The TTC Service Plan for 2021 is still in draft, but the TTC wants public feedback on their proposals. The deadline for comments is October 9, 2020.
- 2021 Annual Service Plan page
- Service Plan engagement page
- 2021 Service Plan presentation
- 2021 Service Plan Discussion Guide
In earlier stages of public participation, the focus was on implementation of the RapidTO bus lanes, notably the one on Eglinton-Kingston-Morningside that has just been installed.
Now the TTC has added material about other proposals and there is a 24-minute video overview on the presentation page linked above.
RapidTO Bus Lanes
Two sets of bus lanes are part of the service plan. Although the Eglinton lanes are already going into operation, a question remains of the stop locations for the express buses. A similar survey is included for the Jane corridor. [Maps and additional details are in the Discussion Guide linked above.]
For Eglinton, there are four options proposed:
- Maintain existing express stops with minor changes
- All stops served by all routes. This would improve service at local stops, but would add 8 stops to the 905 Eglinton East Express trips. The 986 Scarborough Express would be folded into the 86C Scarborough service.
- Reduce stops served by the 905 Eglinton East Express to a handful of major locations making the primary purpose of this route a link between Kennedy Station and UTSC.
- Divert the 986 Scarborough Express to Lawrence Avenue via Danforth Road eastbound and Midland Avenue westbound. This would provide a limited stop service from eastern Scarborough to Kennedy Station, but would remove some service from Eglinton Avenue.
For Jane, the route is broken into two segments for the survey — north and south of Eglinton.
North of Eglinton (the location of the proposed RapidTO bus lanes):
- Serve all stops with a consolidated 35 and 935 Jane service. Express buses per se would disappear, but there would be more frequent service at local stops.
- Limited stops for the 935 Express service at Eglinton, Weston, Lawrence, Wilson, Sheppard, Finch and Steeles. This would speed up trips for riders travelling longer distances at the expense of service at intermediate stops.
- Maintain existing express stops.
South of Eglinton (outside of the RapidTO lane area):
- Maintain existing express stops.
- Stop at major intersections only (Alliance and Foxwell would be dropped).
- Run express from Eglinton to Jane Station.
An important part of any evaluation is the degree to which stopping patterns actually serve rider trips and whether faster journeys take precedence over more frequent service at the stops riders use.
Each rider’s viewpoint will differ depending on their primary travel pattern in these corridors. However, another important question is the amount of time that would actually be saved once on an express bus compared to the extra time one might have to wait for one to arrive.
The TTC also seeks feedback about design factors at stops including shade, shelter and lighting, protection from traffic, seating, cleanliness, visual appeal and accessibility.
Express Route Evaluation and Changes
A major problem on some of the 900 Express routes (when they were still operating) was their relatively infrequent and unreliable service. The survey includes questions about existing express routes and whether they serve rider needs. This will feed into the post-implementation reviews.
Changes are proposed for the express network in 2021:
- Weekday daytime service on 929 Dufferin and 941 Keele
- Weekday midday and early evening, plus weekend daytime service on 953 Steeles East and 960 Steeles West
- New express service on 943 Kennedy and 968 Warden between the Danforth Subway and Steeles
What is missing from the discussion is the potential effect on local services in these corridors. With the limitations on system resources, it would not be surprising to see the total buses/hour at best stay the same or even decrease to recoup travel time savings from the express operation.
An informed discussion of these proposals is impossible without a detailed service design.
Local Route Evaluation and Changes
121 Fort York – Esplanade
The 121 Fort York–Esplanade bus has always had erratic service because of traffic congestion in the stadium area and in front of Union Station. In October 2020, the weekday service will be cut to half hourly all day, a change that should kill off any vestige of demand. The irony of this happening during a “recovery” period is hard to miss.
The TTC proposes cancellation of the route west of Bay Street and an extension east and north to Gerrard and Broadview. It will obviously need a new route name as Fort York will no longer be part of its territory.
The extension will provide service to the east end of Mill Street and then north to River and the many new buildings along that street. There are, however, a few unanswered questions about this route:
- How will seasonal service to Ontario Place and Cherry Beach be provided?
- Will the service design restore a frequency to weekday service that is actually worth waiting for?
Wilson Station to Stanley Greene
The TTC proposes a new peak period route into the Stanley Greene neighbourhood from Wilson Station as shown below. There is no discussion of the type of demand that will originate in that area, and what the destination of riders from there will be.
New Periods of Operation
In addition to the new express services listed above, new local services are proposed:
- 119 Torbarrie: Off peak
- 167 Pharmacy North: Sunday daytime and early evening
The TTC seeks input on any other routes that riders feel should have added periods of service.
In a year when any new services will come at the expense of others, the TTC needs to quantity the benefit to riders of new services versus the effect elsewhere in the network.
The Scarborough East Study
The TTC proposes to reorganize bus service in eastern Scarborough following a study that began in spring 2017.
Here is the existing route layout (pre-pandemic):
And here is the proposed new one:
The changes include:
- A new 178 Brimorton bus operates between the Coronation Drive area and STC replacing the existing 86D Scarborough and 54B Lawrence East loops at Beechgrove and Orton Park respectively. A 178B short turn will operate to Kingston Road and Morningside.
- The 54B service which now loops at Orton Park will be extended to Kingston Road.
- Service to Conlins Road now provided by 116A Morningside will be replaced by an extended 905 Eglinton East Express.
- The 95A York Mills service will be extended east to Kingston Road & Sheppard.
- A new 938 Express will operate from STC Station to UTSC via Ellesmere running express eastbound in the morning and westbound in the afternoon.
The TTC seeks feedback from riders on how they would be affected by these route changes.
High Cost Services
In order to pay for planned new and improved services in a year when there will be, at best, no new resources, the TTC has flagged the routes which are the worst performers financially in the system.
Among these are the 14x Downtown Express buses, and the TTC does not plan to resume service on these routes. They will be officially cancelled, a long overdue move. Point-to-point express services address niche markets, usually with political clout to get them implemented in the first place and they have lived a charmed life. Even with a premium fare, they are very expensive to run. The costs below do not include the capital value of buses that could be used elsewhere for peak service.
The 903 Express that parallels route 3 SRT will also be dropped.
Routes 51 Leslie, 121 Fort York–Esplanade and 900 Airport Express will have service cuts effective Thanksgiving weekend as described in TTC Service Changes Effective October 11, 2020.
In some cases, routes serve small areas that are difficult to reach such as the 115 Silver Hills and 171 Mount Dennis buses. These are examples of the type of problem that can arise looking only at the route level where comparatively unproductive segments might otherwise be masked. For example, 115 Silver Hills could just as easily have been operated as a branch of 95 York Mills and its performance would be lost in the much larger route’s numbers.
189 Stockyards is a route that patches together the leftovers from the Junction Area route study implemented a year ago. Again, if it were treated as a branch of an existing route it would not attract attention.
Some routes will lose their late evening service where performance is poor.
- 28 Bayview South (serves the Brickworks)
- 33 Forest Hill
- 62 Mortimer (paralleled by 87 Cosburn)
- 107 St. Regis (Sunday service will also be dropped)
- 167 Pharmacy North
Spadina Subway Extension Post-Implementation Review
The Spadina Subway Extension has been in operation for almost three years, and the TTC is finally getting around to a review of the route structure. The only proposed changes are for routes 107 St. Regis and 117 Alness/Chesswood.
In both proposed options, the link to Pioneer Village Station is cut and the surviving route connects either to Downsview Park (option 2) or Sheppard West Station (options 1 and 3).
The TTC seeks rider feedback on which option is preferred.
Service Reliability and Capacity
There is no discussion in the Service Plan of how the TTC will address the chronic problem of irregular service that contributes to crowding.
Changes that are in the works, but not mentioned, include restoration of more of the “traditional” service on routes including runs that were cancelled as a cost saving in the spring. The large pool of 600 series run-as-directed buses will shrink as more of the regular scheduled service resumes, and the 600s will be primarily used for midday school trips that do not fit into a conventional schedule.
In a series of six articles, I wrote about the TTC’s apparent inability to maintain reliable vehicle spacing on routes in part through schedule design, and in part through a lack of route management. Those articles covered a lot of territory and I did not expect most readers to read them “cover to cover”, but rather to cherry pick areas of personal interest.
The point of diving so deeply was to show, without any room for doubt, that problems of service reliability that are pervasive across the network. This was an issue before the pandemic. It is disheartening to see that even under lighter traffic conditions, when the usual culprit “congestion” is less of an issue if at all, the TTC has so many buses running with gaps and bunches.
In past years, the Service Plan has addressed “reliability” by changing schedules to pad running times and add terminal layovers. This has reduced short turns, but it has not dealt with the problem of uneven vehicle spacing.
Some of the covid-era schedules clawed back this padding, and it will be interesting to see if the changes are permanent. Excess travel time in schedules can actually work against reliability because drivers know there is plenty of leeway for them to stay roughly on time. A related issue is that the TTC does not report on service quality at a granular level that could reveal chronic cases of bunching and gaps.
There are monthly charts showing how short turns have declined steadily, and that service is, by TTC standards, running “on time”. But a measure of actual service quality and crowding seen by riders is not part of the TTC ongoing review nor is there any target to improve.
Finally, there is the question of fleet planning. The TTC’s bus fleet has a large ratio of spares to scheduled service. This makes it very easy to hit high performance targets (the worst buses simply stay in the garage). but this comes at a cost of a larger fleet and limits on actual service to riders.
For the October schedules, the peak number of buses (not including the 600-series crews) is 1,295 in the AM peak and 1,361 in the PM peak. An additional 290 crews are allocated to service relief, school trips and subway shuttles, but they are not all in service at the same time. This probably translates to about 130 buses in total
Garage capacity is shown as 1,675 buses, but this does not include McNicoll Garage which is about to enter service in 2021.
The total fleet is about 2,100 buses and this leaves many buses that are sitting idle. A problem for TTC budgets is that activating more of the fleet for service requires more drivers that the TTC does not have and does not want to hire.
A major problem for budget and service planning is the question of how many buses Toronto will choose to run, and how much residual capacity for service actually exists with the existing fleet.
Streetcar service uses much less than the entire fleet. The “maximum capacity” shown below is net of maintenance spares (including those for the major warranty rebuild on the first roughly 70 cars) and of carhouse space during construction projects (Roncesvalles now, Russell in future years).
With a peak requirement of 142 streetcars, the TTC has a lot of headroom in the 204-car fleet especially when the warranty repairs are completed late in 2021. Until recently, the TTC was fielding 160 streetcars per day, but this was cut back both to increase the maintenance pool and because of major work that required bus substitution on 511 Bathurst and 506 Carlton. Large projects will affect 501 Queen and 504 King in 2021, but the TTC should attempt to run as much streetcar service as possible with their available fleet so that buses are not consumed running needlessly on streetcar lines
Roughly speaking a 20 per cent ratio of spares to service is a reasonable target for modern fleets. That means that for every 10 vehicles scheduled, there would be 2 spares. A service of 100 peak vehicles would require a fleet of 120.
The TTC has not produced a fleet plan nor discussed the availability for or limitations on service for many years. Any future debates about budgets and service restoration cannot take place without this basic information.
Plans will be complicated by estimating what demand patterns will look like in the next few years, and in particular whether the traditional shape of peak periods will return. While the peaks are lower, this gives headroom to provide more service overall and to improve crowding standards at least for an interim period.
This depends, of course, on whether Toronto wants to spend the money, but we do not even know what is possible.
The 2021 Service Plan is completely silent on these issues at least in part because it is a “Service” document, not a “Budget” document. Without options on the table, TTC management prevents informed debate.