Updated January 6, 2021 at 9:50 pm:
A revised version of the service change memo has been issued by the TTC. This article is updated to reflect new information.
This article has been delayed from its usual publication a few weeks before changes go into effect. Schedule changes were still in flux, and information on what would actually operate was inconsistent.
There are many sources for service information:
- An internal memo from Service Planning detailing the pending changes for a coming “board period” (usually a six-week interval). This exists in draft form a few months ahead of the implmentation date, but a final version is issued two-to-three weeks ahead of time. By this point, everything is more or less frozen in place because operators have picked their crews based on the new schedules. This is the memo on which I base my regular articles detailing pending changes.
- At roughly the same time as the final version of the planning memo comes out, the TTC publishes electronic versions of schedules through the City of Toronto’s Open Data Portal. These are in an industry-standard format called GTFS (General Transit Feed Specification) used by agencies to publish their schedules for use by trip planning applications.
- A separate version of the schedule data is created for NextBus which has its own format different from GTFS. On occasion the conversion process goes awry and NextBus does not have correct info.
- The TTC’s own publicly posted schedules on its website appear to be generated from the GTFS data, although this conversion process can also run into problems.
- Finally, there are the Scheduled Service Summaries. These come from Service Planning and they give an overview of service on all routes. Under normal circumstances, a new summary is published on the TTC’s Planning page just after new schedules go into effect. With so much service operating ad hoc through crew cancellations and RADs through 2020, these summaries did not fully reflect what was going on. In practice they could not because their structure is intended for simpler times. Some periods had no published summary.
Throughout the pandemic period, and especially at its outset, the TTC service planners had to make many last-minute changes including the conversion of express operations to “tripper” local runs, selective cancellation of crews, and creation of a pool of “run as directed” [RAD] buses and streetcars. The RADs were used both to fill schedule gaps and to supplement service where needed.
A useful factor in this was the automated passenger counting (APC) data that could be mined to locate routes with capacity issues. Many would argue that the TTC did not do enough to deal with crowding problems on some routes, but a related issue often discussed on this site was service regularity. On paper, a route might have enough service to handle demand at acceptable crowding levels, but in practice if service is badly bunched some vehicles will be badly crowded while others run with light loads.
In 2021, Service Planning hopes to get back to schedules that are properly constructed for reliable service rather than ad hoc responses to the pandemic.
The January 2021 schedule change encountered problems because of last minute-changes that caused the various sources of information to go out-of-sync.
- As of January 3, the GTFS schedules reflect plans in mid-December (their posting date is December 21), and plans for some routes have changed.
- The information on TTC schedule pages appears to reflect more recent changes to plans implying the existence of a refreshed set of GTFS data. This has not yet been published.
- For reasons that are not yet clear, the NextBus versions of the January schedules were both incomplete and included outdated routing information. This caused NextBus to display little or no data for many routes until mid-afternoon on Sunday, January 3. Some late-breaking changes/corrections to TTC plans do not yet appear in the NextBus versions of the schedules [as of January 3].
- The generic Service Change page does not list all of the changes because (a) it appears to be based on the original version of the service memo, and (b) because some changes, notably major restructuring of streetcar routes, have been missed. This is complicated by the TTC’s placing notice of one change, the restructuring of Queen services, in the Route Diversions page, not together with the list of service changes. There is no notice of changes on 504 King or 506 Carlton which now operate as split routes.
This situation reflects problems of last-minute decision-making, of multiple sources for data, and of fragmentation of responsibility for managing updates into (at least) three groups: Service Planning, IT and Communications. When a lot is changing on the fly, some things slip through the cracks. This is not to criticize staff, but rather to point out a structure where co-ordination problems can occur.
I will update this article as additional information becomes available.
Express Bus Updates
Revised January 5, 2021 at 6:20 am: The versions of schedules in the Open Data Portal and on NextBus have been updated with schedule data for routes 953 and 960 Steeles East/West. These routes now appear in service predictions.
In Part II of this article, I listed the status of the 9xx express bus routes based on information then available. A few changes appear to have been made:
- Service on 953 Steeles East was announced in the service memo, but the GTFS data contained no schedule information. The 953 schedule now appears on the TTC’s site, although service restoration is not mentioned on the Service Changes page. NextBus does not display this route, and any apps depending on the NextBus feed will not “see” this service. [Fixed January 5]
- Service on 960 Steeles was not mentioned explicitly in the service memo, and the GTFS data contained no schedule information. However, the 960 schedule now appears on the TTC’s site, although this restoration is not mentioned on the Service Changes page. NextBus does not display this route. [Fixed January 5]
- Weekday service on 984 Sheppard Express was announced in the service memo, but both the GTFS data and the 984 schedule page include weekend service. However, on Sunday, January 3, no 984 service appeared to be operating. [A reader reported that there was service operating on the 984 on January 3. The updated TTC service memo confirms that weekend service will operate.]
Vehicle Mode Change
Service on 7 Bathurst will change to use articulated buses on weekdays. Headways will widen by varying amounts during weekday time periods except late evening when this route operates as part of the ten-minute network.
Routes Continuing to Operate Reduced Service
Update: The following routes will continue to operate at reduced service due to lower demand from office workers and post-secondary students.
Service Changes Related to Demand
The following routes have service improvements to address demand:
- 941 Keele peak service improved.
- 46 Martin Grove AM peak period retimed from 7-9 to 6-8 am to match demand pattern.
- 73 Royal York: The 5:42 am northbound trip will operate as 73C to Claireport rather than 73D to Knob Hill to reflect demand.
- 100 Flemingdon Park service improved during the peaks and weekday midday.
- 165 Weston Road North will have a new weekday trip at 5:42 am from Keele & Wilson.
The following routes will have less frequent service because of low usage:
- 44 Kipling South service reduced during weekday peaks and midday.
- 78 St Andrews service reduced during the AM peak.
- 100 Flemingdon Park service reduced weekday early evenings.
- 124 Sunnybrook service reduced weekday midday.
- 169 Huntingwood service reduced during the AM peak.
Service Changes for Reliability
The following routes have service changes for reliability adjustments:
- 23 Dawes: Buses added in peak periods, and service improved in the AM peak. Late evening service slightly reduced.
- 31 Greenwood: Service slightly improved in the PM peak.
- 35/935 Jane: Service will run less frequently during most periods. In some cases, buses have been added to compensate for congestion problems.
- 37 Islington to Steeles: Concurrent with the restoration of express service, peak service is improved to match express headways.
- 952 Lawrence West Express: One bus added in each peak period and headways widened to compensate for travel time.
- 70 O’Connor: During most periods of operation, travel and recovery times will be lengthened, and in most cases service will be less frequent. During the PM peak and Saturday early evening, buses will be added to offset the extra travel time. Late evening interlines with 16 McCowan and 135 Gerrard removed.
- 79 Scarlett Road: AM peak schedule adjusted to provide equal headways on each branch so that service blends on the common portion of the route. Peak service improved in both the AM and PM.
- 91 Woodbine: Running times extended and headways widened during most periods.
- 95 York Mills: Concurrent with the restoration of express service, headways on the local branches are adjusted so that they blend with each other. This corrects a problem that was introduced with the “tripper” service running at mismatched headways.
- 111 East Mall: Peak period running times extended and buses added. PM peak service improved.
- 12 Kingston Road, 86 Scarborough and 102 Markham Road: School trips changed to suit dismissal times at St. John Henry CHS.
- 17 Birchmount: New southbound trip from Warden & Steeles at 12:08 am.
- 21C Brimley to STC: Extra late evening service to compensate for elevator construction at STC station, now complete, removed.
- 29/929 Dufferin: All service extended from Dufferin Loop to Princes’ Gates Loop to make room for streetcars (previously reported in Part I of this series).
- 36 Finch West: Additional running time and vehicles to compensate for LRT construction delays. No change to scheduled service levels.
- 47 Lansdowne: AM peak service rescheduled to blend service on both branches. Four trippers now interline with 505 Dundas eastbound from Lansdowne.
- 56 Leaside and 83 Jones: Service will loop on street via Danforth, Caithness and Strathmore due to construction at Donlands Station. PM peak service improved on 83 Jones.
- 71 Runnymede and 77 Swansea: The interline of these routes at Runnymede Station will end. Service on 71 Runnymede is unchanged, but on 77 Swansea service will return to former levels.
- 100 Flemingdon Park: Four AM peak trippers now interline with 505 Dundas southbound from Broadview Station.
Updated January 6, 2021 at 9:50 pm
Here is a detailed table of all service changes. [Corrected January 7, 2021 to show the restoration of 913 Progress Express in the overview of express routes.]