Updated October 14, 2021 at 2:45 pm: The description of the new 51B service to The Donway has been corrected to explain it as an extension of an earlier proposed 51B that would have ended at Laird Station.
The TTC has released the final version of its Service Plan for 2022 after a second round of stakeholder advisory group meetings. Much of this plan is the same as the interim version released in June 2021 and described in TTC 2022 Service Plan Consultation.
There is an updated Presentation Deck and a route-by-route description in text of the planned changes for the Line 5 Eglinton Crosstown opening in 2022. A map from the presentation is included later in this article.
The TTC Board will consider this plan at their November 17, 2021 meeting. They will discuss the 2022 Operating and Capital Budget which will include provisions for these changes, subject to funding availability, at their December 8, 2021 meeting (unless a special, separate meeting is called for the purpose).
There is no mention in the Service Plan of the possible effect of staff shortages as the condition which may trigger this (vaccination mandates) were not an issue when the plan was drawn up. Nor is there any discussion of a “plan B” for what might happen to service in the absence of sufficient subsidy from various governments.
Ridership and Crowding
As of mid-September, ridership as measured either by boardings (unlinked trips with each transfer counted as a new trip, except in the subway) or by revenue rides (linked trips) sits at 45-46 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. The strongest recovery is on the bus network, followed by the streetcars and then the subway. The effect of the much-reduced downtown commuting is apparent for routes serving that area.
The TTC has not yet published an October CEO’s Report which might contain more recent counts. Personal observation from my own riding is that ridership has grown since mid-September.
As demand recovers, crowding will become more common (and already is in many places and times). The TTC has already passed the threshold of 30% ridership where full pre-pandemic service is required to provide physical distancing. As riding grows, this will no longer be possible. TTC Service Standards for what constitutes “overcrowding” that requires more service will shift as demand recovers. In many cases, vehicles will simply be more crowded, but in the worst cases the TTC will make tradeoffs between existing lightly-used services and routes that are overcrowded.
Occupancy levels are growing as are boardings. The values below are all-day totals and they do not break out growth by time of day or location. The blue line shows that as of mid-September 34% of trips were above the 30% capacity line and the trend is upward.
There is no provision in the Service Plan for growth and any addition must be offset by a reduction elsewhere.
Notable by its absence in the Service Plan is any discussion of service reliability as a line management strategy. Regular readers and riders will know that bunching and gaps are a constant problem across the system. This wastes capacity and results in more riders seeing crowded conditions than would be the case with reliable, regularly spaced service. The TTC has yet to produce Service Standards and metrics that reflect this aspect of service.
When times are tight, better operation of what is already on the street is a low-cost way to improve service. Alas this requires both an acknowledgement that there is a problem within the TTC, and some improvement in labour-management relations to aid with implementing better service regulation.
The Plan mentions adjusting schedules to fit actual conditions. This practice began a few years back with padded travel times to ensure that short turns were rare, but now more commonly changes involve removal of the excess travel time. This can either free up vehicles for other routes, or be used to improve service at no net cost on the route with a new schedule.
Other planned changes include reduction of non-revenue service where garage trips are “dead headed” with vehicle out of service and a pilot of timed connections on the Blue Night Network.
Changes for Line 5 Eglinton Crosstown
The map of post-Line5 services is very similar to the June 2021 version.
Two routes have been modified in response to rider feedback.
This route was originally planned as a parallel surface route between Mount Dennis and Science Centre (Don Mills) Stations. It has been extended east to Kennedy Station so that there will be a surface bus paralleling the LRT service. This will maintain service at existing bus stops that would have otherwise disappeared.
51 Leslie (Corrected)
In the original proposal, there would have been a gap in service on Lawrence west of Don Mills Road where the 162 Lawrence-Donway bus turns south on its way to Science Centre Station, and service would have been removed from the loop around The Donway.
This has been revised by extending the proposed 51B Leslie branch that would have turned back at Laird station. It will now turn east on Lawrence from Leslie and loop around The Donway.
Other Route Changes
Five new/modified routes were proposed in the original service plan, and these remain as is. There is no announced implementation date.
Other Planned Improvements
Other potential changes/goals for 2022 include:
- Improve stop accessibility and provide for articulated buses
- Heated shelter pilot
- Jane-Finch hub design
- RapidTO Jane Street (Eglinton to Steeles)
- 3 queue jump lanes (Locations TBA)
- Advanced Transit Signal Priority at 100 locations (2022-23)
- Cross-border service pilot
- Improve connections with private microtransit shuttles
- Automated Transit Shuttle Pilot report
- Integration of cycling and transit infrastructure
Additional details on specific proposals are likely to appear when this plan goes to the TTC Board for approval.