unchanged. There are similar effects on 26 Dupont.
- 24 Victoria Park and 25 Don Mills do not yet have published service levels, but the number of buses in both peaks will be reduced. When actual service designs are known, I will update this table with the details.
- The express services 924 and 925 are suspended, but their previously scheduled levels of service are shown here for reference.
- Travel times for the April-May schedules are shown in the format “A+B” where “A” is scheduled driving time and “B” is the recovery time. The breakdowns for the May schedules have not been published yet.
The only route affected by a new construction project is 511 Bathurst (currently operated with buses) and its overnight equivalent 307 Bathurst Night Bus. When work begins on rehabilitation of the Bathurst Street bridge south of Front Street all service will divert via Front, Spadina and Fort York Boulevard.