35 Jane Saturday Service in October 2020

About three weeks ago, I wrote about the appalling condition of service on 35 Jane on Saturday, October 17 in A Travesty of Transit Service.

The October tracking data from this route reveals just how bad the problem was, and shows that this is part of a constant problem on the route.

Buses run in convoys on 35 Jane on Saturdays, and to a lesser extent on Sundays, for hours on end producing extraordinarily irregular service. This would be bad enough in pre-covid times, but with crowding being such an issue in 2020, the TTC’s inattention to reliable service bears added responsibility.

This article reviews the route’s behaviour on October 17 in detail, and then turns to other weekends to see how common the situation might be.

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Tracking the “RAD” Buses

A challenge both for someone like me who wants to analyze service “as operated” as well as for riders, and even for the TTC, is to track the hundreds of “Run as Directed” (or “RAD”) vehicles (mainly buses) in the system.

During the Covid pandemic, the TTC opted to cut back on scheduled service on many routes and run unscheduled extras to be used when and where required depending on demand. Their name for this is “demand responsive” service.

The idea is good as far as it goes, but it has produced many problems:

  • Internally, most of the vehicles are associated with a “route 600”. More accurately, that is where the drivers’ crews are. However, when one of these buses goes into service there are problems.
  • The driver does not “sign on” to the route they are serving, and so a RAD bus running on Steeles West does not show up under the route 60 tracking data.
  • Because the bus is not associated with a scheduled run, NextBus does not know what to do with it, and the bus does not appear in projections of vehicle arrivals. A RAD bus might be just around the corner, but riders will not see it on transit service apps.
  • From a service tracking point of view, the vehicle hours are not charged against the route where the bus operates (which could be several in the course of a shift).

There is a further problem with the tracking data in that a bus “dead heading” to or from service (or even between RAD assignments) looks exactly the same as one that is serving passengers on a route.

The TTC is aware of these problems, and hopes to enhance its tracking system, VISION, to compensate. Current plans are for more regularly scheduled service to return by February 2021, subject to budget issues, and the number of RAD vehicles will decline.

I have been working with TTC IT folks to figure out a data extract from their VISION system that will allow visualization and reporting on the RAD buses. The charts in this article are a first step and are provided for those who are interested.

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