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.

Overview

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.

Westbound From Castle Frank Station

Like other branching routes, 94 Wellesley suffers from uneven service. Not only are headways erratic eastbound where the two branches should “blend” at Wellesley Station, but also westbound from Castle Frank showing that the service is not operating anywhere near its scheduled departure times.

This problem is very bad throughout the month, although Week 2 is less disrupted than others, while Week 3 is particularly bad in the late afternoon and early evening.

Note that evening service is erratic even though all buses are supposed to be operating on a common 94A service with none of the challenges of blending in the 94Bs.

On weekends, Saturdays also show quite erratic service, but most Sundays are better, relatively speaking.

Westbound at Bay Street

Charts for the western half of the route have the y-axis scaled at 60 minutes so that the wider headways will fit on the page.

There is a considerable dispersion of headways in Week 1 (old schedules), but this improves a bit (but still with problems) in later weeks. Saturdays also show problems with very wide headways.

Eastbound From Ossington Station

Service eastbound from the terminal should be close to the scheduled pattern, but as the charts below show this is not the case and widely dispersed headways are common including on Saturdays.

Eastbound from Wellesley Station

Service from Wellesley Station is supposed to be a “blend”, but with service from Ossington Station (above) already well off of the scheduled times, nothing is going to blend. Headways that should be 10 minutes or less at most times are routinely much higher with corresponding short headways indicating a lot of bunching.

Some of the charts below show considerable bulges upward in their trend lines. I will review these in the detailed section below. The large hump on Friday, September 24 was caused by a diversion that meant no service crossed the screenline for measuring headways from about 6 to 10:20pm.

Sundays show the closest behaviour to that contemplated in the official Service Standards with the headways in a narrower band than seen on other days.

Thursday, September 2

  • From 9am, there is a bus missing (“yellow”) on the route creating a westbound gap to Ossington Station. This lasts until 11:50am when “yellow” re-enters service.
  • At 1:40pm, “purple” goes out of service. Compounded by uneven spacing and congestion, this creates a gap that is 50 minutes wide by the time it reaches Ossington Station.
  • At about 15:20, “grey” enters service at Ossington Station, but it makes the trip east together with “turquoise” and “brown”, then joined by “yellow” at Wellesley Station to produce a parade of buses east to Castle Frank.
  • Congestion eastbound on Wellesley from Yonge to Church begins to build from the early afternoon and becomes worse until after 5:30pm.
  • “Grey” and “turquoise” make a complete round trip together, and “turquoise” then goes out of service at 5:35pm.
  • Service into the evening is a straightforward design, but some buses, notably “yellow”, prefer to run together with other vehicles until late in the evening.

Monday, September 6 (Labour Day)

On Labour Day there is a bus missing from the beginning of service. Its absence can be seen between “pink” and “green” on every trip to Ossington Station until they are finally joined by “yellow” where the missing bus should have been at 5pm. From that point onward, service is well-behaved.

Thursday, September 9

  • After 8:30am, “pink” (and to a lesser extent “turquoise”) are affected by congestion on Harbord eastbound from Ossington. At the same time, westbound buses are affected by congestion lasting half an hour at Queen’s Park, and “yellow” is delayed westbound to Wellesley Station. These all combine to produce gaps in service, but the recovery occurs within one trip and service returns to normal.
  • Through the afternoon and early evening, there is some bunching between Wellesley and Castle Frank Stations, but the evening service runs normally with no missing buses.

Wednesday, September 15

  • The am peak runs normally on September 15 with some of the usual bunching of 94A and 94B trips leaving Wellesley Station eastbound together. However, they return from Castle Frank properly spaced.
  • At noon , “pink” appears to make a 94A trip that gets as far as Queen’s Park, but should have been a 94B to Wellesley Station and the bus short turns. It is slightly late for its next westbound trip, but most of the effect is offset by an extremely brief stop at Castle Frank Station.
  • Service through the afternoon becomes unreliable because “green” is consistently off schedule running close behind other buses, and “pink” went out of service at about 1:40pm. This persists until the early evening.
  • “Brown” disappears from service at about 4:30pm. This leaves only four buses serving a route where there should be six. There are wide gaps and few trips on the 94B service between Wellesley and Castle Frank Stations.
  • “Turquoise” and “dark blue” join the route between 7:30 and 8:00pm building the service back to the scheduled 6-bus level.

Saturday, September 18

  • On September 18, construction at Homewood disrupted the route and triggered a diversion from about 7:30am to 1:30pm. The effect was compounded by one bus missing from the route visible at Ossington Station periodically from 7am to noon.
  • Service was becoming bunched by midday and three buses ran together from Ossington to Wellesley Station, spreading out only slightly from there to Castle Frank Station.
  • Three buses returned westbound just before 2pm and they short-turned at Queen’s Park. On the return trip eastward, two more buses joined in the parade and five buses arrived at Castle Frank between 3:00 and 3:15pm. One of these, “dark blue” went out of service.
  • The cluster of buses reappeared regularly at Castle Frank every hour or so, and there were corresponding wide gaps in the service.
  • Even through the late evening, service was irregular with some buses running in pairs.
  • “Pink” was out of service from 4:15 to 6:15pm.
  • “Ochre” and “pink” went out of service at 7:20pm with “yellow” entering service at 8:05pm.
  • By 8:30pm, three buses were running in a pack, and this continued until after 10pm.
  • Normal service is restored for the late evening, although one bus, “brown” does not appear until 11pm.
  • Two buses, “brown” and “yellow” disappear periodically from tracking as if they had gone out of service, or had signed off of the tracking system.

Wednesday, September 22

September 22 is comparatively uneventful.

  • Congestion begins to throw the regular spacing of buses off from about 2:30pm onward.
  • One bus, “dark blue”, goes out of service at 5:30. It is replaced by “green” at about 7:50pm, and there are gaps where “dark blue” should have been.

Sunday, September 26

  • Service on September 26 is normal until just before 4pm when “dark blue” goes out of service. The gap it leaves makes a few round trips on the route. It will eventually be replaced by “blue” at about 6:20pm.
  • From about 6:30pm, “brown” and “green” become fast friends and run close together for much of the rest of the evening. Clustering of buses is common with three buses running together westbound from Castle Frank after 12:30am.

Thursday, September 30

  • On September 30, “turquoise” goes out of service at 2:20pm leaving a gap in the service.
  • Other buses become late and bunched due to congestion, and a pair, “dark blue/pink” make a trip across the route together at 3:20pm from Castle Frank Station.
  • The pm peak period operates one bus short, compounded by severe congestion between Queen’s Park and Church eastbound, and there is a gap of close to one hour westbound to Ossington Station.
  • “Turquoise” joins the route at about 5:10pm.
  • By the early evening, service settles down to close to the scheduled design.

2 thoughts on “Service Reliability on 94 Wellesley: September 2021

  1. Assuming you are able-bodied and the weather is not too appalling, the most reliable, and often quickest way to get to your destination between Wellesley and Castle Frank stations is to walk from the station. Few points are more than a ten-minute walk from the stations, and five minutes gets you to a lot of them from Wellesley station. The Castle Frank side is more awkward with the required crossing of Bloor Street. That can be tricky in winter.

    On the east side, it’s also possible to try and substitute the Parliament bus from Castle Frank, or maybe try the Sherbourne bus from Sherbourne, but as has been previously shown, good luck with those routes, too.

    Of course not everyone is able or willing to make the walk in whatever weather. And it is a densely-populated area, as I expect a lot of the residents of the many high-rises are transit-dependent.

    Oddly, a route which could potentially be walked instead, really requires better headway management, not a laissez-faire approach. Many a time, in the times before bus trackers and next bus arrival screens, I stood in Wellesley station wondering whether I should wait for a bus, or just walk to east of Sherbourne. In those days I had a Metropass, so I could pop out of the station and see if any bus was visible out west past Bay St. If no bus was visible, walking was almost certainly going to be the quicker option.

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  2. I agree completely with Ed. His comments also apply to the Sherbourne bus, in that leaving Sherbourne subway station, usually I can reach Wellesley faster by walking. I am not as fit and able as younger people, and so I can walk only half speed and limited distance. I judge by the number of people waiting at the stop whether to walk or not.

    Overall the buses do seem to arrive in reasonable time, and not too often in bunches. Although, I have been stuck waiting 45 minutes sometimes.

    Standing at the corner of Wellesley & Sherbourne, I watch three directions for any bus going to the subway: Wellesley, Sherbourne, or Castle Frank stations, and I take the first one. Except, sometimes that backfires: the bus arrives so fast that there is no chance to cross the street & catch it.

    With that, I have an observation to share: Having taken these buses many, many times, almost always the eastbound Wellesley bus driver and the northbound Sherbourne driver are going at ridiculous breakneck speed and running reds. Those Orion buses are swaying and tossing around anyone not anchored down. The drivers are in such haste that sometimes I get a sense of driver irritation for my inability to exit the bus in half a second, and it has happened twice that the driver shuts the door on me, and I have to get off at the next stop (if I have not fallen flat on my face by then).

    (Meanwhile, the westbound Wellesley bus will be stuck in traffic from Jarvis onward, and the driver is resigned to his/her fate.)

    Steve, would your charts have indication of these buses “making time”?

    Steve: It’s possible to calculate bus speeds from the data, but not at a fine-grained level because of the sampling rate of vehicle position. Also, it’s impossible to check on “running reds”. That said, these are behaviours I am quite used to. They can be even more frustrating when you look at the tracking data and see that the speed was often in aid of a nice long siesta at the terminal.

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