Many routes will see service changes with the June-July schedules coming into effect on June 20, 2021.
The changes lie mostly two areas:
- Improvements to or cutbacks in service in response to pandemic-era demand.
- Reliability improvements with increased or decreased travel times.
The majority of the updates are on weekend schedules.
A few notable changes are described here, but readers should refer to the full spreadsheet of changes linked below to see what is happening on individual routes.
New Route Numbers
In preparation for the opening of the 5 Eglinton Crosstown and 6 Finch West LRT lines, routes now bearing these numbers have been changed.
- 5 Avenue Road is now 13 Avenue Road
- 6 Bay is now 19 Bay
Queen Street West Water Main and Track Construction Projects
The replacement of track and some water mains on Queen from Bay to Fennings (between Ossington and Dovercourt) is an ongoing project that will run until December 2021. The City’s construction plan is to occupy single blocks of Queen Street at a time during which all planned work will be completed. Temporary CafeTO patios will be removed as each block is rebuilt.
Work will begin westward from Bay to Spadina from June to August, and will then shift to work east from Fennings to Spadina from August to December. For the staging plan, please see the City’s project web page. 501 Buses will divert around construction areas as needed.
The 501P Park Lawn service has been shortened to loop at Humber Loop using an old TTC loop at The Queensway and High Street to turn around and access the bus loop at Humber from the west. This change is already in place, and will formally be part of the schedule on June 20.
King West 504Q Bus Shuttle
The 504Q shuttle from King/Queen/Triller has been extended from Sudbury Street to the loop at Princes Gates. This change is already operating and will be formally in the June 20 schedule.
A Note About “Reliability” Improvements
Since pre-pandemic times, the TTC has been adjusting schedules by adding running time, often at the expense of wider headways, to ensure that very little service has to be short turned. This has the unwanted effect of causing vehicles to bunch at terminals where there may not be room for them, and for operators to regard departure times as somewhat elastic because they know they will soon be ahead of schedule thanks to the padding.
Several of the changes in the June schedules reduce scheduled running time to claw back provisions that are not required under current traffic conditions. At the same time, the scheduled headways might go up or down depending on current demand on the route. Each route and time period is different in this respect, and readers should look at the spreadsheet for the details.
In the spreadsheet, running times are shown in the format “A+B” where “A” is travel time from one terminus to another, and “B” is the “recovery time” if any at the terminal.
There is no formula or policy rationale behind the length of recovery times, and in some cases none is provided in the schedule. In other cases, very long recovery times are side effects of scheduling branching services.
For the schedule to “work”, the round trip time (RTT), including recovery, must be a multiple of the headway. When a service has branches, each branch’s RTT must be a multiple of the headway. In cases where buses switch between branches, the RTTs for both branches will be a multiple of the common headway plus half a headway, and there will be “half buses” assigned to each branch. This works because the RTTs for the two branches add up to a multiple of the common headway.
For example, the midday service on 79 Scarlett Road operates every 24 minutes on each branch with a 60 minute RTT. Buses alternate between two branches, and so one complete cycle takes 120 minutes which is a multiple of 24. The vehicle assignment for each branch is 2.5 buses.
In order to make this sort of scheme work, particularly for infrequent services, “recovery” times are adjusted up and down in schedules as needed. They have little to do with actual operating conditions or the need for flexibility in handling traffic effects.
In particular, there is no contractual requirement for the TTC to provide any recovery time, and operators on routes with tight schedules make do as best they can. This creates problems for “on time” metrics.
600 Run as Directed Buses
The spreadsheet includes a list by division of the “600” buses commonly known as RADs. The number of RAD crews varies by day of the week, but for June-July there will be 127 of them on weekdays.
It is common for the TTC to talk about these buses being deployed around the system as if they are all in service at the same time. In fact, the crews are broken into time periods, and roughly speaking one third of the RADs exist at any one time. This means that the number of buses available to handle surge loads or the occasional subway service replacement is not as large as TTC claims might imply.
Service Planned vs Budgeted
The regular service planned for June-July is about 3.8 per cent below the budgeted level due in part to ridership not returning system-wide at the expected rate.
Construction service is up by about 19 per cent over budget, although this is a charge on the capital projects rather than operations.
The peak bus fleet in service, including RADs and construction buses is 1463 in the AM peak, 1499 in the PM peak. This is 211 and 175 buses, respectively, lower than the available fleet of 1674, which in turn is well below the total fleet of over 2000 allowing for maintenance spares at about 20 per cent.
A footnote in the table below shows that the peak fleet utilization is actually 1536 buses, slightly higher than the “total in service” of 1499. The reason for this is that there is an overlap between buses running out of service at the end of the peak and those that come newly out of garages at the same time.
There is ample room in the existing fleet to operate more bus service, but this would require additional subsidy.
The streetcar fleet is underutilized because of major construction projects, pandemic service cutbacks and a major overhaul project.
18 is a vacant number. Any reason why they jumped to 19 for Bay? Asking for a nerd friend.
Steve: It is a mystery.
Not that significant, but on the second last page in the PDF showing long term construction, you have two route interlines wrong. It should be 5 (soon to be 13)/56 and 51/61 discontinued because of LRT construction. You’ve got it listed as 5/61 and 51/56. Again, not that significant but thought I’d point it.
Steve: Thanks for catching that. I have not updated that part of the table in quite some time, but will fix it for the next update.
Instead of increasing recovery time, wouldn’t it be better to reduce headway to provide better service? The clock-face schedule justifies it is a weak argument since many people are using real time prediction apps now.
Steve: The TTC only talks about clock face headways when it suits them and will go “off the clock” to make schedules work out.
When recovery times are short, there isn’t enough leeway to make much change in the headway. Where recovery times are long (or equally when running times are excessive) then it is possible to reduce the number of buses while keeping the headway the same or even making a slight improvement. This was done in a few cases in this round.
However, any claim that there is a method or policy at work, as opposed to getting the round trip time to work out to a multiple of the headway, simply doesn’t hold water when we look at real schedules.
RE the comment about 18… I think there’s something about using the 18 for when they split the 47 route (if they still are) at Caledonia Stn. 47 run south to Queen and 18 run north to Yorkdale Stn.
The same plan saw 19 being used for a new route. Maybe that one has changed.
It seems logical that’s why they didn’t use 18. And 19 may never materialize.
PS. Is there an updated plan for bus routes serving Line 5 when it opens?
Steve: I have not seen anything on this since the map published five years ago. On that map, there is no route split at Caledonia Station, and so the old 18 Caledonia route does not reappear. Maybe they have had second thoughts and are keeping that number in reserve.
RE my previous message… I did some hunting and found this from 2019… seems more recent then that and it shows the 47 split and a 19. Rerouted 171 too.. it’s in the 5 and 10 year service plan page 38 and 39 (bottom corner numbers)
Steve: Yes, that map does show a revised version of the routes including the 47/18 split at Caledonia Station. This map does not appear in the 2021 version of the same report. At some point, the TTC will release a definitive version and we will see which configuration they settle on.
Is the Eglinton line still projected to open Feb 2022?
Steve: No. “Late 2022” is the most accurate prediction I have heard. It’s been some time since even Metrolinx could credibly claim any date in early 2022.
So TTC likely won’t have the final route map related to Eglinton LRT opening till mid 2022.
Steve: I suspect early 2022. They have to plan the big shuffle in advance. What I am waiting for is how long we pretend that it’s still going to open earlier in the year. This affects budget planning and staffing, and yet we can’t tell Premier Ford that he won’t get to cut the ribbon.
12 Kingston Road is moving to a 40-minute headway at some points???
I don’t recall the TTC running a service that poor in ages, that seems borderline comical.
Steve: Yes, I noticed that, but it’s only for a short stretch of the route with alternate trips serving Variety Village. There are a few routes with split services that run at headways above 30 minutes during some periods of light demand, typically where there are branches, or large loops that operate alternate trips in each direction. This includes 59 Maple Leaf, 88 South Leaside, 107 York University Heights, 109 Ranee.
Steve, has there been any update on expected completion of Finch West LRT line? Is construction of that line going according to plan?
Steve: Finch West seems to be just barreling along with a completion date in 2023. With comparatively little underground construction, that project has nowhere near the challenges on Eglinton Avenue.
Usually, the end of June and with the start of summer, there would be route changes because of the reduced summer ridership. This year would be an exception because of COVID-19. If the numbers stay down or lower over the summer, we can expect better service come September.
Steve: You can see in the budget numbers that there is a big service jump planned for September. What we will actually see, however, will depend on ridership recovery. The schedules will exist in draft in early July, but I doubt they will be released until the usual three-week lead time for changes unless the TTC Board members want some good news to trumpet over the summer.
But how will Etobicoke survive with surface streetcars? Won’t traffic be hopelessly snarled? Doug Ford, save us from this scourge!
I may be missing something but I wonder why the TTC bothers to change bus route numbers. From the Transit Toronto website it is clear that when they started the current numbering system in the early 1950s they (generally) went alphabetically. #2 was Anglesey and #96 was Wilson. As we know, they gave up on this plan in the following years and there is currently no alphabetic-numeric link. Numbers are just numbers. However, changing a route number involves changing/updating every bus stop on that route and all maps need to be changed. Looks like (another) TTC make-work project to me Am I missing something?
Steve: When the TTC decided to give the subway lines route numbers, this set in motion repurposing the lower route numbers. 4 used to be Annette. 5 and 6 will be Eglinton and Finch.
This problem goes even further back to when they decided to number the streetcar routes in the 500s because there wasn’t enough room on the CLRV roll signs. Personally, I prefer route names, but numbers have advantages both for complex routes that run on many streets. This is an argument that can go either way, and I’m really not interested in seeing a whole string of replies here (hint, hint).
The reduction on weekend service for 53 Steeles East is unsurprising. In fact, I use this route to get home on Sunday afternoons earlier this year and I only saw a few people in the bus. Sure does make sense to reduce weekend service on 53 Steeles East.
As you noted, today I saw my first 19 Bay bus. If I were in charge I might have used a 19/6 or 19 & 6 sign for a few weeks – not possible with the old roll signs but with electronic ones, easy. Though the TTC website now lists the 19 there is no reference to the old number and if you look up “6” there is no link and, inevitably, the actual Stops are all marked “6”. It will be interesting to see how long it takes the Stop sign maintenance crew to fix that!
Steve: Possibly as long as it takes for us to get to Rapid Transit Route 19 and need to recycle the number?