Service Quality on 92 Woodbine South: Oct-Dec 2021

This article continues the series on service reliability on short routes. The previous article was:

Please see that article for general comments about route behaviour.

The short version:

  • Like 64 Main, 92 Woodbine South is one of the shortest routes in the system, and it serves a nearby neighbourhood.
  • Unlike 64 Main, there does not appear to be any problem with the adequacy of scheduled travel times, and buses routinely have time for terminal layovers. These occur frequently because a one-way trip is 12 minutes or less during most periods including scheduled recovery time.
  • The schedule was unchanged during the entire three month period.
  • During some periods, notably the am peak and late mornings, service is well-behaved almost all of the time.
  • There is a peculiar behaviour at about 1:30pm on most weekdays, more prevalent later in the year, when both buses take extended layovers at each terminal causing a gap in service.
  • Traffic congestion is rare on this route, and occurs most commonly northbound toward Kingston Road in the mid-afternoon possibly due to traffic backed up on Kingston Road itself where parking restrictions do not take effect until 4pm.
  • Some bunching occurs primarily in the pm peak, but not to the degree seen on other routes. There were cases when all three buses travelled in a pack over a round trip.
  • Missing buses contribute to irregular headways especially after mid-November when the TTC began routinely cancelling crews. This does not happen every day.
  • Where one or two buses are missing, those remaining in service might, or might not, adjust their schedules to even out headways. In some cases, notably when only one bus is in service, longer-than-normal terminal layovers contribute to the already widened headways. Half-hour gaps occurred where scheduled service was every 12 minutes on several early evenings.
  • Service on weekends is generally more reliable than on weekdays.
  • Service on some holidays operates much more frequently than at any other time, probably a leftover from summer schedules.
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Ontario Line: Transit Oriented Community Designs

In a previous article, I gave a grand tour of the Ontario line showing the general layout of stations and the alignment of the route. However, Metrolinx has yet to publish anything beyond station footprints – the areas stations will occupy, and by extension the buildings that will be removed or altered to accommodate them.

See: Webinar for Smart Density: An Ontario Line Tour

Infrastructure Ontario (IO) has a parallel process for the design of Transit Oriented Communities (TOCs) which are intended to focus development at stations and, in part, to recoup the cost of construction. To date they have conducted public consultations for four locations: Corktown, Exhibition, King-Bathurst, and Queen-Spadina.

Within each site’s page there are links to the videos, presentation decks and to the detailed building plans as submitted to the City of Toronto.

The illustrations in this article are taken from these presentation decks:

The online sessions have a format familiar to those who have watched or participated in Ontario Line sessions: a lengthy presentation followed by a short, moderated Q&A. For those interested in details of specific sites, to the extent that IO revealed them, I recommend watching the videos of the consultation sessions.

The proposals shown are conceptual, and there is no guarantee that what is eventually built will include key details worked out with communities and city planners. The provincial record on transit projects and consultation is far from trustworthy.

These developments are quite large compared to what is there today. Affected communities have pushed back about the scale and density. IO has made some changes, but mainly by rearranging the physical volume of buildings while leaving their overall size intact.

A common point IO makes, just as any other developer would do, is that the neighbourhoods around stations should be judged not on their current form, but on what they will become with developments already in the pipeline. This sort of catch-22 plays out all over the city. Once a very tall building is approved, often by force of provincial decisions, not by local planning, this sets a precedent for everything that will follow.

Land nearby a transit station (defined as within 800m or a 10 minute walk) puts a great deal of the city under its umbrella. Provincially-mandated growth is a blanket excuse for larger buildings even if the resulting density greatly exceeds provincial targets.

There is a more general issue about TOCs in that they are primary residential. Transit demand is easier to concentrate with commercial buildings such as in the core because of the many-to-one commuting pattern. Residential buildings tend to generate trips outward in whatever direction there is a convenient path such as a nearby highway or transit line provided to a destination. A related issue with new residential development is the amount of parking included and, therefore, the relative attractiveness of longer road trips vs transit trips.

If a so-called transit community features parking for all of its residents, this does not give transit a “leg up”. These sites, as planned, do have a preponderance of bicycle parking over auto spaces, and many buildings have no auto parking at all. Whether this ratio survives to actual construction remains to be seen.

Another key point is timing. Occupancy of the proposed buildings is aimed at the early 2030s because they will sit on top of future stations. Even at Exhibition where the TOC development is north of the joint GO/OL corridor, construction is not slated to start until 2029.

The upside is that transit will already be there when residents move in. This is totally unlike what happened on Queens Quay where development has preceded good transit service.

To jump to a specific station, click the links below:

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Service Quality on 64 Main: Oct-Dec 2021

This article continues the series on service reliability on short routes. The common theme is that the routes in question have short trips, and recovery to scheduled times should be simply achieved. Most of them also have little traffic congestion, and that cannot be cited as the root of all problems.

On some occasions, particularly later in the year when staffing shortages hit the TTC, some buses might be missing. However, this does not explain irregular headways when all of the scheduled vehicles are in service.

When one bus is missing on a short route, this can have a big effect on the service level especially when there were only two or three to begin with.

The TTC claims that some of the gaps are actually filled by “Run as Directed” (RAD) buses, but there are problems with that explanation:

  • There are far too few RADs in service at any time to fill the missing service seen on many routes across the system.
  • If a RAD operator takes over an open, scheduled crew, then the bus should run with the proper route identification and show up in the tracking logs. “Route 600” RAD buses only make selected trips on routes and do not appear in route-specific tracking logs.
  • If all of the scheduled buses are in service, but they are running erratically, notably with two or more buses running together, this is an issue line management and service spacing.

In this mini-series, I will review the following routes:

  • 64 Main
  • 92 Woodbine South
  • 121 Esplanade-River (formerly Front-Esplanade)
  • 124 Sunnybrook

(For those who are wondering, the next group on my radar will be many of the major routes in Scarborough.)

Note that due to the cyber-attack on the TTC and the recover efforts that followed, there are no data for the following periods:

  • Friday, October 29 to Saturday, November 6
  • Sunday, November 7 data begin after 10am
  • Friday, November 12 through Monday, November 15
  • Saturday-Sunday, November 20-21.

There are also no data for:

  • Friday, October 15 to Sunday, October 17 at about 2pm.
  • Saturday, October 23 from about 10pm to 11pm.

Despite these gaps, plenty of data remains to show how the route behaves.

The short version:

  • Scheduled running times were too tight on 64 Main until mid-November. This was “fixed” by buses dropping trips to get back on time, and less service was provided than advertised.
  • Ongoing problems with missing buses and bunching compounded the schedule issue, and persisted into December.
  • Weekend service was particularly bad when only one bus was operating.
  • With very rare exceptions, there are no problems with traffic congestion as a stock excuse for irregularity in service.
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TTC Board Meeting Wrap-up: February 8, 2022

The TTC Board met on February 8, 2022. Several hours were spent in private session on items that reported only by name in the agenda. They primarily relate to litigation (one item involves an as-yet unsettled claim regarding a contract for the Spadina Subway extension to Vaughan) and Labour Relations.

This article includes comments on:

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Ontario Line Draft EA : Part I (Updated)

Updated April 7, 2022 at 9:45 am: Metrolinx has responded to a query about possible errors and inconsistencies in the EA. See the Errata section at the end of this article.

The Draft Environmental Assessment for the Ontario Line was published on February 7, and it is a very, very long read. In addition to the main report, there are appendices dealing with Natural Environment, Heritage, Archaeology, Socio-Economics and Land Use, Air Quality, Noise and Vibration, and Transportation and Traffic.

In this article, I will primarily review the alignment drawings provided in the EA and some of the information about station form and construction, to the extent that Metrolinx has provided this.

Notable by their absence from these documents are drawings of the actual structures above or below ground. This makes it almost impossible to assess, for example, the on street presence of the elevated structure between the north end of the Leaside Bridge and Science Centre Station, nor of new station buildings wherever the line is above ground. Underground structures, essential to an understanding of how the stations will connect to neighbouring buildings and to other transit lines, are also not shown.

I wrote to Metrolinx asking about this, and they initially referred me to the Neighbourhood Updates segment of their engagement website. There is less information there, in most cases, than in the EA or other already-public presentations (which could be out of date). I wrote again, and they replied:

Hi Steve – those additional images will be posted as soon as they are available.

We know folks are anxious to see those images and we are working to get that information available.

It is baffling how people are supposed to assess information in the EA if they cannot see what Metrolinx proposes to build.

On a similar note, there is a general problem along the line in that significant incursions on green space have yet to be detailed, and by the time the plans are actually published, it will be impossible to adjust the design. Metrolinx misled communities giving the impression that tree inventories and replacement plans would be available during the consultation period, but it is now clear that this was never going to be the case.

For additional background, please see my recent article An Ontario Line Tour and the associated webinar.

In future articles I will turn in more detail to issues such as Natural Environment, Noise & Vibration and the effects on buildings and structures along the route.

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TTC 2022 Service Plan Update

The TTC Board will consider the final version of the 2022 Service Plan at its meeting on February 10, 2022.


To avoid duplication, I will only discuss here items which are new in this version.

The big system-wide change coming later in 2022 will be the opening of Line 5 Crosstown and the restructuring of the surface network. The proposals are the same as in the draft version of the plan, and I will not discuss them here.

[Page numbers cited in this article refer to those within the “glossy” version of the Service Plan which follows the covering report at p. 18 of the linked pdf.]

What Riders Want

One page from the plan is really a vital part of the whole discussion. Some riders want better connectivity, but a good chunk of this is about service quality and quantity. Sadly, there is little in the TTC’s plans that will address this issue beyond restoring service more-or-less to pre-pandemic levels.

Those of us who remember the “before times” will know that simply putting back bus, streetcar and subway hours is not enough. There were problems with service before covid, and the pandemic shuffled what had been a growing debate off the table.

Ridership recovery, let alone growth, will require that transit be as good as it can be, not merely good enough to get by.

2022 Annual Service Plan, p. 6
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TTC Heads Toward Fare Capping, Flat Fares, No Zones

At its meeting of February 10, 2022, the TTC board will consider a report on the future transit fare structure in Toronto.

In May 2022, TTC management will present a final recommendation for the Board’s endorsement, but this month’s update takes us a considerable way along the road to a new structure transit fares. For the past two years, TTC staff have consulted with interested members of the public while following an overall policy framework approved by the Board.

Source: Advancing the 5-Year Fare Policy, p 15

The evaluation found, to no surprise, that no fare scheme can achieve all of these goals, and in particular “financial sustainability” (for which read “no increase in subsidy”) and any change to make fares more attractive will work at cross-purposes. The idea that somehow new riders can be attracted in sufficient numbers to offset costs is a convenient fiction spouted by those whose real agenda is to cap spending, not to improve transit.

Many fare schemes were considered, and many were discarded for various reasons.

Those that survived to the final round of evaluation were:

  • Free fares
  • Full cost recovery
  • Fare capping
  • Aligning concession fares
  • Removal of the cross-boundary YRT-TTC extra fare
  • Peak/Off-peak pricing
  • Group Travel Discount
  • Reduce the TTC children-ride-free age limit to 5 from 12
  • Set the Senior concession fare to 20% of the Adult fare
  • Remove the Senior concession

Notable by its absence in this list is any form of fare-by-distance or fare zones. These options were dropped because of the inequity they would pose for riders whose trips tend to be long, but whose incomes are not high (residents of the outer part of Toronto).

It is no secret to readers of this blog that I have always supported the flat fare concept not just for its value to long-haul riders, but for its simplicity. Schemes that purport to make riders pay proportionately for their riding tend to increase the complexity and cost without a comparable or better return in making transit attractive. Indeed, the higher fares this would bring drive away the very trips, long journeys, that we do not want shifting to autos while giving a bonus to riders who make shorter hops typically “downtown”.

The fare policy report recommends that the TTC:

1. Continue to support the TTC’s existing fare structure, which includes the flat fare, free two-hour transfer across all modes and the Fair Pass and age-based discounts as the hallmarks of the TTC’s fare policy;

2. Endorse in principle the opportunities related to fare capping and aligning concessions across Fair Pass, Seniors and Youth as detailed in the Comments section of this report to inform the final fare policy recommendations that will be presented to the Board for approval in May 2022; and

3. Direct staff to forward a copy of this report to the Ministry of Transportation to restart discussions on reintroducing the Discount Double Fare (DDF), the TTC-GO Transit co-fare to offset Line 3 closures.

Source: Advancing the 5-Year Fare Policy, pp 1-2
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Webinar for Smart Density: An Ontario Line Tour

Updated February 2, 2022 at 6:30am: The section on Science Centre Station at Don Mills and Eglinton has been updated with an illustration of the CreateTO proposal for the southwest and southeast corners.

This article combines the speaking notes and presentation deck for my webinar An Ontario Line Tour that streamed on February 1, 2022 under the sponsorship of Smart Density, an Architecture and Planning firm in downtown Toronto. The image below was taken from the announcement of the webinar. It shows the stations on the Ontario Line with their zones of influence drawn as 500m circles around each of them.

Image credit: Smart Density


Thanks for coming today!

To set the stage for what will follow, here is a brief outline.

  • Origins of the Ontario Line
  • A station-by-station tour from Exhibition to Science Centre
  • Planning issues for rapid transit

Illustrations in this presentation come from many sources, but are preliminary in many cases, because the final EA is not yet published with what might be “definitive” (for now) designs.

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