TTC Ridership, Finances and Service as of November 2021

The agenda for the Toronto Transit Commission board meeting on November 29, 2021, is rather thin considering that the board has not met for some time, and there are major policy issues worth discussing about the system’s future.

Two major reports are:


TTC ridership continues to run below budget projections, although it has been growing. Recently it has been tracking near budgetary projections, but shortfalls during stay-at-home periods earlier in 2021 have kept the year-to-date total below expectations. Although we are now almost at the end of November, only data to the end of September are reported here.

Another view of ridership is based on “boardings” where each transfer (except between subway lines) counts as a new boarding. In transit parlance, these are “unlinked trips” as opposed to the “linked trips” that have traditionally been associated with individual fares paid. Even that gets tricky with passes including the two-hour transfer.

Relative to pre-pandemic demand, the bus network is at 55%, streetcars are at 42% and the subway is at 38%. Updated data showing recent experience would obviously be useful here to see whether riding has plateaued, or if it continues to grow, especially in light of recent service cuts.

Demand on Wheel-Trans is down substantially compared both to pre-pandemic times and to budget projections.

Bus occupancy has grown steadily over the year. An important point about the chart below is that it is measured trip-by-trip rather than being averaged over all trips on the system. What we do not know, however, is how many of these trips have high loads because the affected bus is running in a gap, and how many are because the service overall has less capacity than required for demand. Also, of course, we do not see the distribution of crowded trips by route or time-of-day.

An important issue here is that as overall demand recovers, the TTC plans to set its crowding targets progressively higher until they reach historical pre-pandemic levels. If service, and hence crowding, are irregular, then some buses will operate well beyond comfortable or attractive levels even as (and if) riders get more used to being in crowds.

Overcrowding was a constant complaint in pre-pandemic times, and Toronto should not aim simply to return to an overstuffed system. However, more service costs money and that is in short supply, even for politicians who are truly pro-transit at budget time.

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TTC Contemplates the Future of Streetcars: 1952, 1971, 1972

From time to time, I am asked about the TTC streetcar replacement policy and some of the history. To flesh out some of this, I have scanned three reports of interest.

1952: Buying Used Streetcars

In 1952, the TTC was still acquiring second-hand PCCs from other cities, but planned eventually to replace all of their streetcar lines by 1980 when subways downtown would make the streetcar lines obsolete.

This is a scan of a photocopy of a carbon copy of a typewritten report. [26MB PDF]

This report shows the TTC’s thoughts on the future of its streetcar system from just before the Yonge subway opened, and how it would be an important part of the network until about 1980.

The importance of the Bloor-Danforth corridor can be seen in the following text:

The Service Change Committee estimates that after the subway is in operation the Bloor service will require 138 cars for through service over the whole route, plus 36 cars for short-turn service between Yonge and Coxwell, or a total of 174 cars.

No present-day route comes close to requiring this much equipment to handle passenger demand.

A longer extract is worth highlighting:

At the present time … there are available good, used, P.C.C. cars of recent manufacture which are suitable for operation in Toronto. This situation will obviously only continue for a limited time. It is believed that the Commission should seize the opportunity to protect its future by the purchase of some of these cars.

It might be asked why Toronto should consider buying additional street cars when so many of the transit properties on this continent are giving them up and turning to trolley coaches, buses or rapid transit operation. It is, therefore, necessary and useful to examine the practice as to vehicular service, past and present, of other transit properties to determine what course should be followed in this city.

It is more or less true that there has been a gradual abandonment of street cars in a substantial number of large American cities and some smaller Canadian cities.

There is obvious justification for the abandonment of street cars in smaller communities but the policy of abandonment of the use of this form of transportation in the larger communities is decidedly open to question. In fact it is hardly to much to say that the results which have occurred in a good many of these larger cities leaves open to serious question the wisdom of the decisions made.

It may be not wholly accurate to attribute the transit situation in most large American cities to the abandonment of the street cars. Nevertheless the position in which these utilities have now found themselves is a far from happy one. Fares have steadily and substantially increased, the quality of the service given, on the whole, has not been maintained, and the fare increases have not brought a satisfactory financial result. Short-haul riding, which is the lifeblood of practically all transit properties, has dropped to a minimum and the Companies are left with the unprofitable long-hauls. Deterioration of service has also lessened the public demand for public passenger transportation. The result is that the gross revenues of the properties considered, if they have increased to any substantial degree, have not increased in anything like the ratio of fare increases, and in most cases have barely served to keep pace with the rising cost of labour and material. It is difficult to see any future for most large American properties unless public financial aid comes to their support.

These facts being as they are, Toronto should consider carefully whether policies which have brought these unfortunate results are policies which should be copied in this city. Unquestionably a large part of the responsibility for the plight in which these companies find themselves is due to the fact that the labour cost on small vehicles is too high to make the service self-sustaining at practically any conceivable fare.

Why then did these properties adopt this policy? It is not unfair to suggest that this policy was adopted in large part by public pressure upon management exerted by the very articulate group of citizens who own and use motor cars and who claim street cars interfere with the movement of free-wheel vehicles and who assert that the modern generation has no use for vehicles operating on fixed tracks but insists on “riding on rubber”. If there is any truth in the above suggestion it is an extraordinary abdication of responsibility by those in charge of transit interests. They have tailored their service in accordance with the demands of their bitter competitors rather than in accordance with the needs of their patrons.

The report goes on to talk about both the deterioration of physical plant and equipment in many cities, but not in Toronto, as well as the very high demands found on our street car routes.

Even if the Queen subway were to open “in the next decade”, the initial operation of this line would be with streetcars and the TTC would continue to need a fleet. This statement was made at a time when the Queen route, rather than Bloor, was seen as the next rapid transit corridor after Yonge Street.

The report recommends purchase of 75 used cars from Cleveland, 25 of which had been built for Louisville but barely operated there before that system was abandoned. The TTC already had second-hand cars from Cincinnati, and would go on to buy cars from Birmingham and Kansas City.

1971 and 1972: The Beginning of the End?

In 1971 and 1972, the TTC was still discussing their plan for a Queen Street subway, although it was looking rather uncertain as a project. As we all know, it did not open in 1980.

The 1971 report sets out a plan to discontinue all but the core routes of King, Queen (including Kingston Road) and Bathurst, with even these up for grabs should a Queen subway open in 1980, rather far-fetched idea for late 1971 and an era when all rapid transit planning focused on the suburbs.

This is a scan of an nth-generation photocopy and it is faint in places because that’s what my copy looks like. [6 MB PDF]

The 1972 report set in motion the political debate about the future of streetcars, and led to the formation of the Streetcars for Toronto Committee. Had its recommendations been adopted, the removal of streetcars from St. Clair would begun the gradual dismantling of the system.

It is amusing to see the sort of creative accounting by the TTC that we in the activist community associate with more recent proposals. There is an amazing co-incidence that the number of spare trolley coaches exactly matches the needs of the streetcar retirement plan for St. Clair even though this would have actually meant a cut in line capacity. Moreover, the planned Spadina subway would lead to an increase in demand as St. Clair would be a feeder route.

There is also the wonderful dodge that if the TTC abandoned the streetcars and claimed it was for the Yonge subway extension, they hoped to get Metro Council to pay for some of the conversion cost out of the subway budget.

In this report (as well as in the 1971 report above) we learn that the Dundas car just had to go because its continued operation would interfere with the planned parking garage for the then-proposed Eaton Centre.

Note: My copy of this report was in good enough shape to scan with OCR and convert to text rather than as page images. The format is slightly changed from the original, but all of the text is “as written”.

The Streetcars Survived, But the Network Did Not Grow

In November 1972, the TTC Board, at the urging of Toronto Council, voted to retain the streetcar system except for the Mt. Pleasant and Rogers Road lines. The former would be removed for a bridge project at the Belt Line, and the latter was in the Borough of York who wanted rid of their one remaining streetcar route.

The TTC had a plan for suburban LRT lines in the 1960s, but this was not to be. While Edmonton, Calgary and San Diego built new LRT, Toronto’s transit future was mired in technology pipe-dreams from Queen’s Park that bore little fruit and blunted the chance for a suburban network while the city was still growing. It is ironic that growth in the streetcar network, if it comes at all, will be downtown thanks to a renaissance of the waterfront when it could have happened decades ago while much of suburbia was still farmland.

TTC November 2021 Service Changes Update

This article follows on from TTC Announces Widespread Service Cuts Effective November 21, 2021. When that article was written, the TTC had published an overview of the service changes, but many specifics were omitted.

Since the article appeared, more details have been released both through the TTC’s standard memo describing service changes, and by the detailed schedules available on NextBus. Another source, the GTFS version of schedules used by many apps, has not yet been updated on the City’s Open Data website as of 7:30am on November 22. The TTC’s Scheduled Service Summary usually appears on their Planning page a few weeks after a schedule change, and it is not yet available.

Using the available information, I have updated the spreadsheet of changes (below). Because there is so much detail showing existing and planned service, as well as data for periods where there is no change, the cells with new headways (the time between vehicles) or new vehicle assignments are shown in bold italics.

Types of Schedule Changes

The TTC has described these changes as an effect of their staff shortage accentuated by Covid vaccine mandate.

As a result of operator workforce shortages, Line 2 Bloor-Danforth, one streetcar route, and 57 bus routes will experience temporary service reductions and/or period of service suspensions.

There is definitely a reduction in total scheduled level of service as shown in the table below.

Source: TTC Board Period Service Memo for November 21, 2021

For most of 2021, the regular service has operated at 3-4 percent below the planned level, although this is partly offset by a requirement for more construction-related service than planned. In November, the regular service will be about 11 percent below the planned level with a small offset in construction service. The reduction in the holiday schedules (“December” in the chart) is lower because there would normally be less service then.

In past months, the TTC was already short-staffed and cancelled some crews rather than filling them using overtime.

A change that reduces operator needs but does not affect service levels is that One Person Train Operation (“OPTO”) which will be introduced on Line 1 Yonge between Vaughan Centre and St. George Stations. This has been used as a trial since August 2021 on Sundays, and this will expand to 7 days/week.

Bus – The bus service hours include 190 open crews that will be assigned on overtime.

Subway – In the November 2021 board period, on Line 1, one-person train operation will be implemented on weekdays and Saturday in addition to Sundays which was implemented in the August board period. The reduction in service hours represents a reduction in operator requirements. There is no change to service levels on Line 1. This service change was budgeted to be implemented in the December 2021 board period.

Source: TTC Board Period Service Memo for November 21, 2021

Another change is that the “Run As Directed” crews which required about 100 operators per day have been cancelled.

Some schedule changes do not involve a reduction in the number of vehicles (and hence operators) assigned to routes, but are due to schedule revisions that would normally be described as “reliability” updates.

In those cases, scheduled travel times are adjusted, usually increased, to reflect on street conditions. When this occurs with no change in vehicle assignments, headways get longer. For example, if a route were served by 10 buses on a round trip of 50 minutes, the headway would be every 5 minutes (12 per hour). If the round trip is changed to 60 minutes with no additional vehicles, the buses would come every 6 minutes (10 per hour), but with no change in staffing.

In some cases, the previously scheduled travel times were too long causing vehicles to bunch at terminals, and new schedules trim back the running time usually with a reduction in vehicles, but not necessarily a reduction in service level.

Changes to running times would not be backed out when the TTC restores service levels.

A related issue is that traffic congestion is building on major routes and this will require longer scheduled travel times and more vehicles over the coming year, in addition to whatever service is needed to cope with return of demand to pre-pandemic levels. This is an added pressure on the need for operators, but not (yet) vehicles as the TTC has a surplus of equipment in all modes going into 2022.

The total number of buses in service will drop with the November schedules as shown below. Note that the “Max In-Service Capacity” reflects garage capacity and the fleet is actually over 2,000 vehicles. The TTC is only using about two-thirds of its fleet and has a wide range for service growth without buying any new buses. The real problem for some time has been a shortage of operators.

Source: TTC Board Period Service Memo for November 21, 2021

For the streetcar fleet, peak requirements remain at 140 vehicles out of 204. By sometime in 2022, the major repair project for the Flexitys will complete, and the TTC will be able to operate more of its streetcar network with streetcars. Delivery of an additional 60 cars on order from Alstom will not begin until 2023.

The remainder of this article gives a route-by-route overview of the service changes, and the fine details are in the spreadsheet linked below:

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TTC Announces Widespread Service Cuts Effective November 21, 2021

With no fanfare at all, the list of planned service changes for November 21, 2021 has appeared on the TTC’s website.

As a result of operator workforce shortages, Line 2 Bloor-Danforth, one streetcar route, and 57 bus routes will experience temporary service reductions and/or period of service suspensions. Provisions have been made to protect service on the busiest corridors in the system during the busiest periods. November schedules will continue into December, with some minor adjustments.

TTC Service Change Notice for November 21, 2021

As I have recently documented in a series about service reliability on short routes, the TTC has already been missing buses regularly on its service, and there would be problems even without the ongoing issue of service reliability and an abdication of headway management.

I do not yet have the detailed memo explaining service changes thanks to the TTC’s email system outage, and can only report at this time on the information in the TTC’s post. When I do get the memo, I will produce the usual detailed spreadsheet showing all of the changes.

Changes Unrelated to Service Cuts

A few changes are due to factors other than the need to cut back on service.

  • In September, the 60 Steeles West bus was cut back to Pioneer Village Station and the 960 Steeles West Express took over the western portion of the route during most periods. The service level west of Pioneer Village has proven too low, and the 60 Steeles will provide a 15 minute service west to Kipling on top of the 960 during weekday daytimes.
  • The 953 Steeles Express will now stop at Leslie Street both ways.

Construction Changes

  • 75 Sherbourne will divert via Jarvis street between King and Dundas Streets due to water main construction until late December.
  • 501 Queen, 504 King, 505 Dundas and 506 Carlton (together with related night services) are affected by various projects. Details are in a separate article.

Service Cuts

Service on many routes has been trimmed, and some express operations have been dropped. The details, to the extent that they have been published, are shown in the spreadsheet linked below.

In many cases, I have simply put “Reduced” against a time period until I know the specifics of the changes. This spreadsheet will act as a template to accumulate information as it becomes available.

TTC Announces Streetcar Diversions and Bus Replacements (Updated)

The TTC has posted several notices on its website detailing recent and planned service changes on several streetcar routes.

Updated November 21, 2021: Modified to pick up new and replacement pages on the TTC’s website.

King-Queen-Queensway-Roncesvalles Project

The TTC’s KQQR page has been updated to reflect the new routings implemented over the November 13-14 weekend.

With the south leg of the intersection now closed and Queen Street open for east-west traffic, the 501/301 Queen bus service now operates straight along Queen Street.

The 504/304 King bus service diverts westbound via Dufferin and Queen as it has done for many months, but now runs through to Dundas West Station. The eastbound service from Dundas West heads east on Queen to Triller and south to King.

This map does not show the diversion implemented for the track work at Queen and Shaw Streets that requires the 501/301 services to divert both ways via Strachan, King and Dufferin. That project also requires a diversion of 63 Ossington via Queen, Dufferin and King.

There is also a TTC page under their Construction Notices (as opposed to Service Advisories) for the KQQR project. This page is extremely out of date.

Queen East Overhead Conversion for Pantographs

The 501 Queen Streetcar currently operates as far east as Russell Carhouse (east of Greenwood) during overhead upgrades on the east end of the route. The 503 Kingston Road car continues to operate over its full route to Bingham Loop. A 501N shuttle provides service between Leslie Street and Neville Loop.

On November 21, this arrangement will change, and the 501 Queen cars will be extended to Woodbine Loop at Kingston Road. The 501N shuttle bus will loop via Eastern and Coxwell Avenues. The 503 service will remain as is.

This change will remain until January 2, 2022 when streetcar service to Neville Loop should be restored.

Other 501 Queen Diversions

Two diversions are in progress for the ongoing track replacement project on the central part of the Queen route:

  • 501 buses divert between Bathurst and Spadina via the Richmond/Adelaide pair.
  • 501 buses divert between Dufferin and Strachan via King during track replacement at Shaw & Queen.

501 streetcar service will be restored to Queen Street between Neville Loop and Wolseley Loop (at Bathurst) on January 2, 2022.

The map for the diversions is in this notice. That page is now partly out of date due to the extension of the 501 streetcars to Woodbine Loop on November 21, 2021.

Photo by Raymond Lee

506/306 Carlton / 505 Dundas Changes for Sewer Work on Coxwell Avenue

From November 21 until mid-February 2022, the Carlton streetcars will turn back at Broadview via Broadview, Dundas and Parliament. This loop is currently used by the 505 Dundas car due to water main work on Broadview north of Gerrard.

The 505 Dundas service will be diverted and extended to Woodbine Loop via Broadview and Queen Street while the Carlton car is looping at Broadview.

Queen/Shaw Intersection Replacement Begins (Update 2)

Work began on November 15, 2021 on the replacement of special work at the intersection of Queen and Shaw. Based on past experience with similar projects, this should last about three weeks.

Updated November 19, 2021 at 2:45 pm: Track replacement has begun with the eastern leg of the intersection, and foundation work is in progress for the other two legs.

Updated November 21, 2021 at 1:40 pm: Links to TTC diversion notices added.

The service diversion now embraces changes for multiple works along Queen Street West:

501 Queen Bus: Initially, the diversion was via Dufferin, King and Strachan both ways. However, extension of the tangent track replacement west of Bathurst now requires buses to divert both ways via Dufferin, King, Bathurst, Richmond/Adelaide, and Spadina. (Updated November 19)

63 Ossington Bus: Diverts both ways via Queen, Dufferin and King. The buses loop through Liberty Village on their normal route via Strachan southbound and Atlantic northbound, but then turn west onto King for the northbound diversion.

Elsewhere on Queen, there are diversions and bus replacements. (Updated November 19)

  • Streetcar service runs between Russell Carhouse (east of Greenwood) and King & Spadina (via Parliament) due to track and overhead work on the central section of Queen, and overhead work in The Beach. It will be extended east to Woodbine Loop on November 21.
  • A bus shuttle runs between Neville Loop and Leslie/Commissioners. This will change on November 21 to operate between Neville Loop and Coxwell.

The 503 Kingston Road car continues to operate between King & Spadina and Bingham Loop at Victoria Park.

Photos on November 19, 2021

King-Queen-Queensway-Roncesvalles Moves to Phase 2

After a long delay thanks to construction issues and utilities that were not located where they were expected to be, the King-Queen-Queensway-Roncesvalles project has moved into its second phase over three months later than planned.

This affects routes 501 Queen and 504 King.

The 501 Queen bus service was formerly diverted via Dufferin and King to Roncesvalles. It now operates both ways via Queen Street following the normal streetcar route in the west end. Separate diversions remain in place elsewhere on the route for track work east of Bathurst, and for overhead work in the east end.

The 504 King shuttle bus had been operating in two sections. One ran on Roncesvalles Avenue between Dundas West Station and Roncesvalles Carhouse. The other ran from the eastern entrance of the Exhibition via Strachan to King, and then over a large counterclockwise loop formed by Dufferin, Queen, Triller and King.

The 504 bus now operates between Dundas West Station and the Exhibition as one route with the two former segments now connected at Queen and Roncesvalles. Westbound buses continue to operate via Dufferin and Queen, while eastbound buses run via Queen, Triller and King as shown below.

Note that this arrangement means that there are no westbound buses on King west of Dufferin, just as there have been no eastbound buses on Queen since this project began. Queen Street now has two-way service.

At the time I write this (7:00 pm, November 14), the TTC has not updated its website to reflect the new routings.

Service Reliability on 94 Wellesley: September 2021

This article continues a series reviewing service quality on some of the TTC’s shorter routes.

Apologies to my regular readers who must be saying “Oh No! Not More Charts!” My intent here has been to show that poor service quality affects many routes and time periods, and occurs even on relatively simple shorter routes in the network.

When the TTC’s IT systems all come back online, I plan to continue with another (smaller) group of short routes: 12 Kingston Road, 62 Mortimer, 64 Main, 87 Cosburn, 92 Woodbine South, 121 Esplanade/River and 124 Sunnybrook. Later in the year I will return to major routes including some I have not reviewed recently or at all including: 7 Bathurst, 41/941 Keele, 43/943 Kennedy, 68/968 Warden, 89/989 Weston and 95/995 York Mills.


Route 94 Wellesley operates with both a short and long version:

  • The 94A operates over the full route between Castle Frank and Ossington Stations.
  • The 94B operates on the eastern half of the route between Castle Frank and Wellesley Stations except during evening periods on all days.

September 5 brought new schedules and improved service during many time periods.

When there are two branches, they have a common headway and are supposed to be blended. During certain periods, buses are scheduled to alternate between the branches (any time in the table above where there are “half buses” allocated to a branch). This makes both services vulnerable to disruption when there is a missing bus, or a delay/interruption on the western branch throws buses there off schedule.

All of the problems we have seen on other routes are present on 94 Wellesley including:

  • Buses missing from the scheduled service leaving gaps.
  • Traffic congestion that is sometimes predictable, but sometimes much worse than usual, with schedules that cannot accommodate the disruption.
  • Headways that are dispersed widely beyond the target range implied by the TTC’s Service Standards.
  • Buses running in pairs (or worse) for extended periods on a route that does not have many vehicles overall.
  • Irregular headways caused by two services that are scheduled to blend, but which do not do so reliably at many times.
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Service Reliability on 72 Pape: September 2021

This article continues a series reviewing service quality on some of the TTC’s shorter routes.


The Pape bus operates two branches one of which has a peak period extension:

  • The 72A operates from Pape Station to Eastern Avenue during all periods except the weekday peaks.
  • During the peak periods, the 72A is extended south and west as 72C to the Don Roadway via Commissioners Street.
  • The 72B operates during all periods except early Sunday morning to Union Station via Queens Quay and Yonge.

Except for peak periods, the A and B branches operate on a common headway and should in theory provide a blended service on the common portion of the route between Eastern Avenue and Pape Station. This does not occur, and the service is a mixture of wide gaps and very short headways at almost all times.

During the peaks, the 72C Commissioners headway is almost but not half of the headway of the 72B Union. This makes it impossible to schedule a one-bus-in-three blended service even assuming that the 72B could stay on time and merge gracefully into the 72C service. The result is scheduled gaps and bunching on the common portion of the route under even the best conditions during peak periods.

Here is the scheduled service southbound from Pape Station in the AM and PM peak periods in early November 2021. Note the scheduled headways of only one or two minutes between “B” Union Station and “C” Commissioners buses.

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Service Reliability on 70 O’Connor: September 2021

This article continues a series reviewing service quality on some of the TTC’s shorter routes.


The O’Connor bus runs north from Coxwell Station and branches into a lopsided Y-shaped route. One branch, the 70A/B, goes north via O’Connor to Eglinton while the other, 70C, goes to Warden Station via St. Clair. The Eglinton service loops north of Eglinton except late evenings weekdays and Sundays.

This service design was changed in October so that all Eglinton trips operate as 70A, and the 70B Eglinton Square turnback has been dropped. However, for this analysis, it was still operating. For that reason, the screenline for southbound headways on this branch is set south of the common point for both the 70A and 70B services.

Two years ago, I reported on severe problems with bunching on 70 O’Connor.

At its meeting of December 12, 2019, the TTC Board endorsed a motion by Commissioner/Councillor Bradford whose ward includes the O’Connor bus:

Notice of Motion – Review of 70 O’Connor Bus Route

TTC Board Decision

The TTC Board, at its meeting on December 12, 2019 adopted the following:

That the Board directs staff to investigate and report back by Q1/2020 on the 70 O’Connor bus route reliability, in response to Steve Munro’s published analysis on his website on November 20, 2019.

The pandemic lockdown intervened, and the requested report did not appear. However, schedules on the route were changed to improve running times and a chronic problem of bus bunching ceased to be a problem as charts in this article will show.

In place of bunching O’Conner’s major problem in 2021 is that buses are frequently missing from service. Because of the branched nature of the route with headways ranging from 18 to 30 minutes on each branch, the effect of a missing vehicle can be quite severe. With few buses on the route, adjusting service by changing the spacing of remaining vehicles is not an option. In many cases, only one bus remains on a branch.

When all of the scheduled vehicles are in service, headways and travel times are fairly consistent, and buses often have generous layovers (considering the length of a one way trip) at both terminals.

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