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.

Southbound at Danforth & Pape

Although the combined headway south from Pape Station is never supposed to be greater than 10 minutes, much wider headways are quite common. The average headways are close to the scheduled values indicating that all trips do operate, but their reliability is quite another matter as shown by the high standard deviation values (dotted lines in the weekday summary chart).

The widely dispersed headways show that the service does not depart from Pape Station at anywhere close to the TTC’s “on time” standards.

Northbound at Queen & Carlaw

In theory, except during the peak periods, there should be a blended service of 72A and 72B buses at a headway under 10 minutes northbound from Eastern Avenue. The first chart below shows that the average values lie generally in the expected range, but with very large standard deviations. That is reflected by the scatter of headway values over a wide band on most days.

Eastbound at Yonge & Queens Quay

Only the 72B service operates to Union Station. The screenline for the charts below is on Queens Quay east of Yonge in order to pick up any vehicle no matter which route it might take to the loop at Wellington Street. The charts have a 60 minute vertical axis to fit in the range of data values for a service that should never be worse than every 21 minutes.

The large spike in averages at 3pm reflects congestion problems on this branch of the route which I will detail in the next section below. On weekends, when congestion is not an issue, there are still headway problems but they are not as severe as on weekdays.

The Challenge of Alternating Destinations

During almost all off-peak service periods, buses on the Eastern Avenue 72A service are scheduled to alternate trips with the 72B service to Union. When both branches have consistent, reliable travel times, this arrangement saves one bus on a route. In the service summary above, there are half-buses shown for each branch such as weekday midday when there are 1.5 buses on the 72A service and 3.5 buses on the 72B to Union.

The problem with this arrangement is that if one branch is unreliable, the effect spills over to the other branch. On Pape, 72B buses that do not return from Union on a timely basis are out of place and late for their next trip as a 72A.

This arrangement, coupled with comparatively wide headways, makes service management challenging compared to a situation where there were an integral number of buses on each branch and they could be managed as two separate services. The 72A could run reliably from Danforth to Eastern, while the 72B could run through whatever problems it might encounter and be managed with no effect on the 72A service.

Wednesday, September 1

The service charts for September 1 illustrate common problems on this route:

  • From 6am, buses on the two branches are bunched on the common section of the route.
  • Buses generally have enough time for a layover at Pape Station, and one even manages a layover at Union.
  • At 8am, one bus, “ochre”, goes out of service northbound from Commissioners. This creates a 40-minute gap in the Union Station service where its next trip should have been.
  • Bunching of the 72A and 72B services continues through the mid-day even though this is supposed to be a blended headway
  • After 11am, one bus, “brown”, disappears and reappears periodically, and goes out of service at 12:30. It is replaced by “dark blue”. Even that bus has problems disappearing at times as the day goes on.
  • After 2:30pm, congestion begins to build westbound from the Port Lands to Union Station, and this worsens through the pm peak. There is also congestion for the return trip in the Union Station area. In the worst situation, “brown” takes about 80 minutes for the round trip between the western Port Lands and Union, almost the entire time allocated for a round-trip from Pape Station to Union (85 minutes). There are very wide gaps in the Union Station branch of the service.
  • Service gets sorted out somewhat in the early evening, although there is a 40-minute gap to Union just after 8pm because one bus, “yellow”, appears to be running very late.
  • Evenly spaced, blended service is restored after 9pm.

Saturday, September 4

September 4 is a complete mess with very wide gaps and bunching, not to mention buses that appear to be operating on the wrong branch at times.

  • Service on the 72A and 72B branches blends fairly regularly until congestion starts to build in the Port Lands. There are two wide gaps and associated bunches of vehicles including a point where all five buses are running in a pack from Pape Station to Union and return. This is followed by a gap of over one hour to Union while almost all buses make trips on the shorter 72A branch
  • Although buses are supposed to alternate trips on each branch, some buses make only Union Station trips leaving gaps in the 72A service where they should have been. This problem continues into the early evening and it is not until 10pm when regular service resumes. This is probably an attempt to keep buses on time by allowing a 72B Union round trip in the combined scheduled time of a 72A and 72B trip. This might be a legitimate reaction to a badly designed schedule, but an essential component, headway management, is missing.

Sunday, September 5

As on Saturday (above), there is a period in the late afternoon and early evening where no buses make a 72A trip to Eastern and all buses run through to Union including the congested area in the Port Lands. This leads to bunching which for two buses, “mauve” and “brown”, continues for almost two round trips. Normal service is restored after 8pm.

Monday, September 6 (Labour Day)

Labour Day service runs mostly as scheduled. Between 7 and 8pm, two buses affected by congestion in the Port Lands skip a trip to Eastern Avenue to get back on time.

Tuesday, September 7

Service on September 7 was badly bunched at times even though there was little traffic congestion affecting the route as on previous days.

  • At 11am, “dark blue” makes a trip to Union Station where it would be expected to make a 72A Eastern Avenue trip. It then disappears and is replaced at 12:20pm by “mauve”.
  • Through the afternoon service on 72B to Union is bunched with “turquoise/grey”, and later “turquoise/pink” operating close together.
  • There is a gap of over one hour in the 72B Union service between 4 and 5pm, and a second gap of 40 minutes from 5:30 to 6:10pm.
  • Three buses operate as a parade from Union to Pape Station just after 6pm followed by a 40 minute gap.
  • As on the weekend, some buses skip 72A trips and operate only on the 72B Union service, albeit with no apparent attempt at headway management.

Friday, September 17

September 17 is an example of a day with compounding problems.

  • Just before noon, one of the five buses, “brown”, goes out of service and is not replaced.
  • Congestion appears northbound between Queen and Dundas for a period between 1:30 and 2:30pm. Congestion also appears westbound in the Port Lands at about 3pm until nearly 5pm, although it is not as severely as on some days earlier in the month.
  • The afternoon and pm peak show familiar patterns of bunching and very wide gaps in the 72B Union service.
  • In the early evening, service returns to the normal, scheduled pattern.

Tuesday, September 21

September 21 again shows bunching, the effect of buses making trips only on the 72B Union branch and missing vehicles. Bunching on that branch creates a familiar wide gap in the pm peak.

Sunday, September 26

Unlike Sunday, September 5 (above), service on September 26 operates fairly reliably. There is no traffic congestion evident in the service charts, and skipped 72A trips are rare (e.g. “turquoise” between 4 and 6pm).

Thursday, September 30

September 30 echoes the pattern of other weekdays with uneven headways on the main part of the route through the morning and early afternoon. One bus, “light green”, goes on layover at Pape Station at about 12:40pm and then vanishes at 2:00pm. Service on the 72B Union branch has wide gaps including one of 80 minutes through a combination of the missing bus and another vehicle, “yellow” spending half an hour at the south end of the route due to congestion.

Unpredictable Travel Times

Reviewing the day-by-day data for 72 Pape, there are conditions affecting service that are much more severe on some days than others, and occasionally disappear completely. This variation adds a challenge to route management because both the schedule and a tactic for dealing with disruptions will not “work” the same way each day.

Munition Street to Parliament Street Westbound

Some of the worst congestion in the service charts affects westbound buses passing through the Port Lands. The charts below show how the travel time between Munition and Parliament Streets varies by day and time-of-day.

The overall weekday stats show a rise in travel times, but it is much higher in Week 1 and quite low in Week 4. The detailed charts for Weeks 1, 4 and 5 show how, for a short time, the travel times change on a weekly basis, and even from day to day within a week.

Similarly, there are problems with congestion on two of four Saturdays, particularly September 4, but less so on Sundays.

Queen Street to Gerrard Street Northbound

A small amount of congestion appeared on Carlaw Avenue, but only on certain days. Weeks 1 and 2 were uneventful, but Weeks 3-5 had congestion that affected buses on both the 72A and 72B branches.

Yonge & Queens Quay to Bay & Wellington Terminal Time

The time required to make the loop from Queens Quay to Wellington and return also varies considerably over the month.

Generally speaking, this time rises after 11am and falls slowly to the end of the pm peak. The Week 1 chart shows this rise for September 1-3. There is no comparable rise on Saturdays except on September 11 late in the evening which could coincide with a special event or construction activity.

On the weekday statistics charts, there are two cases where the lines drop to zero. The reason for this is that during the respective hours (4 to 5pm in Week 1, 2 to 3pm in Week 3), no bus crossed the westbound screenline at Yonge during the full hour on all days of that week. In other words, there was a gap of at least one hour every day within these weeks during these periods.

Terminal Times at Pape Station

The tactic of operating a single 72B trip to Union in place of a pair of 72A and 72B trips keeps buses “on time” albeit while providing less service. Many of these buses get extended layovers at Pape Station as a result, and this shows up in the round trip times measured from crossing a screenline at Danforth Avenue.

The weekly statistics on the left show that this pattern is consistent through the month, and the Week 4 data on the right show how this looks at a detailed level.

10 thoughts on “Service Reliability on 72 Pape: September 2021

  1. The 72A and 72B need to be a separate service at all times. The service design is a relic of the past when the route served mostly industrial areas. Outside of rush hour the portlands and east waterfront area used to be a ghost town.

    The traffic in the portlands and the areas around Union station is too unpredictable for the services to blend evenly on Pape and Carlaw.


  2. Yeah, this seriously looks like it needs to be split.

    With 121 service now removed from Cherry Street and no replacement confirmed so far, is this a chance to run a reincarnated 172 bus from Union to Cherry Beach and around Port Lands year round? What is the profile of the people who ride to and from Port Lands, where do they go and when?

    Steve: There will be a 172 next summer probably from Victoria Day weekend onward. Exact details to be confirmed. There is a related question of what will provide service to Ontario place over the summer period.


  3. Blending buses seems to take a hit on reliability…

    Is that also why the 95/995 has become unreliable? Because of blending?

    Steve: It is impossible to “blend” local and express services because they run at different speeds. In the case of the 95/995, there are two issues. First, there is no attempt at blending between the express and local services. Each shows up on its own timetable. However, in the peak period there are also two branches of the 95 including the short turn at Ellesmere Station. Although this is scheduled to blend with the through service, there is no guarantee that it would actually do so.


  4. “It is impossible to “blend” local and express services”

    Sorry, I meant the 95A and 95B.

    Steve: During all periods when both of these branches operate, they are scheduled on the same headway and should, in theory, blend. The last time I pulled data for 95 York Mills was January 2021, although I was planning a review of current operations soon. In January, the blending was a bit haphazard notably because of uneven layover times taken at the outer end of the route.


  5. Steve, I heard the eastern section of the 506 Carlton Streetcar will be replaced by buses when the next board period happens (November 20th) Is that true? (Main St. Station to Castle Frank Station)

    Steve: I have not seen the announcement memo for the November board thanks to the TTC’s email outage. I will have to check via other means. Why this would be needed I don’t know unless they are claiming there is still more overhead work to do.


  6. “There is a related question of what will provide service to Ontario place over the summer period.”

    There was a time when an extension of the Dufferin bus served Ontario Place. Perhaps they will rearrange the current Exhibition Place service to also serve Ontario Place.


  7. > There was a time when an extension of the Dufferin bus served Ontario Place. Perhaps they will rearrange the current Exhibition Place service to also serve Ontario Place.

    I’m not entirely sure having a bus route that gets stuck in traffic starting from Yorkdale and continuing all the way down to Queen is a great recipe for reliable service to Ontario Place.

    A shuttle from Dufferin Gate loop and Exhibition loop would probably be the least bad solution?

    Steve: There is a challenge when something is on within the grounds such as the Indy, or a major sports event, or the CNE. That’s why the Ontario Place bus and later the 121 approach from the east.


  8. This is awesome. I take this bus almost everyday, it’s a complete mess at times. Buses bunched together, crowding issues, because of the inconsistent service. I’m so happy this article was written, I’ve been asking the TTC for the on time performance of this route, and they stonewall me. Thanks Steve!


  9. I used to use this route regularly twenty-years ago. After the route was extended from Parliament loop to the downtown core it became bleeping obvious that both branches needed to be operated as separate routes but only very recently did the TTC figure this out and split the A/B branches apart but only during peak periods.

    As your analysis shows, this blended/combined headway nonsense is beyond the organization’s capabilities.


  10. Took this bus for I think the first time ever yesterday. I work at Queen and Carlaw but usually take the streetcar home – but yesterday we went out to dinner as a team after work, taking the 72 to Danforth.

    No buses for 20 minutes…then 3 in a row, all packed full, even at Queen. It’s a bit ironic that they claim it’s not covid-safe to sit in some seats, given our bus got so full by the time it hit Gerrard that it literally couldn’t stop to pickup more people. Sigh…

    On a side note, I forgot how much I hate buses. Streetcars are just *so* smooth…the bus tries to rip your hand off the support rail *constantly* with all the jerking from stopping, starting, rattling over potholes, swerving in and out of traffic…bleh.

    Steve: As someone who has to put up with bus substitutions on streetcar routes a lot, I cannot help noticing how operators from suburban bus divisions drive downtown as if they would rather be on the DVP, and have no qualms about throwing riders around. Some take care for standees’ safety, but some could be better employed at the Indy.


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