TTC Service Changes January 3, 2021: Part II Buses

Updated January 7, 2021: Comparative service level charts have been added for routes 53/953 and 60/960 showing changes between the November 2020 and January 2021 schedules.

Updated January 5, 2021: Information about express routes 953 Steeles East, 960 Steeles West and 984 Sheppard has been updated in the route summary. Comparative service charts will be added for weekday service on 953 and 960 in a separate update.

Updated December 26-28, 2020: This article has been extensively updated with charts to illustrate the change in service levels on corridors that have or had 9xx Express services. I will turn to other routes in a separate article.

Some of you have probably been wondering where my list of bus service changes for January 2021 has wandered off to.

The problem is that some of the information in the TTC’s service change memo is inconsistent, and a new version to be issued after Christmas. Some information about planned schedule changes is available through the City of Toronto’s Open Data Portal which has the electronic versions of all schedules for use by various trip planning apps.

Because the difference between some new and old schedules is not as straightforward as usual, I have added charts comparing service levels by time of day rather than the breakdown into peak, midday and off peak periods.

Information here should be considered “preliminary” in case the TTC makes further revisions before the new schedules take effect.

Scheduled Erratic Service

The schedules for many routes suffer from build-in irregular headways. If the route runs on time, the buses are not evenly spaced, and “on time” performance is the metric the TTC uses, for better or worse, to evaluate service. This irregularity arises from several factors that can also interact on the same schedule:

  • The route has branching services that are not on a compatible headway. For example, it is easy to blend two services running every 20′ to give a 10′ combined service on the common mileage. However, if it is a 25′ and a 10′ headway, this is impossible.
  • For pandemic-era schedules, some trips were cancelled without adjusting surrounding buses to even out the headways. This might have occurred unofficially, but it would take a lot of work to ensure that spacing stayed ideal even if the buses were not strictly “on time”.
  • For pandemic-era replacement of express services, “trippers” operated usually on schedules that did not blend with the basic service. These buses were typically in service from 5 am to noon, and from 3 to 10 pm.
  • Some “Run as Directed” (RAD) buses (aka Route 600 series) operated where needed to supplement scheduled service. These do not appear on any schedule nor in a route’s vehicle tracking logs.

My purpose in looking in detail at the January 2021 changes is to show how all of these factors interact.

Express Services in Brief

The express services as of January 2021 will be as below. Where there are detailed explanations of changes, there is a hotlink from the route name.

  • 900 Airport Express: Reduced service on the November 2020 schedule continues.
  • 902 Markham Road Express: No change from November 2020 schedule when this route was restored.
  • 903 Kennedy to STC Express: This route is suspended.
  • 905 Eglinton East Express: No change from November 2020 schedule when this route was restored as part of the RapidTO bus lane implementation.
  • 913 Progress Express: No change from November 2020 schedule (route operates express eastbound in the AM peak, westbound in the PM peak).
  • 924 Victoria Park Express: This route is suspended. See 24 Victoria Park.
  • 925 Don Mills Express: Weekday service restored. Weekend service to follow later in 2021.
  • 927 Highway 27 Express: Reduced service on the November 2020 schedule continues.
  • 929 Dufferin Express: All trips extended to Princes’ Gates due to planned streetcar service at Dufferin Loop.
  • 935 Jane Express: Some express and local services in this corridor have been modified in response to reliability problems and demand.
  • 937 Islington Express: Weekday service restored.
  • 939 Finch Express: Weekday service restored. Weekend service to follow later in 2021.
  • 941 Keele Express: Peak service improved due to crowding.
  • 944 Kipling South: This route is suspended.
  • 945 Kipling Express: No change from November 2020 schedule when this route was restored.
  • 952 Lawrence Express: Peak service adjusted for reliability.
  • 953 Steeles East Express: Weekday service restored according to the service memo, but there is no published schedule for the route. [This was corrected on January 4-5, 2021]
  • 954 Lawrence East Express: No change from November 2020 schedule when this route was restored.
  • 960 Steeles West Express: This route was incorrectly listed as suspended, but published schedules now include weekday service. [This was corrected on January 4-5, 2021]
  • 984 Sheppard West Express: Weekday service restored according to the service memo, but there is also a published schedule for Saturday and Sunday service. [Weekend service has been restored, although it was not originally visible on NextBus. This has been corrected.]
  • 985 Sheppard East Express: Weekday service restored.
  • 986 Scarborough Express: No change from November 2020 schedule when this route was restored as part of the RapidTO bus lane implementation.
  • 989 Weston Express: This route is suspended. Articulated buses will operate on 89 Weston local to compensate for capacity. See 89 Weston.
  • 995 York Mills Express: Weekday service restored.
  • 996 Wilson Express: No change from November 2020 schedule when this route was restored.

On the affected routes, tripper services that had operated in place of the weekday express trips will be removed.

24 Victoria Park and 89 Weston will continue to operate with only local service, but the schedules will be restored to pre-covid versions with normal peak period arrangements, supplemented by extra service as needed.

24 Victoria Park

The charts of headways for 24 Victoria Park in November and January overlap a lot, and so I have presented them separately here for clarity.

Scheduled service on this route was extremely erratic in November because there are three separate sub-routes all on different, incompatible headways. The “average” on paper might be about 5 minutes (12 buses per hour) but scheduled gaps twice that value or more, as well as scheduled bunching is the result. The three services are:

  • The regular service to Steeles
  • The Consumers Road branch
  • “Tripper” vehicles scheduled on a headway that does not blend with either of these services.

This is further complicated by selective cancellation of some runs causing built-in gaps on the Steeles service. These are clearly visible in the chart later below showing the service at Finch Avenue.

The trippers run in two blocks about 7 hours long with a window between noon and 3 pm when only the two regular branches remain. During that period, headways bounce up and down because the schedules do not blend. After 10 pm, the scheduled headway pattern on the Steeles service is 10-14-14 when it could be 12-13-13 and provide less erratic service.

In the new January schedule, the service is somewhat better-behaved although the effect of the mismatched Steeles and Consumers headways still produces a sawtooth pattern with several trips scheduled one or two minutes apart, and a few simultaneously. While this is an improvement over November’s schedule, it is still a service that is planned to be irregular even if it is “on time”.

  • In the AM peak buses run every 9’30” to Steeles and every 15′ to Consumers Road, headways that cannot possibly blend.
  • During the midday a 10′ headway to Steeles mixes with a 25′ headway to Consumers Road to produce the pattern shown here. The average headway is about 7′ (7 buses every 50 minutes), but that is not what riders experience.
  • The evening service oscillates between headway values one minute apart. This is normal for headways which are not integers (7’30” and 9’30” for early and late evening service).

The buses per hour values show that the amount of service has declined in January during most time periods, although with the uneven spacing of buses on both schedules, this might not be obvious to riders.

At the north end of the route, there is only one service, the 24 Steeles, but the November service (red) shows the effect of trippers and some deleted runs. The January service (orange) is much more regular. Note that the scale of this chart is double that of the charts above.

The number of buses per hour is higher in a few periods, lower in others, although the more regular scheduled spacing will probably appear as an improvement overall.

25/925 Don Mills

The November schedule (red) northbound from Pape Station has no express service and shows the effect of trippers and cancelled runs. There are regular dips to short headways during periods when the trippers operate and high points where regular trips are missing and a tripper does not split the gap.

In January, the local 25 service (orange) returns to a more even pattern to which the express buses (blue) add through most of the day. This is a definite improvement in service across the day as shown in the hourly count of scheduled buses.

Southbound from Finch, the local 25 service is identical (the orange and red lines are on top of each other) until the PM peak after which it improves in January compared to November. The restored express service is added on top of the local service.

35/935 Jane

A major shortcoming in the Covid era schedules was the cancellation of weekend express service with no scheduled replacement. This hit routes like 35/935 Jane particularly hard, and the TTC claims to have run supplemental service on the route. This is hard to prove due to the way the extras were scheduled and shortcomings in the vehicle tracking system. What we do know is that weekend service, at least by those vehicles that were tracked, was very badly bunched especially on Saturdays.

This was due partly to line management and partly due to the return of pre-pandemic traffic conditions on parts of the corridor. I will explore that in a separate article.

According to the schedules published through the City’s Open Data Portal, weekend service will be restored on 935 Jane. Schedules on both the 35 local and 935 express routes will be altered to reflect demand. This is shown graphically in the following charts. I have used Lawrence Avenue northbound as the point to display scheduled service as this is midway along the route and includes all of the branches.

In these charts, the scheduled service from November 2020 is shown in red (local) and green (express), while the schedule for January 2021 is shown in orange (local) and blue (express). Each dot represents one bus, and its location is the headway (vertically) and time of day (horizontally).

Note that it is common for these charts to have a sawtooth appearance as headways fractional minutes are scheduled on the minute with alternating values such as 7′ and 8′ to produce 7’30” on average. Also, headways bounce around somewhat at transitions between periods as buses are inserted or removed and nearby runs have to bunch together or move apart to adjust.

On the weekday schedules, there is a reduction in both the local and express service, more so for the latter, for much of the day. Early morning service has been adjusted to remove some wide gaps. The change in overall service is shown in the buses/hour chart.

On Saturdays, the express service is net new and will more than compensate for a slight reduction in local service.

On Sundays, the express service is net new and effectively doubles the scheduled service during the daytime and early evening period.

37/937 Islington

37 Islington suffers from a problem similar to 24 Victoria Park with branching services whose headways do not always blend. The November (red) and January (orange) local headways during the peak periods are slightly different on the two schedules, but the problem persists. A regular service of 937 express buses added in January overlays this improving peak period service.

The off-peak headways are much more regular because the Steeles and Rexdale branches operate on a common headway.

The buses per hour values during the peak periods are substantially improved by the added 937 express service.

Saturday service suffers for much of the day from uneven headways on the Steeles and Rexdale branches.

Sunday service is irregular all day thanks to mismatched headways with many trips leaving Islington Station close together.

Scheduled peak service southbound at Finch is improved both for local (orange) and the new express (blue) schedules.

39/939 Finch East

The service patterns on Finch East are complex enough that I have split the November and January charts apart.

In November there was only local service, but the scheduled headways were erratic due to four overlapping services each on its own headway:

  • 39A to Neilson
  • 39B to Old Finch
  • 39C to Victoria Park (peak only)
  • Trippers

In January, the trippers have been replaced by the 939 express service, but the peak period local service is still affected by differing headways on each branch.

The bus/hour count is up in some, down in other periods as shown in the chart below.

At Middlefield, the November service shows the effect of trippers on the headway pattern, and this disappears in January when they are replaced, peak only, by the 939 express service. (All of the express trips off-peak go to Scarborough Town Centre and so they do not appear east of McCowan in the service.)

The buses per hour values are lower in January for most of the day. Off-peak trippers that ran east of McCowan are replaced by express trips that go to STC.

On the outer end of the line at Morningside, headways are unchanged for most of the day except during the afternoon peak when trippers that caused downward spikes in the headway pattern were removed. Service to Old Finch will be less frequent on average during that period.

41/941 Keele

The peak period service on the 941 express has been improved slightly in response to crowding. All other schedules are unchanged.

52/952 Lawrence West

The 952 Lawrence West Express service will be adjusted in January for reliability. Headways will be slightly wider than at present.

The Lawrence corridor suffers from uneven scheduled headways because of the schedule for each of three branches: 52A Airport, 52B Westwood Mall, 52F Royal York. All three operate every 17 minutes weekdays, but they are not evenly spaced in the schedule on an 8-5-4 pattern leaving Yonge westbound. When the 52F branch splits off, this leaves an 8-9 pattern. Such are the problems of branching services.

Here is the Saturday service westbound at Dufferin where there are similar problems with the inability to blend all of the branches into an even headway for considerable parts of the day.

53/953 Steeles East

Weekday service is restored on the 953 Steeles East Express and there are also improvements to the 53 local service in the early morning and the late evening.

The combined effect of the changes is a considerable improvement in peak scheduled buses/hour.

The change in westbound service seen at Middlefield Road is similar with a combination of restored 953 express service and improved 53 local service in the early morning and late evening.

At the east end of the route, the 53 local service is replaced in the peak period by 953 express trips. This reverses the change implemented when the covid service cuts removed almost all express buses. The new express service (which runs local on this part of the route) has more buses/hour in the peak

60/960 Steeles West

Service on 960 Steeles West Express has been restored with only a slight reduction in the 60 Steeles West local.

The total buses/hour during peak periods rises while the off-peak service is slightly reduced.

West of Pioneer Village Station, only the local 60 Steeles West service operates. This is reduced slightly during all periods after 10 am. Note the spikes both up and down in headways before and after the PM peak. These are caused by headway transitions that cause three large scheduled gaps in service. The downward spikes have the same origin, but they do not have as much effect on riders.

Looked at on a buses/hour basis, there is a slight reduction in service during most hours, but the consolidation of data into hourly groups masks the swings in actual headways shown above.

84/984 Sheppard West

The express service will be restored on Sheppard West without any change in the local schedule from November. That local service has extremely irregular headways (sometimes with two buses departing at the same time) because schedules on overlapping branches are not co-ordinated or have incompatible headways.

  • 84A to Weston Road
  • 84C to Steeles via Arrow Road
  • 84D to Pioneer Village Station via Oakdale

During the AM peak, the 84A branch operates every 11-12 minutes, while both 84C and 84D operated on blended 18 minute headways producing a regular 9 minute service between them.

During the PM peak, the 84A branch operates every 15 minutes, while the 84C/84D operate every 30 minutes producing a blended 15 minute headway. However, on the common portion of the route, these are scheduled with a pattern of 5-10-5-10 rather than a constant 7’30”.

The January service memo makes two statements that are not borne out by the published schedules:

  • The trippers operating on the local service have been removed. However there is no change between the November and January scheduled service for route 84.
  • Express service is restored only for weekdays. However, Saturday and Sunday service on the 984 express is included in the published January schedules.

I await the updated version of the memo to clarify what is going on.

85/985 Sheppard East

The 985 express service will be restored in January replacing the local trippers now operating on the route. The chart below shows the scheduled service at Consumers Road just east of Don Mills Station. For much of the day, the local service is unchanged except for the removal of trippers (the downward red spikes). The express service (blue) is a net addition throughout the day.

Further east at McCowan, the branch of the express service to Scarborough Town Centre has dropped out of the mix, and the express service is peak only.

At Rouge Hill GO Station, the service is cut in the peaks when the trippers operated. They are not replaced by the express service which turns back at Meadowvale.

89 Weston

The schedule change on 89 Weston is similar to that on 24 Victoria Park, but as the 89 has no branches, the starting point was simpler. The changes for January eliminate the trippers that are not scheduled to blend with the headway of the basic service, and restore the cancelled trips that produced scheduled gaps.

The buses per hour value drops in the late afternoon early evening due to the removal of trippers.

95/995 York Mills

The 995 express service will be restored on York Mills replacing trippers. The change in scheduled service regularity is profound. Service leaving York Mills Station eastbound now suffers from irregular headways caused by trippers on a different pattern than the underlying service. This will be replaced with regularly spaced 95 local buses augmented by the new 995 express service.

The change in buses/hour varies both up and down over the day.

On the outer end of the line, the effect of the service changes varies. On the 95A Kingston Road branch, there is somewhat less service because of the removal of trippers.

At Morningside where the 95B and 995 services operate, the situation is different.The trippers and their erratic headways are gone, but they are replaced by the express service.

Downtown Peak Services

Service on the 14x Downtown Express as well as the 176 Mimico GO and 508 Lake Shore remain suspended until demand to the business district recovers.

Run As Directed Buses

The number of Route 600 Run as Directed buses will be reduced as more service returns to normal schedules. The allocation of buses by starting time and division is shown in the table below. Note that because of the span involved, these buses are not all in service at the same time. When the TTC says that there are 115 RAD buses on weekdays, there are far fewer than this at any one time. Broadly speaking they are in groups covering the AM peak/morning, midday/PM peak, evening and overnight periods.

6 thoughts on “TTC Service Changes January 3, 2021: Part II Buses

  1. I believe all express routes listed to be restored would retain their same service levels as it was before. Am I right?

    Steve: It varies from route to route, but generally yes.

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  2. Would the reason for the 989 not being restored is because artics are being used on most weekday runs of 89 Weston?

    Steve: It’s the other way around. The artics are still on the 89 because the 989 has not been restored.

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  3. Though I was certainly not expecting the bus changes approved with the 2021 Service Plan a few weeks ago being implemented in January, when will these occur?

    Steve: They were only just approved by the TTC Board, and we are already past the point of mid-February implementation. The earliest would be the end of March, but I would not count on this until we see the announcement.

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  4. Is there a spreadsheet PDF page available in this page?

    Steve: I am waiting for the TTC to issue an updated service memo. The original had some odd stuff that needed to be corrected. Also, the changes this month are more complex than the usual spreadsheet layout could capture. That’s why I used the charts in the article about bus changes. The streetcar changes are in the usual format in that article.

    The TTC has now advised that an updated memo will come out on Monday, Jan. 4, 2021.

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  5. I just checked the new schedules for 960 Steeles West Express and the service will be restored.

    Steve: Yes, there have been several fixes to the originally published schedules. The new versions are on ttc.ca but not yet in the published GTFS versions.

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  6. Though I realise that scheduling is complicated, I am ‘amused’ to see that the anomaly of having the 121 is scheduled to run only twice an hour on weekdays but 3 or 4 times an hour on Saturdays and Sundays continues. A route (with several possible, if less convenient, alternatives) running on (supposedly) 30 minute headways is really pretty useless!

    Steve: There are some strange things thanks to the focus on weekday schedules. This may get sorted out when the 121 assumes its new configuration (date TBA) later this year.

    Going into the Covid period, there were a lot of unnecessary problems caused on weekends by cancellation of express buses which provided a substantial proportion of the service. Claims that the TTC was running at 85% of former service rang hollow in places where service cuts of 30-50% occurred, only to be backfilled, maybe, by ad hoc operation of RAD buses. Then stir in headway management (MIA as usual) and things got very, very bad on some routes.

    Service Planning is very busy (some of the January schedules had to be fixed at the last moment, and some of the online info still isn’t up to date), but that’s only a partial excuse in a business where customer service counts for a lot, and in an organization whose claims on that front outstrip its actual delivery.

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