Updated November 20, 2020 at 11:00 am: The article has been updated with the usual detailed table of service changes and a comparison of pre/post service levels on routes where express bus operation will be restored.
The focus of changes in coming months is to gradually restore the system to a pre-Covid state allowing for differences in demand patterns. At this point, we do not know what the effects of 2021 Budget constraints will be. I will write about that in a separate article.
Restoration of Express Bus Services
The 900-series express bus services will be reinstated on several routes. These will replace the “trippers” that were added earlier in 2020 as a partial replacement for the express operations.
Weekend service formerly operated by these routes is not restored at this time, and this leaves some routes still with considerably less service than they had pre-covid because nothing replaced the weekend express operations during the cutbacks earlier in 2020.
The affected routes are:
- 902 Markham Road
- 929 Dufferin
- 935 Jane
- 941 Keele
- 945 Kipling
- 952 Lawrence West
- 954 Lawrence East
- 996 Wilson
The PDF linked below compares service on the affected routes showing the headway (time between buses), bus/hour values and the number of vehicles assigned in each corridor.
Construction Projects Affecting Streetcars
The service changes in place for the Dundas/College intersection reconstruction and for repair work on the Bathurst Street bridge will remain in effect until January.
Construction Projects Affecting Buses
Keele Station loop will reopen allowing 41 Keele, 80 Queensway and 89 Weston to use that loop. The interline between 30 High Park and 80 Queensway will end.
Construction at Scarborough Town Centre Station that required relocation of 38 Highland Creek will end, and that route will return to its normal location.
Stand-by crews will be added to Lines 1 (YUS) and 2 (BD) to provide added “resiliency” for service. This will cover for situations when operators are not available when required to take over trains.
Many of the “Route 600” crews and buses (Run As Directed) will be dedicated to subway shuttles, notably for the shutdown between Finch and Sheppard from December 4th to 14th for asbestos removal. The shuttles will extend south to Eglinton during late evening closures.
Weekend closures between Broadview and Woodbine on Line 2 are also planned, but the dates have not yet been announced.
Additional service will be scheduled as trippers on many bus routes to reduce crowding:
- 16 McCowan
- 17 Birchmount
- 24 Victoria Park
- 25 Don Mills
- 32 Eglinton West
- 34 Eglinton East
- 39 Finch East
- 43 Kennedy
- 47 Lansdowne
- 68 Warden
- 85 Sheppard East
- 89 Weston
- 95 York Mills
- 100 Flemingdon Park
- 129 McCowan North
A new 43C Kennedy service to Village Green Square will operate during peak periods every 30 minutes on a trial basis. This was part of the TTC’s 2020 Service Plan.
Scheduled School Trips
Many special trips operate to handle demands at various schools around the city. These have used buses from the “600” RAD pool which are not visible to riders using service tracking/prediction apps.
Effective November 23, these buses will be scheduled as part of regular service on the routes they serve making them visible for service tracking.
The list is very long, and I will consolidate this information in a future update.
Service Changes Effective December 20, 2020
Construction at Eglinton West Station for the Crosstown LRT will reach the point where 32 Eglinton West, 63 Ossington and 109 Ranee can return to their normal routes. The temporary 163 Oakwood route will be removed.
With part of the 32 Eglinton West service shifting back to Eglinton West Station, bus bays will be freed up at Eglinton Station. 56 Leaside and 51 Leslie will return to their usual location.
Scarborough RT Service
The project to rebuild the SRT fleet will end in 2020, but no change has been announced in the level of service once the full 7-train complement will be available.
There will be no extra pre-Christmas shopping service nor extended late night service for New Year’s Eve this year.
As usual, all school trippers will cease operation for the winter break now planned as December 21 to January 1.
Crews for all 600 series buses associated with subway closures will be dropped as no shutdowns are planned through this period.
On Christmas Day, Friday December 25, a holiday service will operate with most routes beginning service at 8 am.
On Boxing Day, Saturday December 26, a holiday service will operate with most routes beginning service at 6 am.
From Monday to Wednesday December 28-30, a normal weekday service will operate except for school trippers and subway closure buses.
On New Year’s Eve, Thursday December 31, a normal weekday service will operate but some express buses might be changed to run as locals (TBA). Some of the RAD service for buses and streetcars will be switched to late evenings to supplement service as needed.
On New Year’s Day, Friday January 1, a holiday service will operate with most routes beginning service at 8 am.
From Saturday January 2 onward, operations will revert to normal schedules with subway standby and RAD buses. School trips will resume on Monday January 4.
Details of Service Changes
The PDF linked below details the service changes planned for November 22, 2020 and for December 20, 2020.
Hopefully the additional trippers the TTC provided for 95 York Mills would be for the 95A branch and would fill in the 20 minute service gap east of Ellesmere station.
Do you know what the loop would be for the new 43C?
Steve: The route is described as:
Northbound 43C: from Kennedy Station via west on Eglinton Avenue East, north on Kennedy Road, and east on Village Green Square (Access Road), north and east on the west leg of Village Green Square.
Southbound 43C: from Village Green Square (Layover), south on Village Green Square, west on Village Green Square, south on Kennedy Road, and east on Eglinton Avenue East to Kennedy Station.
Well, not having the Express 985 or the other Express buses didn’t make any sense! Taking away the Express buses and having only the local buses was a big mistake!
It also pathetic and leads to over crowding on the local buses during this COVID pandemic! The numbers are surging and still NO EXPRESS buses?!
No 985? The 85 buses are normally crowded! We also have to wait for another one due to over crowding! And on top of this, the weather is becoming even more unfavourable and add FLU season into the mix with Covid being worse this time around according to experts!!
They need extra McCowan 129 & the 85 Sheppard to Don Mills Station and to bring back the 985 Express! Amongst the other 900 Express buses!
Do the right thing TTC! Protect your riders!
Many of your drivers acquired COVID as well!
You need more buses on the road, not less during this time! It takes longer to get to point A and B without the Express buses!
TTC is not a cheap transportation to begin with and you are giving us LESS services but love to increase our fares!
The Express buses need to be returned EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY! There is too much over crowding on the local buses and standing in the cold in unfavourable weather conditions doesn’t help! This is how people get frustrated and agitated!
What are you looking for? Fights on the bus, because TTC can’t get their crap together? It’s not like there is enough room to stand in the shelters, due to over-crowding as well!
Enough of your pathetic shenanigans and not providing the Express buses!
The 985 to Don Mills Station needs to started up again! Stop leaving your Customers put in the cold!
Decreasing the Express lines only makes the local buses over crowded, and adds to the surge and increase in this COVID global pandemic. Add the FLU season into the mix does not look good!
According to experts, this 2nd surge of COVID is supposed to be a bad one and you’re decreasing bus services? And let me guess, it’s because of COVID?
Give me a break!
The over crowding on the 129 and the local Sheppard 85 to Don Mills Station is scary, unacceptable and pathetic!
You should be trying to DECREASE OVER CROWDING! Not add to it!
Bring back the 985 Express to Don Mills from STC IMMEDIATELY and stop the shenanigans! Add more local buses of the 129 and the 85 Sheppard buses!
Listen to your Customers! The overcrowding is out of hand now in addition to your subtracting the 900 Express bus services!
Get it together TTC! At least way before Christmas!!
Steve: What is so frustrating about the TTC is how often they cite the overall ridership level sitting in the 35% of pre-Covid values for the system as a whole when the bus system averages 50% on an all day basis with values higher than that on the busy routes. Going into the budget debates next month, the big political problem will be the amount of money needed to keep the system running even at current levels and the likelihood we will see badly implemented cuts coupled with the usual problem of bus bunching and gaps.
I read that the TTC will not be offering extended late-night service for New Year’s Eve this year. Do you know if there will still be free service after 7pm on December 31 on the TTC and on the GO?
Steve: There has been no announcement on this, but my suspicion is that this will not occur. Free transit would be seen as encouraging people to go out and party, and this is precisely the type of behaviour we want to discourage in the fight against Covid.
Thanks for the info! This is actually very handy. What is meant by “tripper”? Don’t know what type of route that is.
Steve: The name has been stretched somewhat during the pandemic era. Normally, a “tripper” is a vehicle that makes one or two special trips to cover a peak period or unusual demand.
The longest-standing such route name in Toronto is the Kingston Road Tripper, now route 503. Originally, the Kingston Road car, later called Downtowner, now 502 (suspended) was the all day service and the Tripper, which ran via King rather than Queen, was the peak service. We are now in the odd situation that the base route is suspended, while the “tripper” runs all day.
When the streetcar system was much larger, before the subway opened, there were other trippers that provided peak period service on routes that were different from all-day services.
The Kingston Road Tripper was originally called the Beach Tripper, but changed name in 1948. “Beach” was the original name for the service to Neville Park because the “Queen” car went up Kingston Road. Keeping track of route names over the years is a challenge, and I rely on Lou Pursley’s “The Toronto Trolley Car Story” which includes the TTC’s official route histories up to 1961.
The Kingston Road Tripper is the only surviving tripper with that name, and if the current arrangement becomes permanent, it could lose the “tripper” designation.
Another typical use is for buses that make special trips corresponding to school peak loads, sometimes on special routes linking schools to major locations such as a subway station. They are true trippers in the original sense of the word.
In Covid times, the TTC has used the word for supplementary service scheduled on top of (but separate from) the base service on a route in partial replacement of the suspended 900-series express buses. They generally have operated from about 6:30 am to 1:30 pm and from 3:00 to 10:00 pm, and strictly speaking are not “trippers”, but that’s what the TTC calls them.
Clear as mud, yes?
Where’s the spreadsheet?
Steve: Read the first paragraph of the article. I’m working on it.
The 954 Lawrence East Express should be cancelled. It runs express from the Lawrence East RT to Markham Rd then local to Starspray. Is that cost effective?
Steve: More to the point, is it worthwhile having an express service, peak only, for a small portion of the route? The 954 express service will replace the existing 54T service that covers the same territory, but has longer service hours.
You mentioned that stand-by crews will be added to Lines 1 and 2. Does this mean that there will be extra trains parked away on the pocket tracks, or that there will be spare drivers that can be deployed to drive a train that’s already on the line?
Steve: According to the service memo, it’s spare drivers for existing trains.
Steve, as soon as construction on the Bathurst Street bridge is completed (which includes replacing the streetcar tracks, then streetcars are expected to make their ‘triumphant’ return to the “511 Bathurst” route. The route has been operating with buses since Monday, April 20, 2020, That switch to buses was necessary to accommodate three different construction projects, the most important being the Bathurst Street bridge which was in need of rehabilitation. The buses detoured the stretches of Bathurst Street where (concrete around the) streetcar tracks were being replaced. The current COVID-19 pandemic provided a ‘window of opportunity’ to do this necessary work; the pandemic resulted in the cancellations of events at Exhibition Place, most notably the National Home Show & Canada Blooms, the Canadian National Exhibition, and the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.
Steve: Actually, all three projects had been planned for this year anyhow. With events at Exhibition Place cancelled, the need for alternative service to the Ex was much reduced. Other projects such as track at Bathurst Station and south of Dundas ran faster because they had the roads to themselves.
Surprised that the 12D gets a slight increase in service, is the 12D actually up to TTC standards in terms of service ridership or just pure politics?
Steve: The 12D is a political creation. There was lobbying for a continuous service on Kingston Road to UTSC, and so the TTC created this route, but it runs very infrequently and only in peak periods. For all the hassles of transferring, it would usually be faster to take whatever shows up first and transfer as necessary.
This route is recommended to get off-peak service in 2021, subject to budget limits, because it runs through a Neighbourhood Improvement Area. If not for that, it would not meet the TTC’s warrants for service.
The change in November is just tweaking the schedule, nothing more.
I see that Line 1 maintenance closures are still happening – Union to Finch this weekend. I thought the ATC install schedule was to be complete by November to Rosedale (or Eglinton).
Will this be complete on time? Will it allow more efficient running, allowing a savings of a train or two?
Steve: This weekend was the ATC cutover to Rosedale. Future phases will take it first to Eglinton and then to Finch. There should already be a saving of a few trains, but the TTC is incredibly good at dragging their ass about this sort of thing.
Is there anywhere we can find a schedule that’s departing from Village Green Square for 43C? I only see a schedule that’s departing from Kennedy station
Steve: I looked at the online schedule and it does not show Village Green for some reason, but the data is in the electronic version of the schedule that the TTC exports for use by various trip planning apps. I picked out the records for “Village Green Square at Metrogate Pk” and the departures are at:
5:58 am and every 30 minutes until 8:58 am
3:30 pm and every 30 minutes until 7:30 pm
I will send a note to the TTC about this and hope they will fix their online schedule. Meanwhile, both the TTC trip planner and NextBus “know” that this stop exists, and show predictions for buses there, but Google trip mapping does not.
By any chance are the 900 Express buses running again?
Specifically the 985 East to Don Mills Station and the 939 Finch East to Finch Station.
If not, do you know when they will be?
Steve: Those two routes are not operating yet. The TTC plans to have all express buses back by the schedule change in mid-February, 2021. Some may come back with the New Year’s schedules. All that, of course, is subject to whatever budget axe might fall on them in the interim.
Hi Steve, I don’t see any job postings yet on the TTC’s website regarding the summer student programs for 2021, is that a sign that’s going to be cancelled for 2021 too (as it was the case for 2020)? It don’t see any job postings for the summer student program for 2021 here yet, usually these openings would close by December 31, since I don’t see any of that posted on the TTC’s website at the moment, is that a sign that program is going to be scrapped for 2021 too?
Steve I have no idea, but would not be surprised.
Chances are Steve and Surface Route Aficionado, as 2020 goes on, its likely that major in-person festivals/events for 2021 that constitutes over a million people or more in Toronto such as the Gay Pride Parade, the Beaches International Jazz Festival the Caribana grand parade, VELD Music Festival and the Canadian National Exhibition for examples are going to be cancelled yet again as they were for 2020.
Steve: Who are you quoting here?
Even though a COVID-19 vaccination program should be arriving in just a few months from now, it’s likely we will have to maintain physical distancing and continue to wear masks or face coverings for much of 2021 too, so I can tell you that these big gatherings of over a million are not going to happen for 2021 either.
The current COVID-19 pandemic would be able to provide a ‘window of opportunity’ to accelerate some necessary construction work for 2021 where needed as they were for 2020, meaning is that the TTC probably won’t be back to pre-COVID service levels until 2022 (if that’s the right word).
Hi Steve, do you think the TTC will do an in-person open house event at one of the TTC facilities (i.e. Leslie Barns, Greenwood yard, Hillcrest yard etc.) as part of Open Doors Toronto weekend on May 29 – 30 2021 or will it be cancelled as it was the case for 2020 due to COVID-19 (coronavirus) concerns?
Steve: You answered your own question in you other comment. The progress with covid vaccination and recovery will not be far enough advanced by the end of May to chance an open house gathering.
I have another question: when will the McNicoll garage begin operating bus routes?
Steve: According to the project’s website, operations will begin in March 2021.
Steve, when will the Bathurst Street bridge construction – including the streetcar tracks – be completed? When are streetcars expected to return to the “511 Bathurst” route. As soon as this construction is completed, hopefully by the end of this year (December 31) but more likely mid-January of next year.
Steve: The work is supposed to be done by the end of the year, but there has been no announcement yet on service arrangements for January.
Steve, the work on the Bathurst Street bridge was supposed to be completed by the end of December, but it looks like at least the end of January or maybe even early February of 2021. By that time streetcars are expected to return to the “511 Bathurst” route, and the buses which ran on that route (since April 20, 2020) would be deployed to bus routes.
What date is the next schedule change?
Steve: January 3, 2021