TTC Bus Service Frequency and Reliability in 2020 (Part IV)

The four east-west corridors detailed in this article share a common characteristic in their schedule changes between the pre-covid winter schedules and the spring-summer versions. The only change has been to remove the 9xx express service without any update to the underlying local services.

In some cases, this represents a substantial cut in the total service provided on portions of the route where roughly half of the “winter” service operated as express trips. Some of these cuts are substantially greater than the TTC’s oft-cited 80-85% level of pre-covid service, and this illustrates an ongoing problem with reporting stats on an average basis that hides the fine detail.

These are long routes where service might not even be well-spaced leaving the terminals, and headways become much worse along the way. The problems cannot be attributed to “congestion” in times of relatively light traffic, and there is clearly no attempt at headway management. In turn, the uneven headways cause crowding well beyond what all-day averages might suggest.

84 Sheppard West

The 84 Sheppard West bus operates between Sheppard-Yonge Station and Weston Road. There are two infrequent peak-only branches serving the industrial districts on either side of Highway 400 to Steeles. The 84C Arrow Road branch operates north to Steeles, and the 84D Oakdale branch runs north and east to Pioneer Villege Station.

The 984 Sheppard West, now suspended, operated from Sheppard-Yonge Station to Weston Road during peak periods and to Allen Road during some off peak periods.

The schedule in place during winter 2020 provided a combined service every five minutes on three local branches from Oakdale eastward with a bus every 9’30” on the express service in the AM peak. The PM peak service design was similar.

The spring-summer 2020 schedule was unchanged from the winter version except for the elimination of the 984 express service.

The change in service level for spring-summer 2020 varies by portion of the route and time of day with some cuts being much more severe depending on the proportion of service that the 984 express buses provided.

Buses/hourAM PkMiddayPM Pk
84A Weston5.
84C Arrow3.33.322
84D Oakdale3.33.322
984A to Weston6.36.7
984B to Sheppard W 6
Yonge to Sheppard W18.31213.57.514.78
Sheppard W to Oakdale18.3127.57.514.78
Arrow to Weston11.

The scheduled headways on 84 Sheppard are erratic during the peak period due to the lack of blending between the various branches. During the AM peak, some vehicles are scheduled to leave the terminal at the same time followed by a gap.

West of Arrow Road without the 84C and 84D branches, the AM peak headway is actually less frequent than the midday headway. This is caused by the service design based on the express buses supplementing the local service to Weston Road during peak periods.

Headways westbound from Sheppard-Yonge Station reflect the unevenness in the schedule. Even when the scheduled service is fairly uniform, many trips leave on longer or shorter headways.

Eastbound from Weston Road headways are quite uneven during some periods, and this compounds the effect of the absence of express service notably in the PM peak.

Full chart sets:

85 Sheppard East

Route 85 Sheppard East has two segments that share only their route number. Most of the service operates east from Don Mills Station either to Meadowvale or to Rouge Hill GO Station with a seasonal extension to the Zoo.

The 985 Sheppard East Express, currently suspended, operates from Don Mills Station with branches to Meadowvale and to STC. It is supposed to operate with articulated buses.

A separate service runs infrequently between Yonge-Sheppard and Don Mills Stations providing a surface route in the Route 4 subway corridor. Through bus service between the two segments of the route is only provided by the overnight 385 Sheppard East Night Bus.

The winter 2020 schedule shows the variety of services for this corridor.

As with 84 Sheppard West above, the only change in the spring-summer 2020 schedule is that the express service has been dropped. The effect is quite substantial for the portion of the route served by the express branches.

Buses/hourAM PkMiddayPM Pk
85A to Rouge Hill GO44224.64.6
85C to Meadowvale44884.64.6
985A to STC556
985B to Meadowvale 56
Don Mills to Midland18813821.29.2
Midland to Meadowvale1388815.29.2
Meadowvale to Rouge Hill44224.64.6

The scheduled headways on the portion of the route east of Don Mills Station are quite consistent because there is no branching at headways that are incompatible with blending.

The service actually operated is not as uniform as the schedule might suggest.

Here are the stats for the service leaving Rouge Hill westbound. Note that the standard deviation (a measure of the dispersion in values) is close to or above 5 minutes especially in the evening indicating a wide range of headways. Note that for these charts and for the corresponding eastbound service later in the article the vertical scale runs to 45 minutes to fit in the data.

The actual service in week 3 is clustered around a common value, the scheduled headway, for much of the day, but things fall apart in the evening when there are many shorter headways. Monday August 17 appears to have been a day where there was extra tracked service operating from Rouge Hill, but in several cases there are short headways indicating that two buses left close together.

At Morningside, the two branches have merged and the average headway is lower. However, the standard deviation is considtently high indicating unevenly spaced service, a common problem where branches join.

Headway values at Morningside are spread over a range from zero to about fifteen minutes all day long.

The uneven service continues west along the route. Although the average headway is at the scheduled value, the actual service is spead over a range of headways extending above 15 minutes.

Leaving Don Mills Station eastbound, the standard deviation value is a bit lower than for the westbound service above, and the headways are better clustered around the average.

By the time service reaches Markham Road eastbound, the SD value has grown and headways are spread over a fifteen minute range as with the westbound service.

On the Rouge Hill branch at Kingston Road, the standard deviation of headways is five minutes or more for much of the day, and the spread of headways is wide especially in the evening ranging from zero to 25 minutes.

On the western section of the route from Don Mills to Yonge, scheduled headways are wider because this service parallels the subway.

The SD values for the service leaving Yonge eastbound are low, and the individual headways lie in a narrow band. The westbound service from Don Mills (not illustrated here) is similar.

Full chart sets:

96 Wilson

The winter and summer schedules on the 96 Wilson local service are the same, but the 996 express which provided half of the service on the route was cancelled.


Combined service levels:

Buses/hourAM PkMiddayPM Pk
96A Carrier Drive3.
96B Albion & Humberline3.
996 Humber College6.255.3
Yonge to Humber College12.46.210510.14.8

Westbound at Yonge the scheduled headways are well behaved because the 96A and 96B branches have the same headway.

Eastbound at Kipling both branches are merged, but there are uneven scheduled headways at transitions between periods of service.

Service leaving York Mills Station westbound is fairly well behaved with most headways in a five minute wide band.

By the time the service reaches Keele, the headways are more spread out.

At Highway 27, things are even worse with headways ranging from zero to almost 30 minutes.

The service beyond the route split reflects the irregular headways on the common portion of the route.

Eastbound at Highway 27 the service suffers from originating on two separate branches, and headways are erratic even relatively close to the outer end of the line. Although Humber College might be a logical time point where service could be dispatched with headways evened out, this does not appear to happen.

At Keele eastbound, the situation is even worse.

Full chart sets:

95 York Mills

In the winter schedules there were four services on York Mills:

  • 95A to Kingston Road
  • 95C to Ellesmere Station (weekday daytime only)
  • 995 express to UTSC (weekday daytime only)
  • 95B local to UTSC (evenings and weekends)

Although the spring-summer schedule has a new date (May 2020), there is no change in the scheduled service levels (this typically occurs when there is an operational change that does not affect revenue service).

The removal of the express service has different relative effects depending on the portion of the route one looks at.

Buses/hourAM PkMiddayPM Pk
95A Kingston Rd7.57.5335.75.7
95C Ellesmere Station7.57.5335.75.7
995 UTSC5.745.7
Yonge to Ellesmere Stn20.71510617.111.4
Ellesmere Stn to UTSC13.27.57311.45.7
East of UTSC7.57.5335.75.7

Here is the scheduled service westbound at Meadowvale and at Kennedy:

Eastbound service mirrors the westbound service with wider headways east of Ellesmere Station.

The service actually operated is much less reliable than the schedules might imply. Headways are erratic even near terminals, and they get worse as buses progress along the route.

Westbound from Meadowvale, both the averages and standard deviations are inconsistent through the midday period, and the SD values are high considering that this is near the terminal loop.

The overall statistics above are reflected in the spread of headway values shown in the chart below. Very short and very long gaps between buses are common although the trend lines are consistent and roughly at the level of scheduled service.

Further west at McCowan, the average headways are shorter implying that there is more tracked service running east of Ellesmere Station than the official schedule indicates. However, the SD values are high and bunching is very common.

Service westbound at McCowan has headways spread over a nearly half-hour range during the midday period and the situation is only marginally better during peaks and evenings.

It is common for the TTC to say “oh those gaps do not exist because we run extra service”, but the buses showing up on very short headways tells the real story. The average headway looks good, but the actual service is extremely unreliable.

West of Ellesmere Station, the 95C short turn service kicks in and reduces the average headway. However, the SD values are consistently close to the average indicating that many buses are running in pairs.

With the extra 95C service, the range of headways is lower, but there are still many vary short values indicating pairs (or worse) of buses travelling together. It is impossible to operate a “blended” service on the 95A/C because the 95A headways are so unreliable when buses arrive at the point where the 95C service merges in.

Eastbound from York Mills Station the service is erratic even though this is close to the terminal.

Even though the services are supposed to alternate on common headways, many buses leave the station close behind their leader.

By the time the service reaches Victoria Park eastbound, bunching and gaps are even more of a problem than at Yonge.

At Morningside, headways are extremely unreliable ranging from almost zero up to half an hour.

Full chart sets:

3 thoughts on “TTC Bus Service Frequency and Reliability in 2020 (Part IV)

  1. As we have seen in virtually every route analysis you have produced over the last decade and to quote you

    “The problems cannot be attributed to “congestion” in times of relatively light traffic, and there is clearly no attempt at headway management.”

    It is really rather pathetic, does nobody senior at the TTC or on their Board ever think that THEY might actually be able to (and SHOULD) ‘do something’?

    Steve: I know that improving service reliability remains one of the TTC’s goals, but this inevitably is manifested in schemes to pad schedules on the assumption that the “problem” is that vehicles cannot stay on time, rather than addressing the problem that service is neither measured nor regulated in a meaningful way.


  2. 95 York Mills is a mess! During the day it comes every 20 min east of Kennedy Road since they axed the 995 (which used to be 95B during the day). There’s no RADs filling in because every time I take the 95 it’s packed from front to back mid-day and afternoon rush around McCowan & Ellesmere (I’m not sure about mornings since I’m not out then).

    At least TTC could have kept 995 knowing that the local counterpart isn’t even frequent (95C only serves those west of Ellesmere RT station and leaves out NIAs in Scarborough like Mornelle Court & Woburn to wait for the 95A).

    It’s a shame those councillors on the TTC Board watered down the motion to restore 100% of service at today’s meeting despite my deputation and many others calling for more service.


  3. The 95 is terrible eastbound during PM peak. I commute from Markham & Ellesmere in the morning to Centennial College Ashtonbee (Warden & Eglinton) with the 95 York Mills then the 68 Warden & vice versa in the afternoon. It takes be about 40-45 to get to school but takes me about 1hr 10min to get home.

    In the morning the 95 westbound mostly comes on time but always overcrowded which seems odd because usually when buses are crowded they are late so it looks like the TTC is scheduling service to be crowded. 68 warden southbound at Ellesmere is fairly good, but arrives early and sometimes I miss my connection.

    Going home I get the 2:30 pm 68 Warden northbound, which is always on time, and arrive at Ellesmere around 2:40 and always see the same 95A driver passing me as I cross the street to the bus stop and then I have to wait about 25 minutes till the next 95A bus arrives which slows down my afternoon trip home. I looked up the 95A schedule eastbound @ Warden and it shows that the 95A bus I always see at Warden is scheduled to be there at 2:46 not 2:40. I don’t know why this particular trip is consistently coming 6 minutes early everyday.

    The 95 York Mills seriously needs and overhaul. The 68 Warden comes more frequently and it’s not even apart of the 10 minute network. I can see why people have issues with this route.

    Steve: The 95 York Mills service was one of those badly affected by cancellation of the express service which was not replaced. This left only the local buses on wide peak headways compounded by the usual “on time” issues.

    The TTC has had months to fix this, but is only beginning to restore express routes in October. 995 York Mills is not on that list, and it will be sometime early in 2021 before there is more service there.


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